Mpala is one of the 15 orphan baby elephants rescued by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT), whose names adorn our Elephant London Dry Gin miniature bottles.
Ranch workers on Mpala Ranch, a 54,000 acre ranch on the Laikipia Plateau, Kenya, stumbled on a decomposing body of a female elephant, the tusks intact. What they didn’t 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).
This orphaned baby elephant came voluntarily to the Nepeleon Cattle enclosure in the north of the ranch 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 in the first place. However, it was not the cattle that he followed, it was the herdsman himself, and this in itself is strange, since he must know that humans had cost his mother her life.
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 then called DSWT.
After a long five hour drive, in the back of a pickup truck hurriedly improvised to contain Mpala for the journey, and with Quentin, a young veterinarian, as company in the back, they arrived at the orphanage. Although Mpala’s protruding cheek bones are a tell tale sign of a baby in desperate need of nourishment, he is a feisty little chap, and was able to shove the Keepers around in the stable on his first night. He has settled in nicely with Thoma, another orphaned elephant, keeping a watchful eye over his every move.
Photo credit and text: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust