Tag Archives: baby elephants

Meet Arruba

The Real Africa Trust continues to donate money directly to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a pioneering conservation organisation working to protect wildlife and habitats across East Africa.  

The DSWT runs the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation programme in the world. The nursery unit, pictured above, is based in Nairobi National Park, Kenya and it was here that I first met Kithaka, the elephant Real Africa adopted back in November 2013. Kithaka continues to thrive and will soon be moving from the Nairobi National Park nursery unit to Ithumba, ready to be rehabilitated back to the wild. When we first met Kithaka he was so small and vulnerable that it is hard to believe he is about to move to the Ithumba unit, as a strong young bull elephant, and this is all testament to the work of the Sheldrick Trust. We eagerly await his progress. In the knowledge that Kithaka is about to move on to the next stage, we felt the time was right to adopt another elephant – a calf just starting their journey in the nursery unit. So, in the New Year we adopted Arruba.You can read Arruba’s story below.

In recent months, with poaching escalating once again in East Africa, the Sheldrick Trust has been called on to rescue many tiny distressed elephants. Without their help, these calves would have perished. We recently heard of a tiny newborn calf, Ndotto, who was rescued at just 2 days old from the Ndoto Mountains in Kenya’s far north. Ndotto was found very confused in a throng of sheep and goats.  Ndotto is now being looked after in the nursery. You can see three pictures of the rescue mission to the left. Even on New Year’s day the team were in action attempting to help an emaciated calf found trapped in a gulley in Laikipia – sadly help came too late and on this occasion, the calf did not survive for more than a few days. However the Sheldrick Trust successfully rescued three babies in January.  A tiny calf was rescued from the Sera Conservancy, Northern Kenya on January 3rd. Hamsini struggled with a terrible septic wound on his back caused from a torrid time while being trapped in a well. He also suffered terrible bruising from the fall, and a lung infection. It has been a tricky month for Hamsini but we are hopeful with the right care that he will start to put on weight and his condition improve ; another calf of around 15 months, name Boromoko (pictured bottom right) was rescued from the plains of the Masai Mara on January 5th and has settled in the nursery well, being exceedingly loving; and then, on the 26th, yet another orphan was rescued close to Narok, a heavily populated area.  Her name is Siangiki which means young girl in Masai.  She came in a collapsed state but thankfully the Trust has managed to retrieve her from the brink and she is now safely out with the others and beautifully settled. Often it is not clear how the calves came to be separated from their mothers.

 Arruba’s story

On Tuesday 28th May 2013 a young female elephant calf was sighted by the Kenyan Wildlife Service maintenance team who were erecting a new electric fence in the Aruba Dam area of Tsavo East National Park. The elephant calf was reported to be desperate, and quite evidently alone. Due to the new fence, the baby was trapped and confused.

The period the calf had been trapped within the fenced area was unknown, as is the fate of the calf’s mother and the rest of its herd. It is suspected that the calf and it’s mother might have strayed into the new fenced area and the mother somehow lost the calf on exiting the enclosure and was unable to find her way back in to retrieve her baby. Another possibility is that the calf is an ivory-orphan, as eight elephants were brutally poached in nearby Ndara.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Voi Stockades in Tsavo East were alerted. The head Keeper of the Voi Stockades contacted the DSWT Nairobi HQ that afternoon to make the arrangements for a rescue plane from Nairobi to come the following morning, as darkness was already setting in.

So the new calf, who was estimated to be approximately 8 months old, put up a huge fight when the Voi Keepers arrived at the scene, with Arruba escaping their attempts at rescuing her and reacting extremely aggressively to their presence. Yet the Keepers eventually succeeded in capturing her and loaded her into the waiting vehicle to be transported back to the Voi Stockades.
On arrival at the Voi Stockades, the calf began to settle down and thankfully drank, having arrived in a very dehydrated state. There had been no access to water within the fenced area where she was found. Apart from a few bruises and minor abrasions the calf was in good condition.

