Saturday, May 19, 2007


KORA-May 2007
Kora's jaw has been closed for several months now. He is growing both in physique as well as in character. He is often found leading the herd toward the milkfeed to make sure he is there on time.

MADIBA-May 2007
Madiba's chronic lymphenode infections are beginning to disappear.

KENZE-May 2007
Dosis Engystol brought back to 50 %. No problems and he is getting ready for his move to Ithumba which will probably take place on the 24th of May.

LENANA-May 2007

Lenana's system is getting rid of the virus, she is doing fine and the testresults are good. Still on the Engystol.

Her healthy sturdy mischievous lovely little self.

LESANJU-May 2007
Still getting rid of the virus, she was not well for a few days, loose stools and not her cheerful self but is having better testresults on the whole. She was prescribed a pro-biotic to help sustain a healthy intestinal flora and her dosis Engystol is cut in half.

SHIMBA-May 2007

No problems, testresults are OK.

Lesanju, Shimba and Lempaute

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


ZURURA April 2007
Because we had just seen little Galdessa dying from unrelenting bouts of diarrhoea and Kilgoris was showing similar symptoms for which he got a very strong antibiotic cure, Zurura was given the same cure as precaution when he too showed signs of very loose stools.

The swabs of both Kilgoris and Zurura showed signs of a viral infection. Zurura's glands were swollen too but the swelling disappeared after a while.

To everyone's horror Kilgoris too died after an incredibly brave and very long struggle, according to the lab in Nairobi from an e-coli infection.

This made me want to find out what exactly was going on and if we could somehow by understanding how the infection was contracted prevent it from happening again. Dr. Marja Kik (veterinary faculty of the university of Utrecht) had the idea ,that there was a possibility of a herpes virus infection. It is a well known fact that Indian elephants get very sick from this virus of which the African elephants, as far as is known, are only the carriers and do not get sick.

More and more however there are signs that the African elephant indeed can also get very sick and sometimes die from this herpes virus. She consulted with collegues in the Rotterdam Zoo and if some serum could be collected from Zurura and be sent to the University of Rotterdam, Prof. Ab Osterhaus would do the necessary research.

ZURURA-April 2007
Zurura is still testing positive for a viral infection and is treated at the moment by me with Engystol. (photo)

LESANJU-April 2007
Lesanju too suffered from swollen lympheglands and also tested positive for a viral infection in March.The swelling in her glands has gone down but like Zurura the last test still showed signs of a virus being present so she too is treated at the moment with Engystol.

KENZE-April 2007
Although Kenze did not suffer from swollen glands he too tested positive for the virus and had several points during the test that showed a distinct deviation. They all corrected however by adding Engystol . As of April 12th he too is getting Engystol.

LENANA-April 2007
Very similar to Kenze so as of April 12th she too is being treated with Engystol. (photo: Lenana hugs Chyulu)


Mweiga has been in the elephant orphanage in Tsavo since 1998. As a seven months old baby she had lost her mother and the rest of the herd when they had been chased away by local inhabitants, a problem of animal control in an area which had seen an increase of human habitation.

She was a weak little ellie and never managed to catch up partly due to the lack of sufficient and nutritious vegetation a baby elephant needs, in this area which is often plagued by intense and prolonged periods of drought.

When she became a patient she was in a sad state, very thin and barely any muscles to support her, a heart condition had been diagnosed by the vet as well as arthritic problems. The test soon revealed a gigantic systemic candida, all the organs were in trouble and there were huge deficiencies of a number of nutrients.

She soon started picking up weight and strength and her muscles too started to get stronger. Daphne decided to give her on top of the milk she had been kept on since she was a baby, extra supplies of milk replacer 3 times a day and copra, grated coconut. Pretty soon Mweiga started to get well and for the first time she could keep up with rest of the herd and even started climbing Mazenga hill.

