On the afternoon of 5th December 2021, the Samburu Trust raised the alarm to KWS and ourselves about to an injured orphaned elephant. He had clearly been through a terrible ordeal: His mother had been killed due to human-wildlife conflict. He was located five days later with an injury to his rump, which was more than likely caused by a glancing spear.
Given the remote location, we chartered a helicopter to pull off the rescue. The pilot flew directly to the site, where Samburu Trust scouts were waiting with the calf. As soon as the helicopter touched down, it was all hands on deck to secure the precious cargo. Although very young, he was still quite large. Everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief to find that he fitted onboard!
The helicopter landed at our Nairobi Nursery at around five o’clock that evening. A team of Keepers whisked the calf off to a freshly prepared stockade – his new bedroom - which was brimming with piles of cut greens and soft hay for him. He slept soundly that night, no doubt relieved to be ensconced in a safe place. We named him Tingai, which is a variation of Ltingai, an area near his place of rescue.
We will never know the full extent of Tingai’s ordeal, from losing his mother to then finding himself alone for 5 days, but whatever happened continues to haunt him. He remains in constant flight mode and scares easily. A sudden movement or loud noise is enough to send him running. Interestingly, he is completely at ease when he is in the middle of the Nursery elephant herd; only when standing alone is he fearful. Tingai clearly believes that there is safety in numbers. It makes us wonder what this poor calf endured before he was rescued.
As is common with orphans overcoming post-traumatic stress, Tingai tends to keep to himself. However, signs already indicate that he is moving forward: He has been tiptoeing into the Nursery antics and forging new friendships with Barnoti, Oldepe, and Rama. Each of these bulls has overcome their own trauma, so they will be instrumental in Tingai’s emotional healing.
One could forgive Tingai for being wary of humans, given they speared him and killed his mum. However, he saw goodness in his Keepers and accepted them without hesitation. Supported — and surrounded, as he prefers — by his new family, this little calf’s healing journey has just begun.