On the 18th of August we received another orphaned elephant calf, a tiny female just three months old. She came to us in a state of collapse, so much so that our Keepers keeping vigil over her, as she lay in the rescue aeroplane during the flight back to Nairobi, were convinced she would slip away before they even landed. She lay limp on the mattress; little life left in her eyes, and totally dehydrated and emaciated, her skin literally hanging from her bones, her cheeks sunken and gaunt. This baby had obviously been without her mother of as long as five days, an inordinate amount of time for a milk dependent calf this young. One could only imagine what a nightmare she had endured before finding the comfort and security of the Samburu Manyatta and her rescuers, Kanyina Lentrangoi, Kopolesha Lemunar, Chamke Lopiala.
This orphaned calf walked into a Manyatta close to Maralal at 9.00am on the morning of the 18th of August, causing quite a stir. She was desperately trying to suck up liquid from any muddy puddle directly into her mouth, still too young to be able to effectively use her trunk, and she immediately followed anyone who came close, desperate for protection, food and comfort. The elders of the Manyatta discussed the best course of action for their surprise visitor that morning, and decided to walk the calf to the closest Kenya Wildlife Service ranger station in Suguta Mar Mar. This was time consuming, and the exercise generated enormous interest from the neighboring community, but the calf followed the men, despite being very weak. Once at the station she was given water and a KWS ranger called Daniel, a David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust desnaring team member from the area, who was fortunately on leave at the time. Daniel arrived at the station to tend to the elephant, and was able to ensure that she was not given cows milk, which would have caused grave stomach problems, for infant elephants cannot tolerate the fat of cows milk. He immediately alerted The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust headquarters in Nairobi, but it was evening, with no time left for a rescue to be mobilized that day.
The calf was kept overnight at the KWS station, and the next day the rescue team of David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant Keepers and the rescue aircraft were mobilized and landed at the Mugie Ranch Airstrip, the closest airstrip to the town of Suguta Mar Mar. The Kenya Wildlife Service warden from Maralal kindly arranged for a vehicle to be sent to transport the calf from the Ranger station directly to the airstrip, a journey of one hour, where they were waiting when the plane landed. Our Keepers immediately gave her rehydation and milk, but in her weakened state she took little of both. It was not necessary to strap her down for the flight, her legs bound gently; she just lay immobile for the whole journey.
In the meantime, our Vet Sanjay, had been alerted, and was on standby at the Nursery to immediately place her on a drip. Once this was done she slowly began to brighten up. We continued with the drip on and off for a 24 hour period and this undoubtedly saved her life. She began taking her milk, and orally consuming glucose water and rehydration salts. We all watched in amazement as this little calf, who we named Suguta, slowly came back to life. An ongoing and slow process, but progress is evident with each passing day. She is truly our miracle baby, and owes her life to many who grappled with enormous odds in order to save her. It is within the story of Suguta that one sees the worst and the best of man. The worst being those from the Pokot tribe who killed her mother, (a number of poaching incidences have recently been reported from this area) and the best being her rescuers, who surmounted numerous obstacles in order to bring her to safety, so that she could have a second chance at life.