During a routine surveillance patrol by our Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit, a lone baby elephant was spotted on the plains beyond Irima Hill in Tsavo East National Park. This was the afternoon of 22nd June 2008 and the calf, estimated to be between approximately 18 months old, still milk dependent, was completely alone with no elephants in the area other than a lone bull some distance away. The Mobile Veterinary Unit monitored the baby for some hours during which time she gravitated towards the lone bull who was passing by. However, the bull was obviously un-inclined to become encumbered by an adoptee, because he kept on pushing her gently away, although due to her persistance he decided to remain within reach. This was opportune because just 50 yards away, a pride of lions was taking great interest in events and would have taken an un-protected baby elephant in a flash had she not found him for protection.
By this time darkness was setting in, and having ascertained that the bull was unlikely to remain with the calf overnight, and that she would definitely fall prey to the pride, the Mobile Veterinary Unit alerted the Voi Elephant Keepers and mobilize a rescue to save the calf. As the men approached, the bull became more protective of his small appendage and had to be physically driven off by the vehicle, once the calf had been sedated. She was then transported to the Voi Elephant Stockades for the night, and Nairobi was alerted that a plane would be needed the following morning, since the calf was milk dependent and needed the company of other elephants to calm it down. It was extremely wild and unmanageable as it was.
Having landed at Voi our Nairobi Elephant Keepers were driven to the Voi Elephant Stockades, the team was then faced with the problem of having to overpower an extremely wild elephant, who simply wanted to kill every human in sight. This was a challenging prospect and took some doing, it being necessary to avoid sedation, due to the risk of bloat, which, in the past, has cost the life of orphans of that age immobilized for what was to be a long journey. She was, however, given a Stressnil injection, which didn't seem to have much affect, because the calf gave the Keepers a real run around before she was overpowered, her legs tied, and lain down on the rescue tarpaulin, in order to be driven to the airfield and eventually loaded onto the plane.
She arrived in Nairobi at 6.30 p.m. and was carried recumbent into the Taming Stockade.
Once the ropes that tied her legs were removed, however, she was up in a flash, and all present had to take instant evasive action in order to avoid being flattened. She was, indeed, extremely wild and extremely fierce. Even Mishak, who has been an elephant Keeper for the past 20 years, announced that she held this unenviable record, for never had there been another more so! She charged the stout iron grid entrance to her Stockade repeatedly until it buckled outwards in a half-loop, looking precariously vulnerable, that we feared it might come down completely! She charged everyone in sight, except blind Maxwell, her next door neighbour, who had four legs instead of two, and was the same colour as her elephant mother.
By the next morning she was still unmanageable but would take water and eventually some milk from a bucket. Maxwell was thrilled to have a near neighbour throughout the night, and slept pressed up against his side of the separating poles. Max loves the elephant orphans, for they come to greet him each morning with a trunk-touch on the face! The other elephants were then brought around to see her, but being older and bigger than Lesanju, and therefore a competitor for the babies, Lesanju didn't linger long, and hurried her little troupe off again as quickly as possible, probably also sensing the aggression of the newcomer!
Taming this particular elephant is going to be difficult. She has obviously seen something terrible, probably witness to the death of her elephant mother and family, probably in a human/wildlife situation (There have been a number of reported poaching cases outside of the Park) but we are sure that in the fullness of time she will become gentle, trusting and loving, because she is, after all, an elephant! We have decided to name her "Wasessa", the name of a small hill in Tsavo East close to where she was found.