On Wednesday, the 17th November, we received a call from our Ziwani desnaring team leader, Nicodemus, about an orphaned elephant calf that the team, along with KWS rangers, had rescued. The Ziwani team operates in the southern sector of Tsavo West National Park, and in recent months this area has experienced an increase in elephant poaching. In recent months we have received a number of orphans from this area, Makireti, Murka, Salaita and now our latest arrival Ishanga. We named her Ishanga, after the area where she was found. (Another name for the area more commonly known as Maktau.)
Ishanga was rescued literally from the jaws of death. Not only was her condition very poor, as she had obviously been without Mum for many days, but just as the team who had sighted her all alone during a routine patrol, circled to capture her, a lion leapt out of the undergrowth and grabbed the vulnerable elephant baby by the neck. This most unexpected twist to the rescue caused enormous panic, but in the scramble the KWS ranger was able to fire gun shots into the air, and very fortunately the lion let go of its prey. The calf was now injured, and paralyzed by fear, so the team members (themselves pretty shaken) were able to restrain her quite easily having ensured the encircling lions were now a safe distance away.
She was driven to the Maktau airstrip in the Ziwani antipoaching team landrover, where the team waited with the baby until the rescue plane and Nairobi Keepers landed. She was immediately prepared for the flight, and after an hour long plane ride, brought straight to the Nairobi Nursery. Initially she was extremely wild and did not let anyone close, not even to take water or milk. But with gentle and tender company throughout the night she succumbed to her hunger and eventually took both milk and water by bottle from the Keeper in the early morning hours of the next day. As is so often the case with starvation victims, once she started taking in food she collapsed in a shivering state, and that all too familiar dread crept over us all as we wondered whether the events of the past week had proved too much for her. But after injections of Selenium, Vitamin B12 and being on an intravenous drip for two hours, she eventually struggled back to her feet much to everyone's delight. That afternoon, despite being so weak, we bought the other orphans to her stockade and they all enveloped her with love and fueled a will to Live. She left the confines of the stockades following them into the bush, and instinctively the orphans knew not to venture too far afield. This whole experience seemed to do the trick. The next morning she joined the group, and was eveb part of the midday mudbath, and despite the visiting public, surrounded by the others she seemed totally calm.
With her wounds now almost completely healed, Ishanga is one of the greediest babies we have, insatiable for milk. She has worked out the milk routine and literally climbs into the wheel barrow carrying the 3 hourly milk rations in an attempt to get her bottles first. She is desperately thin, and despite her many new Nursery friends still misses her lost family terribly. She suffers from nightmares, but we feel sure that with the passage of time she will learn to find true happiness again thanks to the love and attention from her Keepers and the other Nursery orphans.
Fate truly intervened in Ishanga's case; her destiny is to live a full and happy life.