By Hannah Campbell
Loisaba Conservancy sits on the western edge of one of Kenya’s most important elephant movement corridors – connecting Loisaba to Samburu, 100 km to the north-east.
Elephants are extremely important to Kenya. Not only do they have significant roles in ecological dynamics, they are also highly charismatic and serve as a rallying point for conservation. Due to the fact that they require large areas of ecosystems to be conserved, protecting elephants also means protecting the hundreds of other endangered and vulnerable species that they share their space with.
Elephants are particularly vulnerable to population decline due to their slow reproductive rate. Elephants do not reach sexual maturity (and therefore start to breed) until between 12 and 14 years of age and when they do conceive, the gestation period is almost 2 years (20 months) with the mother producing one calf at a time. The baby is then dependent on its mother for feeding for the next two to three years, and the mother does not typically have another calf until the previous one is around 4 years of age.
Compare this to a lion. Lions reach sexual maturity at two years old, and have a gestation period of 3.5 months which usually results in 2 – 5 cubs every two years. This means a single female lion cub can produce five more lions in two years (each of which can then produce a further five in two years etc.). For a single elephant to cause the birth of an additional five calves, it would take approximately 32 years.
This slow reproductive rate of elephants means that elephant calves are particularly important, which is a fact known by Loisaba’s security team – who will protect them at all costs.
On Saturday 18th April, our security team was called to the rescue of a baby elephant that had fallen into a well on a neighbouring property and attacked by hyenas, resulting in the loss of most of his trunk.
Our Loisaba rangers managed to free him from the well and transported him back to Loisaba, where he was flown to Reteti by Tropic Air. He is receiving the critical care that he needs and hopefully one day be released back into the wild.
He is doing remarkably well at Reteti, and has been named ‘Longuro’ – meaning ‘someone who has lost a limb’ in Samburu.
Just after sunset on the 30th May, one of the Loisaba rangers reported that a young elephant had been unable to keep up with its herd as they crossed the Ewaso Narok river that evening. The young calf had been swept downstream towards a waterfall, and was struggling to stay afloat. A team led by Loisaba’s security manager Daniel Yiankere were deployed to the river, where two rangers bravely jumped into the cold, raging river in order to pull him out.
Luckily he had no physical injuries, but he was weak and his herd was nowhere to be found. After consultation with KWS and Reteti, the decision was made to bring the calf to Loisaba Headquarters for the night where he was carefully monitored until morning when a Tropic Air plane arrived to transport him safely to Reteti. He is settling in well and has been named Loteku – meaning ‘the rescued one’.
The day after Loketu was rescued from the river, another elephant calf was spotted alone. Estimated to be one year old, he was monitored by the Loisaba rangers for three days. It was reported that he had joined a group of elephants, but was then found alone again the following day. His condition seemed to be deteriorating – he was becoming malnourished and seemed to be blind in his left eye.
On the 3rd June, a vet from KWS assisted the Loisaba rangers in darting and transporting the calf to the Loisaba airstrip, where he was airlifted to Reteti elephant orphanage to join Loketu. He has already made new friends in the orphan herd and has been going out browsing with them.
In addition to these calves, Loisaba also aided in the rescue of a bull elephant in the neighbouring Nannapa Conservancy on the 16th of April – see photos and read more here.
If you would like to support these courageous rangers who work tirelessly to protect the wildlife at Loisaba, please donate today. Even a small donation will make a huge difference.