The sad story of little Oltukai

The Amboseli Elephants are famous

The Amboseli Elephants are famous. They have been the subject of an in-depth study for the past 28 years and the family history of every individual is known intimately, from the day it was born until the day of its death. Quite aside from this,

Amboseli is a famous National Park, and its elephant population unique in that the structure of most elephant families remains more or less intact, and as it should be, for the Amboseli elephants have been spared the poaching holocaust that has beset all other African elephant populations.
There, there are magnificent elderly bulls carrying large ivory – a rare commodity in today’s world, whose breeding musth cycles have been the subject of a study by Reseacher Joyce Poole. Cynthia Moss and her Research Assistants know every member of every family having monitored the Matriarchal units on a daily basis over all those years. There are wise old Matriarchs that lead their families in and out of the famous swamps fed by the melting snows of Kilmanjaro, up the mountain itself and into Tanzania, going about their elephant lives as best they can in a world filled with evil. They have reason to fear the poachers and overseas Hunters who wait like vultures on the other side of the border, but most of all they have reason to fear the Masai who share their Amboseli homeland with them. As part of an out-dated ritual, supposedly to prove either a point of their courage, the Masai have killed most og the Amboseli lions, eliminated the famous long-horned Amboseli Black Rhinos entirely, and now have have taken to spearing the elephants.
There can, however, be nothing courageous about destroying one’s heritage, inflicting untold cruelty and suffering on hapless victims, and especially an infant, damaging the tourist industry that is vital to the economy of the country and turning out in strength like a pack of hyaenas to eliminate an elephant whose lifespan should have spanned three score years and ten. This was the fate of the l8 month old boy calf. He appeared several days ago, on his own, with three suppurating spear wounds in his left side,
At around 11 a.m. on the 21st July, the dreaded phone call came through. A young calf suffering from spear wounds was in trouble, and could we help. The l8 month old baby bull calf had been seen fleeing from hyena who was circling him, and calling for others that would have undoubtedly have killed him had an old bull buffalo not emerged from the Pelican swamp to chase the hyaena off and save his life. Thereafter the young elephant sought shelter deep in the swamp, and that is where he was when the Rescue Plane landed, and our three elephant Keepers, (Julius, Patrick and Dismas) came to fetch him and bring him to the safety of the Trust’s Nairobi Elephant Nursery in Nairobi.

On that day, it was the Keepers that proved their courage. Without hesitation they waded in where angels fear to tread in order to reach the calf.; shoulder deep into the Pelican Swamp which is also home to hippos and crocs It was 40 minutes before they managed to get him out, and once on dry land, he took to his heels, scattering herds of grazing herbivores at the swamp edge. By this time our Mobile Veterinary Unit (funded by the Austrian NGO Vier Pfoten) had arrived and Dr. David Ndeerah managed to fire a dart into the fleeing elephant, which brought him to a halt within 4 minutes. As the drug took affect, and he was going down, the circular elephant rescue tarpaulin was gently eased beneath him and once his wounds had been cleaned, and a long-acting antibiotic administered, he was loaded into a pickup truck and taken to the Chartered Caravan plane that was waiting at the Airstrip to bring him to the Trust’s Nairobi Elephant Nursery.

The flight to Nairobi lasted 35 minutes, and by 6 p.m. the drugged elephant was safely inside the Stockade that had been prepared for him. He was immediately revived, and given a sedative before waking up, since we expected an elephant of his age to prove a handful, quite capable of crushing a man, and with no reason whatsoever to feel kindly towards humans. Whilst still drowsy he took some milk, but when the affects of the sedative wore off, he wanted to kill all in sight. However, the Keepers were with him throughout the night, talking gently to calm him, offering him tidbits by hand from the other side of the dividing logs, and tempting him with milk. The presence of the other orphans who were brought along to meet him visibly calmed him, and by the next morning he was sufficiently docile to take food and homeopathic remedies from an extended hand, though not yet sufficiently calm to clean out his very sceptic wounds again. He was thin, so had obviously been without his mother and milk for at least l0 days; had been subjected to untold stress, probably having to remain overnight in the swamp to evade the hyaenas. With a background like this, we feared the onset of the dreaded pneumonia, and sure enough, in the morning of 23rd, he was unable to get up, his legs rigid and the tip of his trunk damp. (Elephants cannot cough and by the time fluid comes from the trunk, they are usually too far gone to save).

Dieter Rottcher, our Nairobi Veterinarian was summonsed, but by now the calf was in a coma, his breathing very laboured and sporadic, fluid coming from both the trunk and the mouth. Dieter feared that deep-seated scepticaemia had also set in and we all knew deep in our hearts that there was little hope of being able to save this baby. Nevertheless, we gave it our best shot. His wounds were thoroughly cleaned out again, a drip inserted into an ear-vein and more injectible antibiotic plus stimulants administered, along with homeopathy, and cottonwool soaked with Camphor and Eucalyptus placed near the tip of his trunk. Cynthia Moss came to visit the dying calf, just in time to see the Vet desperately trying to keep his lungs and heart going by thumping on his chest. Several times there was a faint glimmer of life, but after an hour of this, we had to concede defeat, and accept that it was all in vain. Little Ol Tukai, as he had been named to signify his Amboseli origin, died at 2 p.m. today the 23rd July, yet another casualty of cowardly Masai “courage”.