He was just 5-months old, a baby elephant so young that he was still learning to use his trunk and every day forming a stronger bond with his mother and herd. In a perfect world, he would have 60 to 70 years of life ahead of him, filled with play, social gatherings, learning, and adventure as he explored the vast expanse of Tsavo.
Tragically, this was not to be, this baby’s life was stolen in the most brutal fashion. The baby was found with horrific wounds – evidence of being attacked with spears and was in an extremely dehydrated state when discovered. This fragile little boy died on July 2. His only crime, to be born an elephant in a world where these gentle and majestic animals are targeted for their ivory.
Our Tsavo Mobile Vet Unit, led by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Vet Dr Poghon, received the report of an injured elephant and quickly attended the scene. On arrival, Dr Poghon, who in his role treating sick and injured wild animals has witnessed all manner of wounds caused by man, was shocked by the brutality of the attack to have befallen this tiny individual.
In other incidents of poaching, infants have been killed alongside their mothers to prevent them from potentially leading rangers to carcasses. Unfortunately, we do not know if the mother or a carcass has been found and the tiny baby likely died of his brutal injuries and the psychological trauma. Being without his mother (you can see his sunken cheeks from the photo) also likely played a part. Ultimately, however, without a post-mortem, the cause of death cannot be confirmed.
Dr Poghon hoped beyond hope that this little calf could be saved and, having raised the alarm for an elephant rescue, he began treating the open wounds that were found all over the body of the calf. In Nairobi, we organised a rescue team and within an hour the keepers were airborne, but our ability to offer this orphan a second chance, as we have done for over 180 orphans before him, was not to be, for this innocent elephant died before the team landed.
We share his story from a need and want that his unimaginable suffering might act to shock the world into action. Daily, across Africa, an elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its ivory! So that the ivory might be carved into an item to be worn or displayed by people ignorant, or not, to the reality that their desire is driving the slaughter of a species.
Our question to governments and world leaders is this: How much pain, suffering and death will it take for you to stop talking about the problem and take real action to ban domestic ivory sales and invest the resources needed to tackle poaching and the criminal networks profiteering from the decimation of a species?
At the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust our teams in Kenya are witness to the horrors inflicted attending to elephants and other species harmed and killed by people, seeking financial gain from illegal wildlife trading, or retaliation for lost livestock or crops where human populations come into contact with wildlife. All too often what they encounter is too distressing to share with the world, for people do not wish to see the real impact of their wants and styles of living, and those that know what is happening, often can’t bear to see it.
But the slaughter of elephants is a reality, it is happening right now and without a greater concerted effort by all of us, we will be witness to the extinction of this species and so many other species of fauna and flora as a result. If you are reading this, you have a role to play and we urge you to share this calf’s story so that he might not have died in vain.
You can do more. Please write to your government and ask:
1. What they are doing to ban all ivory trade in your country?
2. How they are supporting efforts to protect elephants in the wild?
3. What steps are they taking to identify and arrest all those involved in the smuggling, trade and sale of illegal ivory?
With each question, make clear why you want to see greater action from your government in all three areas and demand an explanation for any inactivity on their part. You can find out more about the ivory trade, statistics and sample letters at our iworry campaign website: www.iworry.org.
If you wish to have an immediate impact, we would invite you to support reputable conservation organisations working to protect elephants and other species. You can do this right now by fostering an orphan elephant in our care, as “fortunately” not all those elephants targeted by poachers are killed. Our teams have treated more than 1,800 injured elephants and successfully rescued over 180 orphaned elephants, all of whom have, or will when grown, be reintegrated back into the wild.
Simotua was similarly caught up in the elephant poaching crises, his front right leg severely wounded by a snare and to his head, a deep wound caused by a spear. Rescued just 12 days ago, we are caring for him and treating his wounds at our Nairobi Nursery and we are confident, given the injuries we have treated before and knowing the healing powers of elephants, that he will survive his ordeal. Simotua and those looking after him afford us hope for the future of elephants and by fostering him and becoming part of his future, you can play a part in his journey and that of other ivory poaching victims.
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