We named this tiny 3 day old female orphan "Nashukuru", which, in Swahili, means "I am grateful". Indeed this baby deserves to be grateful to have been spared by a simple but brave herdsman who protected her from the henchmen who were bent on slaughtering and consuming her as bushmeat once she had been extracted from a manhole on the Mzima - Mombasa Pipeline into which she had inadvertently fallen.
These manholes on the ageing Mzima-Mombasa pipeline have been responsible for orphaning many of our orphans. They should not, of course, be open, but the steel covers are either stolen or cast aside so that tribesmen along the route can access the water for themselves and their cattle. They seldom bother to replace the cover, because anything that falls in brings a free bushmeat meal.
On the 3rd September a more compassionate and caring herdsman heard the cries of the baby whilst herding his cattle along the Pipeline, and upon investigation could see the tip of a tiny trunk waving around just above the water-line. With the help of some other people within calling distance, he managed extract the baby elephant from the open manhole, following which a heated argument ensued, all but him determined to kill the calf and eat it. The herdsman would have none of it, and protected the calf taking it to his home, where his family was detailed to look after it whilst he walked to the Manyani Entrance Gate to Tsavo East National Park in order to report the matter. Too young to know fear, being literally only a few days old, if that, the tiny calf trustingly followed anyone and anything, even the Herdsman's dogs!
The Rangers on duty at the Manyani Gate radioed Park Headquarters in Voi, who in turn alerted our Voi Elephant Keepers to mobilize a rescue. Joseph Sauni, the Head Keeper at the Voi Elephant Rehabilitation Unit, immediately set forth, and having collected the Herdsman who had been waiting at Manyani Gate, was directed to his house to collect the newborn baby. He then alerted us in Nairobi that a plane was needed to fly her back to the Nursery.
She arrived in the Nursery as it was getting dark in the evening of the 3rd September - a beautiful little baby, trusting and affectionate, who was still in good shape, but for a few surface abrasions as a result of her ordeal. Having been given a prophylactic injection of Nuroclav antibiotic, and had her wounds attended to, she immediately took a bottle of milk, and settled down huddled next to a Keeper.
Her rescue by a compassionate and brave ele-friendly Herdsman in an area where bushmeat is Big Business, is indeed heartwarming and engenders hope that if only today's elephants can weather the current hazards of global warming induced drought conditions, increased Chinese driven poaching and the expanding human population putting additional pressure on the land, hopefully (and with a little help from CITES regarding the Ivory issue), perhaps in the future those that are left will enjoy a more peaceful and pleasurable life amongst Kenyans who are more concerned about their wildlife which is the country's greatest natural asset and the bastion of the tourist industry.