The rescue of Lorigon

Published on the 13th of May, 2022

Lorigon’s story began with a tiny set of tracks. Scouts from the Samburu Trust knew something was amiss when they spotted the lone footprints of a young elephant calf in the heavily frequented elephant corridor that runs between Isiolo and Laikipia.

They tracked the baby for several days, but he remained elusive. With the area busy with livestock, people and passing elephant herds, it was challenging work. They would pick his tracks up at a water hole, where he would have had a furtive drink, only to evaporate into the bush.

Ultimately, however, Lorigon’s condition caught up with him. On 1st February 2022, scouts found him lying in the shade of a small acacia tree. His strength ebbing away there was a distinct possibility that he would never get to his feet again in his weakened state. KWS greenlit a rescue, and we rushed to bring this baby to safety. Given Lorigon’s remote location and precarious condition, we mounted an aerial rescue. A SWT helicopter flew to the scene, landing in the environs of Ol Malo. By this point, Lorigon was quite resigned, which made for a straightforward operation. He was loaded up and flown directly to Nairobi without incident. From there, the real challenges began.

At about 19 months old, Lorigon was still very much milk-dependent. Several days without his mother’s milk had clearly taken their toll. While we will never know how he came to be orphaned, several lactating female elephants had died in the area, either from drought or the resulting human-wildlife conflict. Given the circumstances, we can safely assume that one of them was Lorigon’s mum.

On top of that, Lorigon was also weakened by the drought conditions. The lack of rain continues to cripple northern Kenya, taking its toll on all manner of creatures. Elephants must walk vast distances in search of food and water, and these treks are hard on little babies. Losing his mother could have been the final straw in Lorigon’s drawn-out demise.

Fortunately, he was spared such a fate. While he was small and weak, he was very spunky. This is always a good sign, for it is very difficult to bring an elephant back from the brink if they do not want to save themselves. He remained in the stockades for a few days to settle down, feasting on his milk bottle and browse and when we felt he was calm enough to join the others in the forest we brought the Nursery herd to his door. They gently shadowed him out into the forest, ensuring he was constantly surrounded and cosseted.

Today, Lorigon is doing very well. The Keepers report that he is totally settled with the other orphans and always looks so happy. He is quite shy by nature and often prefers to observe the action from the bushes rather than being in the thick of things. It makes sense that his best friends are Tingai and Lodo, who share his introverted yet kindly character.

Lorigon running for a milk bottle

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