Dololo's Age: 3 Years Old
Date of Birth (approx): 1 March 2017
Reason Orphaned: Stuck in Mud
Rescue Date: 9 September 2018
Age at Rescue: 18 months (approx)
Rescue Location: Tsavo Ecosystem, Taita Ranches
Current Location: Ithumba Reintegration Unit
In the early morning of the 9th September 2018 KWS Company Commander of the Taita Ranches, Mr Salim Makomba, received a report from the community regarding a submerged baby elephant located on privately owned land in Mzee Kirema’s dam outside of Tsavo East National Park towards Mackinnon Road. The community members told how they had watered their livestock late the previous evening and while there was a herd of elephants nearby there was no stricken elephant seen in the dam at that time.
The following morning, Sunday the 9th September, when returning to the Dam, they had discovered the young elephant floating in the middle of it, so the calf had run into trouble overnight. There was no knowing how many hours he had struggled for, submerged with only his trunk raised for breath.
The conditions surrounding the dam and wading into the dam were extremely treacherous underfoot, which meant the calf, once he had slipped had no ability to right himself, and obviously the herd because of the treacherous conditions could not help. Sensing the dangers and the desperation of the situation, and given that they were in a community area the herd abandon the calf and were long gone by the time the baby was discovered.
KWS Rangers responded and once on site they removed their uniforms and waded in, gently edging the calf to the side of the dam where many hands were able to eventually extract him. This was difficult going because he was by now totally exhausted and unable to stand so remained recumbent throughout. The KWS Rangers travelled to their camp some few Kilometers away with the calf loaded in the back of the land cruiser and immediately called The DSWT funded Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit headed by KWS Vet Dr. Poghon who arrived on site with Keepers from the DSWT Voi Relocation Unit.
Dr. Poghon and the DSWT Keepers were gravely concerned about the state of the calf and felt that he was definitely a candidate for the intensive care that the DSWT Nursery could give if he was to survive his ordeal. The DSWT helicopter was called upon to ensure no time was wasted and the aerial team immediately flew to site. By this time Dr. Poghon had stabilized the calf by placing him on an IV drip while dowsing his body with water to keep his body temperature cool to clean away the compacted mud, particularly behind his ears in an effort to keep his body temperature cool because by now it was midday and extremely hot.
The DSWT Helicopter and pilot Andy Payne arrived on site with all the equipment required to transport the baby safely directly to Nairobi, that way avoiding any further delays. They worked swiftly to prepare the calf for loading, all the while ensuring the drip remained intact so that he could further benefit from more fluids throughout the duration of the flight. Once he was loaded, the pilot together with one Keeper wasted no time in getting airborne for the one and a half hour flight to Nairobi. With the calf strapped fast he was unable to move but for his responsive eyes, and a quivering trunk, but Keeper Kingoo was there to comfort him and change the IV drips during the flight.
The beauty of the helicopter is it delivers the calf directly to site, alleviating all the additional stress and hassle of airports and transport, and so it was on this day, with a case where time really was of the essence, the helicopter touched down in Nairobi Park opposite the Trust Nursery headquarters with all the Nursery Keepers fully briefed and waiting ready to hastily unload the baby and get him safely into the comfort of a warm freshly prepared stable.
Once in the stable he was unstrapped and unwrapped, and helped to his feet. Remarkably he stood for the first time since his ordeal, and remained calm despite the strange and new surroundings, so much so that one could sense he understood how much he was being helped and was certainly receptive to it all. He even took a bottle of warm milk and set about feeding on the freshly cut greens hanging in his stable. Throughout the night he had the company of a Keeper and fed well on his three hourly milk bottles, while continuing to feast on the freshly cut greens all night without collapsing or lying down again. His eyes needed attention having been submerged in foul water for hours. He was also given a long course of antibiotics due to the risk of pneumonia and ingesting the water into his lungs. We named this gentle bull of approximately 18 month old Dololo, a name from the region from where he was rescued.
