Kwale was extracted from a deep well near Kwale at the Coast as a l0 month old calf, estimated to have been born in September 2011. His condition has long been cause for concern, since he appeared to be suffering from some chronic ailment that defied all medication and whatever else we could possibly think of that might help him recover. From the moment he arrived in our care over a year ago Kwale has never thrived.
The texture of the skin of an elephant is a good early indicator of ill health, and so it was with Kwale, whose skin texture continued to deteriorate, appearing flaky and thin rather than plump and supple. This, coupled with occasional loose stools, bouts of stomach pain and a slightly elevated white cell count in his blood readings from time to time set alarm bells ringing, necessitating antibiotics and B12 injections, plus changes in the milk he was taking. There were moments last month when we were hopeful that he might have turned the corner and be on the road to recovery - when he ran for his milk, downed it with gusto, and even joined the other orphans in the noon mudbath, which was unusual, but the texture of his skin never changed, a grim reminder that things were not as they should be in this precious two year old orphan.
By the 26th he was refusing all milk, had stomach problems, and was taking only very small quantities of vegetation insufficient to support life. He was treated with yet another course of injectable antibiotic and put on Life Support, but rapidly weakened to the point when he was unable to even stand. It was then, on the 27th that we knew we had lost the battle to save him and that the Life Support intravenous drip he was on was only prolonging the agony and the inevitable end. He then lay down quietly to die and the end came on the 28th surrounded by a grieving and tearful human family who loved him dearly and who had done everything in their power to help and heal him, but all in vain.
As Kwale breathed his last, the Vet was standing by to perform the autopsy and take body tissue samples so that from Kwale we might perhaps learn how we might be able to save others with similar symptoms in the future – that his death might contribute to saving the lives of others. However, the autopsy proved beyond a doubt that Kwale did not die from some mysterious disease, but as a result of an early injury to his large intestine which had resulted in immense bleeding and tissue damage, probably as a result of his fall down the deep well and a rough rescue. The wall of the intestine was covered in thick black necrotic tissue which inhibited the absorption of nutrients and it was this that led to Kwale’s long and slow decline. There was some comfort in us knowing that there was absolutely nothing we could have done differently to try and save this precious life. He was a gentle and loving elephant, who bore the blow that had been dealt him in early infancy stoically. Kwale will be sadly missed by us all, both two legged and four.