The Nursery Welcomes Orphan "Mpala"
Animal Stories from
Submitted by Maureen Adams in the hope of ending animal exploitation

One day, in the middle of May 2002, an elephant mother dying of bullet wounds inflicted by poachers, struggled to come back with her 6 month old calf to a "safe haven" - namely a 54,000 acre Ranch on the Laikipia Plateau called "Mpala", 280 Kms. from Nairobi, owned by a wealthy American and overseen by a conservation minded Board of Trustees. The wildlife of the Ranch is protected, and there she came to die.

It was several days later that the Ranch workers stumbled on her decomposing body the tusks intact, but what they did not know, was that somewhere in the arid scrub bush that dominates the vegetation of the Ranch, was her 6 month old orphaned calf, grieving and lonely, who faced certain death from starvation without having access to milk. (No elephant less than 2 years of age can survive without milk).


On the morning of 31st May 2002, this orphaned baby elephant came voluntarily to the Nepeleon Cattle enclosure in the North of the Ranch, some two weeks after the death of his mother. He trailed the cattle herder, desperate for companionship and company, emaciated and growing weaker by the day. Although at 6 months he could eat a little vegetation, he needed milk in order to survive, and perhaps it was the smell of milk that had attracted him to this place and that man. However, it was not the cattle that he followed, it was the herdsmen himself, and this in itself is strange, since he must know that humans had cost his mother her life. (To enlarge the photo of Mpala, click on the photo.)


At first the Herdsman found this somewhat disconcerting, fearing that an irate elephant mother might suddenly appear at any moment to reclaim her baby. He did everything he could to deter the calf, but the calf persisted in trailing him. Eventually, in desperation, he reported the matter to his boss, who immediately called us in Nairobi, and alerted us to expect another elephant orphan. (To enlarge the photo of Mpala, click on the photo.)

Soon, the little elephant was on his way, loaded into the back of a Pickup truck hurriedly improvised to contain him for the journey, with a young Veterinarian as company in the back. They all left the Ranch at 12.30 p.m. to travel the 50 kms on a rough dirt track to Nanyuki town, and from thence progress could be a little faster on the main tarmac highway to Nairobi. It was, however, an uncomfortable and extremely long journey for the young Vet with an elephant pinioning him in the back of the truck, or actually sitting on top of him, but he was armed with apples, oranges and sugarcane to keep the starving baby occupied during the long journey.


Because the calf had obviously been without milk for some two weeks, we advised against sedation, fearing that he may be too weak to survive the affects of the drug. In fact, when he did arrive at 7.30 p.m. that evening, what was unloaded was quite a feisty little fellow, who although thin with the tell-tale protruding cheekbones, was not in too bad shape, and still had sufficient strength to give the Keepers quite a bit of strong shoving around the stable. But, more than anything else he wanted milk, and he immediately downed almost a gallon, which we felt was quite enough to start with. After that he fell into an exhausted sleep. He was in the stable next door to little "Burra", who had been in a far worse state on arrival, so we are fairly confident that this calf will survive. Just the proximity of another elephant had the usual calming influence.  (To enlarge the photo of Mpala, click on the photo.)

The next day, we moved him to one of the vacant Rhino Stockades so that he could be with a Keeper in more spacious surroundings until we could be sure that he would not run away when let out. This particular Stockade used to be occupied by our rhino orphan named "Magnum", who is now a strapping 5 year old, independent and integrated into the wild Nairobi Park rhino community. However, since the death of Magnette, his lifetime companion and great love, Magnum has been a regular visitor back home to seek reassurance and the comfort of his old quarters, where he can feel perfectly safe and amongst friends. However, when he did arrive that morning, he was not best pleased to find someone else in his pad and for many hours he stood outside the door staring in at the Intruder, and every now and then giving the door a hard shove. Throughout the day he returned at frequent intervals to do just that, expressing dismay at this new development.

In the afternoon the Vet arrived to give the new orphaned elephant the normal course of precautionary anti-biotic injections, aimed at forestalling any problems that might arise as a result of stress, which is normal procedure for all newcomers. By the afternoon the little elephant was much calmer, so we brought in the other four Nursery elephants to greet him. Eagerly, they all went into the Stockade, and surrounded the new baby, and within minutes he was simply part of the gang, sandwiched in their midst, but keeping very close to Thoma. The introductions over, he walked calmly out of confinement and went with them back into the bush of the Park for the rest of the afternoon, following them and the Keepers like a Veteran, perfectly at ease, and quite obviously delighted to have found some elephant friends, life saving milk, and a loving human "family" to nurture and care for him again.


At the request of the Ranch Manager, this little newcomer is to be named "Mpala" and we hope that somewhere in the great somewhere the soul of his elephant mother will now be able to rest in peace, knowing that her baby had found the help she intended and he needed. For, we are convinced that that elephant mother, shot and wounded beyond the boundaries of the Ranch by poachers, came back to die in a place where she knew her baby might be safe, with a chance of being able to escape the same fate. (To enlarge the photo, click on the photo.)

[Ed. Note:  This story is really two stories woven together.  The first is about the killing of Mpala's mother for human greed, and the rescue of Mpala.  The second is about human nature, and the peculiar way most humans apply, and limit their compassion.  The very ranchers who take pity on Mpala and assist in the rescue, also raise cattle for slaughter, seemingly without making the connection that the cattle want to live and enjoy life just as much as Mpala does.]

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