He seemed to be improving when we left Nairobi for Tsavo to attend the first Passing Out Parade of the Trust’s anti-poaching team from the KWS Manyani Law Enforcement College. Then came grim news from home via a mobile phone signal – precious little Kinango, the adored baby of the Nairobi Nursery, rescued on the 12th August, was unwell, passing blood in his stool. His relapse began at the end of September, but we were optimistic that he was improving and hopefully through the worst, despite very poor body condition.
This tiny calf, believed to have been so new-born that he had probably never suckled his elephant mother, was found sheltering beneath a huge truck on a feeder road to the coastal Shimba Hills National Reserve. After his rescue we gave him an infusion of elephant blood plasma to kick-start his immune system, suspecting that he could already have been just days away from dying, having never received his mother’s first Colostrum milk to impart the antibodies needed to counteract infection and sustain life in a germ ridden natural environment. He rallied, but was fragile during the eruption of his first molars, when he underwent an oral antibiotic course, more infusions of saline and Dextrose to keep dehydration at bay. Again he rallied and was indeed playful and happy – a great Nursery favourite who attracted a host of caring Foster-parents world-wide, all anxious to help save the life of this enchanting little elephant.
A postmortem revealed an internal septicaemia of the umbilicus, along with gastro enteritis - This was despite taking antibiotics for both gut, and a precautionary long acting injectable penicillin. Everyone is deeply saddened that our best efforts were not good enough to save this baby as will be all his many foster parents.
The news that baby Kinango had died during the night of the 14th October was bad enough, but it came hot on the heels of our Aerial Surveillance Top Cub flying together with KWS Company Commander going to investigate the sighting 6 dead elephants outside the Tsavo East National Park boundary on Galana Ranch, gunned down to satisfy the demand for elephant teeth in populous China and other uncaring Far Eastern Nations. The poaching of Kenya’s elephants has now reached epidemic proportions, which mirror the slaughter of elephants in the late 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s which resulted in Poachers having to be shot on sight within the Protected Areas. If elephants are to be saved, this may well again have to happen, combined with a total ban of all ivory, irrespective of whether legal or illegal, and not just for two years, which happened in l989 and brought poaching under control briefly, but this time forever, because the world’s elephant population is now so reduced.
Most of the Elephant Range States of Africa have become killing fields to satisfy the illegal Ivory trade, and those that buy ivory trinkets have blood on their hands, not just that of the elephant that yielded their Ivory “hanko” seal or religious trinket, but all dependent young as well, doomed to die in lonely isolation, and that one death has also brought untold agony and suffering to grieving friends and relatives, for elephants grieve and mourn a loved one just as sorely as do we humans, and perhaps even more so, because “elephants never forget”. They are just like us, but Better than Us – They are God’s angels possessed of all the best traits of the human animal and few of the bad, and we pray for retribution to those who impose such cruelty. No elephant baby orphaned under the age of 3 years can possibly survive without access to milk, and lactating elephants, particularly in a dry season, will simply not have sufficient milk to be able to sustain their own baby as well as an orphan. Such orphans are doomed to die in lonely isolation, unless they are lucky to have been saved in time, when they can be offered another chance of life. But, is there hope for elephants? Not unless the Ivory Trade can be brought to a close, and people in Eastern countries cooperate by shunning ivory.
Elephants in Africa are under severe pressure now, not just from Poaching, but also due to Global Climate Change, exacerbated by burgeoning human populations, corruption, and greed. When is the world going to wake up, and when is the International Community going to put pressure on China and the other Far Eastern Nations that are at the root of this tragedy.
You can also add your voice to the Trust's iWorry campaign, which was launched a few weeks ago. The DSWT iWorry campaign aims to raise awareness of the urgent need to stop all trade in ivory internationally, in order to protect the future of elephants. Visit www.iworry.org
and sign the petition which will be presented to CITES and speak up for elephants by contacting your country's representatives to CITES; details are on the campaign website.