Sadly Dida passed away on March 9th, 2012. She shall forever remain in our hearts

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Dida's Story

The main pipeline for the port of Mombasa takes water from the crystal clear Mzima Springs in Tsavo West National Park and runs through both Tsavo West and East National Parks, hugging the boundary of the southern end of Tsavo East on its way to the coast. It was on a section of the pipeline just beyond the boundary of the Park that a tiny calf, approximately one month old, fell down an open man-hole, illegally opened by the local people in order to help themselves to water and also water their livestock. Access to this water, close to the boundary of Tsavo East also attracts elephants in the dry season and four other of our orphaned elephants have also suffered the same fate as this particular month old baby. The distress to elephant mothers, and the herd generally when a baby disappears down into the watery depths of an open man-hole with no hope ever being saved by them, can well be imagined..

Dida's Story

The Railway line runs close to the pipeline along this particular stretch and it was the railway staff, whilst going about their routine line checks, who heard cries from the depths of this particular cement pipeline tank. On closer inspection they found a tiny elephant calf almost completely submerged in the muddy water, with only her head and trunk visible. There was no sign of any elephants in the area, so how long she had been there is not known. Mindful of the fact that the Duruma tribe who inhabit this area are particularly partial to wild game meat, and an elephant calf would be considered a delicacy, the Railway team posted a guard on the calf whilst others walked to the Kenyan Wildlife services Buchuma Gate to alert the authorities at Voi. They immediately informed The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Burra anti-poaching team along with the Voi Units Elephant Keepers rushed to the scene, approximately one hour away, armed with the appropriate rescue paraphernalia.

Once there the rescue team managed to maneuver a rope under the calfs front legs and were able to hoist the tiny exhausted water-logged baby through the man-hole entrance, pulling her to safety. Being so young she was immediately trusting of our Keepers, following them and suckling their fingers. She took both rehydration liquid and also milk which was offered by the Keepers. The Voi team, who normally work with the much older orphans (the youngest of which is 3 year old Msinga), were completely enthralled with this tiny trusting baby, yet saddened too that once again, due to human/wildlife conflict, another elephant had to be orphaned. The metal lid of the man-hole had been removed and not replaced by the community so a baby elephant paid the price, wrenched away from her family in what must have been terrifying circumstances the previous night.

The calf was driven to the Voi Elephant Stockades whilst we, back in Nairobi, set about arranging to charter a plane for the rescue, which eventually left with three Keepers aboard, headed for the Voi Airstrip. The new orphan was at the Voi Orphans Stockades for several hours whilst awaiting the arrival of the plane, during which time she explored the whole compound, the vehicles, the waterhole. Willingly following the Keepers, until she collapsed on the grass outside one of the stables for a much needed sleep. 15 minutes before the expected arrival of the rescue plane she was lifted onto the back of the Trusts lorry and transported to the airstrip, a distance of some 3 kms. where she immediately inspected the Voi aircraft hanger, the aircraft tyres, and introduced herself to the Nairobi Keepers who had arrived by air. There was time for her to have another milk feed before being loaded into the plane and strapped down carefully for the 1 and a half hour flight to Nairobi. The Voi Keepers named her Dida, after the Dida Harea plains in the Southern Area of Tsavo East and were understandably reluctant to wave goodbye to their tiny charge. They were however, thankful that she had been given another chance and did not have to suffer the fate of either drowning or being eaten by the Duruma, thanks to the compassion shown that morning by the railway workers, the Kenya Wildlife Services prompt response and the rescue efforts of our Staff.

Upon arrival at the Trusts Nairobi Nursery, Dida was led to the stable next door to Shimba, another young elephant orphan who is just over a year old. Exhausted, she promptly slept again, but this was short lived, for when darkness fell, the nightmare of her ordeal consumed her and she cried out constantly for her lost mother, obviously reliving the ordeal that had beset her. Her distraught crying so upset both Lesanju and Lenana in stables far apart from her own that in desperation the Keepers moved her into Shimbas stable and from that moment on she settled down and slept soundly, comforted by his calm and mellow presence.

The next morning she joined the nursery babies, Lesanju, Lempaute, Shimba, and another recent arrival named Sinya, who seemed jealous of the attention little Dida was attracting from the others, and particularly Lesanju, who embraced her as her own, welcoming her into the fold. Though early days yet, so far little Dida has settled well, adored by Lesanju, the miniature Matriarch of the baby Nursery Group, and comforted by the company of others like herself, plus the caring Keepers who are there for her 24 hours a day, bringing her milk at three hourly intervals, day and night.

Date of Passing

9 March 2012



Rescued date

1 October 2007

Rescue Location


Date of Birth (approximate)

3 September 2007

Reason Orphaned

Man-made cause for separation

Age at Rescue

4 weeks old (approx)

Passed away

09 March 2012

Dida's featured images

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The Rescue of Doldol

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Dida's Archival Photos

Lesanju keeps an eye on Dida at the mudbath

Dida left Kenia and Lempaute

Dida left and Lempaute browsing together

Dida browsing on Mazinga hill

Kenia right playing with Dida

Dida browsing with Lesanju and the others

Dida after a mudbath

Kenia following Dida