Published on the 11th of August, 2016
Sana Sana was thus named because our Keepers, who rescued her from Namunyak Conservancy in northern Kenya, had to negotiate convincingly to have her rescued. “Sana”, in Swahili means ‘very much’. In her situation there were conflicting opinions - individuals desperate to save her and rescue her and Conservancy Management who preferred her to remain in case she could be assimilated into a wild herd.
We were first made aware of her situation after a number of days had passed and her plight was posted on the Samburu East Development Forum’s website, which was when we began to be bombarded with calls from various people to help. We immediately responded by contacting the Kenya Wildlife Service who granted permission for DSWT to fly up north in order to save the calf.
On the morning of the 17th of May a team of DSWT Keepers flew into Kalama airstrip where they were kindly met by Tom Lolosoli in his personal saloon vehicle, and driven the short distance of approximately twenty minutes along the tarmac Moyale- Marsabit road, turning off on a dirt track to Kirish Camp Sapashe, situated in the shadow of Mount Ololokwe.
Upon arrival our team were welcomed by the Lodge staff and were immediately shown where the elephant was sheltering in thick undergrowth. She cut an extremely lonely figure, and according to reports, sought the camp staff’s company and safety each night by sleeping next to Samburu tribesman Dipa Lenyankera’s tent. This was understandable because by now she had a nasty wound under the tail having been mauled by a hyena. She put up little resistance when our Keepers swooped in to restrain her, after which she was laid on the usual canvas stretcher that our team had brought and with her legs strapped she was now ready for transportation to the waiting plane.
This is when things became complicated because there was strong resistance to her being removed from site. It was a full two hours before a landcuiser vehicle big enough to transport the calf to the airstrip was made available for our team during which time numerous phone calls took place while negotiations to drive her to the airstrip were deliberated. Our team was all the while concerned by the time this was taking with the calf tied down and recumbent out in the bush where she had been rescued. Thankfully, it was eventually agreed that our team and the elephant be allowed to be driven in the back of the Namunyak Conservancy landcruiser to the airstrip. The Rescue Aircraft took off for Nairobi at 4.30pm.
Upon arrival at the Nursery, it was apparent that the calf was only approximately 9 - 10 months old - very much still milk dependent who had been without her mother and milk for a good number of days judging by her emaciated condition. The rear end wound was cleaned and treated and she was given abundant greens in her stockade to feast on throughout the night. It had been raining heavily overnight and, for that matter, throughout much of the month of May, making conditions challenging. The calf remained wary and reluctant to take her bottle of milk until the next morning, but once she got a taste for milk she made a beeline for anything resembling the milk bottle and tamed down rapidly.
In no time at all this special little elephant calf was able to join the resident Nursery herd out in the Nairobi Park Forest, instantly accepted and comforted, although inevitably she was grieving for her lost elephant family and chose to remain slightly separated from the rest for a number of weeks, as is always the case with bereaved babies who need time to mourn the loss of their loved ones. However, Sana Sana has found a number of eager mini Mums happy to be her replacement elephant family, the older females in our Nursery group showering her with endless affection and comfort. Mercifully she has found happiness once more and is now thriving, sleeping in a stockade sandwiched between females Oltaiyoni and Mbegu, who reach out comforting trunks to reassure her each night. Sana Sana is a very fortunate little elephant to have been rescued and saved just in the nick of time.