The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust recently indicated that an orphaned elephant rescued from the Mackinnon region of our project area is thriving under their care. Mackinnon, as the young elephant has been nicknamed, had somehow become separated from his family and ventured out of the forest before coming upon the town of Mackinnon, which is known for hostility towards wildlife. Fortunately, that night the area chief came upon the stray elephant and immediately called our security department.
Usually during such a scenario, plans are swiftly made in collaboration with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to airlift the elephant to an orphanage in Nairobi, but since night had fallen, the only possible solution was for our wildlife rangers to safeguard the young elephant until daybreak.
Then with the help of wildlife veterinarians from the David Sheldrick team stationed in Voi, Mackinnon was moved to a Wildlife Works rangers’ camp in Taita Ranch to await his journey to Nairobi the following morning.
Rangers at the Taita Ranch kept the young elephant on a healthy diet of formula milk throughout the night. Early the following morning, the elephant was transitioned to our base station at the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project, which has easier access to an airstrip. Here he would spend a few more hours until foggy weather cleared, and a flight to Nairobi was deemed safe enough to attempt.
The trust, known for taking in orphaned elephants and black rhinos, has seen an upsurge in the number of young elephants they are called upon to rescue. This unfortunate development can be attributed to an increase in poaching cases within the country’s wildlife sanctuaries. If a baby elephant is left without a parent to care for it, the rest of the herd is forced to leave it behind.
Mutual collaboration among wildlife conservationists operating in the area ensures that such elephants are rescued in time; before they become ensnared in a poachers trap or wander into a wildlife unfriendly area. It is this level of cooperation among Wildlife Works, Kenya Wildlife Service and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust that has consistently ensured that orphaned and vulnerable elephants around the Kasigau Corridor are rescued and nurtured till they are old enough to fend for themselves in the bush. Indeed, many elephants rescued by the Trust reach maturity and are released into the Tsavo East National Park to form new families or get adopted by existing herds. However, the survival rate of elephants rescued prior to teething is unpredictable, as this is a time when they rely heavily on their mother’s milk and antibodies. The level of trauma young elephants suffer before they are rescued also becomes a major determinant of their survival rate.
Mackinnon displays few signs of trauma and we’re optimistic that he will surpass this critical stage and flourish into a miraculous creature to enter the Kenyan wild once again.