Early on Thursday 4th April a tiny female elephant calf was spotted by tour operators in Tsavo East National Park about three kilometres from Msinga Hill and the Trusts Voi stockades. The baby was desperate for company and had taken to following the tour vans that were watching her. No wild elephants could be seen in the vicinity and the calf was very close to a large water pan notorious for lions which come to ambush the animals drinking there. Having watched the desperate scene for some time one of the tour operators reported the baby to the Kenya Wildlife Service who then contacted the Trusts keepers at Voi stockades.
The Voi keepers hurried to rescue the baby and succeeded in capturing her at about 9.10am, fortunately before she could come to any harm. The Trusts vet unit was also put on standby but their assistance was not required as the baby was so small and easy to handle. The little female calf was so newborn that the umbilical cord was still fresh, but the soles of her feet showed she had walked a long way looking for help. She is absolutely perfect, but clearly sunburnt, and shouting loudly for her mother at every opportunity. The Voi keepers gave her some milk, which she took with eagerness being very thirsty. The temperatures were unforgiving, hovering around 42 degrees centigrade, despite the recent rain that has turned Tsavo into a blanket of green, so it was imperative for her survival that she did not become badly dehydrated.
At 12.30pm a plane was dispatched from Nairobi to bring the baby back to the Nursery where she can receive the expert attention so important to her wellbeing. The flight took little over an hour across a landscape recently turned emerald green by the new shoots and leaves emerging as a result of recent rains. Even in Tsavo all the water holes are full and the rivers flowing torrents of brown turbulent water, a relief after the dry preceding months. Once the plane landed at Voi airstrip the Nairobi keepers quickly bundled the baby on board and gently strapped her down to avoid injury on the flight back to Nairobi. The plane was airborne again just after 2pm for the return leg with the baby protesting loudly and crying for her mother. At a little after 3.30pm everyone finally arrived safely back at the Nairobi orphanage and the baby was taken to the quite comfort of a stable which she proceeded to explore with her tiny trunk. She was persuaded to take some more milk but then decided that she also needed to explore the rest of her surroundings. Closely followed by her keepers she wobbled out and started to explore her new home, giving Geri the orphaned Thompsons gazelle rather a start as she had come to see what was going on, and all the while shouting loudly no doubt trying to locate her mother. This continued through much of the night upsetting the other Nursery residents who were clearly concerned.
The baby has been named Ajabu, a Swahili word meaning mystery, to reflect the unanswered questions surrounding her first precious days and what happened to her mother and her herd.
Here is a short film to show Ajabu's progess at the Nairobi nursery.