She was deeply loved by her Keepers, her elephant peers and her many foster-parents in far away places. She was a wonderful, gentle, and loving baby elephant named Kudup”, her name taken from the place where she was rescued on the 13th May 2009 from a deep well dug in the sands of the normally dry Milgis Lugga in Northern Kenya. She would have celebrated her second birthday in just a few days time, but it was not to be for she was taken from us during the morning of the l0th May 2011 after a long wasting illness that defeated everyone to be able to address.
She underwent courses of both oral and injectable antibiotics, homeopathic healing remedies, the self selection of healing essential oils, body talk and every type of conventional and alternative remedies we could conjure up. Swelling of the abdomen seemed to point to a major organ defect such as the heart, liver or kidneys. Despite all our best efforts she simply slowly wasted away before our very eyes, and having to watch her doing so was painful in the extreme.
We begged South African specialists to fly up at our expense and try and help diagnose the problem of this precious baby, and expecting their arrival any day, there seemed nothing more we could do but await their arrival. At the last moment we heard that they were unable to come, so we made the decision to end Kudup’s suffering on the l0th May so that a thorough Post mortem could be undertaken by our Vet and tissue samples preserved in formalin sent to the South African specialists instead. With access to better and more advanced Laboratory facilities they might just be in a position to give us the answer we so desperately needed.
We dreaded having to euthenase Kudup which she could view with her last conscious thought as the ultimate betrayal by those she trusted and loved. We all fervently prayed that God would intervene and do it for us, and in this our prayers were answered. Kudup did pass away without our help on the morning of the 10th May 2011 and she looked at peace.
We expected that a post mortem would unearth all sorts of major defects in this elephant who had been so obviously sick for so long. But, in this we were mistaken. Instead there was nothing to indicate that any major organ had failed, save a huge amount of straw coloured fluid in the stomach cavity, which accounted for her abdominal swelling. The heart was fine, as was the liver, gut, kidneys, spleen and lungs, so what could possibly have caused the demise of this once very healthy baby elephant who had been in the Nursery since the age of just 2 months, and initially had thrived and grown as she should. But, the tissue samples preserved in formalin are currently on their way to South Africa, the export permit kindly arranged by the South African Vets, and now we await their further findings. Like many other elephant babies we have lost Kudup had one thing in common with them. She had been a well and drought victim of that disastrous drought year of 2009
Our Vet concludes that a condition known as “Sprue” in malnourished human children could possibly be the clue, whereby the villi of the intestine shrivel through an intolerance or allergy until they end up unable to absorb nutrients as they should. Could this possibly be something in the milk substitute formula the baby elephants are given in the Nursery, or even perhaps something lacking in their own mothers’ milk due to the severe drought conditions of 2009 – Nature’s way of trimming an elephant population beset by environmental change. Apparently, Sprue usually also manifests itself in malnourished human children round about the age of two years.
There is comfort in knowing that Kudup had l8 months of happiness and a groundswell of love from both her Keepers, her peers and her foster parents throughout the world during that time, and that we know we did everything in our power to try and save her. She was one of many little elephants who have demonstrated to us humans the boundless compassion, gentleness, and love of her species, as well as the capacity to forgive the huge injustice done to her kind by the human race. There is a time for grief - a time for heart-ache and sorrow - but also a time to have the ability to turn the page and concentrate on the living, for there are, and will be, many others that need our help, and in this we will not fail them.