In a remarkable turn of events, a routine aerial patrol over Taita Ranch in the Tsavo ecosystem led to an extraordinary discovery.
Keith Hellyer, a pilot with Wildlife Works, spotted an unlikely sight – a young elephant calf walking alongside five adult bulls, clearly in need of its mother’s care.
Watch the video at the end.
This unusual encounter set in motion a daring rescue mission, and the calf, now named Pika Pika, found herself a new family.
The distance from the nearest elephant herd and the absence of lactating females to nurture Pika Pika prompted the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to request a rescue operation.
Without hesitation, a team from the Voi Reintegration Unit was mobilized, while a pilot was dispatched to capture high-quality photos of the calf, confirming the need for assistance.
Rescuing Pika Pika posed a unique challenge as the young calf was under the protection of five untamed adult bulls.
To ensure everyone’s safety, a helicopter was employed to guide the bulls toward a nearby road where the rescue team stood ready.
Remarkably, Pika Pika cooperated, and with the bulls out of the way, the team could safely wrap her in blankets for transportation.
Rather than sending her to a nursery, she raised Pika Pika at the Voi Reintegration Unit, close to where she was found.
This arrangement proved to be less stressful for the young elephant. Placed in a temporary enclosure, Pika Pika immediately began enjoying freshly cut greens prepared for her.
The taming stockade was strategically positioned within a larger enclosure shared with Mbegu and her herd, allowing Pika Pika to bond and feel comfortable.
Mbegu, an elephant at Voi, quickly assumed the role of Pika Pika’s guardian.
While the other elephants at Voi were equally delighted with their new companion, Mbegu had the final say on who got to pamper the young calf.
Pika Pika became an integral part of her new family, actively participating in daily activities, from grazing in the bush to playful mud baths, surrounded by love and care.
Pika Pika’s name was inspired by the rocky terrain where she was found. While the exact reason for her orphaning remains unknown, it is believed that the challenging dry season forced many elephants out of Tsavo National Park in search of food. This resulted in human-wildlife conflicts and the abandonment of calves.
Orphaned calves often seek safety by attaching themselves to bulls, which cannot provide the necessary sustenance for a milk-dependent calf.
The rescue of Pika Pika is a heartwarming success story, ensuring her care until she’s ready to return to life in the wild.
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