On the 22nd February 2014 the Trust received a report from KWS who had heard from some herders that a baby elephant had been sighted standing beside its dead mother, on the edge of a waterhole. The Voi Stockade team mobilized in the hope of rescuing the orphan and immediately drove to the location, which was three hours south, near the Tanzanian border. Sadly however, despite hours of searching the area, the baby elephant was nowhere to be found. The locals came and told the team that they had seen the baby go off with a small herd of elephants.
As the Voi team headed to the location via road, the Trust’s two Cub Aircraft were mobilized to assist. GPS coordinates were sent via mobile to guide the Cubs to the location, which was south of their Kaluku Base, outside of Tsavo West National Park.
One Cub picked up a KWS officer from Voi whilst the other headed to Maungu to pick up another. The first Cub flew to the GPS coordinates of where the baby was last seen; 2km south of where the dead tusk-less mother lay in shallow brown water. Shortly afterwards the second Cub arrived and both planes flew regular transects, one to the south and the other to the north. Even with aerial support the baby elephant eluded the team. The planes then changed tactics and flew a more random patrol pattern, looking in thicker bush and riverine valleys. They scoured the entire area, flying further and further a field. Eventually they were forced to call it a day and split up to drop the KWS Officers.
On the route back to Voi one Cub took a quick detour to an area inside Tsavo West National Park where there are plenty of full waterholes due to the recent rains. Suddenly they sighted a small herd of seven elephants, looking agitated. The two mothers were frantic and angry whilst one of the calves looked as if it did not quite belong. The pilot took the GPS coordinates and made a note of the herd. Although it seemed certain that this was the orphaned calf they had been looking for there was little else they could do.
The next day a Trust Cub returned to the area and searched but couldn’t find anything, and did not locate the small herd.
On February 25th a Trust Cub again flew to the area, just in case the little calf had been abandoned by the herd due to weakness. A thorough search was made of the area, but nothing was found. Of course our pilots are mindful to fly this area in order to sight the calf should it fall behind or be abandoned but so far nothing has been reported.
On the way home the pilot decided to fly by Lake Jipe in the hopes of seeing elephants deep in the water eating the lake reeds. They were lucky enough to see a large group, including small calves, out in the lake, while another herd of 50 grazed nearby on dry land; a sight that was once common in Tsavo and is now a rare treat.
The plane flew past a single well known landmark, a lone old Baobab Tree, on the way home. It stands as a reminder of how long life has been going on in Tsavo, and one can only wonder what it must have witnessed in its time.
Of course the search for the calf is ongoing, but we are hopeful she is being looked after by the small herd the locals witnessed her with, and maybe a lactating female is sharing her milk.