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Update from Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage: Rescue of a Yearling Elephant Calf from the Ijara District – Tana River, Kenya

The rescue of this yearling calf from the Ijara District of the Tana River proved to be one of the most challenging the Daphne Sheldrick team has ever undertaken.  The calf, a female, which had a hugely swollen hind leg at the knee joint, had been spotted by a Kenya Police Reservist three weeks previously,  who reported to the Ndera and Ishaqbini Conservation Management authorities.

For 21 days they had been monitoring the calf with the help of conservancy rangers as they tried to find the mother.  Having failed in this, it was decided to contact the Community Development Manager of the Northern Rangelands Trust who got in touch with KWS on the 29th October, who then alerted The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust that a Rescue was needed.

This rescue proved to be one of the most challenging of all time. Due to the torrential rains the previous day and the combination of black cotton soil the vehicle very quickly became hopelessly bogged in the
mud.  This delayed the rescue so much so that the aircraft and Tal Manor returned to Nairobi when it became clear that there was no way they would get to the calf before nightfall.  Our Keepers, determined to rescue the calf, opted to remain behind, and eventually due to a Herculean effort from all concerned they managed to extract themselves late in the evening.  After a couple of hours drive they found shelter for the night thanks to Yussuf Aden, the Manager of the Ishaqbini Conservancy.

Early next morning everyone was up at dawn in an effort to complete the rescue.  The rescue kit was loaded into the back of a tractor and the journey began at 6:00am. The road to Ndera from Kotile where they spent the night was even more flooded than the one traveled the previous day. The team reached the banks of the Tana River, fertile with an abundance of Mango and banana trees.  Here the Keepers met up with eight more Kenya Police Reservists and Abdi our Keeper was able to brief everyone how best to assist with the elephant rescue.   With the dense vegetation conditions were tough, with only fleeting glimpses of the calf before she was once again lost.  The team set off on foot combing the bushes. Eventually she was spotted and the Keepers rushed in; she was much smaller than anticipated. After capture she was prepared for the long journey back to the airstrip which took over 5 hours in the blazing heat, and flooded conditions.

En-route to Masalani airstrip the rescue team was met by Mr. Kiio, the Kenya Wildlife Service Ijara District Warden, and traveled in convoy for the rest of the way to ensure that they did not have a repeat of the previous day. Eventually after two grueling days the team arrived back at the airstrip.

Meanwhile, the Rescue plane from Nairobi returned, bringing with it fresh milk and rehydration plus crates of sodas for those that had helped towards saving this baby.   Amazingly, having subsisted on mangoes and
wild fruit, she was not life- threateningly malnourished even though she had been without her mother for 3 weeks. She still had strength, but was unable to put weight on the damaged leg which was hugely swollen at the knee joint. Having taken both milk and water she was airlifted from Masalani Airstrip arriving back at the Nairobi Nursery at 3:30pm where she took yet more milk and water, and was ushered into the Stockade next door to Maxwell.  She is an extremely lucky baby, with so many people going to extraordinary lengths in order to help rescue and save her life.

The Daphne Sheldrick team as named the calf Ishaq B after the area and the men that had contributed so much to her survival and eventual rescue. She is a remarkable baby! Despite being encumbered by her swollen leg, which seems to be improving with each passing day, she is unbelievably tough, surviving one of the most grueling rescues ever and 3 weeks without Mum. This is the baffling bit, as a milk dependent calf her age would normally be dead after three weeks without milk.  They  think it was because she was living off mangos dropped to the ground by the marauding baboons in the area that she lasted as
long as she did.  They provided her with the company she needed as well, as it was reported to us that she spent time with the baboon troop.

The following day she joined the Nursery orphans and was overwhelmed to experience all the attention and an instant elephant family once more. As a result she immersed herself into Nursery life, and in no time began playing in the mud bath with the others. She had had such a long time on her own, mourning the loss of her family.  To be rescued and reunited with elephants came as a huge relief.  She has embraced by the herd from day one.  She is extremely pampered by all the other orphans, with the exception of a jealous Kainuk.

A special mention must be made to the Keepers, Abdi, Adan and Sammy, who did so much and worked so hard in order to save Ishaq-B.  Theirefforts on this rescue were nothing short of heroic!

To view a film of the rescue along with additional photographs please click here