The Rescue of Muwingu

Published on the 31st of October, 2022

Much of Muwingu’s story remains a mystery, but we know that she is a tough little elephant. Her life began in the Lewa - Borana Conservancy landscapes, which have recently been ravaged by the 2022 drought. By the time September rolled around, months without rain had taken their toll. A rise in human-wildlife conflict further compounded the dire situation, as elephants ventured out of protected areas in search of food and water, leading to heightened contact with local communities.

Muwingu was either a victim of the drought or human-wildlife conflict. She is named after the place of her rescue, on the boundary of Lewa. An 18-month-old calf had been observed between Borana and Lewa Downs for several days, alone and in an increasingly vulnerable state. Given the harsh conditions, it was obvious through the passing days that she wouldn’t be absorbed by another herd. Life is all about survival right now, and elephants simply cannot afford to take on a milk-dependent baby.

KWS veterinarian Dr Mutinda, who is based in the landscape and works closely with the management of this area, was involved in the rescue once the decision was made. He darted Muwingu and loaded her onto a tractor trailer — which was no small feat, given her age and weight. The team drove her to Lewa airstrip, where they were met by a plane with a team of our SWT Keepers. Little time was wasted as they transferred the calf into the plane, awake but secured in a recumbent position.

Muwingu arrived at the Nursery full of fight. Despite having been on her own for quite some time, she had good strength. Most new rescues calm down within a few days, but Muwingu worked on her own schedule. It took a full three weeks to tame her, as the Keepers plied her with fresh greens, nutritious bottles of milk, and constant reassurance.

Along with nurturing care from the Keepers, two very special friends helped Muwingu find her place at the Nursery. Weka arrived the afternoon before Muwingu, Kitich just a few days later. Although they were born in different parts of Kenya, they are all about the same age and were rescued under similar circumstances. All three are very shy, but they forged immediate strong bonds with each other. Even now that they are fully settled into Nursery life, they are inseparable and love to hang out as a unit.

Muwingu is a very tough little girl, shy yet full of steel. The drought and its ripple effects left her without a family, but now she and her friends have been given that second chance as they embark on a new journey — one that will ultimately take them back to the wild, side by side.

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