Just like humans, elephants form strong bonds between mother and child. Elephant calves rely entirely on their mother’s milk for at least the first year of life, and are completely dependent on their moms until age three to five.
Given the social nature of elephants and a calf’s extreme dependency on its mother, when an elephant is orphaned as a young calf in can be devastating. Last April, WCN partner Save the Elephants (STE) came across an elephant mother named Cherie fighting for her life in Samburu, Northern Kenya. Cherie had a young male calf of only 5-6 months. Save the Elephants called upon Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) to help with the situation.
People around the world fell in love with the young calf as they watched him and his mother struggle for their lives. Sadly, Cherie was too weak to survive an anesthetic, and there was nothing that could be done to save her. On the night of April 9th, Cherie passed away of a twisted gut, her young calf by her side.
Cherie’s young calf refused to leave his mother’s side, mourning her death. STE and DSWT had much difficulty capturing the baby to be rescued. It took hours of chasing the calf through thick Salvadora (Sokotei) bush in the rain, but he was finally captured the morning after his mother’s passing. The team named the calf Sokotei, after the bushes they chased him through.
On April 11th, after many hours of traveling by plane and by car, Sokotei made it to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an elephant orphanage in Kenya that cares for young calves who no longer have herds. An exhausted and dehydrated Sokotei eagerly drank two bottles of milk and two more of water, and was quick to greet the other calves at the sanctuary.
For the first two weeks after his rescue, Sokotei suffered from severe diarrhea due to stress and to his new milk formula. It was unclear how well the young male would recover, and everyone at Save the Elephants and DSWT kept a close watch on the calf. Fortunately, Sokotei’s stomach stabilized and he was soon getting along well with his Keepers and the other elephants.
Now, nearly a year and a half after his rescue, Sokotei is doing wonderfully! He enjoys playing and wrestling with his friends and is even known as a bit of a bully at times, roughhousing with the other males and trying to impress the females. DSWT is confident Sokotei will grow into a strong wild bull and hopes to release him back into the wild once he reaches adulthood.
Save the Elephants and David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust came together to save the life of this elephant calf. Without their work, and the support of STE donors, Sokotei would not have the bright future he does today.
Article by Juliet Norvig