The 21st March 2016 began as a particularly fraught day for us, with the news that two orphaned elephants were in need of rescue at different ends of the country; one having fallen down a well in the Namunyak Conservancy in Northern Kenya, and the other possibly a victim of poaching in Tsavo East National Park found near a huge lone rock named “Sobo”, close to the Eastern boundary of the Park. Were this not enough, we then received the tragic news that one of our Elephant Keepers based at the Voi Rehabilitation Unit had suddenly collapsed and died very suddenly and unexpectedly whilst out in the bush with the orphans, which was heart-breaking for all the Sheldrick Trust team.
The male calf found in Namunyak was suspected to have fallen down a well on the 19th March. He was found by herdsmen who had taken their cattle for water at the well on the morning of the 20th March. They reported the calf to Namunyak Conservancy staff who later sent their scouts to extract the baby. He was rescued at around 10am and the team remained with the calf at the scene, whilst rangers attempted to locate the mother for the rest of the day.
When the attempt to reunite the orphan with his mother and herd failed the SWT were contacted to mobilise a rescue. By the time the rescue plane landed at the Namunyak airfield, the calf had not yet arrived, so the plane and Keepers waited for his arrival which did not take long. Once fed he was then loaded onto the plane with his legs tied to ensure he was secure for air travel, the bull calf was then given intravenous life support to avoid plummeting glucose levels, which usually happens under such stressful circumstances and can prove life-threatening.
March is always the hottest time of the year in Kenya, particularly at lower altitudes, and this year due to the equinox combined with unpredictable weather patterns due to global warming, ambient temperatures countrywide were a lot warmer than anyone can remember, with advice to people at sea level to remain indoors and take regular cold showers in order to avoid heat stroke. For this reason, we named this little well victim “Jotto” (in Swahili spelled 'Joto' and pronounced “Injoto~ – the word that describes such hot conditions).
On arrival at the Nairobi Nursery, he was cooled down with water and a mud bath, and fed rehydration mineral water along with milk formula, which he drank enthusiastically since he was obviously extremely thirsty. Of great concern was the fact that his digestive system was in disarray since he was passing liquid mud, combined with the fact that he had no teeth so we were mindful we still had the dreaded teething process to go through, something that is very often accompanied by fevers and serious diarrhea, which orphaned elephants are prone to with their natural elephant stomach flora compromised due to the change of milk.
We have been cautious about placing Jotto on the fostering program, considering that he had much to overcome. From the outset this feisty little bull settled well, become completely hooked on his Keepers and despite some ups and downs has generally thrived within the baby herd. Given his curious and boisterous nature and with the arrival of Ambo, another robust bull who recently came into our care, little Jotto and Ambo were upgraded to the larger Nursery orphan group where both are extremely content and spoilt rotten by many doting mini Mums.