Dololo remained incredibly weak and had a good infestation of worms too that needed addressing, and we suspect this was his problem even before he slipped in the water hole as he was in extremely poor condition and riddled in parasites. This we see often in the elephants frequenting the areas heavily inhabited by livestock. As the days passed and we completed the deworming regime he grew in strength and after a week staying close to home he was able to join Luggard and another new calf called Merru out in the Park during the day. The gentle sedate pace of Luggard and Merru was the perfect introduction for this weak calf, and as he gradually grew in strength he has been able to spend increasingly more time with the older orphans.
Reflecting on his ordeal he is incredibly lucky to have been saved in time, and it is so satisfying to see him come alive as his condition improves.
Roho's Age: 18 Months
Date of Birth: 15th January 2019
Reason Orphaned: Suspected Poaching
Rescue Date: 16th October 2019
Age at Rescue: 9 months (approx)
Rescue Location: Tsavo Ecosystem, Tsavo West National Park
Current Location: Nairobi Nursery
In the early hours of 16th October, at the request of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) our SWT/KWS Canine Unit headed to Tsavo West National Park to help track down two suspected poachers, who had been spotted the evening before. The team convened with KWS and Tsavo Trust rangers to coordinate a search, and it was then they received a disturbing report; not far from where they were gathered, a patrolling aircraft had just sighted a tiny elephant calf standing beside the body of his deceased mother.
Knowing that time is of the essence in cases like these, the team immediately changed tack and headed in the direction of the calf and the mother’s carcass. At first, they thought that the pilot’s GPS coordinates had to be wrong. They were leading the men up an impossibly steep lava hill, with huge chunks of lava rock and thick vegetation impeding every step. It seemed like a very improbable place for an elephant mother to bring her calf. Despite this, they trekked on.
When they reached the top of the hill, the team was met with a heart-breaking sight, that of a beautiful female elephant lying dead with her nine-month-old calf standing by her side. He cut a tragic figure, huddled next to his mother’s body in this harsh terrain. Given the dense bush and jagged lava, the helicopter couldn’t even attempt landing in the area, and it quickly became clear that the only option was to descend the hill on foot with the calf. Although he was small, the orphan had lots of adrenaline pumping through his veins and vigorously resisted all efforts to shepherd him down the hill.
After several stop-and-go attempts, a brave few were able to descend with the calf — half carrying, half walking his resisting little body — and guide him to the road. By this time, the temperature was soaring, so the team waited in the shade of an acacia tree and poured cool water behind the baby’s ears and over his back. The SWT helicopter soon arrived with Justus, a very experienced Keeper, to bring the baby to the Nursery. They landed, strapped in their passenger, and headed in the direction of Nairobi. With a successful rescue under their belts, the SWT/KWS Canine Unit resumed their original mission of searching for signs of the poachers who had been reported the previous day.
At the Nursery, meanwhile, the Keepers were ready to meet their new arrival. As soon as the helicopter’s rotors stopped spinning, they ferried the precious bundle to his stockade. They had to make a hasty retreat after helping him to his feet because, despite being little, he still had a lot of fight in him. Over the intervening weeks, he has settled in beautifully and is enjoying all the attention lavished on him by the Keepers and the rest of the Nursery herd. We named him Roho, which means “spirit” in Swahili — an apt name for this brave little boy.
We can’t fathom why Roho’s mother climbed to that inhospitable place. An autopsy was inconclusive, so this particular mystery may remain unsolved. Given the reason that our teams had assembled there in the first place, however, it’s very possible that she brought her baby there in a desperate bid to retreat from poachers. Although she lost her own life, her efforts to protect her baby were not in vain. We’re immensely proud of our team’s heroic efforts to rescue little Roho, and we’re pleased that we can offer him a new family, and a future.
