The Sad Death of Balguda

Published on the 27th of June, 2016

It is with a heavy heart that we have to inform you of the tragic loss of Balguda

It is with a heavy heart that we have to inform you of the tragic loss of Balguda.

Balguda came to the nursery in 2012 only 6-7 months old. He was found by visitors who heard him crying out clearly distressed and wandering on his own below Aruba Dam in Tsavo East National Park. The Voi Elephant Keepers were contacted and finally managed to rescue him on Friday 20th April 2012 just as it was growing dark.  He was taken to the   Voi Stockades that night and flown to the Nairobi Nursery the next morning.


After drinking his milk well, and appearing strong despite being extremely thin, he was allowed out to join the 20 other Nursery elephants that same afternoon and was welcomed very warmly by all the older females. Despite his strong character, Balguda’s stools were black indicating he had been eating mud and dirt, this and his frail frame meant he had been alone for some time before being found. He developed serious diarrhea and we were forced to give him a course of antibiotics which he responded to immediately but sadly he lost further condition. Finally Balguda started to improve and put on some weight but every now and again he seemed to bloat and become very lack-luster and dull. Throughout his life he continually had periods of illness with no clear cause and didn’t grow as much as other elephants his age. However, after treatment, he always responded well and seemed to bounce back.

In April 2015, when Balguda was three years old, he made the journey to Umani Springs with best friend Ziwa. Ziwa was another elephant that also suffered from mysterious periods of illness and had been brought back from the Ithumba Stockades following a life threatening period of weakness attributed to a blood parasite. It was thought that the lush and gentle environment of Umani Springs, which we specifically built for elephants with permanent disabilities, would be good for them both. For the first three months Balguda thrived but in July he began to go off his food; both his milk and vegetation. He lost his strength and could no longer keep up with the rest of the group and his condition deteriorated still further.  All the while he enjoyed the love, comfort and care of his mini mothers Sonje and Murera who adopted him as their special favourite showering him with attention and protecting him from the antics of the stronger elephant orphans, as if they knew he needed the extra care. For the months he spent at Umani he appeared extremely content but with his failing health the decision was made to relocate him back to the DSWT Nairobi Nursery, where he could receive intensive medical care and where we could hopefully nurse him back to perfect health; much more difficult to do in Umani where conditions are slightly more challenging. We also did not want to wait until such a time that his condition deteriorated to a point where travel was not an option for him.


On the 18th of July just before dawn he was once again loaded into the all too familiar elephant moving truck and transported the three and ½ hours back to Nairobi.  He travelled well with his favourite Keepers and appeared calm for the duration of the journey.  He seemed extremely content back in their midst and instantly familiar with his old stockade at the Nursery, the daily routines and the individuals, both two legged and four.

On the 8th of August he was already showing signs of improvement after tests revealed he had liver fluke, which was promptly treated. Balguda grew in strength quickly and even started to play in the mud bath and with the other orphans, but sadly he started to show the all too familiar signs of lethargy. He would once again have periods of strength then he would go off his food, and become dull and quiet. Further tests revealed a bacterial infection which he was once again treated for but again he showed signs of improvement and then became dull once more. After another course of medication all behavioral signs indicated he was on the road to recovery but he developed serious edema which is usually a sign of a lack of protein so his diet was supplemented. Throughout Balguda's life DSWT reached out to veterinary experts across the globe hoping they would have some new insight on Balguda’s persistent problem. Blood samples were sent overseas in hopes that new testing would reveal a piece to the puzzle.

Sadly Balguda’s condition declined more rapidly in recent weeks resulting in him collapsing.  Sadly by this stage there was nothing we could do and with his favourite keeper keeping a constant vigil by his side, letting him know he was loved and offering what comfort he could, Balguda finally passed away.

We hoped a comprehensive autopsy would reveal the cause but this was not the case, with nothing concrete regarding Balguda’s mysterious ailment. Further testing of preserved samples is ongoing as we are determined to find answers. 

Balguda was a gentle elephant, kind, polite and dearly loved by his keepers, other orphans and his foster parents. He will be sorely missed, rest in peace Balguda, we can only take solace in knowing you are no longer suffering and you knew happiness and love until the very end.