The trumpet you’ll hear at the end of this video says it all: Of all the world’s family units, elephants are perhaps the most extraordinary. These are creatures who gestate their young for 22 months. Females go on to spend a lifetime by their mother's side, raising their own young in a dynasty that includes siblings, aunts, and grandparents.
When the ultimate tragedy occurs, we step in and rescue calves who have lost their own mothers. Over the years, 282 orphaned elephants have found the love of a family through our pioneering Orphans’ Project. But first and foremost, our priority is to keep wild families together whenever possible.
On 4th March 2022, we received reports of an infant calf who had fallen into a water hole. Our SWT/KWS Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Team, with Keepers from our Voi Reintegration Unit, leapt into action and raced to the baby's side. They were met with a heart-wrenching scene: The herd had exhausted all avenues to extract the baby, and the mother was reduced to despondently pacing around the periphery. Without intervention, she would be forced to leave her baby behind.
While she despaired, our Keepers knew all hope was not lost. Over the years, we have pulled off a number of successful reunions. They drove their vehicle up to the water hole, which provided enough incentive for the mother to make herself scarce. In a swift, choreographed motion, the team ran over and pulled the baby out of the trough. (This part was not documented, as it required all hands on deck!) From there, they shepherded the baby over in the direction of her mother, who was cautiously waiting nearby.
The ensuing reunion was absolutely priceless. When they arrived on the scene, the mother was despondent and defeated. The instant her baby was freed, however, she became a changed elephant. Ears flapping and tail held aloft in disbelief, she came charging over. When she realised her eyes weren’t deceiving her and it really was her baby, she let out a series of joyful trumpets.
Before moving on, the mother gave her calf's rescuers a long look and let out a single trumpet, as if thanking them. We have witnessed this reaction of gratitude and recognition time and again, and it never ceases to humble us. And then mum and baby were gone, off to continue their family dynasty on the plains of Tsavo.