A young elephant calf was spotted alone in high grass on the opposite bank of the Mara river at the beginning of June 2011 by a Research student, Cecilie Willumsgaard based at the Karen Blixen Camp. During the afternoon of l8th June the same Researcher and her fiancé again came across the calf, who was still alone and at the same location, secretion from the temporal glands evidence of stress.
It was then that they contacted the necessary authorities who in turn contacted the Nairobi Elephant Nursery in Nairobi, who arranged for an aircraft to be on standby the next morning, should the calf be able to be captured. It was a young bull, with tusks visible, aged between 2 and 3 years of age, and therefore still dependent on milk for survival.
After a three hour search the next morning, the elephant was spotted in thick bush and kept under surveillance pending the arrival of the KWS Vet attached to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit, and some Rangers to help capture the calf. Once the Vet arrived, the calf was darted with Stressnil, since he still had strength and was too big to capture without being sedated.
Once the drug worked, he was easily overpowered and driven to the nearby airfield, where the rescue plane was already waiting. However, by this time, the elephant was beginning to revive, but having had his legs bound, he was powerless and loaded onto the plane for the flight to Nairobi.
He arrived at the Nursery at about 5.30 p.m., and carried into the Taming Stockade, and was then untied. He had obviously been without his mother for sometime, because he was weak and very emaciated, and also passing a great number of worms in the dung. Understandably, he was initially quite aggressive, but took water from a bucket.
Anticipating a possible collapse during the night, we had all the life support aids at hand. This is usual in orphans of this age, who have undergone the stress of losing their elephant mother as well as that of being captured. The other Nursery elephants were brought back early to be fed their 6 p.m. milk feed within sight of the newcomer, so that he would know he was not alone, and gain confidence by seeing the established babies interacting with the Keepers, and taking their milk from a bottle. This had the desired affect, and amazingly, by morning the newcomer, who had been named Ololoo was taking milk from a hand-held bottle, and even sucking on the fingers of the attendant Keeper.
After being enclosed for four full days, he was de-wormed and allowed out to join the other Nursery elephants. Incredibly, Ishanga, who has hitherto been a troublesome member of the herd, instantly battened on to him, showering him with love and concern, and has remained glued to his side from that moment on. Although warmly embraced by all the females, it was Ishanga whom he took to most, and this incredible friendship has changed Ishanga’s temperament over night. From being “pushy” and a disruptive member of the herd, she has been instantly transformed into a contented and happy one. It was “love at first sight” and a miracle that has astounded us all. Perhaps, as a wild elephant, she adored an older brother of that age, whom the newcomer resembles!