Shujaa means ‘hero’ in Swahili. Given everything this tough little elephant has overcome, it is a most fitting name.
Shujaa could have easily gone undiscovered. His story began on the evening of 21st August 2022, as a group of tourists were finishing a game drive along the Voi River Circuit in Tsavo East National Park. Darkness was falling, but in the encroaching gloom, they managed to spot something amiss in a muddy embankment: A tiny calf, just a few months old, was flailing in the sticky earth.
Darkness was falling, but in the encroaching gloom, they managed to spot something amiss in a muddy embankment: A tiny calf, just a few months old, was flailing in the sticky earth. They raised the alarm with KWS, who greenlit a rescue. Our Voi Team, which is based nearby, rushed to the scene.
They arrived not a minute too late: A calf so small would not have survived the night on his own with the number of predators in the area. He had clearly been abandoned to his muddy fate, as there were no other elephants anywhere nearby. We will never know exactly what twist of fate robbed Shujaa of his family, but in times of drought the herd would be forced to move and travel great distances in search of food, so while there was evidence his family tried desperately to save him they had given up in the best interest of the herd. His life so very nearly ended in that muddy quagmire.
By this point, it was pitch black. Shujaa was plucked from the mud and whisked off to our Voi Reintegration Unit, where he spent the night in a cosy stockade. However, he was far too small to grow up at Voi, so the following morning, the SWT helicopter flew him to our Nairobi Nursery.
We were quite worried about Shujaa. Prolonged time in mud can be disastrous for a young elephant, causing all sorts of internal lung issues. However, our little hero defied the odds and thrived from day one. He was immediately scooped up into the ‘blanket brigade’ of baby elephants, joining Mzinga, Nyambeni, and Mageno on forays around the forest.
The Keepers report that Shujaa is a reserved chap and loves to watch the action from the sidelines. His favourite activity is to take a relaxed dust bath in the sun, preferring the dust to mud understandably.