The Tsavo Conservation Area is in the throes of a long, challenging dry season. In times like these, elephants are constantly on the move in search of life-sustaining food and water. When a member of the herd no longer has the strength to go on, the matriarch must make the heart-breaking but inevitable decision to leave them behind. It is usually the very young and the very old who fall victim to prolonged dry seasons.
On the morning of 29th September 2021, our Field Operations Manager received a call from Salt Lick Lodge, in the Taita Hills Sanctuary. For the past 24 hours, they had been monitoring a baby elephant who had been abandoned in front of the lodge. The hours passed into a day, but not a single elephant showed any inclination of absorbing the calf when they came to water. He was picking at the scorched grass, but obviously still milk-dependent and vulnerable to predators. Our Operations Manager went to investigate the reports at the request of KWS and immediately saw the little calf, who cut a very lonely figure on the plains.
Because of the lodge’s proximity to our Voi Reintegration Unit, a team of Voi Keepers were called to the scene. It was a very easy rescue: After capturing the calf, the team drove him down to the airstrip by Taita Hills Lodge, where a plane would collect him and fly him up to Nairobi. By 4:30 in the afternoon, the little elephant was airborne, accompanied by two Nursery Keepers. He arrived at his new home after dark, where he was carefully moved into a freshly prepared stable. Throughout the entire operation, he never seemed agitated or overwhelmed. Oftentimes, these young calves are just relieved to be rescued.
We named him Taabu, which means “trouble” in Swahili. This is not a nod to his character — Taabu is an extremely cheerful and easy-going elephant — but rather to the troubled times in which he was orphaned. He is one of the lucky ones, spared from the fate that befalls so many calves during a challenging dry season.
The Keepers report that Taabu is as smart as he is sweet. He is a very social boy who always wants to be in the thick of all the action. He has become very close with Naleku, who is also his night-time neighbour. When Taabu isn’t exploring the forest with his sidekick, he is striking up new friendships, greedily seeking out his next milk bottle, or investigating the goings-on at the Nursery. We are so thankful that this curious calf was spotted in time and now has his whole life ahead of him.