The Trials and Tribulations of Ziwa

Ziwa’s first terrifying ordeal was when his mother was struck down by a mysterious illness which she succumbed to despite treatment from the DSWT/KWS veterinary unit

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Ziwa’s first terrifying ordeal was when his mother was struck down by a mysterious illness which she succumbed to despite treatment from the DSWT/KWS veterinary unit. After she became so weak and eventually collapsed in a waterhole the difficult and sad decision was made to euthanize her to end any further suffering and rescue her two year old calf Ziwa, who was bravely guarding his stricken mother. A grieving Ziwa was brought to the nursery where he joined other rescued orphaned elephants. Due to being an older orphan he was transferred to the Ithumba Stockades in Northern Tsavo to embark on the journey back into the wild elephant community after only a few months at the Nairobi Nursery.

Ziwa initially loved Ithumba and the interaction with the wild elephants herds but slowly Ziwa lost condition and became more lethargic, slow and debilitated as the weeks past. Angela made the decision to fly him back to Nairobi while that option remained, as he was by now a big elephant only just able to fit in an aeroplane.

Once back in Nairobi and after many blood tests we watched helpless as his condition seemed to worsen and he developed oedema beneath his chin, chest and stomach and lesions all over his body.

Numerous tests were carried out and Ziwa went through rigorous veterinary treatment. We established that his problem was a mysterious blood parasite and in time we watched our Ziwa turn the corner and he began to recover and become his normal self once more.

As his health has improved so too has independent spirit and he is more inclined now to venture further a field in search of browse, sometimes slipping away from the watchful gaze of his Keepers. With 31 elephants spread across the landscape this is not hard to do and a terrifying ordeal unfolded at 3pm on Sunday 30th November when the heavens darkened and persistent rain fell accompanied by bursts of forked lightening and continuous thunder claps. The infant elephants in the nursery crowded round their keepers terrified by the uninterrupted storm. Ziwa lost his nerve and fled in disarray whilst the others were herded back to their stockades. This triggered a desperate search in the heavy storm to try and locate him which proved fruitless and was eventually abandoned around 8.00pm. The call of hyena and lion throughout the night meant that his human family had little sleep, worried about whether he would escape unscathed.

At first light the search resumed and mercifully as dawn broke on the 1st of December, Ziwa was found trying to make his way back home still intact but traumatised from his fraught experience. Like us humans, elephants have poor night vision and he must have been extremely fearful, lost and alone in the dark with lions roaring and hyenas howling all around him. There was joy and relief all round with Ziwa once again safely back in the fold.  His orphan friends were delighted to be reunited with him, but no one more so than human family who had been worried sick.