The Rescue of Kitiak

Published on the 1st of June, 2023

His story as an orphan began on 5th November 2022, when a lone calf was reported in the Mara.

Like Elerai, who we rescued a few weeks prior, Kitiak painted a deceiving picture: He was young yet with fairly large tusks which initially gave the impression that he was a much older elephant than in fact he was. Upon closer inspection, however, our SWT/KWS Mara Mobile Vet Unit concluded he was actually far too young to be on his own.

More troubling were the injuries on his body. Human-wildlife conflict is a pressing challenge in the Mara, and our teams have become all-too-familiar with its signs. They quickly recognised the punctures as arrow wounds.

We will never know Kitiak’s full story or how he became orphaned. We think perhaps he lost his family in the same incident of human-wildlife conflict that left him wounded, or it is also possible that he ran into trouble during his lonely days in the Mara.

In consultation with the KWS and Mara management, the decision was made to rescue the young calf. Despite his not-insignificant size, the entire operation went smoothly. He was driven to Olare Motorogi airstrip, where an aircraft scooped him up and flew him to Nairobi.

While Kitiak’s future will now unfold in Nairobi and later in the Tsavo ecosystem, we will never forget his beginnings in the Mara. He was rescued along a seasonal stream called Ntiakitiak, hence his name Kitiak, which will forever connect him to his origins.

Kitiak is a stoic and independent bull. He can be quite shy and submissive at times, allowing younger bulls like Mukutan and Taabu to have the upper hand when playing, despite the fact that he could easily out-muscle them. Perhaps he will become more dominant as time passes, or perhaps he is docile by nature — only time will tell. He has become good friends with Ahmed and Elerai, and the trio can often be found browsing quietly in the forest. For a calf who came from such fraught beginnings, it is wonderful to see Kitiak today, at peace and surrounded by friends.

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