The presence of the other orphans at the Voi Stockades was a huge comfort to the new arrival who desperately needed love and reassurance. Shimba, who is recovering remarkably from lion attack injuries, was a great help in getting the calf settled down, stretching his trunk through the stockade fence to offer affection and encouragement and reassurance.

In Nairobi on the morning of the 29th, the Nairobi team and plane were ready to depart on their mission having been briefed the previous evening. Three of the Nairobi Keepers set off to Nairobi’s domestic airport at 9am to catch the rescue plane to Voi in Tsavo East where the Voi Keepers were preparing the calf for her plane journey to Kenya’s capital city.

After a smooth flight with clear views of Mount Kilimanjaro, the Chyulu Hills and the great expanse of Tsavo, the plane landed on Voi’s airstrip, which is located only a few kilometres from the Voi Stockades. On arrival at the stockades it was obvious that the orphan was going to be a handful to re-capture as she was still wild and fearful. Those who were still present to keep a careful eye on the new baby included some of Voi’s big ex-orphans including Emily, Lolokwe and Icholta.

The entire stockade’s workforce and the Nairobi Keepers were all needed to help to get the new arrival restrained and on the ground in order to brace her legs and keep her safe and secure during the flight. With all hands on deck the calf showed huge amounts of strength in managing to evade being taken down, yet after a few minutes she succumbed to the keepers, whilst ex-orphan Emily bellowed and stomped around the stockades concerned about what was happening to her.
The calf was quite a weight and again all hands were needed to lift her into the waiting vehicle and to get her to the airstrip. The transfer went smoothly and within half an hour the calf was being lifted into the plane, strapped securely inside with an IV drip administered to ensure she stayed hydrated during the flight, and a mild sedation to keep her calm.

Saying farewell to all of the Voi staff the Nairobi Keepers climbed into the plane alongside the calf, keeping her reassured and making sure she was as comfortable as possible during the journey. The orphan gave into exhaustion during the flight and fell into a peaceful sleep, awoken when the plane arrived back in Nairobi.

A DSWT vehicle was waiting at the airstrip and the calf was soon on her way to the DSWT Nairobi Nursery in Nairobi National Park. At 2.30pm she had finally reached her final destination and was carried into her stockade. After untying her, the Nairobi Keepers carefully lifted off the blanket covering her face, which was keeping her quiet and calm, and helped her up. Unsteady on her feet she stood, rather dazed, in the shade of her stockade eyeing the humans surrounding her warily yet being too tired to fight them off, she seemed to know she was in a safe place with caring people to look after her.
This calf was lucky to have been found alive and well as the area in which she was sighted is a favourite place for the infamous Tsavo lions.

It took Arruba a good few days to calm down and feed on milk, and once she trusted the Keepers enough to follow them she was let out of the confines of her stockade to join the Nursery orphans. By this time she knew them as they had been brought to her stockade for every feed time in an effort to coax her into drinking the milk formula that she seemed so reluctant to take.

Once out with the others elephant communication worked its magic yet again, and it was as if she knew the ropes from the outset – even venturing to the public viewing between 11 -12 with the others, seemingly unperturbed, a far cry from the frightened calf that only a week before was brought to the safety of the Voi stockades.

You can find out more about the DSWT here.

Many clients travelling with Real Africa to Kenya elect to stopover in Karen, a leafy suburb of Nairobi, for a night to enable them to visit the DSWT nursery unit in person. If this is of interest then please do let us know. There are two viewings, a public 1 hour viewing at lunchtime daily, and a private visit daily at 5pm, for those wishing to adopt an elephant.


By Sara White


Kithaka-the-elephant update

It hardly seems possible that it is nearly a year since I first met Kithaka at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust nursery unit in Nairobi National Park. Although showing signs of being a mischievous young bull elephant from the start, he was still very small and vulnerable and coming to terms with the loss of his elephant family.

It has been heart-warming to see him form bonds with his keepers and the other elephants this past year and to witness the extraordinary care and commitment of all the staff at the DSWT.

