On the 8th of August the Galana Ranch staff first noticed a young elephant calf amongst a herd of adult bulls, and as this is not normal they decided to monitor the calf closely over the coming days. On the 12th of August the calf was sighted again by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Field Operations Officer and pilot, Richard Moller, while on an Aerial Patrol. By this stage the calf had lost considerable condition and it was clear that without his mother he would die, because as a milk dependent calf he would not survive on his own in a wild situation, particularly as Galana Ranch right now is parched dry. Richard reported his sighting to the KWS authorities and our Voi elephant Keepers who arrived on the scene around 3:30pm. The calf is estimated to be approximately 20 months old.
The Voi Keepers did not waste any time, but the rescue was challenging because of the presence of his 4 big bull elephant guardians, and being late in the day they were mindful that it would take time too for the rescue plane to arrive from Nairobi, and all this needed to be acheived before sunset. The bulls were protective of him, so the rescue team had to be careful and very strategic in planning their capture. While they used the vehicle to sheild them they were able to captured the baby, who surprisingly did not put up too much of a fight, clearly weakened by days without milk.
Back in Nairobi the Keepers involved in the rescue were ready to go soon after the call came in at 4.00pm and were airborne shortly afterwards, arriving at Galana Ranch's airstrip about 1 hour 30 minutes later.
The calf was safely loaded onto the plane with the cooperation of many Ranch hands and arrived back in Nairobi well after dark, around 7pm.
We called him Dabassa, after the famous Dabassa herd of old that were resident in that region during the 70's and early 80's. Once untied and safely in the taming stockade he seemed to gather renewed strength and proceeded to give the Keepers a serious run around.
So much so that getting a milk bottle down him proved impossible, so he only took water throughout the night. The next day however, although he remained agressive, he soon learnt about the milk and from that moment onwards could not seem to get enough of it. Of course, like so many before him, he was riddled in parasites, so after a couple of days in the stockade we dewormed him and everyday throughout the day he was exposed to the nursery elephants and this coupled with Mishak's calming ways he began to settle. Mutura has been particularly enamoured with Dabassa, and showered him with warmth and affection which have instilled in him a real sense of belonging.
It will not be too long before Dabassa will have the opportunity of returning to Tsavo as being as old as he is he will head down to Ithumba in the not too distant future to join the other older keeper dependent elephant orphans there, and be exposed once again to big wild bulls who we are sure will always hold a very special place in his heart, for the protection he received from the Galana bulls most surely saved him from falling prey to Tsavo's lions.