Zongoloni's Story

Zongoloni’s heartbreaking story has made grown men cry. It all began to unfold from Sunday 22nd September.

Zongoloni's Story

On that Sunday, we were informed about an injured female with a calf, within the bush lands of the Taita Sisal Estate. The SWT/KWS Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit was immediately deployed to treat the mother and in order to do so her young calf was also anesthetized. A victim of poaching, a bullet wound had penetrated deep and shattered bone on the right front leg of her mother. KWS Vet, Dr. Poghon, cleaned the wound and treated her with painkillers, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic drugs, but with a bullet possibly still embedded within the bone and bone fragments evident the prognosis for a successful recovery was guarded. Everybody present hoped that this story would end happily.

A week later the injured mother and calf were again sighted on the Conservancy within the estate. It was noted that her shoulder remained very swollen, but it appeared that she could put more weight on the leg. Fortunately her condition did not appear to have deteriorated and it seemed at this point that the outcome would be ultimately positive.

Very tragically however, after another week passed, the collapsed mother and her calf were located by patrolling scouts on Mgeno ranch. She had obviously collapsed a couple of days before as signs of her desperate struggle to get back to her feet was evident all around where she lay. She was in a distressed condition from the injury, but also because she and her calf had clearly been without water or food for some time. Her young calf remained by her side at all times, chasing off any intruders, extremely protective of her mother, but her condition was deteriorating too without milk or water. Those that first located the collapsed mother with her dependent young calf waiting helplessly by her side, observed her drinking her dying mother’s urine she was so desperate for fluids. Under the scorching sun, this heartbreaking scene played out, the agony of a single bullet wound and the pain and suffering it wrought as the weeks past.

It was at this point that Angela Sheldrick was contacted by Kevin Carr-Hartley and his wife Jen from the Taita Sisal estate after they had alerted KWS and the mobile veterinary team. It was clear that the baby was in desperate need of rescuing if she was to live, and sadly her beautiful mother needed to be euthanized and put out of her misery. When the SWT/KWS Anti-Poaching Team from Voi arrived on the scene what they witnessed was so heartbreaking that some were moved to tears. Watching on as this young milk dependent calf stood bravely protecting her dying mother, frightened and confused, robbed of her family.

The SWT Nairobi rescue team were by this time on their way. This was one of two rescues our teams were undertaking on this day, as another calf was being rescued from Amboseli National Park. When the SWT Keepers landed at the Taita Estate airfield they were immediately taken to Mgeno Ranch. The calf was captured by the team, tranquilized and prepared for the journey back to Nairobi, and her mother was then euthanized.

During the 1 ½ hour flight the dehydrated calf was placed on a life saving drip. The team arrived at the Nairobi Nursery after night fall, and the calf was off placed into her stockade next to Vuria with Faraja with Jasiri on the other side. The company of the other elephants was comforting for her and she even took some milk from a bottle, clearly still calm from the effects of the tranquilizer. She was named Zongoloni, the Taita name for a hill located close to where she was rescued.

Zongoloni was approximately 18 months old at rescue and was extremely aggressive once the tranquilizer had worn off, and any chance of her taking milk was doubtful, but thankfully she began to feed well on the browse brought into her stockades. Every day during her stay in the stockades the others would be fed around her enclosure so as to give her a sense of new friends, their routines and to show that the Keepers were friendly. Having experienced what she had, it took quite some time for Zongoloni to become more calm in her new surroundings. It was 12 days before she was comfortable enough to take milk from a bottle, and to join the other Nursery orphans out in Nairobi National Park.

When she was finally let out of her stockade to roam free in the forest with the other elephant orphans and their Keepers, we were still concerned that she may run away. Zongoloni remained aggressive, but had by this time become extremely attached to the milk bottle. She amazed us all when she was let out for the first time, as she settled immediately, and fell into the routine of the Nursery orphans seamlessly. The other Nursery orphans were not initially as accepting of her as we had hoped, but as each day passed Zongoloni became more comfortable with her new elephant friends, and them with her.

Despite her heartbreaking journey we hope that in time the memory of her mother’s trauma and the family lost will fade. We hope she is able to embrace a new life and find true happiness again among the many baby elephants around her who have suffered similar losses.

Her story, along with many before her is such a graphic reminder (as if that is needed) of the price that is paid for ivory.

Adopt Zongoloni for yourself or as a gift.

Important Note: Thank you for considering an adoption. Each orphan needs more than one foster parent: your adoption donation will be processed by the SWT UK and Kenya to help all the orphans in our care.

Adopt Zongoloni for yourself or as a gift.

Important Note: Thank you for considering an adoption. Each orphan needs more than one foster parent: your adoption donation will be processed by the SWT UK and Kenya to help all the orphans in our care.

Current Age

12 years old



Rescued date

2 October 2013

Rescue Location

Tsavo Ecosystem, Taita Ranches

Date of Birth (approximate)

2 March 2012

Reason Orphaned


Age at Rescue

19 months old (approx)

Current Location

Living Wild

Zongoloni'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 Zongoloni the gift of life by adopting today.

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Zongoloni's latest photos

Zongoloni and Sonje browsing together

Zongoloni enjoying a drink with Quanza and Mwana

Lima Lima right, with Zongoloni at the waterhole

Zongoloni arriving early in the morning

Zongoloni watching over Mwana

Zongoloni browsing with Quanza and the others

Zongoloni walking back with the Umani herd

Zongoloni with Mwana