Kithaka is certainly far bigger and more boisterous today and a bit of a handful by all accounts. He increasingly enjoys his independence, typical of a young bull elephant, and wanders off into the bush to explore. He has now been moved from his stable to the stockade with newcomer, baby Kauro, moving into his place.

The stockade houses a number of ‘big’ elephants as they move on from the dependent infant stage. The keepers’ sleep nearby rather than in with them as in the stable. Then from the age of around two to three years, elephant orphans who are physically and psychologically stable will transfer to the Ithumba or Voi units in Tsavo East National Park to continue the rehabilitation process back to the wild. We are looking forward to hearing about Kithaka’s progress in the coming months.

During 2014 the DSWT has received 23 elephant orphans.

Kithaka in 2014

Kithaka still enjoys a good wrestle in the mud with his fellow orphans. He continues to be the naughty boy of the nursery, stealing milk, pushing small children during visiting time, surprising film crews by hiding in the bushes and then running out trumpeting, and most recently, harassing Maxwell the rhino. Here is an entry from the keepers’ diary:

“The orphans had a very amusing morning as once all the big elephants were let out of their stockades, Kithaka, Barsilinga and Lemoyian decided to pay Maxwell a visit. Maxwell was fast asleep lying along the gate to his stockade so he didn’t notice the three elephants approaching and very secretly feasting on his lucerne. The lucerne was a real treat to the elephants and their mission was to eat as much as they could get before Maxwell woke up. Once they had their fill, Kithaka and Lemoyian began pushing the gate and pulling sleeping Maxwell’s ears with their trunks. At first it seemed that Maxwell quite enjoyed all this attention as he was moving his head around to get the best angle to get a tickle from the two babies. However, it didn’t take long until Max was out of his sleepy mood and was quite annoyed with the three menaces. He head butted the gate making the three elephants run away trumpeting with happiness as they joined the herd in the forest for yet another beautiful day. “


By Sara White

Kithaka – update after our recent visit to the Sheldrick orphanage

I was in Nairobi a couple of weeks ago and took the opportunity to pop into the Sheldrick Trust and catch up with Kithaka, the orphan elephant that Real Africa has adopted. I arrived in the late afternoon, just as the elephants were returning from a day foraging for food in the adjoining Nairobi National Park accompanied by their handlers.

Although the orphans receive four to five milk feeds a day to replace the milk from their lost mothers, they are otherwise expected to find their own food in preparation for their return to the wild from a “halfway house” camp run by the Trust in Tsavo National Park.

I waited with Edwin Lusichi, the Manager of the Nairobi orphanage, on the edge of the park as he talked to several of the keepers by radio. “Keep back by the stockade wall,” he advised. “When they come in they are looking forward to their milk and in a hurry.”

I stood back against the large stockade, home to Maxwell the blind black rhino who was happily feeding on cut foliage on the other side. After a couple of minutes five small elephants appeared, walking, almost running, in single file along a path through the thick scrub. They shot past us without a glance, head into the yard and straight into their pens. A couple of keepers were to hand to shut them in.

Soon after another line of elephants appeared, and then another, this one with a tiny elephant coming up the rear holding onto the tail of the one in front. They all disappeared into the pens labelled with their names. Edwin talked into his radio, receiving a crackly reply. “OK. They are in. You can go and see them.”

Walking back into the yard I could see several keepers busy giving the elephants their milk, served in what look like oversized baby bottles. Some of the babies who were impatiently waiting their turn had their trunks stretched through the wooden barriers, feeling around in buckets that were hanging outside, hoping to find their milk.

I walked down the yard to the stable where Kithaka was. Born on October 2011 Kithaka is renowned for being one of the most mischievous of the orphans. This fact was confirmed by his handler that night, Eugene. He’d already had his milk and was now feeding on foliage that had been cut for him. I gave him a quick rub behind a very muddy ear before leaving him to his meal.

