The rescue of Galana

It always happens on a Sunday! <<116200453245-pic1

It always happens on a Sunday!

During the morning of Sunday 15th August, a phone call from our De-Snaring Team Leader in Voi alerted us to the fact that a young female elephant had been rescued near the Galana river, about 10 miles from the Sala Gate on the Eastern boundary of Tsavo National Park. She was approximately 1 year old, and had been found all alone in a patch of thick salt-bush bordering the river by some visitors, who happened to spot a small foot poking out.
There were no other elephants nearby, but there was a pride of 5 lions not far away. The calf had made a tiny den within the salt bush, where she was hiding. The visitors alerted the KWS personnel at Sala Gate, who got in touch with our Mobile Veterinary Unit, which was soon on the scene, with some of our De-Snaring personnel. The calf was captured, and transported to our Elephant Night Stockades at Voi. She was weak and therefore easily restrained without the need for sedation for the l hour journey, squeezed into the back of the Mobile Veterinary Unit vehicle, to the Elephant Stockades in Voi, where the baby received a rapturous welcome from the other orphans.
They surrounded her and comforted her, whilst our De-Snaring Team Leader made the phone call to Nairobi, advising us that the elephant was fragile and weak and should be air-lifted to the Nairobi Nursery, being still milk dependent and orphaned at a difficult age.

A plane was hurriedly scrambled in Nairobi aboard which were all the necessities for an air rescue; three men, the milk, and the circular carrying tarpaulin, headed forVoi, to where the larger Caravan aircraft (on another charter) would be diverted on its return journey to meet them and bring the elephant back to Nairobi. The new orphan arrived in the Nursery at 3 p.m., again without having to be sedated for the flight but instead manually restrained with legs tied.

Before boarding the plane in Voi, she had taken the milk and rehydration that the rescue plane had brought.

Once up on her feet in one of the rhino Stockades at the Nursery, previously occupied by Napasha, she immediately began feeding on greens in between bouts of aggression directed at the humans. However, it was milk she needed most, and this she took eagerly, before charging again at the Keeper, who had to be careful to try and keep from being pinned against the wall.

The calf did not appear to be in a critical condition of emaciation, but had obviously been without a mother for sometime. She was obviously thin, her skin parched rather than supple and cheekbones prominent - always a tell-tale indication of poor physical condition. We estimated the age at about 14 months, since she had no tusks, but was a large calf – about the size of Selengai and taller than the other four Nursery inmates. We named her “Galana”. So far there is no news of what became of her mother and her elephant family but one thing we learnt later from a tour Operator who had also seen her earlier than the visitors, and that was that a pride of 15 lions were also close by, so she is very lucky to still be alive and could not have lasted much longer! She owes her life to the kind visitors that found her, and took the trouble to report her plight to the authorities.

Having spent the first night in the Nursery, the next morning, she was too weak to stand and had to be heaved onto her feet by the Keepers, who supported her in a standing position whilst Daphne shovelled into her mouth several handfuls of Glucolin to try and generate some strength. Eagerly she accepted this, and then downed another 3 litres of milk whilst the other Nursery elephants crowded around her to show her that she was not alone, and to give her the will to live. This had the usual magical result, and immediately her eyes took on an expression of interest whilst her strength visibly improved. All the Nursery inmates greeted her gently, touching her with their trunks, eager to inspect and smell her as she was, them – all except Sunyei, who seemed a little “put out” by the presence of a larger female and chose to ignore her presence, standing with her behind pointing towards the newcomer! Madiba and Naserian were the most affectionate, whilst Ndomot had just one thought in his head, and that was to have his trunk glued to his Keeper!

Meanwhile Daphne had called in Dieter Rottcher, our Veterinarian, who was surprised to find the invalid sufficiently strong to shove the Keeper around in between dreamingly suckling a hand. She was given a steroid and Vitamin B injection, having already had a long acting antibiotic jab in Voi.

On the second morning, once again she had to be helped to her feet, and again enjoyed the company of the other orphans for half an hour in the morning, after the mudbath and in the evening. She fed well, but was still “pushy” towards her Keepers, although very relaxed and quiet when the other elephants were with her. The third morning found her strong enough to get to her feet unaided, and on the fourth morning she was out and about with all the others, happily in amongst our little herd of Nursery inmates as they went out into the bush. However, we did not risk taking her to the mudbath for fear that the sight of so many visitors might unsettle her again, after what for her, had been a fairly traumatic rescue. It was, however, advisable to avoid sedation on a rescue where the calf is obviously emaciated and weak for baby elephants are essentially very fragile, even when in good health.

Galana promises to be a loving and caring little Mini Matriarch of our Nursery elephants, replacing the role that was held by Sunyei simply because she is older. She has a beautiful face, and exudes a magical aura already.