Larro's Age: 2 Years Old
Date of Birth: 15th March 2018
Reason Orphaned: Human - Wildlife Conflict
Rescue Date: 2nd January 2019
Age at Rescue: 9 months (approx)
Rescue Location: Masai Mara, Olarro Conservancy
Current Location: Nairobi Nursery
On the 2nd January we were asked to help rescue an orphaned baby elephant, observed alone and struggling within the Ripoi area in the Masai Mara. The little calf was close to a homestead and the community had reported her presence to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), who having gone to the scene had ascertained the baby was indeed alone and orphaned before contacting the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
The calf was reported to be small, less than a year old and thus very much milk dependent. She had been observed for two days with no elephant herds sighted in the area. We set about preparing the rescue kit including blankets, rope, tarpaulin and the first aid kit containing the all-important rehydration fluids which can be so essential for a young calf who has obviously gone for a number of days without mother's milk. Two Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Keepers set off for Wilson Airport, where the chartered airplane was waiting, and took off before 3pm, landing in the Masai Mara at Siana airstrip around 3:45pm.
From the closest airstrip to where the baby had been reported was a 30 minute drive, and the Keepers were mindful that because of the late hour time was of the essence. The KWS vehicle that collected them drove straight to the area where the baby was, as she had not yet been captured by the KWS or Olarro Scouts who remained at the scene monitoring the situation.
The Keepers found her in a thicket where the scouts and rangers were still observing her, and they re-established with the KWS rangers, Olarro Scouts and the local community who first reported the elephant, that elephant herds were nowhere in the area. They were told by Masai Community members at the scene that they had observed her for a few days alone, and she looked thin and dehydrated. The Keepers approached the calf holding a blanket to cover her face, and it did not take long to subdue her due to her size and weakened state. We estimated her to be approximately 10 months old.
After capture the little calf was loaded into the land cruiser and driven to the airstrip, where she was hoisted by many helping hands into the plane and the IV fluids inserted into her veins for the duration of the flight back to Wilson Airport. The plane landed at Wilson Airport just before dark at 7pm, then she was driven the short distance to the Nairobi Nursery where she was safely lifted into a freshly prepared quiet stable. She was placed in the stable next to Enkesha, who was curious of all the activity going on next door to her at such a late hour, but she was most friendly and welcoming to the new little arrival, which provided enormous reassurance to the little calf.
After the calf had settled down into her new surroundings, the Keepers brought her a warm fresh bottle of milk but she only managed to drink half, unused to the taste of the new formula, but at 9pm she took her feed without hesitation. She was given an injection of Vitamin B as well as the other routine prophylactics prescribed to new arrivals. After a couple of hours she settled down and she soon fell asleep after her tiring ordeal. She was not strong enough to stand up by herself, so required assistance to be brought to her feet throughout the night in order to continue with her important milk feeds.
We decided to call the little calf Larro, after the area in which she was found. The initial days were precarious given her weakened state so we kept her for five days in the stockade compound, as she grew accustomed to the Keepers, the new surroundings and milk, and grew in strength. Once we were confident she had the strength to join the others in the herd we allowed her out with them, and she was very well behaved, settling quickly into her new environment, no doubt comforted by the welcoming nature of all the other elephant orphans surrounding her.
In her initial few weeks at the Nursery she remained gaunt and weak, so when the other orphans walked off deeper into the forest to browse during the day, she remained back with Luggard as company who she became very friendly with extremely quickly. On her second day out with the others, she rushed into the mud bath in excitement, however this proved to be rather premature as she was not yet strong enough to handle playing around in the thick mud and soon she exhausted herself and became stuck. The Keepers had to remove their socks and boots, roll up their trousers and wade in to retrieve her. She's become extremely trusting of her Keepers and already adores them, preferring to spend most of her time with them when out in the forest rather than the other elephants.
The reason for Larro being orphaned remains unconfirmed, but she does come from an area that has seen increased human-wildlife conflict in recent months. The DSWT/KWS Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit has between August and December 2018 treated 28 separate cases of speared or arrowed elephants in this same area. Most were able to be saved thanks to the swift response taken when these cases were reported.
There was however a female elephant who had been arrowed and in the panic fell down a steep ravine resulting in a broken spine, unable to move she had to be euthanized by the KWS Vet. She was a lactating female obviously still with a dependent calf who was nowhere to be found at the time. This incident happened on the 22 November 2018 and it is certainly possible that Larro was her calf, given that her body condition was consistent with an elephant baby of that age being without mum for many weeks. Possibly she remained with the herd until such time she became too weak to keep up with them.