The demise of 'Ziwani'

“If only” is perhaps the saddest phrase in the English language, and if only we had been able to rescue a yearling male elephant calf in time, found by KWS Rangers all alone in and near the Ziwani swamp in Tsavo West National Park, we might have been able to save him

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“If only” is perhaps the saddest phrase in the English language, and if only we had been able to rescue a yearling male elephant calf in time, found by KWS Rangers all alone in and near the Ziwani swamp in Tsavo West National Park, we might have been able to save him.

As it was, he arrived too late, rescued and flown to the Nairobi Nursery on the evening of 7th September. Whilst still immobilized Dr. Ndeereh, the Vet attached to our Mobile Veterinary Unit, was able to assess and clean out the horrendous injuries around his genitals, which were swarming with maggots. He also had wounds on his hind legs and back, inflicted by either a predator and/or crocodiles whilst sheltering in the swamp to save himself being torn apart by hyaenas.

As soon as we saw him, we knew that this was almost a replica of the case of the little Amboseli Bull named “Ol Tukai”. He was too ill to feed, or even take water, and too psychologically damaged to even try to live, in

excruciating pain. We did what we could to make him comfortable, administered pain-killers and lavished upon him tender loving care throughout the night, but by the next morning, we could see that the end was nigh. Pressed up against the Keeper for comfort, despite being a wild elephant, he collapsed at mid-day, fell into a coma, and our Vet, having again assessed the seriousness of his wounds, ended his suffering with an overdose of anaesthetic.

Of course, tears flowed yet again as they always do when a baby elephant in our care gives up the ghost. It never does get any easier, but tears show compassion and the empathy that has been the key to the many successes we have pulled off. At such times we try to remind ourselves that over 50 others that would otherwise have died, now live and are happy and free. After tears, another page must be turned and attention focused on the living for there will be others that will need our help.

“How come you are so upset, when you hardly even know this calf?”, said a visitor who happened to witness our distress. The answer is that we see in each and every one an individual that mirrors others that we do know and love. We grieve for one that would have been just like them; for a life that should have spanned three score years and ten, and an individual every bit as special as the many others in our care.

Before he died, we gave him a name, as we do all that reach us alive. He was called “Ziwani” and he was a beautiful baby of about a year old, with gentle brown eyes fringed with amazingly long thick lashes. He would have made an extremely handsome bull, but the severity of his wounds, the grief of losing his elephant family, and the time that had already past before he was rescued, proved just too much and by the time he arrived in the Nursery, he was already beyond help.