Taita Ranch is situated 60 Kms. from Voi opposite the Buchuma Entrance to the Park on the Nairobi – Mombasa road. This, and neighbouring ranches, form a vital corridor between Tsavo West and Tsavo East National Parks - a traditional migration route for the Tsavo population of elephants. Once a cattle ranch, eco-tourism activities now dominate, so the Ranch harbours a variety of the area’s indigenous faunal species.
On the morning of 20th September, our Mobile Veterinary Unit was summonsed to treat an injured elephant, and upon arrival was informed of a lone calf, very emaciated and weak which had been seen wandering alone now for several days. Having dealt with the injured adult, he went to try and locate the calf and found it resting under shade. It was judged to be about two and a half years old, and was obviously an orphan losing the struggle for survival minus its mother during the dry season, and in need of help.
Having communicated with Voi, the orphan’s lorry and everything needed for an elephant rescue was soon on the way, linking up en route with our Voi De-Snaring Team which was working in the area. Everyone arrived at the Ranch airfield at 4 p.m. and with numbers supplemented by Scouts from Rukinga and Taita Ranch, they worked out the rescue strategy. Leaving the vehicles and some personnel at the airfield, others walked about l00 meters to where the calf was resting, and forming a semi-circle behind it, gradually prompted it to move towards the airfield where the rest of the team and the vehicle was waiting. Once there, the calf was easily subdued, being too weak to offer much resistance. It was a female, and once secured with ropes, the Vet was able to administer the usual prophylactic broad spectrum antibiotic injection whilst the calf was given dehydrates and milk, which she took eagerly. Before being loaded onto the waiting lorry, she was doused with water to cool her, since it was extremely hot.
Upon arrival at the Voi Stockades, she was given more milk, and introduced to Aitong, who was overjoyed to welcome her and immediately won her confidence, in full charge as all the other orphans crowded around, desperate to feel her with outstretched trunks. During the night, the Keepers remained with her to dissuade the exuberant young bulls from trying to mount her in her weak condition.
The following morning, Mweiga was chosen to keep the new baby company back at the Stockades, whilst the other orphans left as usual for the bush. The new baby is named “Sagalla”, the name of one of two massifs that tower over the area, the other being “Ndara”, a name already given. Although very weak, the new baby is feeding well, and has settled happily as the 28th member of Emily’s group, a great favourite with all the young females who are would-be Matriarchs. She is a very lucky little elephant, indeed, who would most certainly have died within the next l0 days had she not been found and saved. We salute our Vet, Dr. David Ndeereh, for his professionalism; our indomitable De-Snaring Post Graduate Team Leader, Isaac Maina, who has been responsible for rescuing more orphaned elephants than anyone else in the world (Tsavo, Irima, Burra, Mvita, Ndara, Galana as well as Maungu and Ziwani, and Taita , two others that didn’t make it, to name just a few), Joseph Sauni, the Head Keeper at the Voi Relocation Centre, dearly loved by all the orphans, whose empathy and tender touch is an inspiration, plus all others who had a hand in saving the life of yet another needy little orphan. Welcome to the fold little “Sagalla”and welcome back home in the land that belongs, not to humans, but to elephants!
UPDATE: Sadly two weeks later Sagalla died of advance Pneumonia.