The rescue of Mukutan

Published on the 28th of December, 2021

Mukutan’s story began in a swathe of maize. For 24 hours, a lone baby elephant had been seen in a field bordering Laikipia Nature Conservancy, furtively darting between rows of corn. He looked terrified, in poor condition, and far too young to be by himself.

We can’t be sure how Mukutan came to be orphaned, but human-wildlife conflict was the likely culprit. We suspect it was a scenario we have seen played out time and again: The elephant herd left the conservancy and, in search of sustenance, raided the bordering maize fields. The community chased them away, and in the ensuing mayhem, the young calf was left behind. Another possibility is that his mother died and he wandered into community lands.

While humans may have been the root cause of his predicament, it was the community who reported the orphan’s plight, which is a very positive sign. The Laikipia warden sent KWS rangers there to confirm the reports, and we were sent photos of the calf to determine how to proceed with the rescue.

After ascertaining that he was indeed small enough to fit inside a helicopter, we organised a flight through Tropic Air. While the calf’s size didn’t present an issue, his temperament certainly did: This was an extremely stressed — and thus very aggressive — elephant! The rescue team managed to get him inside the helicopter and flew him directly to our Nairobi Nursery.

From there, it was a question of calming down this ferocious young bull. He was very little, but full of fight. Some level of aggression is normal for new rescues, but not to the extent we saw in Mukutan. It makes us wonder what unfolded before he was rescued. We can only imagine how long he was alone in those maize fields and what he went through, as an unwanted visitor.

It took a long time before we could let Mukutan out of his stockade, because he was very slow to tame. However, he has developed special friendships and is really settling in. When he’s feeling social, he gravitates towards fellow new rescues Kamili, Choka, and Sagateisa. The Keepers report that Mukutan is a quiet, independent, and determined young elephant.

Mukutan is named after a beautiful, iconic gorge in Laikipia, forever linking him to his birthplace.

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