Rescue of Sidai

The Ol Pejeta Conservancy, situated near the town of Nanyuki at the foothills of Mount Kenya is l00,000 acres in extent, managed now by the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

The Ol Pejeta Conservancy, situated near the town of Nanyuki at the foothills of Mount Kenya is l00,000 acres in extent, managed now by the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Batian Craig, the son of Ian Craig of Lewa, is the overall supervisor of the management of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, within which is Sweetwaters, the birth place of our orphan “Sweet Sally”.

During the late afternoon of lst February 2006, the Ol Pejeta workers noticed a lone calf at one of the Ranch water troughs, and alerted Batian Craig, who monitored the calf and her movements to ensure she was infact an orphan. Having ascertained this he got in touch with us in Nairobi. Since it was too late to organise an air rescue that day, Batian undertook to try and locate the calf the following morning, and this he did. The calf was still alone, and quite obviously an orphan, possibly a victim of “Problem Animal Control” since not all boundaries of the Conservancy are barrier fenced, and beyond there is cultivation and human croplands, where passing elephants trying to meet up with friends further afield, find themselves in trouble, or possibly a victim of the drought that has gripped Northern Kenya.

Batian Craig phoned us in Nairobi, and the elephant rescue was immediately organised. Robert Carr-Hartley left in a chartered Caravan aircraft with two Keepers and all the usual rescue paraphernalia, including a KWS Vet, in case it was necessary to sedate the calf, since we had been told that it was about 2 years old. Upon landing at the Ol Pejeta airfield, the Rescuers were driven by Batian Craig to the location of the calf, which was still hiding in thick “Euclia” bush. Armed with a blanket, Robert decided to avoid darting the calf to tranquilize it, since it was obviously weakened and therefore fragile. The rescuers fanned out, and cautiously approached the calf, and as it began to run, the Keepers managed to throw the blanket over its head and eyes, which enabled everyone else to wrestle it to the ground and bind its legs. Recumbent, the captured calf was then carried to the waiting vehicle on the Rescue tarpaulin, and transported to the Rescue Plane, where it was loaded and began the air journey back to Nairobi.

The baby was a female of just under two years old, since one could feel tiny tusks just breaking through the lip membrane. Batian Craig suggested that she be named Sedai, the Masai word for “beautiful”, and beautiful she is, with a lovely face, soft brown eyes shaded by long lashes, and a very gentle and loving temperament, attributes that we would witness in the 48 hours that followed.

All this, however, was not immediately obvious upon arrival in the Nairobi Nursery, where she was given the usual prophylactic antibiotic injection before being unbound in the “Taming Stockade” recently occupied by orphan “Sian”. Understandably, the newcomer was extremely traumatized and very wild, refusing to take milk or rehydration, and simply bent on trying to “nail” her attendants at every opportunity. Desperately the two Keepers who spent the night with her tried to coax her into accepting milk – the lifesaver she so desperately needed, but by the next morning, even our Veteran Keeper, Mishak, had not been successful. The other orphans were then brought in and this calmed her visibly. Within another 2 hours, she was beginning to take milk from the bottle, but refused the vital electrolytes. Although the milk intake was a hopeful sign, shortly afterwards the dreaded trembling and shaking began, which is always a prelude to collapse and death. We despaired, but very fortunately we had some bottles of Dextrose intravenous drip left over from another such casualty, and Robert was able to put this into an ear vein pending the arrival of the Vet. This, plus handfuls of glucose stuffed directly into the mouth, clearly kept the elephant alive, but only just, until the Vet arrived with more bottles of intravenous dextrose drip and administered injections of selenium, magnesium and Vitamin E as well as Vitamin B 12 to stimulate her appetite. Clearly the calf had extremely low blood sugar levels, brought about by milk deprivation and the trauma and stress of capture, and that this had resulted in “muscular dystrophy”, a life threatening condition. Being a muscle, the heart begins to fail, and very soon the patient is gone. On this occasion, however, we were rewarded when with help, the elephant was able to get back onto her legs, and shortly afterwards began to take milk from the bottle, all signs of aggression having vanished. We were euphoric, and really thought that we had won the battle for her life, but another trembling attack seized her the next morning, and yet again Robert most fortunately was at hand to put the intravenous drip back into an ear vein. This time, Sedai remained standing, and as the blood sugar levels were again restored, so the trembling ceased.

However, it was the electrolytes that she needed most at this point in time, and when she began to take them, hope was restored. She was also now calm and loving, pressing her head against the body of the Keepers, and greeting all visitors with touching trust, illustrating yet again, the very forgiving nature of elephants.

By the afternoon of the 5th, she was sufficiently strong to be allowed out with the others, and by the morning of the 6th, she left with them all at dawn. We are now cautiously optimistic that her life has been spared and that this beautiful little elephant named “Sedai” will grow up to become a caring Matriarch, and one of what we call our “miracles” to have been snatched from the jaws of death, thanks to Robert and Sanjay, our Veterinarian.