Unexpected Tragedy in the Nursery - The sudden death of Nchan

Rescued from a well dug near the Milgis Lugga when just 6 weeks old on the 18th of April, and there she thrived until the 14th April, 2010, one month before the milestone of her 1st birthday

Rescued from a well dug near the Milgis Lugga when just 6 weeks old on the 18th of April, and there she thrived until the 14th April, 2010, one month before the milestone of her 1st birthday.   We were all confident that this little elephant would live and soon be able to join her peers in Tsavo National Park, where she would grow up in prime elephant country and ultimately lead a normal wild elephant life again as part of the extended and loving large new orphaned elephant family.  During her Nursery time she was a deeply loved, always extremely playful and a very caring little elephant who became an important Nursery Mini Matriarch, conscientious and mindful of all the smaller elephants, looking out for them, caressing them and reassuring those grieving.   She was a great favourite, the choice of many foster-parents all over the world, who diligently followed her story and her life through the monthly Keepers’ Diary and every day grew to love her more.  

On the 14th April 2010, Nchan was as playful as ever in the morning, but un-characteristically refused her milk feed at 12 noon and again at 3 p.m., obviously suffering severe stomach pain, passing stools that contained copious amounts of mucous.    She was given oral Sulphadimidine and Kaolin, and later on, when the Vet arrived to assess her condition, Buscopan and anti-inflammatory injections.   Her stools returned to normal, she took some milk at 6 p.m., all her milk ration at 9 p.m. and again at midnight, so we thought that whatever she had ingested which had upset her must have passed and that she was well on the road to recovery.   However, not so, because during the early hours of 15th April 2010, she literally blew up like a balloon, her stomach so severely bloated that her breathing became ever more laboured.   The Keepers tried to lift her so that she could walk around, and hopefully disperse the build-up of gas in her stomach, but she was unable to stand, such was the pressure exerted on her lungs.   Another Buscopan injection and gentle massaging of her stomach by the Keepers failed to relieve what was rapidly turning into a life threatening condition, we surmised caused by severe bloat and pressure on the lungs.  

She died at 2 a.m. during the early hours of the morning of the 15th April, surrounded by a host of sorrowing humans who were completely devastated and unraveled.   Nchan’s numerous foster-parents will mourn her just as deeply, having followed her life through the Keepers’ Diary for almost as year, and come to love her for her unique and beautiful elephant personality and her generous heart that extended love and care to all the babies smaller than herself.   She will be most sadly missed by her elephant peers in the Nursery, by her dedicated Keepers who for an entire year replaced her lost elephant family and who were with her when she died.

Whilst we, and the Vet, surmised that it was the bloat that caused the death of Nchan, an autopsy the next morning proved otherwise for it was peritonitis that killed her as a result of a ruptured ulcer in the Duodenum surrounded by massive amounts of sepsis.   But, Nchan had led a stress free life during her one year of life in the Nursery, expressing a joy of living every single day through a playful nature.   However, according to the Vet, ulcers of that nature in small animals are as a result of stress – the stress this baby elephant suffered falling down that deep well, and hearing her elephant family walk away, unable to help her.   Whilst she was extracted by an equally caring human family, she was left unattended around the lugga for a while, in the hopes that her elephant mother would return and reclaim her, and the stress of losing her elephant mother and family, of being extracted from the well by those she viewed as “enemy”, and thereafter left unattended, hungry hyaenas being kept at bay by her human rescuers as darkness set in, must have left a fatal legacy that her immune system could not heal.

 As we have said so often, rearing the orphaned elephants is not for the feint-hearted for it is inevitably a deeply emotional roller-coaster that involves the depths of deep despair and grief as well as the joys of success.   But, at such times one simply has to steel oneself to turn the page, as elephants do themselves on a daily basis, surrounded as they are by cruel and greedy humans bent on killing them for their teeth.   Working with elephants brings down time for grieving, for emotion is one of the keys to success, but then there has to be positive consolation in that every little elephant that dies in our care, does so surrounded by love, rather than in lonely isolation which in Nchan’s case would have been drowning down a deep well. She enjoyed a stolen year of happiness which would otherwise have been denied her, and she will live on in our hearts and minds forever for the joy and happiness she has given to so many people far removed from Kenya.  Rest in peace precious Nchan, somewhere in the Great Somewhere, where no harm or pain or stress can ever befall you again.