Sian, orphaned when just 9 months old was the calf of the elephant named “Soila” from Amboseli’s famous SA elephant family, who never returned from having crossed the Kenya border into Tanzania, which Hunters habitually patrol hoping to murder one of Amboseli’s famous Big Tuskers. Sian’s mother was not with the rest of that elephant family when they returned to Kenya on the 13th January 2006. Instead, she was glued to her Aunt, but with no possible chance of survival without access to milk.
Sian was brought into the Trust’s Nairobi Nursery on the 17th January 2006, on that particular day found in amongst a herd of bulls who were being very protective of the tiny orphan. It was quite a challenge for the Rescue team to separate her from the Bulls, but under the leadership of Robert Carr-Hartley and with the help of Cynthia Moss, they managed to do so. Sian was overpowered, and with her legs bound, was laid on the Rescue tarpaulin, driven to the Airfield in a Pickup truck, and loaded into the Plane which was waiting at the airfield.
Sian thrived in the Nursery once she began taking milk and had calmed down. She appeared normally healthy, with no reason to suspect any deficiency. She was moved from the Nairobi Nursery to the Ithumba Rehabilitation facility on the 24th May 2007, along with Orphans Kenze and Loijuk, and there she thrived until she began slowing up and losing condition, appearing to suffer from defective teeth as well as calcification of the toenails which inhibited both her browsing capability and her movement. Extra supplements were sent down, and after the calcified growth on the toenails dropped off, and a new molar moved in, she appeared to rally, but then began to consistently lose condition again. For many months we have been puzzled and concerned about her health. The Vet attached to the Trust’s Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit treated her with injections of Calcium, Vitamins and for possible trypanosomiasis in case the had contracted this tsetse fly debilitating disease due to her poor body condition. Again, she seemed to rally slightly, but then collapsed completely on the 26th June, 2010 and died surrounded by her shocked and grieving Keepers, who were distraught.
Dr. Poghon, the Vet from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust's Tsavo Mobile Unit rushed to Ithumba to undertake an autopsy so that we could learn more about the reason Sian had been taken from us. It was discovered that she had only one lung, the other never having developed, obviously a birth defect, and as she grew, and her body had more blood, the one lung simply could not provide sufficient oxygen to keep the body’s vital organs healthy, for there was also evidence of deterioration in the kidneys.
During the time we were privileged to know Sian intimately, she had captured the hearts of all her human family and was a great favourite of all the orphaned elephants who grew up with her in the Nursery, as well as those older who embraced her once she reached the Rehabilitation Centre at Ithumba. There, she was often a Leader and she enjoyed the special attention of Loijuk, (now the Matriarch of the Keeper Dependent group at Ithumba) and Zurura who never left her side, but was always on hand to keep her company up until the last. She died in the arms of her Keepers, amidst an immense out-pouring of both human and elephant grief, and she will always be remembered and will be sadly missed by both her adopted human and elephant family. But, perhaps there is some consolation in now knowing that there was no more we could possibly have done to save her, and that we did everything possible to make her time with us as happy as possible. We were able to grant her extra years and a happy life, which would have been denied her had she not been taken in as an orphan and she enjoyed a wonderful quality of life at Ithumba, until her body began to fail her. She played in the rain puddles and mudbath, and had at her disposal everything a young elephant could possible want – a loving elephant and human “family”, the variety of food an elephant needs always at hand, exposure to the natural system and contact with wild elephant friends.
Sian had hundreds of foster-parents who will be equally saddened and shocked by her untimely demise, as will the Amboseli Researchers whose hearts she also captured from the moment she drew breath. Rest in Peace beautiful Sian, who surely is another Elephant Angel in Heaven, spared all the trauma and suffering of an elephant earthly existence bedeviled by the human greed for ivory.