The rescue of Barnoti

Published on the 15th of December, 2021

Barnoti was orphaned in the best of times, but he fell victim to the worst of times.

In April 2019, Amboseli’s BC family, as named by the Amboseli Trust for Elephants (ATE), celebrated its newest addition, a baby born to Bouenza. Bouenza, a beautiful female, was well known within the Amboseli ecosystem: Born in 1992, she went on to have a number of calves, including two daughters who remained by her side. This loving, tight knit family of females must have been delighted to welcome a little boy into the fold. He was named Barnoti.

Bouenza leading, with a small calf behind her, and Barnoti the third along. Credit: Amboseli Trust for Elephants

Tragically, Bouenza died of what appeared to be natural causes in November 2020. Barnoti was just 19 months old. Under normal circumstances, this would be far too young for an orphan to survive on his own, but these were extraordinary times. Unusually bountiful rains had fostered an abundance of vegetation, providing Barnoti with ample forage in the absence of his mother’s milk. He was also lucky to have his two older sisters, who diligently looked after him.

However, everything changed in the latter half of 2021. The rains never properly arrived, evaporating food sources and creating a dire situation. Survival became a daily challenge for all manner of creatures, let alone a calf as young as Barnoti. Week by week, his condition deteriorated, until he was too weak to follow his family. On 19th October 2021, the Amboseli warden found Barnoti all alone, in a dire state. He raised the alarm with ATE, who alerted us that an orphan needed rescuing.

When we received the call, we immediately mobilised a rescue operation. All the while, ATE staff and our SWT/KWS Amboseli Mobile Vet Unit remained onsite, ensuring Barnoti didn’t wander off or stray into the swamp. When our plane was a half hour away, they caught him and drove him to the airstrip.

This was a challenging rescue. At two and half years old, Barnoti was not a small elephant. However, with a lot of teamwork, he was secured into the aircraft and sent on his way. Peter, one of our most experienced Keepers, was present and kept him calm throughout the flight to Nairobi. They arrived safely at the Nursery that afternoon.

For drought victims, survival often hangs by a thread. We were primed to fight for Barnoti’s life, but he settled in marvellously. As always, the other orphans were delighted to have a newcomer in their midst and took to loitering outside his stockade. Barnoti, being quite an outgoing elephant, embraced their overtures of friendship and seemed eager to accompany them out in the forest. At this point, it was far too early for him to join the rest of the herd, as he was still very weak and needed to regain his strength — but he was eager to move things along!

Barnoti's first day out with the rest of the herd

Barnoti is a young elephant, but he has already experienced his fair share of ups and downs. We mourn the fact that he lost his beautiful mother at such a tender age, and we can only imagine the heartbreak his older sisters felt when they were forced to leave him behind. However, Barnoti is a survivor, and now he will have a future and a family with us. He is already fully ensconced in the Nursery herd. He hero-worships Mukkoka, who must seem a very impressive bull in his eyes, and has a burgeoning friendship with fellow newcomer, Taabu.

Barnoti is a survivor!

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