There are estimated to be just 350,000 elephants remaining in Africa but at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, we believe individuals matter. It's why we remain on call 24/7 to rescue any orphaned baby elephant, and why our DSWT / Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Mobile Vet Units will treat any injured elephant in need.
This World Elephant Day, Aug. 12, we wanted to share with you the personal stories of three elephants who remind us why it's so important to protect this iconic species. After all, statistics like "one elephant killed every 15 minutes" have the power to shock us. But they can lead us to forget about the individuals behind the statistics, whose compelling stories remind us why we should act to protect them.
Losoito's story is short as we only met him on July 29. When we reached him, he was afraid and alone; he had just witnessed his family gunned down and their ivory brutally hacked away. As a young, little bull elephant, despite the violence shown to his family at the hands of humans, he was a friendly little calf, who liked to suck on the fingers of our keepers for comfort.
Despite our best efforts, Losoito never overcame his harrowing ordeal and the deep trauma he had suffered. Though our keepers did all they could, Losoito sadly passed away on Aug. 2.
Losoito's death took the toll of Kenya's single deadliest attack on elephants in the past year to six elephants killed in the name of the ivory trade. Despite this being a family unit, poachers were indiscriminate in their attack. At just 1-year old, the ivory trade claimed his family, and ultimately claimed his life, too.
Big bull "Tim" is a giant elephant that calls Amboseli National Park home. At more than 40-years old, having lived more years on earth than many of us, he's one of the few remaining tuskers in Africa, with distinct long and uneven tusks, one of which scrapes the ground.
In November 2014, he was attacked with a spear but Tim was lucky. Our DSWT/KWS Mobile Vet Units were called to urgently find and treat him and after a successful operation, he was back on his feet. This intrusion on Tim's life took only 25 minutes; a minuscule period of time in the life of an elephant that has lived 44 years. But a critically important moment of time, for without the emergency veterinary treatment, 45 years could have been the final number for Tim.
Today, Tim continues to take his mighty strides across the savannah but his future isn't assured; his huge tusks literally putting a price on his head as demand for ivory in the Far East continues to claim wild lives in Africa.
Zongoloni was just 18-months old when she became an orphan of the ivory trade and witnessed her mother gunned down by ivory poachers. Despite treatment from DSWT and KWS Vets who did the best they could to remove shattered bone and treat her wounds, two weeks later this baby elephant was found guarding the body of her dying mother — chasing away our elephant keepers who came to rescue her.
One can't comprehend the levels of grief and trauma this tiny baby elephant must have suffered, and understandably when Zongoloni first arrived at the nursery, she was extremely wary of the keepers given her experience with humans so far. But thanks to love, support and 24/7 care from a dedicated group of Kenyan men who act as our elephant keepers, she overcame her trauma and found a new family in the form of the other orphans in our care.
In several years’ time, Zongoloni will return to the wild and have a family of her own; it is our responsibility to ensure these orphans don't end up as another horrifying statistic and can live out their lives in the wild, free from threat.
Every day at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is an Elephant Day, but Aug. 12 presents a chance for us to make a difference together, celebrate all things elephant — and act as a global reminder of the plight facing the species.
Find out how you can join us in celebrating World Elephant Day at: www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/WED