Published on the 13th of December, 2017
The landscape during this unforgiving drought year was barren earth with any remnants of vegetation consumed by the masai livestock. There was not much to eat even in the cultivated community lands but every night this calf would venture into the community to feed on whatever he could find at night. His plight was eventually reported to KWS Vet Dr. Poghon who heads the Trust funded Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit, and it was decided that without intervention he would surely die, or become a victim of human wildlife conflict. It was at this point on the 11th of September 2017 that DSWT was contacted to help rescue this elephant and provide him with a safe haven and a family once more.
While KWS rangers and Big Life Scouts monitored the calf’s movements, DSWT Keepers, four of our most experienced men, went to capture and rescue him. This required great knowledge, bravery and skill as with the Amboseli Mobile Veterinary unit away at the time on their days off, and with Dr. Poghon attending drought victims in the southern area of Tsavo East National Park, the capture was left up to our Keepers to coordinate, aided by both KWS and Big Life Scouts and Rangers. This proved to be extremely challenging, as this calf was big, and despite being extremely thin, he still remained with some strength.
Mischak latched onto his tail first and from that point, despite being hauled a good long way, the rest of the team were able to circle in and throw a blanket over his head, rope him and restrain him until he lay on his side. He was immediately injected with a tranquilizer to reduce his stress levels while the team went about the second monumental challenge of trying to fit him in a land cruiser with not enough men to lift such a dead weight. With great encouragement from our team who refused to be defeated, and stoic determination from all the men desperate to help this young bull, they managed.
Everyone then drove to the airfield to undertake the next obstacle of fitting him into the aircraft! Light was fading by now as he was loaded just as the sun began to set and the last light faded. The pilot was extremely helpful, becoming totally involved in all aspects of the rescue, filming the whole encounter, and then helping with the lifting and carrying because in order to pull off this incredibly challenging rescue it required every able body at the scene to do their bit!
Once the pilot and the Keepers were satisfied the elephant was safely loaded, fastened and secured in place, the plane took off, leaving behind the waving rangers who had first reported his plight responsible for saving him before it became too late. The team finally landed at 7.30pm at Wilson Airport and now with the help of all the airport attendants, who by now are quite used to the arrival of elephants by air, they managed to off load and transfer him from the plane to the back of the Trust’s pickup vehicle, so that he could begin the next journey to the Nursery situated within the Nairobi National Park. This journey took a further thirty minutes before again another off load into the stable was necessary, this time with all the Nursery Keepers having to vacate their various stables, those who were on night duty, to lend a helping hand.
Before he was untied and on his feet Angela and Robert made sure he received all the appropriate medication, knowing medicating him again was going to be a challenge, and his stockade was filled with freshly cut green vegetation. He was delighted by this and immediately set about feasting even on the fresh hay in his stable, he was so starved of any nourishment; clearly everything in his stable tasted delicious and was most welcomed.
We estimate this big boy to be between 3 1/2-4 years old and the reason for him being alone and orphaned remains a mystery, but we suspect he is a victim of human wildlife conflict, which in these drought years and dry months has been significantly amplified.
We named him Namalok after the area he was rescued from. From the outset he has been a gentle calf, despite his size he has never thrown his weight around with either his human family or the other orphans, instead just gently going about his business. He never took to the bottle but instead takes his milk from a bucket – and this has been his quirky little thing; even now he is still not prepared to drink from a bottle but instead he is treated to his own bucket of milk at feeding times.
We are so thrilled we were able to offer Namalok a second chance, despite the challenges we faced at the time of rescuing him. To see him now so content, fat and healthy and happily integrated into his new elephant family is extremely satisfying.