On the 7th of August we were contacted about an elephant rescue from Nyalani in Kwale. This is an area on the coast of Kenya opposite Diani outside of the Shimba Hills National Park. With the onset of the dry season the communities have been forced to dig wells for water for both themselves and their livestock within the area. Under the cover of darkness these wells are also shared by elephants who stray outside of the protection of the Shimba Hills National Park and the Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary. The constant threat of elephants destroying crops within the district have made this particular community, where the elephant calf was discovered, unsympathetic towards any elephants, which makes this story all the more remarkable.
In the early hours of the morning on the 7th, the villagers in the area heard a lot of noise coming from the vicinity of one of the water wells, but familiar with hearing elephants under the cover of darkness they took little notice of the commotion. Yet much later in the day when they went to water their livestock they found an elephant calf trapped in the bottom of the well. It was only then that they realised all of the noise from that night must have been caused by the mother and herd trying desperately to get the calf out. Sadly the mother had no success in freeing her calf and had to make the agonising decision to abandon it in order to save her herd, knowing what grave danger they would be in with the threat of humans if she didnt.
On finding the elephant calf the villagers reported it to the Kenyan Wildlife Service Ranger Post who came to rescue the orphan at 3.30pm. The calf was extremely lucky to have been extracted from the well and to have survived the dangers of being in a community outside of the park, which are not so friendly towards elephants. In many cases the community would have been inclined to kill their elephant victim.
With little evidence of any elephants remaining in the area there was no possibility of reuniting the calf with his family who had disappeared into the depths of the densely forested Shimba Hills, so the decision was made to drive the calf to safety and he was loaded onto a KWS vehicle and taken to Voi. This was a long 4 hour bumpy journey that KWS undertook in an effort to ensure the calf reached the safety of the Voi Stockades. They arrived at 8pm in the evening and were greeted by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trusts Keepers along with Joseph Sauni, the head Keeper at Voi.
The elephant was carried into the taming stockades and helped to his feet. Despite his gruelling ordeal he looked strong but had many bruises on his head and face caused by his attempts to free himself from the well and his elephant familys efforts to extract him. The calf was aggressive at first to his Keepers until he calmed down whilst taking his milk, falling into a deep sleep an hour later, simply exhausted from his ordeal.
The following day on the 8th of August a rescue plane was sent by the Trust to Tsavo in order to airlift him to the Nairobi Nursery. He arrived safely at the Nursery at 4pm and has been aged at approximately 10 months old and named Kwale, from the area in which he was rescued. It will take time for him to make sense of the past days and to recover from the trauma he has experienced.
Kwale is at that very difficult age where they are old enough to remember their lost elephant family and are likely to morn them for months. Yet with the calming and reassuring influence of the other orphans these physiological wounds will slowly heal and he will eventually find happiness once again having been given a second chance due to so many people doing so much to save his precious life.