Orphaned baby elephant refuses to leave dead mother’s side (Kenya)


The Telegraph

Date Published

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A five-month-old orphaned elephant calf holds a vigil by the body of his dead mother in Samburu, northern Kenya.
Worried that he might succumb to cold or be targeted by predators, keepers from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT), Kenya Wildlife Service and Save the Elephants worked through the night to capture the bull – who stubbornly refused to leave his mother’s side.
Vets were eventually able to tranquillise the youngster in the early hours of the morning, before driving him to the Samburu airstrip.
A specialist team flew in to prepare the calf for the flight to his new home at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage.
Located in the Nairobi National Park, the nursery is the only one of its kind in Kenya and receives elephants from across the country.
After the flight, the severely dehydrated calf was driven to the orphanage, where keepers quenched his thirst with some milk and water.
Some of the other 30 orphans at the nursery were bought in to welcome and comfort the new arrival, who was named Sokotei.
And despite the shock of his new surroundings, it wasn’t long before the grieving calf was making new friends.
“Sokotei’s rescue was a battle against time to keep him safe. Throughout the night, teams from Save the Elephant and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust were there to support the young calf and everyone had a long night battling to keep him safe from predators by trying to catch him,” DSWT director Rob Brandford said.
“Alone he was extremely vulnerable, but rain and the fact that he’s a wild animal meant we had to wait until morning, when everyone woke very early and ready to face a dramatic few hours.”
The rescue was part of the DSWT’s “Orphans Project”, which rescues and reintegrates elephants into the wild.
The orphanage looks after elephants under the age of three that are still “milk dependent”.
After the age of three the elephants are sent to one of two reintegration centres in the Tsavo National Park – one in Voi and the other in Ithumba.
“Once Sokotei is old enough to go to one of our reintegration centres, he will spend time going out into the bush to meet other herds, learn what food is safe and essentially learn how to be a wild elephant,” Brandford added.
“It can be a long process, it depends what age the orphan was rescued. If they were very young and have no memory of living wild, then it can take 7-8 years before they are in a position to survive in the wild.”
Last year almost 50 elephants were rescued by the Trust, with the numbers rising each year as the threat of poaching increases, meaning more calfs are left orphaned.
An autopsy later revealed that Sokotei’s mother, an elephant known as Cherie, died due to a serious internal infection caused by a twisted gut.