An orphaned elephant calf keeps watching over the body of his d.e.ad mother as night falls, oblivious to the cold and predators.
The five-month-old laid his trunk on her as the emotional drama was displayed in Samburu, northern Kenya.
Keepers from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT), Kenya Wildlife Service, and Save the Elephants worked throughout the night to capture the bull, who steadfastly refused to leave his mother’s side.
The youngster was eventually tranquilized by vets in the early hours of the morning, before being transported to the Samburu airstrip.
A team of veterinarians, engineers, and specialists came to prepare for the calf to get him ready for his flight to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage.
The nursery is the only one in Kenya and received elephants from all over the country. It’s located in the Nairobi National Park, near a coffee farm and next to a conservation area.
The dehydrated calf was carried to the orphanage after the flight, where keepers gave him some milk and water to rehydrate.
Some of the other 30 elephants at the nursery were brought in to greet and console the new arrival, known as Sokotei.
Despite the shock of his new surroundings, the grieving calf was soon making new buddies.
‘While the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Save the Elephants were working to save Sokotei’s life, it was a fight against time to keep him safe. The staffs were there to help the young calf, and everyone had a long night trying to keep him safe from predators.DSWT director Rob Brandford said.
‘All alone, he was quite exposed, but it had to wait until morning when everyone was up early and eager to face a dramatic few hours because it was raining and he was a wild animal.’
The DSWT’s ‘Orphans Project’ was involved with the rescue, which saved and reintegrated elephants back into the wild.
The Elephant Project cares for elephants who are still ‘milk dependent’ after being orphaned.
The elephants are then taken to one of two reintegration centers in the Tsavo National Park, one in Voi and the other in Ithumba.
‘Once Sokotei is old enough to go to one of our reintegration centers, he’ll be sent out into the jungle to meet other herds, discover what’s edible, and figure out how to be a wild elephant,’ Brandford continued.
‘It’s a long procedure, and all depends on how old the orphan was when they were found. If they were very young and had no memory of living in the wild, it might take seven to eight years for them to survive in the wild.’
Last year, the Trust saved almost 50 elephants, with the figures increasing every year as poa.ch.ing becomes more widespread, meaning more calves are orphaned.
The elephant’s mother, Cherie, died of a severe internal disease caused by a twisted gut.
Follow the current development of Sokotei and other animals saved by the charity at www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org