Towards the end of July KWS officers in charge of Mount Kenya National Park were in touch with Angela concerning the fate of a young orphaned elephant sporadically spotted on the forested slopes of Mount Kenya on the Embu side of the mountain. What made matters even more challenging than just the terrain was that the closest airport was being used by the Kenya Military at the time and not available for civil aviation. This elephant calf was going to have to be captured and then driven the five hours journey to Nairobi. Not an ideal situation.
The logistics of getting all parties coordinated for this rescue too was challenging as we arranged to drive the Trust funded Meru Mobile Veterinary Unit vehicle to Embu to help facilitate transport. Fortunately on the day this was all planned, the 2nd of August, the approximately 18 month old orphaned elephant was in sight which enabled the KWS rangers present at the scene to capture her. Peter Kariuki the DSWT veterinary assistant and driver was able to lend a hand and assist with the process offering his expertise having rescued a number of older elephants in the past. Capturing an 18 month old elephant in terrain like the slopes of Mount Kenya, filled with thick vegetation, stinging nettles and numerous valleys, is extremely challenging. Thankfully the KWS team and DSWT Peter Kariuki did a wonderful job and the calf was restrained and loaded into the back of the land cruiser comfortably laid on a thick mattress with her eyes covered and limbs tied with straps. She was given an injection of stressnil to take the edge off the journey and the KWS Assistant Warden Mount Kenya and three KWS rangers accompanied the orphan to Nairobi. This was necessary to help with any police presence along the way.
The calf arrived in the late evening. With her thick layer of black hairs she looked typical of Mount Kenya elephants. She was emaciated, clearly having been without her mother for a good long time. The first days in the Nursery were very much touch and go with her collapsing and requiring IV fluids in order to get back to her feet. Fortunately she continued to feed and this slowly enabled her to gain strength over the coming days.
Right from the outset she was a gentle calf, with an easy nature, and she very soon recognized she was being helped and cooperated fully. Of course you could not help notice her sad demeanor; she clearly missed her loved ones. She also had terrible worms, but we waited a couple of days before risking deworming her, as it was that tricky catch twenty two, having to ensure enough strength in order to deworm her, but at the same time knowing that the longer one left it the more the worms compromised her strength and recovery. Thankfully she coped with the injectable deworming well and was soon strong enough to spend the days out with the other elephants. She instinctively knew she was weaker than the rest and chose to keep her distance from the boisterous youngsters, mindful that she could be pushed to the ground very easily, but as the weeks passed her strength increased and her confidence and happiness too. She became incredibly close to a much younger female calf rescued a few days after her arrival called Dupotto. They have helped each other heal which has been very touching to watch.