Kilulu's Story

In 2021-2022, Tsavo and much of Kenya was blighted by a long and gruelling drought. During this time, many older elephant calves were orphaned — either after losing their mothers to drought, or being left behind by their herd when they became too weak to go on.

We suspect Kilulu fell into the latter category. During the peak of the drought, a possible orphan was reported on Lualenyi Ranch. He had been seen on his own for several days and was located in a parched area, with no trace of his mother or any wild elephants. The calf had clearly been alone and without food for some time: He was thin, weak, dehydrated, and looked like he had given up.

Calves on the cusp of milk dependence emerged as some of the greatest victims of the drought. As vegetation dried up, elephant mothers struggled to consume ample food to also produce enough milk for their baby. Eventually, their undernourished calves became too frail to keep up with the herd. In challenging times, wildlife must prioritise survival of the group, and the weakest are left behind. Passing herds cannot afford to take a hungry, milk-dependent calf under their wing.

Kilulu's Story

In 2021-2022, Tsavo and much of Kenya was blighted by a long and gruelling drought. During this time, many older elephant calves were orphaned — either after losing their mothers to drought, or being left behind by their herd when they became too weak to go on.

We suspect Kilulu fell into the latter category. During the peak of the drought, a possible orphan was reported on Lualenyi Ranch. He had been seen on his own for several days and was located in a parched area, with no trace of his mother or any wild elephants. The calf had clearly been alone and without food for some time: He was thin, weak, dehydrated, and looked like he had given up.

Calves on the cusp of milk dependence emerged as some of the greatest victims of the drought. As vegetation dried up, elephant mothers struggled to consume ample food to also produce enough milk for their baby. Eventually, their undernourished calves became too frail to keep up with the herd. In challenging times, wildlife must prioritise survival of the group, and the weakest are left behind. Passing herds cannot afford to take a hungry, milk-dependent calf under their wing.

The Kenya Wildlife Service greenlit a rescue on the 26th September 2022 and a team of Voi Keepers mobilised to the scene. They found the calf was in a pitiful state. Knowing there wasn’t time to spare, the team put him on a drip as they drove him to the Voi stockades. We named him Kilulu.

Like most drought victims, things were touch-and-go with Kilulu, but with lots of rest, rehydration, and proper nutrition, he eventually turned a corner. He found himself in good company at Voi: Many slightly older orphans were rescued from southern Tsavo during this time. Because of their age and location, they bypassed the Nursery and went directly to our Voi Reintegration Unit. We call this class the ‘Voi kids’.

Kilulu’s Keepers describe him as a ‘charming, fine young bull’. He has adapted well to Voi life and become fast friends with fellow Voi kids Hildana, Itinyi, and Seri. Emoli and Thamana have become big brother figures and often invite him to sparring games. The desperate calf we rescued is now chubby cheeked, full of energy, and surrounded by friends.

Adopt Kilulu for yourself or as a gift.

Adopt Kilulu for yourself or as a gift.

Current Age

4 years old

Gender

Male

Rescued date

26 September 2022

Rescue Location

Tsavo Ecosystem, Taita-Taveta

Date of Birth (approximate)

20 September 2019

Reason Orphaned

Drought related

Age at Rescue

3 years old (approx)

Current Location

Voi Reintegration Unit

Kilulu's featured photos

Our digital adoption programme includes the following:

Personalised adoption certificate.

Monthly email update on your orphan and the project.

Monthly watercolour by Angela Sheldrick.

Access to special content; latest Keepers' Diaries, videos and photos

Give Kilulu the gift of life by adopting today.

Latest updates featuring Kilulu

The Rescue of Kilulu

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Kilulu's latest photos

Kilulu relaxing

Kilulu

Kilulu surrounded by greenery

Kilulu

Hildana left and Kilulu

Thamana and Kilulu mud bathing

Emoli and Kilulu sparring

Emoli and Kilulu sparring