Published on the 28th of November, 2016
On the 16th of October 2015 we were called about a young female elephant found trapped and abandoned down a water well near Maralal in Northern Kenya. She was discovered by the pastoral Samburu community and reported to the Kenya Wildlife Service who retrieved and extracted her ensuring that we received news to action a rescue.
We immediately dispatched an aircraft to the Wamba airfield, which is approximately a one hour flight from Nairobi. Once our team landed they were not only greeted by the KWS men who had rescued the calf, but also a crowd who were hard to restrain given their eager interest in the tiny baby elephant.
Amazingly this bold little calf followed the men around the airfield, seemingly not overly stressed by the presence of so many people. She even fed well before being laid on the travelling mattress and tarpaulin stretcher and with no shortage of helping hands around, she was swiftly hoisted into the aircraft and prepared for the flight.
She arrived at the Trust’s Nairobi Nursery in good condition and was remarkably tame and trusting of her Keepers from the outset. How long she had been without her mother was difficult to say, but her arrival coincided with the dreaded teething phase suggesting that she was about two months old. She was named Tamiyoi after the area in which she was found.
Tamiyoi’s journey was initially fraught as we struggled to keep her alive. Whilst initially all was well, her condition plummeted during the teething process during which she was quite literally just clinging to life. One positive sign during these tough months was that Tamiyoi tried to feed on greens, and little wild berries she found in the nearby Park forest, something no other elephant of her age has done. Our Keepers were forced to pass by Tamiyoi’s berry tree each day so that she could pick up the wild fruits that had fallen, feeding on them until she was satisfied. The Keepers would also collect the berries for her, feeding them to her as and when she demanded them. It was as if Tamiyoi lacked something vital in her system, but despite our best efforts, multiple tests, and adjustments to her diet, we saw little improvement in her condition for many months during which time she frequently collapsed.
Saving Tamiyoi has required a herculean effort from the whole DSWT team, but no small part has been her own extraordinary will to live. Of course, with her enchanting little ways she has stolen the hearts of all who have been involved in the fight to save her and since seeing her turn the corner around four months ago, her condition has continued to improve. That said, she still has a slightly malnutritional look about her with a more than usual rotund belly, but it has become clear that week by week her condition has been improving, her cheeks filling out and the texture of her skin recovering from the previous paper thin aspect, something that is always an indication of ill health in an elephant.
It is with great pride that we feel we can now offer Tamiyoi for fostering – a full year on from when she was rescued. Despite hundreds of people wanting to support her, we were hesitant to offer her for fostering simply because every time we thought we were ready to do so, Tamiyoi would take a worrying turn which left us having to exercise caution, never convinced that we were actually through the woods. Despite being diminutive in size at one year old, this little elephant has the steely temperament of one who knows her own mind. The love of her extended elephant family of orphans as well as a caring human ones who have cupped her life in their hands, struggling day and night to save this precious baby, has been instrumental in tipping the balance. We look forward to Tamiyoi growing into the wonderful Matriarch we feel sure she will become one day, when she will experience the joy of living wild with her own wild born family. However, in the meantime, we have the privilege of sharing these formative years, and basking in her unconditional love and obvious gratitude.