Narripi’s short life was plagued with insurmountable obstacles, and today the 4th of October at 4.00pm he slipped into a coma and drew his last breath. He was always a subdued little elephant from the day he arrived but hardly surprising having lost his whole herd one fateful night when he fell into a man made well and his herd was unable to retrieve him. Later that same night his trunk was ravaged by a hyena, but good fortune shone on him briefly when a Maasai discovered him tapped in the hole and went to seek help, and Narripi was rescued and brought to us at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
But that was just the beginning of a five week battle for this unfortunate little baby, who seemed to have been dealt such an unfair start to life. He underwent surgery on his trunk which actually healed beautifully, and then immediately began the teething process which seems to bring on enormous problems for baby elephants being raised on a milk formula that is the best we know, but still a poor substitute for mother’s milk. He had the dedicated love of his Keepers, which he returned in heaps, and he later had the company of little Makena who he adored and was very protective of, always bringing her back into the fold gently guiding her the first few days when she was constantly in search of her mother. He was however plagued with stomach problems for weeks, but it was the dreaded pneumonia that snatched his life, as his own immune system became weakened by the many antibiotics that he had to take for both his wound and stomach problems, and slowly and insidiously it took hold, with the only warning sign being his reluctance to sleep last night, instead standing for most of the night. In the morning he fed, slower than usual, and his stools seemed to be normal finally, so we were all beginning to feel like we had won the battle, and then at 1.30pm his trunk began to shiver, and then his legs began to shake. These are the all too familiar signs of pneumonia that fill each and every one of us with horror. We immediately administered another antibiotic desperate to try and catch the pneumonia in time, but the rapid rate he deteriorated shocked us all. We walked him slowly back to his stable, as he gasped for air but soon he slipped away as the Keepers in a last desperate effort rubbed essential oils into his chest. For all of us it was another heartbreak, the Keepers leaving the stable, tears streaming down their faces, as no one was prepared for what the day delivered, and for these grown men who had dedicated night and day to saving this calf to have it all amount to this was more than they could bare. None of us thought the little elephant that was playing in the dust outside Kwale’s stockade for Kwale’s two days in the nursery would end up buried beside him a few weeks later.