An elephant named for a very brave girl called Sally Dunne is now with us, a victim of the otherwise successful recent relocation of 52 elephants from a small fenced Ranch surrounded by settlement called "Sweetwater's" to Meru National Park in the North. Mother and calf were amongst those moved, but en route their vehicle got bogged, and an already traumatic journey for these two turned into a living nightmare.
There is something about the sound of a diesel engine that distresses elephants terribly, for they have ears that are highly sensitive capable of fielding long range messages through infrasound far beyond the hearing range of humans. The revving of the bogged vehicle, as it tried to extricate itself, so terrified an already terrified mother elephant that when she was eventually released at her destination, she burst out of the travelling crate and fled, leaving her bewildered baby behind.
After an aerial search spanning two full days failed to trace the whereabouts of the mother, the Kenya Wildlife Service was left with no option but to treat the 6-month-old, milk dependent calf, as an orphan. And so, on the 23rd July 2001, the calf was flown to Nairobi in an aircraft chartered by us, and paid for by some of Sally Dunne's memorial money, there to join another three infant elephants in the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust's famous Elephant Nursery. We named her "Sweet Sally", "Sweet" to reflect her origin - Sweetwater Ranch - and "Sally" to honour the memory and wishes of brave Sally Dunne.
"Sweet Sally" is 6 months old - a very difficult age to become orphaned, because by then a calf is well bonded to its mother and elephant family, and will inevitably sink into deep grieving and depression which triggers physical problems such as stress ulcers. "Sweet Sally" is a very gentle, sensitive little elephant, and hence her grief was more intense than most. For a whole week she refused all milk, subsisting only on water laced with dehydration salts and poured into her mouth from a bucket. She refused to suck the rubber nipple of a feeding bottle; was unable to sleep, traumatised by the sound of every overhead plane or helicopter and left us despairing of ever being able to persuade her to want to live!
However, the input of the other three little Nursery elephants worked its magic. They rallied round to comfort and welcome her, imparting to her a sense of happiness and wellbeing, and this aided by the endless patience and empathy of her dedicated Keepers persuaded her that life had not ended after all, but that this could be another beginning. We sent for our Head Keeper, Mishak Nzimbi, who was working with the older orphans newly moved to Tsavo National Park, and who is loved unreservedly by every elephant orphan that has passed through our hands. His wonderful empathy and gentle patience always helps the difficult newcomers, and gradually we were able to rejoice as "Sweet Sally" slowly came back to life. The stress ulcers responded to large doses of Colloidal Silver; the other elephants soothed her aching heart, rumbling their words of comfort and touching her gently with their trunks. And so, in this way, using empathy, tender, loving care and endless patience, another little elephant that just wanted to die has slowly begun to want to live, just as did Sally Dunne when she received the news of what she termed her "Wake Up Call" - terminal cancer at the age of 30.
Although one can never be absolutely sure that a calf is going to live until it has past its second birthday, we are confident that "Sweet Sally" now has a good chance of doing so, and through her, for the next three score years and ten, the spirit of brave Sally Dunne will walk the wonderful wild places of Africa that she loved so well in life, and in so doing her dying wish will be fulfilled and fulfilled through the life of an elephant that carries her name.