Guest Author: Nicole Kravec
In the morning I was at my computer, preparing for a visit from Muriel, a woman from London who is a director of a top-notch research firm. She’s doing pro-bono work for the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust and Campi ya Kanzi Community Ecolodge (www.maasai.com) where I am, and I am preparing for her 3 day visit that starts tomorrow. After a few hours of mind-numbing regression analysis I heard some commotion outside.
I came down the ladder from the second floor of the office (the entire office is made of local materials and has a grass roof – the windows are always open and lizards sometimes crawl on the maps on the wall, and you can feel a light breeze in the evenings when the wind picks up a bit – or, like last week, see a wild and curious giraffe pop its head in and later chew the internet cord). Luca, the owner of Campi ya Kanzi, and some guests had come across a baby orphaned elephant on their walk in the morning.
They had come back to camp to contact the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/) to see if they would accept the baby elephant into their orphanage. Once we got the confirmation from the Sheldrick Trust I got to go with Luca and the Maasai to rescue the baby elephant! The elephant was about a half hour’s drive away from Campi ya Kanzi, near the Maasai village. We had to park the rovers and walk into the lava rock to find where the elephant had gone (a scout working for the Simba Project, a Campi ya Kanzi project to help protect lions from getting killed by Maasai because they are a threat to the Maasai’s cattle, had spotted the elephant but we had to find him, as his radio wasn’t working).
The walk was intense in the mid-day sun; I would say it was about 100 degrees F. Me, being the California walker that I am (aka uber slow) brought up the rear of the walkers, and the Maasai darted ahead, walking over the lava rocks with ease in their sandals made of old tires. They spotted the elephant and somehow put a blanket over his eyes.
The elephant’s feet were bleeding from the lava rocks, and we fed him some water (which he refused at first, and then came to guzzle, and also sometimes spit back into our faces!) Because of dehydration, the elephant was also blind in one eye.
Since the rover couldn’t drive over that part of the lava-rock-ridden area, the Maasai carried the baby elephant (who weighed about 250 pounds!) back to the rover, and we drove him 50 minutes to the airstrip where the David Sheldrick people were waiting for us with a plane.
(Note: When you volunteer to ride frontseat in the rover that closely follows the baby elephant rover, beware that this will result in a thick caking of dust on and in bodily crevices. Also note that the overall experience can be one of the greatest joys ever.)
The David Sheldrick team fed the baby elephant, whom we came to call Chaimu, milk and also gave him antibiotics. He was never sedated because he was, ironically, too small! He’s now safe and sound at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Apparently the rehab process takes about 10 YEARS; we hope he makes it! He’s got a long way to go.
We think his mother was unfortunately killed by an ivory poacher, as poaching in the area has dramatically increased recently. I have left some implications out of my story to let you draw your own conclusions. Asante sana (“thank you” in Kiswahili) and ashe oleng (“thank you” in Kimaasai) for reading and I look forward to any comments or questions to discuss!
About the author: Perpetually curious about the nexus between genuine environmental conservation, community wellbeing and tourism, Nicole has worked with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural (UNESCO) World Heritage Centre’s Sustainable Tourism Programme, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Harvard Business School and the Campi ya Kanzi community eco-lodge in Kenya. She has lived in/visited 6 continents and attended Cornell University and The Fletcher School of International Affairs.