On the 27th March 2020, the SWT/KWS Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit was called to perform a post-mortem on an elephant female known as ‘Namunyak' who was found mysteriously dead that morning in the Masai Mara. She was a well know female to many, who had been fitted with a radio collar by the Mara Elephant Project so that she and her herd's movements could be tracked and monitored.
When her collar signal became static, reading an immobility signal, alarm bells rang. She was found lifeless, and her young calf was now in the company of her herd who had moved a short distance away. The post-mortem tragically revealed an abscess in her abdomen, probably from an old injury, which had ruptured leaking pus into her blood vessels and caused an emboli in the lungs which in turn caused a fatal heart attack. There was no visible sign of an external injury.
Her baby was a milk dependent calf of 18 months old, still too young to survive in the wild without his mother’s milk, so the herd was monitored but they remained high on a hill and the wet conditions hampered any rescue possibility. The following day, once the herd had descended from the hill, the baby was darted with a tranquilliser to calm him down enabling a straight forward rescue involving KWS, along with County and Conservancy rangers.
A team of Keepers from the SWT Nairobi Nursery were, in the meantime, on their way to the Mara to collect the calf in a chartered aircraft. Upon landing, they found the baby already at the airstrip strapped in the back of a Landcruiser ready for a quick turnaround. They prepared him and then transferred him across into the aircraft before taking off and heading back to Nairobi with little delay due to the late hour. When the team finally arrived at the Nursery and they were able to place the calf into a stockade, he was thankfully still drowsy and relatively calm enough to feed from a bottle. By the next morning he was as wild as a hawk charging at the gates with wild eyes. This is always a good sign however, and meant that we were dealing with a strong and healthy baby full of fight.
It did take a number of days to get him to settle down and accept his Keepers. Initially he would only tentatively reach for milk out of a bucket, but after a few days he would reluctantly stretch for a bottle. With patience and the helpful comforting rumbles from his neighbours at night, he began to settle enough to let him out into the Park for the day with the Nursery orphans. Overall this outcome did take ten days, because of how feisty this little baby was, but we had to be sure he was comfortable enough with the Keepers as we couldn’t afford him refusing to return to the stockades in the evening time and getting lost on his own.
We have named him Naboishu, as he was rescued in the midst of the coronavirus in unprecedented times on the 28th of March. In the Maa language of the Masai who inhabit the area from where he came, ‘Naboishu' means ‘unity’. He carries a meaningful name and was rescued in extraordinary times, and has a larger than life personality.
On his first day out in the forest with the other orphans Naboishu immediately began playing clambering games, mounting on the backs of all the others unfazed by the fact that he was the new kid in their midst. It was so sweet to watch how accommodating they all were with this rambunctious baby who certainly lacked any filter system, barging into their midst as if he had been there all his life. He has thrived in the company of our Nursery herd and certainly has bags of energy. He is feeding well and has settled into the Nursery routine, understanding full well the bottle feeding times, the mud bath times and when to return back to his night stockade to keep him safe from predators.
At the moment we are not hosting visiting at the Nursery due to the coronavirus threat so the orphans spend their days browsing deep in the Park and playing alongside their Keepers. With the incredible rains we have been blessed with all rivers, streams and mud wallows are full, with browse and grass plentiful, so their days a jammed packed with fun times and he has joined an extremely happy herd with Tamiyoi and Tagwa, and all the older females, performing their maternal duties.