Little Kungu tragically died on the 13th October, 2008 to serious hemorrhaging of the gut, which we simply could not control – not even with a long course of antibiotics. We thought we were winning after 3 days of treatment, because we had managed to control the diarrheoa and stop the bleeding, but the 13th October, 2008 left us shocked, devastated and depressed, because he suddenly quietly passed away.
Kungu came in battered and bruised after the ordeal of being extracted from that well in the remote Northern frontier of Kenya. However, he recovered well, and went on to enjoy 5 happy weeks with his little friends in the Nairobi Nursery, under the watchful eye of Lesanju and Lempaute. Baby elephants always suffer teething troubles when their first molars push in through the gum from the back of the jawbone where they are formed, and from whence they will be replaced by ever larger molars another five times throughout an elephant lifetime to cater for an ever increasing appetite as the elephant grows in body size. Those first baby molars are the front-runners to all the others and as such very often trigger fevers and diarrheoa which in turn creates an ideal nursery for bacteria if a little elephant’s immune system is not strong enough to cope when it has been deprived of his mother’s perfect milk and the special ingredients it contains to counter such problems. Some infants who have been blessed with a healthy and strong immune systems come through unscathed, (usually, however, not without help from alternative medication and often the oral Sulphadimidine) but there are others who have not, and sadly “Kungu” is now numbered amongst those. He had a bad start - the loss of his elephant mother and family – the ordeal of being stuck in a well and extracted with great difficulty which left him injured and bruised under his chin and an infection high up in his trunk, but he battled through that – then followed by teething – which simply proved too much for him. Now, one more tiny grave in the forest behind the Orphans’ Nursery Stockades holds him in his last deep sleep, a peaceful spot worthy of his earthly remains. He was blessed with a more peaceful end than he would otherwise have endured, surrounded by an out-pouring of care and love, and laid to rest with the tears of those who loved him, both here in the Nursery, and in distant lands, where many people had come to know of his story and who have supported him.
People often say to us – “How do you cope?” The answer is that we have no choice because there are others that do need us and will need us in the future. When rearing the elephant babies one must have the courage to endure – to turn the page and move on after a period of deep sadness and reflection about what might have been, and what to do differently next time. Rest in peace little Kungu.