For generations, elephants of the north have used a well-trod corridor to venture down into Laikipia from the north. Set against the backdrop of a challenging drought, this area has become a hotspot for human-wildlife conflict in recent months. A tragic number of elephants have been reported shot, including a number of lactating females.
And so, it sadly came as little surprise when another orphan turned up. On January 19th 2022, we received the call from Tom Sylvester of Loisaba Conservancy. Scouts had found an orphaned baby elephant who had wandered onto the Conservancy. He was in a very bad way: weak, emaciated, and frightened, and had clearly been on his own for some time.
Estimates put the calf at two and a half years old. While this put him squarely in the milk-dependent, baby category, an elephant of this age is quite hefty. Knowing he was already in a dire condition, we had to act fast when planning his rescue. Rather than take a gamble that he wouldn’t be able to squeeze into an aircraft, we opted to drive our elephant moving truck up to Loisaba Conservancy and transport him to Nairobi by road.
We named the calf Lodo, after a lugga near where he was rescued. As he said farewell to Laikipia, this ensured that he always kept a piece of his birthplace with him.
It was a long journey down to Nairobi, but Lodo handled it remarkably well. He enjoyed a feast of freshly cut greens en route, while the Keepers plied him with fluids and rehydration. At the Nursery, he was stabled between Suguroi and Barnoti. The time Lodo spent recovering in his stockade cemented a strong friendship with Barnoti, and by the time he was ready to join the other Nursery orphans, he already felt like one of the herd.
Lodo is generally a gentle fellow. However, as is so often the case with starvation victims, he is obsessed with milk. After gulping down his share, he adopts uncharacteristically bullish behaviour in an attempt to muscle another bottle from his Keeper. In addition to his friendship with Barnoti, he has grown close with Rama, no doubt attracted by his peaceful nature.
But most of all, Lodo is a homebody. The Keepers report that he absolutely loves his stockade and returns to it with great relish each evening. While the other orphans take their time in settling down for the night, Lodo has no such hesitation. He is always one of the first to fall into a deep sleep, his tummy rising and falling with each peaceful breath. After such fraught beginnings, this little calf must be relieved to have a sanctuary to call home.