In early September, people living near Tsavo East National Park in Kenya came across a strange sight – in the middle of the dam was a strange gray lump. It was a baby elephant.
The elephant had fallen into the dam and was clearly unable to get out on its own. He was lying on his side with the trunk protruding above the water so he could breathe.
According to Rob Brandford, chief executive officer of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT), it is possible that the family tried to rescue the baby, but they may not have been able to save it. Many of them lost their parents to poaching.
“The conditions around the dam were tough with slippery mud, and it was possible that the herd was unable to free the calf that was trapped in the dangerous mud and gave up, or their efforts were disturbed, and they run away,” Brandford said.
It was truly amazing that the baby elephant, only about 18 months old, managed to survive in the dam.
Brandford said: ‘His survival is definitely down to the fact that he has a trunk and could use it as a snorkel, jutting out of the muddy water so he could keep breathing. “Without it, he wouldn’t stand a chance if he was submerged in muddy water. We don’t know how long he had been stuck, but he was definitely exhausted from trying to survive.”
Apparently, the baby elephant couldn’t get out of the dam himself, so the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS rangers) came to help – they stripped off their uniforms and waded into the water to reach him. They then gently edged the elephant to the side of the dam, and a team worked to pull the elephant out of the water to safety.
The baby, later named Dololo, was finally on dry land, but he wasn’t out of trouble – he was still exhausted and sick. The KWS team loaded him onto a Land Cruiser and drove him to their camp. They then contacted DSWT, who sent veterinarians and custodians onboard to transfer the baby elephants to the intensive care unit at the DSWT nursery.
“Dololo came to us in a terrible way,” Brandford said. “He was very weak, has a worm infestation (which may have affected his condition before he slipped), his eyes needed attention because he has been submerged in foul water for hours, and he was capable of ingested water into his lungs, which could lead to pneumonia. With these illnesses combined, his outlook is bleak, but we persisted, as we do for all new rescues, never giving up on him or his health. ”
Dololo also showed a strong will to live, the DSWT team commented. When Dololo arrived at the DSWT nursery, the team tried to help him up – but Dololo stood independently.
“Given how weak and exhausted he was, it was surprising that he was able to stand up so quickly after being rescued, as many orphans are not able to achieve this,” Brandford said. . “It is [a] testament to his strong character and his desire to live.”
With the loving care of the DSWT keepers and veterinary team, Dololo slowly regained his health. He eagerly drank from the milk bottles the herders provided him and ate the fresh greens provided to him every day. Once he was strong enough, Dololo could join the larger herd of orphaned elephants living at the DSWT center.
“Dololo settled very well and quickly with the rest of the orphans, who made a real effort to welcome him and let him know that he is now in a safe place,” said Bradford. “For example, when Dololo first arrived, Emoli, his reserve neighbor, seemed to understand his vulnerability, and throughout the night, he was constantly checking on the baby, resting his head across the partition of the storage compartment next to Dololo.”
Dololo will stay in the care of DSWT for many years. But once he’s become an adult, he will be released back into the wild, where he truly belongs.
“Thinking about his ordeal, Dololo is incredibly lucky to have been rescued in time, and it is a pleasure to see him come back to life as his condition improves,” Brandford said. “Knowing that we have given him a second chance at survival and a life in the wild as he is fully grown is immensely uplifting, and we are delighted to get to know this little bull and offer him a new, loving family.”