In the forested Mathews Mountain Range of northern Kenya, elephants drink from crystal clear streams and forage from the lush bushland. But in 2022, this wooded mountainous paradise has fallen into the grips of a drought, as has much of the country.
On 14th September, Northern Rangelands Trust called us about a young calf who had been abandoned in Kitich Forest Camp, which is situated in a remote valley looking over a glade in the Mathews Range. Based on his diminutive size and tiny tusks, he was estimated to be a year and a half old.
His story before that point remains a mystery, but we can surmise that he had grown too weak to keep up with his herd or lost his mother to human-wildlife conflict, which is a tragic symptom of the drought.
Given the remote northern location, a chartered helicopter scooped up the calf at Kitich Camp and flew him directly to our Nairobi Nursery.
The Keepers were greeted by an exhausted and weak elephant. Despite the stress of the day’s events, he seemed resigned to his fate. This is always a worrying sign; a spirited calf might just have that extra bit of will needed to pull through, while a lacklustre one could struggle to summon the resolve. However, we have brought many elephants back from the brink before, even those who no longer have the strength to fight for themselves.
We named the calf Kitich, to forever connect him to his first homeland. He arrived at the Nursery very weak. With drought victims, we have learned over the years that they often deteriorate further before they begin to rally.
The weekend before Kitich arrived, we rescued two very special girls: Weka, from Tsavo East National Park, and Muwingu, from Laikipia. Like Kitich, both elephants are victims of the drought. Together, they form an inseparable trio. This bond helped them all through those precarious early weeks. Weka and Muwingu are a bit feistier than Kitich, so they really bolstered his resolve. Their friendship, coupled with 24/7 nurturing care from his Keepers, helped Kitich pull through to the other side.
Kitich, Weka, and Muwingu spend their days together, browsing quietly in each other’s company and observing the bustle of the Nursery herd from the sidelines. It is lovely to see how much comfort they get from one another.
This is just the beginning of Kitich’s story. He has already shown remarkable progress in the few weeks he has been with us. In the coming weeks and years, we know he will continue to flourish.