In the Galana Wildlife Conservancy, abutting the Eastern boundary of Tsavo East National Park, a lone calf of approximately 14 month old was sited alone on the 7th February 2012. The lone calf was again sited by the Galana Conservancy Warden on the 11th February, it now being clear that this was a milk dependent orphan with no chance of survival unless rescued. The Warden and his team monitored the calf all day, having reported its presence to the Senior Warden, Tsavo East National Park, and the Trusts Field Officer, Richard Moller who alerted the Trusts Nairobi Headquarters and the Voi Unit Elephant Keepers based at the Voi Elephant Stockades that a rescue was on the cards.
The capture took place on the 11th, the female orphan too weak and lame to put up much resistance. The right hind leg had a huge protrusion on the top joint which appeared to possibly be the result of a previous fracture. Two small scars at the site of swelling indicate that it could to be an old arrow or spear wound, leaving the calf walking with a pronounced limp. It was clear that this was a very lucky little elephant to have been found before a hungry lion, who was roaming the area, made a meal of her, which undoubtedly would have happened had she not been rescued that day.
The Galana Conservancy is the home of the small Waliangulu tribe who are traditional Elephant Hunters, elephants interwoven into their tribal culture in the same way that the spearing of a lion marks the passage to warrior hood for members of the Masaai tribe. It was therefore decided by the Rescue team that the elephant orphan be named Sonje, the Mliangulu word for lame.
Back at the Nursery the Keepers set about the task of calming little Sonje, who was quite aggressive to begin with, and persuading her to accept milk from a hand-held bottle. This was accomplished by the following morning. She began taking her milk eagerly.