Published on the 4th of June, 2016
On the 21st of May Angela received a call from the Amboseli Elephant Trust who had been alerted by a tour driver about a baby elephant abandoned, seemingly in trouble and walking in circles. It was late afternoon which meant that the chance of flying to Amboseli that same day to collect the calf was no longer possible, with day light fast fading. Big Life Scouts were coordinated and kindly arranged to capture the calf and keep him safely overnight as he remained extremely vulnerable to predators, particularly as it appeared he had difficulty in seeing.
The DSWT landed at Amboseli by 9.00am the next morning and both the Big Life and Amboseli Elephant Trust team had the little baby at the airfield waiting. On arrival at the Nursery he was reluctant to stand and instead fell into what appeared to be a deep coma. He was named Kitenden after the area where he was found.
DSWT had growing concerns over the calf's state despite his good body condition. He pulled out of the coma and was helped to his feet to feed, his lack of sight made the whole experience more stressful as he could not see his new environment. However, it was quickly determined that his lack of sight was not due to a problem with his eyes but seemed to be neurological, cemented by the fact he was unable to lie on one side without great distress and showed coordination problems too. With no obvious signs of trauma to the body or head the reasons for his condition and abandonment remained a mystery.
All at DSWT battled to help Kitenden and provided intensive medical care. He spent much of the time in a deep coma which he would then wake from, giving everyone hope that he was improving. He was helped to his feet and supported with a sling to aid his respiration which can be compromised when large animals lay recumbent for extended periods. However, Kitenden took a turn for the worse when his breathing became laboured and he finally succumbed despite all our best efforts on the 30th May.
A post-mortem was performed which revealed a huge abscess englufing most of the left side of his brain containing almost half a litre of pus; there was literally nothing that could have been done for little Kitenden. This was a very unusual case and we have never seen anything like it in the 40 years of rescuing elephants and it also stunned the vets conducting the post mortem.
It is unclear what could have caused such a serious infection but it is seen in livestock which are coming into contact with elephant populations more frequently with increased encroachment into the National Parks.