Nalakite is everything to her three calves. Mother elephants not only gave birth to them but also raised them and guide them through life. So when Nalakite became terminally i-ll, her children suf-fered greatly.
This past September, rangers discovered Nalakite and her three calves – a 12-year-old male, an 8-year-old male, and a 2-year-old female known as “Nalakite Mdogo” or “Little Nalakite.” – wander around the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.
But something was wrong with Nalakite – she’d lost an alarming amount of weight, and she had a circular wou-nd on her left side.
Rangers, working for Elephant Aware Masai Mara, an organization that monitors and protects elephants in the area, al-erted the rest of the team about Nalakite’s condition. A rescue team, including several veterinarians, rushed to help.
Someone may hit Nalakite with a spear – perhaps a villager trying to drive her away from their crops. But no one will know the whole story.
Joyce Poole, an elephant behavior expert and co-director of ElephantVoices, said: “We don’t know who sta-bbed her. “Unfortunately, there is a lot of con-flict between humans and elephants in the Mara. Spear wo-unds and ar-row wo-unds are pretty common. ”
According to Poole, Nalakite had developed a severe infection from the wo-und. If the veterinary team doesn’t treat her, Nalakite will di-e. At the same time, her treatment is fr-aught with ri-sks. They worried that Nalakite wouldn’t be able to return after being se-dated.
“Once down, it’s challenging to get an elephant up if it doesn’t have enough energy to do so on its own,” Poole said. “If it’s too weak to get up, it won’t be able to eat or drink and sur-vive.”
In the end, the veterinary team decided to treat Nalakite. After se-dating her, they cleaned her wo-und and in-jected her with an-tibiotics, vitamins, and p-ain relievers. But when they gave her an ant-idote to wake her up, their f-ear was realized – Nalakite could not return.
But the rescue team refused to give up. They grabbed ropes and pulled Nalakite back to her feet standard her three calves darted around, looking scared and confused.
When Nalakite finally stood, everyone cheered – but the celebration was short-lived.
A month later, rangers found Nalakite lying in a muddy waterhole. It looked like she fell inside it, but she was too weak to get out independently.
A rescue team rushed to help her again, and they worked for 12 hours trying to push Nalakite out of the mud. But that was not possible – they had to give up. Nalakite has no strength left.
“Nalakite’s calves had been waiting nearly all day, and we all have them by her side every hour or so, mostly to give both Nalakite and the calves peace of mind to maintain composure,”.
“After a very long day and night trying their best to save Nalakite’s life, her frail condition made this impossible, and knowing that she was approaching her final moments, it was decided that She needed to be with her children.”
Nalakite’s calves tried to comfort their mother by stroking her with their trunks. At one point, the eldest son laid down beside his d-ying mother.
“He was very attached to her,” Poole said. “Elephants are susceptible. When he couldn’t help her or get a response from her, he did the next best thing and lay down next to her.”
The calves comforted each other too – the boys became more affectionate with Nalakite Mdogo, their 2-year-old sister, wrapping trunks around her for protection.
On the morning of October 5, Nalakite passed a-way. Her three children stayed with their mother’s body for a few more hours, mou-rning their loss.
Poole said: “Elephants understand the d-eath. “They have a concept of the past and the future. The bond between elephants is powerful, and when they are broken, such as at d-eath, elephants gr-ieve. After years of observing and recording elephants’ expressions and gestures, we can see their grief – just like we see in humans.”
Although Nalakite’s children will always miss their mother, they are still together.
“They are doing well,” Poole said. “They have been with the same family for weeks now, and we believe they are with other family members – aunts and cousins, etc. The last image I received was of Nalakite Mdogo interacting with some of his peers. ”
“We hope that together with stakeholders interested in Mara, we can help protect the calves and give them the chance to live life like elephants,” Elephant Aware Masai Mara wrote in a blog post.