The Rescue of Kilulu

Published on the 26th of February, 2024

In 2021-2022, Tsavo and much of Kenya was blighted by a long and gruelling drought. During this time, many older elephant calves were orphaned — either after losing their mothers to drought, or being left behind by their herd when they became too weak to go on. We suspect Kilulu fell into the latter category.

During the peak of the drought, a possible orphan was reported on Lualenyi Ranch. He had been seen on his own for several days and was located in a parched area, with no trace of his mother or any wild elephants. The calf had clearly been alone and without food for some time: He was thin, weak, dehydrated, and looked like he had given up.

Calves on the cusp of milk dependence emerged as some of the greatest victims of the drought. As vegetation dried up, elephant mothers struggled to consume ample food to also produce enough milk for their baby. Eventually, their undernourished calves became too frail to keep up with the herd. In challenging times, wildlife must prioritise survival of the group, and the weakest are left behind. Passing herds cannot afford to take a hungry, milk-dependent calf under their wing.

The Kenya Wildlife Service greenlit a rescue on the 26th September 2022 and a team of Voi Keepers mobilised to the scene. They found the calf was in a pitiful state. Knowing there wasn’t time to spare, the team put him on a drip as they drove him to the Voi stockades. We named him Kilulu.

Like most drought victims, things were touch-and-go with Kilulu, but with lots of rest, rehydration, and proper nutrition, he eventually turned a corner. He found himself in good company at Voi: Many slightly older orphans were rescued from southern Tsavo during this time. Because of their age and location, they bypassed the Nursery and went directly to our Voi Reintegration Unit. We call this class the ‘Voi kids’.

Kilulu’s Keepers describe him as a ‘charming, fine young bull’. He has adapted well to Voi life and become fast friends with fellow Voi kids Hildana, Itinyi, and Seri. Emoli and Thamana have become big brother figures and often invite him to sparring games. The desperate calf we rescued is now chubby cheeked, full of energy, and surrounded by friends.

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Kilulu and all the orphans reliant on us, need specialist care 24 hours a day. You can help provide for their needs, while becoming a part of their future, through an adoption.
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