During the late evening of Saturday 27th June, a yearling female calf was found all alone by our De-Snaring team near the Mombasa Pipeline opposite the Ndara plains in Tsavo East National Park. There were no wild elephant herds in sight, and since there were also a lot of lions in the area, our Voi Elephant Keepers were alerted that a rescue was imminently needed to save the life of this calf who probably would not survive another night out alone. Baby elephants definitely cannot survive without milk if orphaned under 3 years of age, and few manage to survive even when orphaned between 3 and 5 years of age. Whilst wild living elephants will usually accept and protect an orphaned baby to the best of their ability, once the orphan weakens as a result of milk deprivation, and begins to jeopardize the survival of the herd, the Matriarch has to make the decision to abandon it to its fate in the interests of all the others under her leadership. There are very few, if any, elephants that will have to lactating capacity to nurture an orphan as well as their own calf, especially during a tough dry spell, and calves at foot themselves are extremely possessive of their mother’s milk bar, and will go to great lengths to prevent another from usurping what they view as their perogative.
With the help of KWS Rangers, our Voi Elephant Keepers were able to overpower the abandoned calf, and having covered its head with a blanket and bound its legs, transported it back to the Voi Stockades for the night where it took water, and a little milk from a bucket. The next morning it was airlifted to the Nairobi Nursery., initially named “Sombe” after the KWS Security Commander, but later renamed Melia after the African Mohogany Trees (Melia Volkensi) which are a feature of the area ad were planted by the late David Sheldrick around the Headquarters and at the 5 Entrance Gages to Tsavo East National Park.
Little “Melia” was quite feisty upon arrival in the Nursery (a good sign) and gave her Keepers quite a run around during her first night in the stockade abutting that of Tassia. However, she took water from a bucket and during the night managed some milk from a bottle, though not without a struggle. However, having been in the stockade for 24 hours, and observed the behaviour of the other Nursery orphans around their Keepers, she had calmed down sufficiently to suck the Keepers’ fingers and take milk.