Published on the 26th of June, 2017
On the 21st of March 2017 a female elephant of approximately 16 months old was first spotted by one of the Trust’s pilots while on a routine patrol over the southern sector of Tsavo East National Park. She was sighted in the Irima area.
Having circled around her a number of times and scoured the area for any elephant herds, Neville Sheldrick continued with his patrol, but took precautions to ensure that the DSWT Burra Anti Poaching Team accompanied by KWS rangers and some of our Voi Keepers moved into the area to further monitor her from a distance. They observed her for some time, and combed the area for signs of her herd, but judging by her desperate condition, and the lack of any elephants in the area is was clear that she was in grave trouble. Once they were satisfied she was definitely an orphan and, in consultation with KWS, a rescue was mobilized. Capturing the calf proved a serious challenge as the young baby was extremely frightened and took off for two kilometers before the men managed to surround, catch and restrain her. She appeared very thirsty and extremely dehydrated, and it was obvious she had been without Mum for quite some time, so the first thing the team did was give her the much needed hydration she required.
Another team of Keepers from Nairobi were mobilized to fly to Tsavo so that this calf could be airlifted to the DSWT Nursery where she could have the intensive care she required to survive. They landed at Voi, the most convenient airstrip, but on arrival the temperatures were extreme, 40 degrees on the airstrip. It was imperative that the teams worked quickly and efficiently preparing the baby for the flight, wasting no time, because of her vulnerable state.
She was handed over into the capable hands of our Nairobi Keepers and flown the 1 ½ hour flight to Nairobi and arrived in the evening, weak and agitated. It took a while for her to get used to her new surroundings or to take her milk bottle from a Keeper, as initially she would take milk from a bucket, but refused to venture close to the gate where her Keeper stood with a milk bottle in hand. Her stockade was filled with fresh cut greens, and this provided a welcome change from the parched Tsavo landscape that she had been used to, so she immediately fed well on the greens that were prepared for her daily. We estimated her age to be around the one year mark, with vegetation necessary in her diet, but still very much milk dependent in order to survive.
In the days that followed, the company of the other orphans who filled the surrounding stockades in the evenings gave her confidence, and their communication certainly helped settle her down quicker than usual. During the day when she was left alone in the company of her Keeper we made a lovely red earth dust bath for her to enjoy, and brought in mud mixed in a wheelbarrow for the hot days so that she could douse herself with the cool soothing mixture. She remained in her stockade for nearly a week before we felt she was calm enough to join the others out in the forest, as it was not long before she got a taste for the milk and became bold enough to rush to the stockade door to snatch at a bottle held by a Keeper.
We named her Ndiwa, meaning ‘orphan’ in the Wkamba tribe’s language, and Ndiwa grew stronger with each day, and by the time she was let out into the forest, she was familiar with the other orphans, and content to stay close to them, however from time to time she would wander away and disappear into the forest, prompting a search from the Keepers. This happened for the first two days she was let out, causing quite a disruption to the Nursery daily proceedings, but thankfully after a few days out she became familiar with her routine and was totally hooked on her milk bottle so settled down fast. She is a wonderfully gentle female, and it is such a relief to have found this lucky little girl in time, before she became a victim to the Tsavo lions, or thirst.