A lone bull calf, obviously an orphan of approximately 16 months old, and therefore still milk dependent, was sighted on Loisaba Ranch at 9 a.m. during the morning of 1st December 2008 by a Staff Member who went to remove the tusks from the body of a cow elephant that had been reported dead. The cow elephant is likely to have been a poaching victim and had been dead for about 14 days. In fact, the calf had been sighted on its own for several days, but had always been in the vicinity of other elephants, so the Ranch Staff were not sure that it was, in fact, an orphan of the dead mother until it was seen in a waterhole all alone. By then he had been mauled around the rear end and had his tail almost bitten in half by hyaenas. However, once it had been established that he was, in fact, an orphan not just a straggler from a wild herd, the Trust was alerted, so that the rescue plane and Keepers could be standing by, ready to leave as soon as confirmation came that the calf had been successfully captured. Despite having lost a lot of condition and weakened from milk deprivation, the calf was still quite strong, so it took 6 stalwart ranch workers to subdue him, not without difficulty, a man named Tukana being first to put his body on the line! News that the elephant had been successfully subdued reached the Trust at about 12.30 p.m. so the Rescue Plane left instantly and by the time it landed at Loisaba Ranch airfield, the orphaned elephant was ready to be loaded, lying on a mattress with its legs secured.The calf was named Lomolo, short for Lomolorowa – the name of the lugga close to where he was found and the location of his dead mother’s remains.
He arrived at the Nursery at about 4.30 p.m., and whilst still recumbent on the Rescue Tarpaulin the wounds inflicted by hyaenas near the anal opening were assessed and cleaned, as was the near severed tail. Amazingly, once Lomolo’s legs were untied, he was up in a flash confronting the Keepers with outspread ears, but nevertheless he accepted his milk from the bottle offered through the bars of the dividing partition within his Stockade. This was very encouraging, and also very unusual, for a calf of that age who was a wild elephant just a few hours previously! We were all amazed.
As usual, his arrival in an already crowded Nursery entailed shuffling the other occupants around when they returned for the night, something that is never popular with the inmates, but necessary when an older orphan comes in who needs to be calmed down in the Stockade that has an escape platform for the attendant Keeper. Shimba and Mzima were therefore moved next door into the Stockade previously occupied by Siria, whilst Siria was put in with Wasessa. Mercifully, not too much fuss was made by any of the transferees and the newcomer could see and communicate with his neighbors through the separating stockade poles throughout the night.
He took his milk well during the night, missing just one feed because he happened to have fallen asleep by 3 a.m. and since he needed sleep badly, the Keepers did not wake him. The next morning when the Vet arrived at midday to clean out his wounds and make a decision about the damaged tail, he looked very listless leaning against the pole in his stockade, but given the extent of the wounds it was decided to give him a small dose of stressnil to take the edge off so that he could be lain down and his wounds treated extensively. The Vet decided not to amputate the lower portion of his tail, hoping that there might just be sufficient blood for healing to take place, so it would be time and nature that makes that decision. Whilst he lay sleeping a Dextrose drip with Vitamin B and other medical aids was inserted into an ear vein just to help him on his way. He then proceeded to sleep until late afternoon, all the while on a drip. He later took his evening feed but by midnight he was in a state of collapse, his whole body shaking, and tragically an hour later was dead. Lomolo’s case was very sadly too much to overcome too late. Had it become evident he was an orphan earlier and his rescue been sooner his chances of survival would have been so much better.
We would to thank all of those involved with this tragic calf’s rescue and to the men who struggled so hard to save his life.