Life just now has been turned upside down for this calf.
Wandering near a river in Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park, one-year-old Mukkoka is alone, and mother or other elephants were nowhere to be found. He was tired, lonely, and scared.
Thankfully, rescuers from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT), an orphan elephant recovery and recovery organization, found the calf in time. They were sweeping the area from the air on an airplane when they found Mukkoka’s lone traces in the sand along the Tiva River. Sadly, they never saw any signs of his mother, so they weren’t sure what happened to her.
The team picked up the baby elephant and sent it to the orphanage for much-needed medical care and milk after being alone for so long.
Days later, as he felt a little better, his caregivers knew that it was the perfect time to recommend him the most helpful medicine of all: friends.
As soon as the boy was introduced, the other elephants immediately gathered around the baby, bathing him with love and attention. Now he is part of their family.
Rob Brandford, executive director of DSWT, said: “They immediately wrapped it up and led him into the woods to meet the rest of the cubs. “The greeting he met was very warm, as the other children reached out to comfort and greeted Mukkoka as a new member of the family.”
As a highly social animal, elephants thrive when living alongside their kind. They rely on each other for comfort and friendship – and the others know that Mukkoka needs it most of all.
It was a particularly touching moment for the elephant’s caregivers, even though they saw the deep family bonding and the animal’s compassion toward others almost daily.
“Even though it’s something we’ve seen many times, the empathy showed by these elephants never ceases to be amazed,” Brandford said. Remembering that they also experienced the loss of their own families, their level of compassion is heartwarming to watch them approach young orphan calves, providing comfort, love, and friendship”.
While Mukkoka has to deal with his mother’s profound loss, he is in the best place possible to prepare him to come back to the wild again someday. He will likely spend the next ten years being cared for by the DSWT until he reintegrates into a protected wildlife habitat.
Until then, he will heal and learn all the skills of being an elephant – with encouragement from his sweet adoptive family every step of the way.
“Touch [is] an important part of welcoming a new family member and making them feel safe,” added Brandford. “This loving interaction is of great help as orphans overcome their feelings of loss.”
To help out Mukkoka and other orphan elephants, you can donate to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.