Today, the 8th April 2005, there are tears, shock and despair, as a dark cloud of gloom, envelopes the Trust’s Nursery. Last night, tragically, we lost “Nalitu”, our treasured baby of the Nursery group. With very little warning, but for a marked loss of appetite and lethargy the day before, she died very suddenly in her stable at 7.30 p.m. confounding the Veterinarians, and leaving her Keepers and ourselves totally distraught. She had responded well to treatment for her injured shoulder, and we were confident of a full recovery, the limp on the left foreleg only very slight. But, there was obviously something else going wrong, details of which will be revealed through the autopsy that is being undertaken today.
As a water victim, (having been washed down the Uaso Nyiro river when in spate, and hurled against the rocks of the rapids), we always understood that she was at risk from the dreaded respiratory problems that have snatched so many such orphans from us, even many months later. As mentioned before, elephants cannot cough, and the only warning one gets of impending death from respiratory complications is fluid coming from the trunk. In Nalitu, this was never very obvious, although the Keeper that slept with her on the night of the 6th thought he had noticed this dreaded symptom. Water or mud inadvertently taken into the lungs obviously sets up a gradual hidden infection that kills the calf rapidly and with very little warning. This our years of experience has taught as, and we have also learnt how exceedingly fragile baby elephants are. They can be fine one day, and dead the next, so one can never be certain of success until a calf has past its second birthday. Only then do they become more resilient.
Amidst the human tears and grief, which I know will be shared by this little elephants’ many foster-parents throughout the world, a thought must be spared for the remaining Nursery elephants, and especially Galana and Naserian, who adored little Nalitu with the boundless love for which elephants are known. They, too, will miss her deeply and mourn her passing just as sorely as us, her Keepers, and her foster-parents..
The Vets were sure that the loss of appetite stemmed from shoulder pain, since the medication for pain had been stopped five days ago. By the time it became obvious that the breathing was laboured, (which was only half an hour before death) the antibiotic hurriedly given came far too late! She had, of course, had a course of antibiotic injections upon arrival as well as lung strengthening homeopathic pillules. A second course followed to guard against the possibility of Joint ill when she damaged her leg, so perhaps this only delayed what was inevitable as a result of what turned her into an orphan in the first place.
Rest in peace little Nalitu, somewhere in the great somewhere, where, hopefully, all elephant souls can rest without the tribulations of life on earth. And for those of us left behind, life must go on for the love and care will be needed by others to come, and by those left with us. Every orphan has lost something deeply precious - their elephant mother and their entire elephant family and for an elephant, nothing on earth can ever be worse than this.