The death of Isiolo

The night of Saturday 5th September 2009 turned into an unexpected tragedy in our Nairobi Nursery

The night of Saturday 5th September 2009 turned into an unexpected tragedy in our Nairobi Nursery.   Our precious little 5 month old baby bull named “Isiolo” suddenly, and most unexpectedly died in his sleep.   Isiolo had been struggling with mysterious ill health for many months, ever since he cut his first molars, and the cause baffled everyone, including the Vets that were called to come and look at him many times.   There were no obvious symptoms to pinpoint the cause of his problems.   He fed well from the start, passed normal stools, but never really thrived or put on any condition.   He remained feeble and dull, despite several courses of different antibiotics, being dosed for possible tick-borne problems and even possible liver fluke.   The only obvious indication of things not right was the fact that he cried when getting up from a recumbent position suggesting that he felt pain in a joint, yet there was no obvious swelling, nor limping to indicate where the problem lay.

Then several weeks ago he seemed to have at last turned the corner.   Gradually his sunken little cheeks began to fill out, the pain he had obviously suffered when getting up seemed to disappear, and he was much more active, but still a miniature for a 5 month old baby elephant.   However, all the Keepers were encouraged, and assured us that he was getting much better, and we could notice the improvement ourselves.

Daphne and Angela went to see him in his stable as usual at 6.30 p.m. on that fateful night.   He was standing quietly beside his Keeper resting his trunk on the dividing partition, having taken his 6 p.m. milk feed.   Apparently he took his 9 p.m. milk, then lay down to sleep and come time for the next feed, his Keeper could not wake him up.   He had died in his sleep.

This came as a devastating shock to us all, for it was so very unexpected just when we were sure that he was recovering.   We were feeling confident that he now had a chance to grow up and one day take his rightful place back amongst the wild community of Tsavo.   However, it was not to be.

His passing was felt very deeply by everyone at the Nursery, for we had all become extremely attached to this brave little elephant who wanted so desperately to live, and fought so hard to do so.   The post-mortem autopsy revealed the cause of his debility and his ultimate death – a diseased liver that was twice its normal size and blue in colour rather than the normal healthy red, enlarged lumph nodes indicating an underlying and chronic infection and, surprisingly, an Achilles  tendon ripped from his right tarsal joint, which according to the Vet, could never have healed and was the obvious cause of the pain he felt when rising.   This injury would have compromised his movement in adulthood and caused him lifelong problems.  Further pathological tests on the diseased liver and the limph nodes, plus samples of blood might possibly reveal more about what mysterious ailment took Isiolo from us.   

At such times, amidst the grief that will be shared by all Isiolo’s many foster-parents all over the world, one simply has to give thanks that he had a peaceful end, surrounded by those that loved him, and spared the lonely isolation of a slow and agonizing death in the bush due to the loss of his elephant mother and family.   In the Nursery he enjoyed many “mother figures”, not one of whom did not cherish and adore him.   Rest in Peace Isiolo.