Hot on the heels of losing infant elephant orphan “Galdessa”, today, the 21st March 2007 was another extremely tearful day in our Nairobi Nursery, for the Angel of Death claimed another infant, two month old “Kilgoris” after a gallant and desperate 12 day struggle to save his life. A particularly aggressive strain of E Coli was responsible, which resulted in such severe diarrheoa and internal hemorrhaging that this was a battle that proved impossible to win. He put up such a brave struggle, battling against the odds for 12 very long days, and even longer nights, sustained on a drip for eight of those days as we struggled to keep him with us. There were days when we thought we, and he, were winning, but then the dreaded symptoms returned again and again until we all had to accept that there was nothing more that could be done. He slipped away at 4 a.m. early this morning, peacefully in the arms of his two favourite Keepers, who had been with him throughout.
The problems began in the usual way, with teething, at a time when his immune system was probably still depressed from the trauma of losing his elephant family, a long 14 km. walk to Kilgoris Police Station, another grueling drive to Kitchwa Tembo Airstrip and finally an airlift to safety in the Nairobi Nursery. For a tiny calf of just 3 weeks old, he appeared to settle amazingly well and from the start was a playful and happy baby, responding to the love and kindness that was showered on him by his Keepers and the other four tiny Nursery babies, namely Lesanju, Lempaute, Galdessa and Shimba. However, the cows’ milk he had been fed by his well-meaning Masai rescuer took an inevitable toll, necessitating an early course of Sulphur to stem diarrheoa. After that, he appeared to be thriving, and none of us, even after 50 years of experience, detected that things were going seriously wrong. The stools looked normal, albeit a bit too runny and frequent, but not separated, which is the usual symptom of real diarrheoa in a baby elephant, so we all concluded that he was simply cutting his first set of molars, which, indeed, he was.
However, as a precaution in the wake of losing Galdessa, he was given another course of the usual Sulphadimidine, which has been our mainstay for diarrheoa in the baby elephants all these years. That seemed to be working, but suddenly the diarrheoa took hold again, and Kilgoris had to be kept hydrated by intravenous drip fluids pending the Laboratory bacteriology and sensitivity analyses needed to produce the results we so desperately needed. Sadly, that took 4 days by which time there was evidence of intestinal lining sloughing off in his stools, which were black, indicative of bleeding. But when the results arrived, we now knew what we were up against – Ecoli cecaphalosporum, sensitive only to Ciprofloxacin and Gentomycin. Since Gentomycin can apparently cause kidney failure, we went for the Cipro and were optimistic of success when Kilgoris began to take a little milk again. However, we simply could not halt the bleeding and towards the end, even the Vets had run out of ideas. Because everyone gave it their very best shot, and Kilgoris himself put up such a gallant and spirited prolonged struggle, his death has been particularly painful for us all.
At such times, all one can say is that he, and we, did everything we possibly could but it was simply not to be. As usual there is comfort in knowing that he slipped away peacefully, surrounded by an outpouring of concern and love. During his short life he had won the love not only of his Keepers and ourselves but all his foster-parents worldwide, who, like us, will deeply grieve his passing. Rest in Peace little Kilgoris.