Rescue of Challa

16th November 2005, and an S

16th November 2005, and an S.O.S. from our Ziwani De-Snaring Team Leader operating in Tsavo West National Park, that he had received a report the day before that a young elephant had been in amongst a herd of Cattle for the past eight days. The De-Snaring Team located the elephant at 11.00 am., still in amongst the herd of cattle, at a place called “Challa” (which means “Source of the Volcanic River”). At the request of the herdsmen who had reported his presence, the elephant orphan has been named “Challa”.

Having established that the calf had been spotted, the rescue plane, this time a Caravan, set off, complete with all the paraphernalia needed to capture an orphan of Challa’s size. The calf was estimated to be over a year old, so actually catching him and subduing him proved a very challenging task, despite his emaciated and weakened condition caused by having been deprived of his mother’s milk for so long. Three stalwart local teenagers, named Mboi, Maingi and Chale, were instrumental in the successful capture of this calf, and we thank them and the Elders of the village for wanting to save his life. Although he had been allowed to travel with the cattle during the hours of daylight, he was not allowed into their thorn bush “Corral” at night, and is lucky not to have ended up making a meal for a predator.

The plane landed at an airfield near the Voyager Lodge on Ziwani Sisal Estate which borders Tsavo West’s Southern boundary, where the rescuers were waiting with the calf. He was loaded onto our rescue tarpaulin and hauled into the plane, arriving at Wilson Airport Custom’s Office just before 6 p.m. where an astonished crowd of curious onlookers watched the process of getting him out of the plane, and onto the back of the Trust Pickup!

Not surprisingly, upon arrival in the Nursery, the elephant was very wild and extremely traumatised, trembling visibly, which is never a good sign. We decided to use Rapsu’s Stockade, (consigning Rapsu to the one next door to Naserian). Rapsu’s Stockade is the one usually used for older candidates who need taming down, for it has an escape platform where the Keepers can keep out of danger during this process for a calf, even if only a year old and weakened through malnutrition, is quite capable of inflicting serious injury. He was given water from a bucket, and offered greens, but because it was dark when the Vet arrived to administer the usual prophylactic anti-biotic, he and the Keepers felt it would be too risky to subdue the elephant under such conditions. The Vet left, but was asked to leave the loaded syringe in case we could inject what was necessary if the calf slept. However, since time is of the essence to avert death from pneumonia brought on by a depressed immune system, and especially since those who have had contact with cattle, and arrive in pitiful physical condition, are particularly at risk, Daphne and Angela decided that the antibiotic must be administered immediately, and that waiting until the morning would jeopardise his chances of survival. Hence, all available manpower was mobilized, a blanket thrown over the calf’s head, and a concerted effort pinioned him in one corner. Then, Angela, , very bravely managed to give the necessary injection.

In attendance with “Challa” throughout the night, was one of our longest serving Keepers, who has a mysterious magic when it comes to handling any elephant. Sure enough, he worked his magic overnight, and first thing in the morning Daphne emerged to find the little elephant pressed close to him, having taken his bottles of weak milk formula during the night, and all the other elephants at the door of his Stockade to welcome and greet him! It was a very touching scene. Daphne made cooked oatmeal balls laced with desiccated coconut for him, and these proved a huge hit. The new arrival couldn’t get enough of them, following his Keepers around, pleading for more. However, being a starvation case, it is necessary to proceed with caution in the beginning, and not ask too much of a digestive tract that has been deprived of essential nutrients for so long. As the established orphans all left him to go into the Park forest, as they do every day, little Challa cried, desperate to accompany the new elephant family he had just found. However, we felt it was a bit too soon to risk letting him out. The next day he joined the nursery orphans. Rapsu has not been terribly friendly to him, we think because he is holding a grudge about being displaced from his stockade by Challa, but a special friendship is already forming between Zurura and Challa – and they do come from the same area so could well know each other from their wild life.