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Zurura 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.
DSWT team received a call to rescue a tiny calf that had fallen down an open faced mine dug for rubies on Mukuki Ranch between Tsavo West and East, Kenya. This area forms a migratory corridor long used by elephants to move between the two Tsavos, but which is now densely populated by an expanding human population making passage extremely dangerous for elephants. Elephants have therefore taken to streaking through at speed under cover of darkness, avoiding the passage at daylight. Disturbed earth all around the pit was evidence that the herd had struggled long and hard to retrieve the precious calf that had fallen in during this process, but eventually the matriarch made the heartbreaking decision to abandon the trapped tiny baby in order to ensure the safety of the rest of her family before daybreak. By morning, what seemed to be a ghost herd had vanished entirely.
As the miners took their early morning tea, they heard the muffled bellows of the baby and set about searching the area following the sound, and peering into the many deep pits that dotted the ruby rich area. Eventually, they came across the traumatised baby elephant deep inside one that had already yielded some rubies, and taking this as an omen of having been led to this particular pit which might yield many more rubies, they were at pains to save the calf’s life rather than kill it. Having hauled it out, they wrote the name Zurura on one ear, using a felt tip pen – in Swahili ‘The Wanderer’.
When the DSWT unit arrived, they found Zurura swamped by people, all touching feeling and holding him. He was remarkably calm despite what must have been a very frightening time for him. The tiny baby bull was transported to the DSWT nursery, where it was fed milk and rehydration both of which he gulped down enthusiastically. He was remarkably tame for a calf that was only this morning a wild elephant, he followed the keepers and offered little resistance. At the nursery, he was placed next to Ndololoa. Both are of a similar age of 7 to 8 weeks; both baby bulls, and both have had a most traumatic beginning to life but who we found solace in each other.
Photo credit and text: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust