The Diary of a DSWT pilot - April 7 2013 by Nick Trent

After huge thunderstorms on the evening of Saturday the 6th April, Tsavo woke up to the chatter of bird song and beautifully fresh smelling air

After huge thunderstorms on the evening of Saturday the 6th April, Tsavo woke up to the chatter of bird song and beautifully fresh smelling air.

I took off from the Tsavo HQ at Kaluku in the Top Cub aeroplane on a mission to collect a rescued Gerenuk calf. The flight to Voi was smooth and I could see for miles. I passed a few herds of elephants, content in the many waterholes that the rain had left behind.

On landing at Voi the DSWT team met me there, and in a small cardboard box was the most adorable face looking up at me. A very young male Gerenuk, calmly enjoying the attention, gazed out at the faces around him. He had lost his mother near Manyani Prison, and the Prison workers had rescued him. They had put him together with a herd of goats, and for two days he fitted in like one of them. A gerenuk is quite goat-like, and in some ways more like a camel. They live in hot arid parts of Africa, and can survive without drinking water, receiving needed moisture from the leaves they browse.

It was not quite time for the young gerenuk to take his first flight, when Angela Sheldrick called me with the alarming news that one of the orphan elephants, Shimba, had been mauled by a lion during the night, and had just been located by Julius and the other Voi elephant Keepers. Apparently the day before some of the orphans had been mingling with some wild elephants close to a waterhole filled from recent rains when yet another storm rolled in. The storm, and the accompanying thunder, had caused five orphans to run off into the rain with a wild herd. By nightfall they had not been found and the keepers had to leave them out for the night. On return first thing in the morning as they searched for the missing orphans (Kenia, Ndii, Emsaya, Layoni and Shimba) they came across Shimba, standing alone in a daze amidst what had been a violent battle. Bushes were trampled, blood covered the ground, and lion hair was strewn around. Shimba had received a serious mauling from a lion attack, but had obviously fought back and survived with some quite serious injuries. His right ear lobe had been torn out, and his trunk cut as if by a surgeons scalpel. Multiple slashes covered his back legs and back.

The Keepers walked him slowly back to the stockades and treated his wounds thoroughly before packing them with green clay and giving him an antibiotic to stave off infection. He remained totally calm and accommodating knowing that he was being helped and relieved to be in the safe care of his beloved Keepers.

There were still four orphans missing, and of course everyone remained very concerned given Shimba's fate, that they too might be in trouble. With Julius in the back seat, we took off in the Top Cub in search of them. Many wild herds of elephants were in the area, making it difficult to determine where the orphans were. Eventually we found them, standing alone under a tree, having decided it was not time to go off with the wild herd. After guiding the keepers from the air to where they stood, I could see the young elephants rushing up to the keepers the moment they heard them calling. Together again they were walked home just before nightfall set in.

On the flight back to base I spotted six lions nearby. Just as well we had found the orphans and they did not have another night out on their own, because without the protection of the wild herd they remain vulnerable to the vicious Tsavo lions. We are confident Shimba will make a full recovery and all of the team at Voi are keeping a careful and caring eye on him during his recovery.

The baby gerenuk enjoyed the ride back to base in the Top Cub, lying calmly in the back all the way. He has settled in fast, and is feeding well with many friendly hands taking care of him. We have called him Nuk.

Please foster Shimba to help him through this difficult time by clicking on the following link: