The rescue of Asanje

Reports of an orphaned baby were first received five days previously from the Masai community near the Masai Mara Game Reserve after she had been driven away by dogs

Reports of an orphaned baby were first received five days previously from the Masai community near the Masai Mara Game Reserve after she had been driven away by dogs.  She later arrived on the lawns of Cotters 1920’s Camp in the Masai Mara, and watered at their waterhole staying close for protection.  


We received a phone call from Calvin Cottar regarding this rescue on the 8th of October but due to the late hour and the fading light it was too late to arrange.  The following morning on the 9th of October we received a call from the Camp manager informing us that the calf was still there, and in desperate need of rescuing because her condition was visibly deteriorating.  With a den of hyenas living closeby with each passing day and night her chances of survival were lessened.  There were no herds of elephants in the area, and Cotters 1920’s is situated very close to the Tanzanian border.  The fate of her mother remained unknown, but she was a suspected poaching victim, probably from Tanzania.  

Our rescue team landed at the airstrip close to the camp and was transported to where the elephant was by the lodge staff.   The capture was dramatic as they had to restrain her with their usual technique of a blanket thrown over the head and then restraining her behind the ears and neck.   They tranquilized her at this point to reduce the stress levels, but it became evident she was too large to fit in the lodge vehicle to be transported to the airfield.  There were many people present assisting in the rescue of this 20 month old baby and the lodge staff provided enormous support and assistance, providing a tractor and trailer to transport the calf back to the waiting plane so that she could be loaded, strapped and secured and placed on a drip for the duration of the flight.  

By the time the team arrived at the Nursery it was about 8.00pm.  She was immediately off loaded and placed in a stockade next to Zongoloni and Bomani – with the steady stream of orphans arriving we have had to make significant sleeping arrangement adjustments to accommodate them all.  Many orphans are doubled up and sharing stockades now.  We have called her Asanje which means sweetheart in Maa the language spoken by the Masai people.  She is a lovely elephant, and has clearly been through a lonely and frightening time before being rescued.

But the drama concerning Asanje was not over.  As the weeks passed she grew stronger and joined the orphans out in the bush becoming comfortable with the routine and making new and special friends with many of the elephants in the Nursery.   But just when we thought all was well, early one morning while out in the forest with the others Asanje suddenly swelled around her neck and chin, grew weaker and weaker, circling around in one direction and seemingly lost her sight.   It took many men to guide her back to the safety of the stockades.  Edwin immediately reported Asanje’s deteriorating condition to Angela who ensured that she was given cortisone intravenously to save her life.  Clearly she had suffered a monumental anaphylactic reaction to something, something that remains to this day a mystery but we suspect it could have been a cobra snake bite.  She was placed on a drip to restore her strength and as the day passed grew stronger, the swelling subsided and she began to feed once again.  

She remained without sight for three weeks but in that time remarkably still found her way around, and the casual observer would have never known that she was blind.  This was just one of many complications that we were confronted with in the wake of Asanje’s dramatic ordeal, as she continued to swell from time to time between her legs and chin, and her skin cracked and peeled.  Her condition worsened and we literally lurched from day to day not sure she was going to have the strength to pull through despite everyone’s best efforts. Slowly and miraculously she began to regain her sight over time. 

Throughout this time it has been Asanje’s preference to remain alone with her beloved Keepers only joining the other elephant orphans at feed times.  We see this often with orphans that are ailing, as if they instinctively know that the rambunctious behavior of the others is more than they can physically cope with during this delicate time.  She loves her stockades, and returns for periods of time throughout the day to feed on cut greens and additional treats like Lucerne and diary cubes and her movements are all subject to her own rhythm.  

Unbelievably she seems to be improving so much so that we feel she is ready to be placed on the fostering program two month after the incident.   We are hopeful that with all the tender loving care she is receiving from her new two and four legged family she will make a full recovery in the fullness of time, and thanks to the speedy reactions of all concerned her life was saved that fateful morning, and we hope we are through the worst as far as additional complications post that dramatic morning.    She is a very courageous and lovely elephant, whose need for intensive care has only brought that special bond with her keepers even closer.