The Rescue of Mageno

Published on the 13th of September, 2022

Mageno is a remarkable young bull. Despite being so young, he has already survived a brutal drought and become a big brother figure to two special girls.

His story began on the morning of 15th June 2022, as Wildlife Works was conducting a routine patrol of the Taita Ranches, which make up the buffer zone between Tsavo East National Park and Tsavo West National Park. Flying above Mgeno Ranch, their pilot, Keith Hellyer, spotted an infant elephant collapsed and looking worse for wear in the vast, barren landscape. An aerial scan revealed that there were no herds in the area, which confirmed that the baby was abandoned and orphaned.

Drought is a challenging time for elephants, and it is often the youngest who are the first to fall. With scant food to be found, mothers struggle to get ample nutrition to fuel themselves and produce sufficient milk for their babies. It is a paradox of survival; elephants must be constantly on the move in order to find fresh browse, but milk-deprived calves become too weak to go on. This is when mothers are forced to make heartbreaking decisions, abandoning their babies for the welfare of the herd.

While we cannot be sure, we think this could have been the fate of this calf. He cut a tragic figure, weak and alone in drought-stricken scrub. When our SWT/KWS Tsavo Mobile Vet Unit arrived at the scene, they feared it was too late for him. As they approached, however, he unexpectedly rose to his feet. This effort sapped his energy and only served to highlight what a weakened state he was in. He had obviously been without his mother for a long time.

To save precious time, our helicopter picked him up and flew him directly to the Nairobi Nursery, where a team of Keepers was waiting to give him the care he so urgently needed. To honour the orphan’s origins, we named him Mageno, which is the name of the ranch where he was found, with a slight twist on the spelling.

Thus began a very precarious state for Mageno. He was riddled with parasites, which further taxed his weakened body. Although he had mercifully already gone through teething, he was very reluctant to bolster his milk feeds with bits of greens, which help provide essential nutrients. His Keepers plied him with supplementary feedings, patiently helping him put on weight.

Because of his fragile state, Mageno was too weak to join the bigger orphan herd. Instead, he was put in the ‘blanket brigade’ with the infants. He is several months older than Nyambeni and Mzinga, but he seamlessly slotted into their little gang. We marvel at how gentle and patient he is with them, almost like a mini matriarch in bull form. The girls hero worship their ‘big brother’ and happily follow his every move. Mageno and Nyambeni are particularly close; she often hangs her trunk over his back or cuddles up next to him. All three have really helped heal each other.

When Mageno isn’t hanging out with his little sisters, he loves dusting and mud bathing. Although most orphans are quite picky about their wallowing conditions, Mageno is eager to dive in even when it is chilly! In just a few months, the listless baby we rescued has transformed into the star of the mud bath. This is just the beginning for our new ‘big brother.’

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