He seems to have recovered from a recent scare when foraging alone in the forest and coming across a large python. He ran out screaming and took some calming down, especially when all the other orphans caught on and started howling as well. He’s also got over a mystery illness for which antibiotics were required and is back to normal causing havoc. This included giving the orphan Daphne a trunk hug and trapping a nerve in her neck. She’s now recovered too.

Eugene explained that the handlers rotate round every few days so that no orphan gets too attached to any one of them. It was Eugene’s turn with Kithaka, and that he’d be sleeping in the raised bunk in the stable to ensure he was OK during the night and to give him his night feed.

I was leaning on the stable door, talking to Eugene who was sitting on the bunk. Kithaka decided to join in by turning to face us and sniffing with his trunk. He soon decided we weren’t as interesting as his food and continued with his meal.

Saying goodbye to Eugene and Kithaka, I dropped down to Edwin’s office to make our donation to the Trusts anti-poaching work. It’s such a well-run and thoroughly professional outfit, where the elephant orphans seem so content, it’s hard to remember that they’re all there because of the actions of man, that their lives all started with incredibly traumatic experiences.

As I left I was reminded of this. In a stable near the office was a tiny elephant only a week or so old, found a couple of days previously by the body of his mother. He was scared and upset, getting comfort from a gentle handler who was with him. Hopefully in a couple of years’ time he, like Kithaka, will be happy and well down the road to being reintroduced into the wild.

By Robert Ferguson

Real Africa Charities: The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

The Sheldrick Trust’s elephant orphanage is located in the south of Nairobi, on the edge of Nairobi National Park. It’s here that baby elephants, usually discovered when their mothers have been killed by poachers, are brought and looked after.

Its a race against the clock. They may have been by themselves for several days, dehydrated and injured. Some have the machete wounds of where the poachers tried to kill them, despite the fact they have no tusks at such a young age. The keepers will travel to where the elephant is and try to get them drinking milk. Often they are flown back to the orphanage where they can be put in a dark stall with a keeper and reassured that they are not going to be harmed.

When they are considered ready, they are introduced to the other orphans, who crowd up to them, both curious about the new arrival and wanting to reassure them. All the orphans are fed milk every few hours, indeed the keepers sleep in their stalls with them so they can be fed throughout the night.

Several days a week, between 11 and 12, the orphanage opens so that visitors can visit and watch the orphans being bottle fed. They come charging out, going straight to their own handlers and drinking the bottles down in seconds. They then play with footballs or in the mud pools, while you are told about the orphanage and the Trust. The rest of the day they are off foraging in the scrub on the edge of the National Park under the watchful eye of their handlers.

On average, the orphans will stay at the centre until they are two, at which point they are moved down to the Rehabilitation Centre in Tsavo National Park. Here the elephants live as a herd, learning to live on the local plants and learning to fend for themselves. As they get older and more confident they tend to leave the herd and join up with herds of wild elephants. The males will join a bull herd and the females a family group.

This completes their journey, as from these elephants they learn the final skills of how to live and survive in the wild. There biggest challenge then is to escape the attention of the poachers – in the first 3 months of 2013 Kenya lost 70 elephants to poaching.

The Real Africa Trust supports the Sheldrick anti-poaching efforts and were in Nairobi in early April to make its annual donation. We were allowed to go behind the scenes at the orphanage, seeing the stalls where the orphans live as well as spending 30 minutes with them as they fed and played in the National Park.

We also saw a tiny elephant – only two or three days old who’d just arrived by plane in the centre. He’d been found lost in Tsavo, most probably after the slaughter of his mother for her tusks. He was being kept in a dark stable, with just his keeper, to whom he was already attached and kept his tiny trunk in the man’s overall pocket for reassurance.

If he survives the first couple of weeks he’ll be fine and will grow fit and strong under the excellent and expert supervision of the Trust. But how many other baby elephants have to go through this trauma just so some idiot can have ivory door  knobs or trinkets? That is where the problem needs to be solved, by the Governments of the countries where the ivory is in demand doing something about it.