During the morning of 25th January 2006, we were alerted by the Kenya Wildlife Service that a very young orphaned elephant was being held at a KWS station near the Trans Mara town of Kilgoris in Southern Kenya. The rescue was immediately scrambled and the rescue crew and plane flew to Kitchwa Tembo airstrip, the closest strip in the Maasai Mara, to await the arrival of the calf, who was in the process of being driven the 45 km + drive to this point.
On the morning of the 25th a Maasai elder in the Kimaserian area was surprised by a most unusual visitor when a tiny baby elephant was found in his Boma amongst his cattle and sheep. This baby, still pink behind the ears, had been swept down the Mogor river as his mother and herd had attempted to cross the fast flowing river earlier that morning. It became evident he had been swept about 800 meters by the swift current before ending up on the shoreline of the opposite bank. Dazed and confused he had followed the sounds of the live stock emanating from a Maasai Boma not far from where he had been washed up. It is considered in Maasai custom to be extremely lucky if you receive an animal in your livestock boma in the morning, normally a small rabbit or something alittle more predictable, but Stephen Parmois Leshao was amazed on this day to find a tiny baby elephant in his boma, washed pink by the river, abandoned and confused looking for the company of his domestic livestock. He immediately tried to rescue the baby, as his elephant herd was no where to be seen, but the moment he moved closer to the calf it fled in the opposite direction. Stephen enlisted the help of his children and his dogs in order to round up the baby elephant and after much effort they eventually managed to capture the calf. They then tied him to a nearby tree while they deliberated as to what to do next. Stephen and a friend then decided to walk the calf to the closest KWS station to seek advice and help from the wildlife authorities. By this time the calf had settled down having fed the calf some cows milk and then a remarkable scene unfolded as Stephen and his friend set off on the 15 kilometer journey to the KWS station, across the plains of the Trans - Mara with this baby elephant following them. It is very encouraging that this man cared sufficiently to save this calf, and moreover the following day diligently laid it on a bed of hay, assisted by Anne Kent Taylor's desnaring team, in the back of the KWS Landrover Pickup which had been made available in order to transport the calf the following day 40 kms to the closest serviceable Airfield, where the rescue plane was waiting.
At the airfield, a curious crowd of onlookers had gathered, and as the calf was being loaded into the plane, Stephen along with his friend who had helped him explained that they lived harmoniously with the elephants that utilized their area and who posed no threat to their livestock. He understood that they generated tourist revenue for his community and were a priceless national heritage that benefited the Tourist Industry of Kenya. The KWS Representative present then explained that the organization’s community out-reach initiatives were now bearing fruit.
Little Kilgoris, as we have named him, arrived in Nairobi at 2.30 p.m., already showing visible signs of the anticipated stomach upset following his intake of cows’ milk that had been given to him well meaningly while in Stephen’s care, to which elephant babies are intolerant. However, on arrival he hungrily downed 3 bottles of SMA and some rehydration fluid and having been anointed with sunblock to protect his petal soft ears, and had his sore eyes washed out with boracic solution, all he now needed was a good rest. Meanwhile, the other four resident tiny babies, namely Lesanju, Lempaute, Galdessa and Shimba were brought in to meet the newcomer, so that he would understand that he was not alone but with their minds only on their anticipated ration of milk, they arrived in a rush and hardly seemed to even notice the presence of a newcomer! However, their presence would surely have been reassuring to this very exhausted baby, who was gently laid on a mattress in the shade for what he needed most at this point in time - sleep.
Kilgoris now brings the number of orphans presently in the nursery up to 13. While we anticipate all the struggles common with raising these infant elephant calves we are optimistic of his chances of survival, and he will be another friend for the Lempaute, Lesanju, Shimba, and Galdessa.