The evening of 6th December, 2006, and a call from our Chyulu De-Snaring Team made our hearts sink, alerting us to the fact that another young orphaned elephant had been spotted by members of the Community abutting the forest wandering around entirely alone. It is a great tribute to the Community outreach work of our Chyulu De-Snaring Team that members of this previously very un-ele-friendly community took the trouble to walk a long distance to their Camp in the Chyulu Hills to report the presence of this orphan, rather than either just allowing it to die, or killing it, which is what would undoubtedly have previously been done.
The Chyulu De-Snaring Team set out immediately accompanied by the tribesman who had brought the report, and within a short time, they spotted the young elephant very close to a village called “Kenze”. The elephant was in a very emaciated and advanced state of starvation, at 2 years old still milk dependent, and although extremely fearful of humans, had obviously come close to the village for protection against predators. Although enfeebled, he still had sufficient strength to put up a spirited struggle during his capture, but with the assistance of the villagers, who cooperated fully, he was successfully overpowered and loaded onto the back of the De-Snaring Pickup Truck. It being too late to arrange an air rescue that day, he had to endure the 3 hour journey strapped in the back of the Pickup to our Voi Elephant Rehabilitation Centre, where he was put in one of the new recently built small stables. These currently house our orphaned zebra foal “Serena” and the baby lesser Kudu named “Rukinga”, both of whom are being hand-reared by our Voi Elephant Keepers.
The two year old, already named “Kenze”, (at the request of the community), as usual had no liking for the human species, but the Keepers managed to cover him with a blanket, and get him to take milk and rehydration fluids overnight by pinning him in a corner. At first light the next morning the rescue plane set off fropm Nairobi heading for the Voi Park airfield, where the calf was waiting to be loaded loaded onto the plane and flown to Nairobi.
He arrived at the Nairobi Nursery at 11 a.m. on the morning of the 7th December, and one look at him made our hearts sink even further, for once again here was a candidate who was bound to sink into muscular dystrophy due to starvation exacerbated by both the trauma of capture, and two long journeys to safety, added to which he was literally plastered in ticks – huge great yellow elephant ticks on almost every square inch of his ears and body, in between colonies of small black ones. He also had a nasty suppurating wound on his belly, but it was important to get him to his feet quickly so after the first of what would have to be a 5 day prophylactic course of injectible antibiotic, he was lifted to his feet in the Taming Stockade. Here was another Sidai, Challa or Rapsu, who would need intensive care the moment he could be handled in a collapsed state, and from past experience, this we knew was inevitable, so we had the Vet standing by, and all the drips and medication in place. Only then, could we deal with the parasites, clean the wound on his belly and do our best to revive him through the insertion of saline and dextrose drip-fed into one of the large veins behind an ear.
Right now, however, there was nothing we could do for he was extremely aggressive, and at two years old, armed with short tusks, even though weak, was still able to inflict serious injury should he succeed in pinning a Keeper against the bars of his Stockade. Clearly, this young newcomer, at this age, was yet another challenge, set to be a difficult customer, and the prognosis about being able to save his life was not encouraging. Meanwhile, we all awaited the inevitable collapse, which happened at 5 p.m.. Immediately, the life saving drip was able to be inserted into an ear, the wound on his penis and belly inspected and cleaned and the ticks removed by an application of T-Tree and Front Line Spray. We suspect that the injury to the tip of his penis and belly had been inflicted by a small carnivore such as a mongoose or dog, when he was lying down, for had it been a hyaena, it would have been far more serious. As it was, it was not deep. We were actually surprised to find him still with us in the morning, bottle after bottle of dextrose and Hartmans solution having flowed into his body throughout the night as he was attended by two skilled Keepers. He remained comatose and on the drip for the first half of the next morning, hovering precariously between life and death. However, he is obviously a survivor, who, having overcome all odds, was lifted to his feet at noon on the 8th, and wobbled with help into a far corner to lean against the bars of his Stockade. Still bent on attacking whoever approached him, he continued to resist milk for a further 48 hours, but devoured the fresh greens that were cut for him, avidly. It was, however, only milk that would save his life, so in the meantime Daphne prepared with SMA milk little balls of cooked oatmeal and desiccated coconut, which were stuffed into his mouth and swallowed whilst he was down. Eventually, he decided to try milk from a bottle held by a Keeper protected by the Gate to his Stockade, and having tasted it, began to long for each feed, gulping it down rapidly, before trying to flatten the Keeper. Gradually, his milk ration, reinforced with oatmeal and coconut gruel was increased and whenever he lay down to sleep, without the strength to remain standing during the nights, the Keepers were able to clean his wounds and cover him with a blanket as protection against the night chill. After a full week, once he responded to the word “No” and refrained from pushing home any onslaught, he was allowed out one afternoon to join the other Nursery inmates, one full week after arrival. Immediately he gravitated to Lenana, the elephant next door to him during the nights, and he and Lenana, who is still something of a loner, still grief-stricken for her lost elephant loved ones, have formed a strong bond of friendship, giving each other comfort and companionship, feeding close together, but keeping slightly apart from all the others. It is, indeed, a miracle that Kenze is alive to become the twelfth baby in our Nairobi Nursery today. Great credit goes to the Keepers who diligently struggled so hard for his life and who succeeded in narrowly cheating the Angel of death. Though still weak, and pathetically emaciated, he is recovering rapidly, eager to fill his starved belly with milk, and it is for that reason that today we have joy in being able to add his story to the website, our Christmas miracle baby.