The 22nd May 2009 saw the arrival of another little orphaned elephant into our Nairobi Nursery, this time a male of approximately 5 – 6 months of age, who had been found alone and wounded, having somehow survived an attack by a predator, possibly a lone hyena, because had there been more than just one, he would certainly not have been able to survive a pack assault. He was flown to the Nairobi Nursery from the Kilaguni Lodge airfield in Tsavo West National Park, and has been named “Kilaguni” since the Chyulu Gate is not far from the Lodge.
He arrived in the Nursery just after dark on the 22nd, and by torchlight we were able to assess the extent of his wounds. His entire tail had been bitten off, leaving just a swollen stump at the base, with surrounding tooth punctures clearly visible. Bite sized chunks had been taken from both ears, and there were wounds on his back legs, some fairly deep. However, he was in fair physical condition, so had probably only been without his mother for a couple of days, and had probably been beside her body when the hyena turned up to feed on the carcass, the fact that the carcass was there probably the reason why he managed to escape being killed. The reason for his being orphaned is not definitely known, but with the situation as it is today, one would be forgiven for making the assumption that it is likely to be as a result of poaching for ivory. Sadly this is becoming ever more commonplace throughout the country ever since the sale of the Southern African stockpiles, exacerbated by the presence of Chinese road construction workers in the country eager to acquire ivory, plus the down-turn in tourism which has impacted even further on revenue allocated for field operations. Persisting drought conditions following the failure of the long rains and the illegal intrusion of livestock into the Protected Areas competing with wildlife for food and introducing disease is another factor that impacts on the survival of elephants.
Little “Kilaguni” was a remarkable 6 month old baby in that he was immediately loving to the Keepers, despite the pain of his wounds having to be cleaned and dressed, and the usual prophylactic injections he had to endure from day one. Desperately sucking on their fingers, and desperate for milk and water, there was no hint whatsoever of aggression or fear from the start, which in an elephant of that age is most unusual and usually cause for concern – too calm for comfort, as experience has taught us over the years. His stomach was in a mess so he was put on a course of antibiotics plus the usual Blockers and on day two, he was allowed to join the other Nursery elephants out in the bush, having made friends with Tassia, his next door neighbour at night in the adjoining partition of one of the stockades. We can only assume that having been through such a terrifying ordeal without the protection of his mother or the herd, subsequent events brought comfort and enormous relief to be handled with care and kindness once more, and more importantly find himself not alone in such a strange setting. The input of the other orphans is always what imparts most comfort to any Nursery newcomer.