Rescuing Tsavo’s Drought-Affected Elephant Orphans: Racing Against the Clock

In the harsh wilderness of Tsavo, where droughts can spell doom for young elephants, every rescue mission becomes a race against time. Dehydration and malnutrition lurk as silent threats, ready to claim the lives of orphaned calves left to fend for themselves. But amidst this unforgiving landscape, our pilots soar as vigilant guardians, scanning the vast expanse from above, their keen eyes searching for signs of distress.

Such was the case on a fateful morning of September 8, 2022, when one of our pilots embarked on a routine patrol over the sprawling Tsavo East National Park. As the fixed-wing aircraft glided gracefully over the rugged terrain, a lone figure caught the pilot’s attention—a small elephant calf, standing forlornly beside the Voi River, her frail form a stark contrast against the harsh backdrop of the parched land.

Concerned by her solitary presence, the pilot circled back, determined to ascertain her situation

. Hour after hour, he watched from above, his heart heavy with empathy as he witnessed the calf’s futile attempts to join passing herds at the waterhole. It was a heart-wrenching sight, a poignant reminder of the harsh realities of survival in the wild, especially during times of drought.



Touching down on the dusty earth below, the pilot wasted no time rallying support from the dedicated teams of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Together, they approached the distressed calf with gentle hands and soothing voices, easing her fear and coaxing her into a transport crate.

Swiftly and with utmost care, they whisked her away to safety, to the sanctuary of the nearby airstrip where a caravan and a team of dedicated Nursery Keepers awaited her arrival. Weka, as she would come to be known, arrived at the Nursery in a fragile state, her emaciated frame a testament to the hardships she had endured.

But within the nurturing embrace of the Nursery, Weka found solace and strength. Day by day, under the watchful eyes of her devoted Keepers, she blossomed into a picture of health, her once gaunt cheeks filling out, her spirit buoyed by the love and companionship that surrounded her.

Today, Weka may still bear the scars of her solitary beginnings, but she is no longer alone. In the gentle company of her fellow Nursery residents, Muwingu and Kitich, she has found friendship and camaraderie, a reminder that even in the face of adversity, there is hope, and there is healing.

In the Kamba language, “Weka” means “lonely.” But as she roams the forests of Tsavo, surrounded by friends who have walked alongside her on this remarkable journey, Weka will never know loneliness again.

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