The abandoned elephant given a second chance.
Here at Coral Tree we are passionate about elephant conservation. Elephants are among the planet’s most intelligent and awe-inspiring creatures. Sadly, their numbers are plummeting at an alarming rate. A large part of the problem is poaching — but they are also falling victim to the side-effects of burgeoning human populations, bringing elephants and people into unprecedented competition for space, with tragic consequences. Many elephant calves are orphaned or abandoned, with little chance of survival.
Baby elephants need their mothers for at least the first two years of their lives; they require nourishing milk and protection, and the companionship of the matriarchy. Maswa was just 4 months old when rangers found her stuck in a well; tiny enough to fit under her mother’s tummy, and far too tiny to be away from her herd.
It’s hard to know how long she’d been in there, but it must have been a while for her mother to give up on her. Because of their intelligence, elephant’s capacity for trauma is huge, and the first 24 hours of her rescue were emotional. At first, she screamed for her mother; after a few hours, she quieted to just rumbling. She was exhausted, dehydrated, injured and heartbroken.
Elisabeth and Sele, wildlife vet and animal whisperer extraordinaire respectively, drove through the night to get to her, arriving at dawn.
Maswa was immediately at ease with them and thirstily drank litres of the specialised milk formula they’d brought. They spent a gruelling 12 hours in the back of a dusty hay-filled pickup with her to get her to the Kilimanjaro Animal Centre for Rescue, Education and Wildlife (C.R.E.W), an animal sanctuary focusing on elephant conservation in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro where the level of care and commitment to all creatures great and small is enough to melt your heart.
A home for a fresh start
Kilimanjaro Animal C.R.E.W is home to cheetah, lion, caracal, various primates and gazelle, and a host of other rescued creatures. Wherever possible the objective is rehabilitation to the wild, where they belong.
Maswa is in great company, having joined a motley little orphan herd. Savanna, who is only two, has taken the role of surrogate mum and is endearingly protective of Maswa, in spite of still being just a calf herself. Burigi is Maswa’s naughty big brother, always up to tricks. Malamboni is the newest and smallest addition. Rescued at 6 weeks old, he spends his days with a tiny zebra foal called Engerai, and Suzie the sheep. He’s not yet big enough to go out with the other elephants on their bush excursions in this sanctuary for elephant conservation.
It’ll be a few years until this patchwork family of pachyderms is reintroduced to the wild. Until then they have the vast tracts of the sanctuary to roam, and practice at being grown-up elephants.
You can visit them on your Tanzania family safari. If you come at feeding time, you’ll hear Maswa loudly reminding everyone that her milk should be ready by now. You’ll also see their caretakers giving them their bottles. Each visit supports the Kilimanjaro Animal C.R.E.W’s invaluable work, and helps to realise a brighter future for our precious wildlife.
This blog was co-written with Robyn-Lee Ghaui, who was present at Maswa’s rescue in Tanzania.