Date of Birth: Friday 27 December 2013
Where: The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Nursery Nairobi Kenya Africa
ROI: Too Cute For Photos see them at: The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
On a crisp day in October a baby elephant was sighted and photographed by a wayfarer in the Olare Orok Conservancy – Maasai Mara. The unweaned calf, barely 10 months old, stood contentedly by her mother’s side. It was obvious she was being carefully guarded. Little Roi was just enjoying a normal day as a member of her nomadic herd.
The very next day this same wayfarer observed a very different sight in their camera lens. This time instead of feeling the beauty & majesty of an elephant family they witnessed a doleful, grim sight. Roi’s mother lay dead, slaughtered by poachers. A poisoned spear wound obliterating her cheek.
The entire herd gathered and surrounded the body. One could see they were trying to fully comprehend the situation even as their grief enveloped them. But the family knew they had to continue their trek without her.
Still, baby Roi didn’t want to leave her mama behind. She had to be urged to carry on with the rest of her elephant family as the matriarch led the way. Yet the baby elephant persisted, and stayed. (In their travels along the savannah, even a calf as young as Roi was expected to keep up with the group or bear the consequences of being left behind.)
At that moment, on 22 October 2014, the DSWT received an urgent phone call from The Mara Elephant Project‘s Richard Roberts. He and the KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) had been immediately notified of the poaching.
They knew they had to move quickly as the calf would weaken “without sufficient milk” and possibly be lost if “the herd traveled any great distances, possibly into Tanzania.” (Although the matriarch was increasingly protective of baby Roi, she had mothering duties for her own baby who was not much older than the now orphaned calf. And since she was not willing to “deprive her own baby” of nourishment she had no choice but to push the orphan away as Roi tried to suckle.)
With great precision and coordination the DSWT rescue team was able to separate the orphan from her elephant family. Soon after little Roi was “wrapped and strapped and tranquilized” before she was whisked away on a flight to Nairobi. (DSWT Keepers knew what a traumatizing and “heartbreaking” day it had been for Roi, hence the mild tranquilizer.)
From the moment she arrived at the DSWT Nursery she was full of spunk and very hardy for such a young calf. (This hardiness was contributed to the fact that “she hadn’t been off her mother’s milk for very long.”) Right away she understood how to suckle from a bottle and took to her new keepers.
Her spunkiness may have contributed to her confinement to the stockade for a couple of days longer than usual. But once she was in the presence of other elephant orphans and the under the constant adoration of her keepers she was immediately content. And as she has “settled in” to her routine and embraced her newfound friends (both elephant & human) a joy inside her continues to unfold. Her keepers say she is playing once again and “appears to be genuinely happy.”
May a bright future await you, little one.
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source: public domain drawing of baby elephant