During the late afternoon of the 12th September, 2006, we received a call from Kicheche Camp in the Masai Mara National Reserve reporting a seriously wounded mother elephant with a one year old calf at foot. Great pieces of necrotic flesh were apparently hanging from a horrendous injury to one of her breasts, and a large abscess higher up on her body was exuding copious quantities of pus. This injury could possibly have been caused by a spear thrown from above the elephant which penetrated the shoulder flesh and came out at the breast.
Since Dr. Ndeereh of the Trust’s Mobile Veterinary Unit was involved with the translocation of elephants out of the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary in Tsavo West, and therefore not available, frantic phone calls to K.W.S. resulted in another Vet from their Veterinary pool returning to Nairobi from the Lewa Conservancy on the scheduled daily Air Kenya flight. Fortunately, the timing and communication worked in our favour and Dr. Chege was able to return in time and joined by Robert Carr-Hartley they caught the chartered flight to the Mara at 2 p.m. on the 13th.
Taking into consideration the possibility that the mother elephant’s injuries could turn out to be too serious for any hope of recovery, and if so, her milk dependent yearling calf would have to be rescued as an orphan in order to be saved, the Trust chartered a Caravan aircraft, aboard which, in addition to the KWS Vet, were some Keepers and all the rescue paraphernalia.
The mother elephant and her baby were amongst a herd of about 16 other elephants, so it was therefore necessary to try and separate her from the others, which, after a lot of confusion, and some nerve-wracking elephant charges, the ground team succeeded in doing. The mother was then immobilized and fell asleep with her baby by her side. It was seen to be still in reasonable condition, and after a brave fight beside its mother, it eventually took to its heels and joined the rest of the herd who by now were some distance away. After treatment of an abscess on her right side, the wounded mother was turned over by being roped and towed by a vehicle before the Vet could work on the more serious breast wound. Having cleaned the two wounds thoroughly, and removed all the dead tissue from the injured breast, she was given a strong long acting antibiotic injection and revived. Her wounds were, indeed, extremely serious, but the Vet felt that the wounds were not too deep-seated to rule out the possibility of recovery, particularly as her condition could continue to be monitored by the Kicheche Camp Guides. Very soon she was reunited with her baby, and there was relief all round when the Rescue Team returned minus a new orphan, for every little elephant that loses its natural mother and family is a tragedy. Now, we pray that this saga will have a happy ending – that the Mara mother elephant, will survive, and her baby will be able to grow up within a loving elephant family.