Challa is one of the 15 orphaned baby elephants rescued by the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, whose names adorn our Elephant London Dry Gin miniature bottles. The Trust received an SOS call about a young elephant seen amongst a herd of cattle at a place called “Challa” (which means “Source of the Volcanic River”), Kenya. At the request of the herdsmen who had reported his presence, the elephant orphan was named “Challa”.

The rescue plane set off, complete with all the paraphernalia needed to capture an orphan of Challa’s size. The calf was estimated to be over a year old, so actually catching and subduing him proved a very challenging task, despite his emaciated and weakened condition caused by having been deprived of his mother’s milk for so long.

After a long and traumatic recovery, not surprisingly, upon arrival in the nursery, the elephant was very wild and extremely traumatised, trembling visibly, which is never a good sign. He was given water from a bucket, and offered greens, but because it was dark when the vet arrived to administer the usual prophylactic anti-biotic, he felt it would be too risky to subdue the elephant under such fragile conditions. The vet left, but was asked to leave the loaded syringe for the Trust team members to inject what was necessary once the calf slept. Time is of the essence to avert death from pneumonia brought on by a depressed immune system and the Trust team decided that the antibiotic must be administered to minimise the risks.

In the morning, Challa was much better, and brightened up when all the other elephants appeared at the door of his stockade to welcome and greet him. It was a very touching scene. The Trust team made cooked oatmeal balls laced with desiccated coconut for him, and these proved a huge hit. The new arrival couldn’t get enough of them, following his keepers around, pleading for more. All in all, he settled in his new family very well.

Text & photo credit: Sheldrick Wildlife Trust