The rescue of Suguroi

Published on the 22nd of October, 2021

Suguroi is here today because of three strokes of luck. It all began with a fly-by that was never supposed to happen. On the morning of 23rd September visitors were exploring Laikipia by air when they spontaneously decided to divert from their planned course over El Karama Ranch. Flying over a lugga, they unexpectedly sighted a carcass of a female elephant.

In a further stroke of luck, the pilot happened to be Andy Payne, who formerly flew for our Aerial Surveillance Unit, with much experience under his belt he immediately knew this required further exploration. They circled back — and this time, spotted a baby elephant alone. Dwarfed by undergrowth, only a trained eye would have been able to detect her.

Andy reported the calf’s location to Mike Nicholson, who is the owner of El Karama Ranch and also the head of the KWS Airwing. From there, we set about coordinating a rescue with KWS. We needed to absolutely confirm the size of the calf, as when flying up country at high altitudes, weight and size are important considerations.


And this is when the third stroke of luck took place. Our SWT/KWS Mount Kenya Vet Unit and El Karama rangers arrived on the scene — and not a moment too soon, as lions had been drawn to the scent of her dead mother's carcass. Had they arrived any later, there very well could have been two dead elephants in that lugga.

The ground team sent through photos, showing the calf was small enough to fit in an aircraft. While the plane flew from Nairobi to El Karama with a team of Keepers onboard, the vet unit immobilised the calf and drove her to the airstrip. The rest of the rescue unfolded in a seamless manner. By late afternoon, we were settling the calf into her new stable at the Nursery.


We named the calf Suguroi, after the lugga where she was found. An autopsy revealed that her mum died of toxemia, due to the wound between her front legs. However, foul play is not suspected; more likely, it was the tragic consequence of a fall. One small silver lining of the situation is that Suguroi had not been without her mother for too long, so she came to us in healthy condition.


Surugoi is an extremely timid little girl. It was nearly a week before she would accept milk from a bottle. For her first days at the Nursery, she only ventured furtive sips from a pail. She remains very shy, preferring to remain on the fringes as she becomes accustomed to the ways of the Nursery. The other orphans have been enormously helpful in this regard, giving her the space she needs but also making her feel loved. We feel sure this lucky little girl will continue to blossom in the coming weeks, months, and years.

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