The rescue of Malima

Published on the 28th of January, 2017

On the 30th of October the DSWT Works Manager, Mr

On the 30th of October the DSWT Works Manager, Mr. Trevor Jennings, received a phone call from the Tsavo East National Park Assistant Warden at 6:30 am about a baby elephant found in a collapsed state in front of the Aruba Lodge. Immediately, the DSWT team travelled to the scene and found a young female elephant calf lying on her side on a mound of earth that had been dug out of a water pan. She looked in a desperate state, totally unresponsive and seemingly just moments away from dying. Given the parched drought-stricken landscape resulting in a lack of food anywhere close to water, the elephant herds were left with painful heartbreaking decisions - having to leave weakened loved ones who were unable to keep up so that the rest of the herd could travel far enough to find life sustaining browse, This calf was simply too weak to continue, and was one such candidate. 

Once our teams arrived on the scene, she was cooled down and shaded from the unforgiving sun whilst a lifesaving IV drip was prepared for her after which she was loaded into the waiting Landcruiser and driven to the stockades where more treatment could be administered while the team awaited the arrival at the Voi Park airstrip of the Rescue Plane from Nairobi. To begin with the calf hardly stirred, but slowly she came to life and then hope was restored. She was immediately fed water by mouth which cooled her down. In the meantime Angela Sheldrick had prepared everything at the Nursery for her arrival, and a team of Keepers was dispatched to board the plane. Everyone worked rapidly at the other end to ensure a speedy turn around while she was again placed on IV fluids for the duration of the flight to Nairobi, which would involve approximately 1 1/2 hours.

It is thought that her mother must have left her the night before, or early that morning as she was too weak to keep up with the herd. She was incredibly fortunate that help, arrived before a pride of lions killed her instead of the unfortunate Oryx on which they were feeding when the rescue team arrived. By the time the five month old calf arrived at the Nairobi Nursery, she had regained sufficient strength to be able to get to her feet.

Initially she was incredibly restless and fearful, but with patience and a hanging blanket in her stable for comfort, she began to take both milk and rehydration salts. However, notwithstanding she collapsed again a few hours later from both exhaustion and weakness, her body spent of all reserves. Again we placed her on more lifesaving IV fluids which restored her life.

We have called her MALIMA (meaning mound in Swahili), aptly named since it was on a mound of where she lay when found. Saving such emaciated drought victims is always a very difficult challenge, especially in the case of Malima who was already far gone when discovered. Her life hung in the balance for a week, but slowly her strength returned, and she is now thriving - a bouncy member of the Nursery herd, fully recovered and happily integrated into our Nursery Elephant family.