On the evening of the 24th of April Angela Sheldrick was contacted by Craig Miller from Big Life regarding an orphaned elephant who had been located stuck in a waterhole in Amboseli.
He was first discovered by a community member who happened to have a relative working as a sergeant within the Big Life Ranger force; he contacted Big Life alerting them of this baby’s fate in the hope that he could be saved. This all took place at 5.00pm in the afternoon and how long he had been stricken in the mud was not clear, but later information suggested as long as 48 hours. Big Life ops room immediately deployed two vehicles to the scene, with the plan of assisting the calf out of the mud in the hope the mother would return later, but when the two ranger teams arrived the calf had freed itself and was wandering alone.
It was now 7pm and getting darker by the minute so the teams quickly started to track the calf. By 8pm they had lost the tracks as the mud covering the calf had started to dry up and stopped leaving an easy to follow trail. So the two teams decided to split up and search in two extended lines in the two directions they thought the calf had most likely headed. At around 9pm one team picked the calf up in the cars headlights, he was younger than originally thought and there was little chance he would have the energy and knowledge needed to find his mum which would also depend on the mother returning. The team watched him for another hour and then made the decision to catch him and keep him overnight for the DSWT to collect the next morning. Arrangements were made for a room to be made available and the ranger whose brother reported the calf in the first place stayed with him all night in Ol Tokai. Even though he was a big calf in good condition he appeared very weak, and not particularly strong having been without milk and water for a very long time.
Craig Millar of Big Life arrived early in the morning and together with Ol Tokai staff, Katito from ATE and the Big Life rangers the calf was transferred to the airstrip. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust was able to mobilize a rescue very early on the morning of the 25th of April and despite driving rain in Nairobi the rescue team were able to land in Amboseli by 9.15am. The calf was estimated to be approximately four months old. On arrival at the Amboseli airfield our Keepers were greeted by the Big Life team who had looked after their little elephant charge overnight. He was given milk which he took earnestly and was then prepared for the flight back to Nairobi.
He was placed on a saline drip while the plane waited on the ground in Amboseli, avoiding zero visibility conditions in Nairobi as the rain continued to bucket down.
Eventually, with a small window in the weather, the rescue team took off and timed it to perfection, arriving in Nairobi while there was some respite from the wet and sodden conditions. The baby was off-loaded from the plane, loaded into the back of the covered DSWT pickup and driven to the Nairobi Nursery, a journey of approximately 20 minutes, and where upon arrival he was placed in a dry and warm stable.
It was clear the little bull calf was simply exhausted by this time, as he swayed on his feet fighting fatigue. Eventually he was calm enough to lie on the soft hay and have a well-deserved sleep with a loving Keeper for company making sure the drip kept him hydrated while he slept. His stable was positioned between two other orphans both who have recently arrived in our care, and having the quiet presence from these other babies was helpful indeed as he settled and fed and slept throughout his first night, with a confidence that he was amidst other elephants.
We have called this little bull Ambo after the location where he was found. As the days progressed Ambo has thrived thankfully, and has settled into the routine here at the Nursery. He is full of character, loving both his Keepers and the other orphaned elephants.