Shortly after she joined the other ele's in the mudbath, which she had never dared before for fear of being accidentally thrown over. Sadly enough however, her weight increase went so fast that soon her muscles couldn't cope with it and her condition started to deteriorate again. The tests on her urine/saliva swabs showed that the candida was back and she was having problems with her pancreas.
The milk was stopped but when she got too weak it was started up again. When I visited her in February 2007 most of her excess weight had gone and she was looking somewhat better already.

On my advice she was put on solid food more geared towards her age with extra supplements to help her gain back her strength, the candida was treated and I was hopeful when I left her.

It turned out however to be difficult to find the right kind of food for her in Kenya and soon she was back on the milk because she started losing weight and strength again. It will be a trial and error situation until the right balance in food is found for her.


Shimba was just 4 weeks old when he was found on October 1st 2006. His mother had died due to a number of causes which had all contributed to her dying. Her trunk had been severely disfigured as a result of having been caught in a poachers snare, preventing her from getting enough food and sufficient nutrients, she also carried a baby to term and gave birth to him and on top of everything she had been part of a relocation program and had been moved from another area. Shimba was found wandering alone at about 1 hour walking distance from his mother, alone in the burning sun.

The keepers that were alerted to his situation and had gone in search of him had to pass the dead mother again with Shimba on the way back to the vehicle.It was heartbreaking to see how this little baby-elephant tried in vain to get his mother to get up again and to drink from her breast.

Due to the extreme stress he had been under he was in a very poor condition when he arrived at the nursery but he took his milk immediately and was soon calmed by the presence of the other orphans.

He mourned his dead mother for a long time and needed intense medical support for his compromised immune system, a threatening pneumonia was averted and at the beginning of 2007 he finally turned the corner and has become a lively, happy little elephant who is now completely without medication.


Lesanju was brought to the Nairobi nursery by helicopter. She had fallen into an 18 feet deep sandy pit the Samburu tribe dug to get to water. She was found and saved by the Samburu and because there was no way to get the rescue plane to this remote area in time a nearby stationed helicopter was the only solution. When she arrived in the nursery she had been without fluids for 36 hours and to make her ordeal even worse the Samburu had cut large pieces of her ears, a custom used by the tribe to "earmark" their cattle. The ears of an elephant are very important because they help regulate their body temperature.

She immediately was given the obligatory antibiotics as well as the medication to restore her immune system, which had been severely compromised by the extreme stress she had been under ,and to rebuild her intestinal flora. She responded very well to the treatment and started regaining her strength. Her ears healed but she will always be easily recognizable because of the big chunks that are missing.

There was a scary time when she had a short period of threatening pneumonia when she was teething but she came through it and regained strength again soon without any further problems.

Right after the death of Kilgoris she suddenly suffered from swollen lymph glands but did not get sick and the swelling disappeared after a few days.

Lesanju has become the leader of the baby- elephantclub in the nursery, a mini matriarch in the making.

GALDESSA (18/09/2006 - 23/02/2007)

Galdessa was found in the generator room at Galdessa safari camp near the Galana river. The river had turned from a gentle stream to a raging river due to extensive rainfall that swept this small eight weeks old baby elephant away from his mother and the rest of the herd when they attempted to cross. Bruised and chafed from being smashed against the rocks on the bottom and sides of the river and almost drowned he was more dead than alive when he finally crawled ashore. He just managed to reach the generator room and stumbled inside to wait for death to come in the darkness.

When he was discovered he was transported to the nursery immediately, his condition was very fragile. The urine/saliva swab that was sent to Amsterdam immediately gave a shocking result: multiple organs were shutting down and that same day he was started on medication that very slowly started to build up his condition again.

But it was not enough, a combination of recurring bouts of diarrhea, (for which he was given antibiotic cures 4 times!!) a severe depression that took away his will to live and probably internal injuries resulted in the death of little Galdessa after an internal bleeding in the arms of his favorite keeper in the early morning of February 23rd 2007.


Lempaute was found by accident when a routine patrol on foot from the Wester Conservatory of Lewa Downs in northern Kenya. A tiny two weeks old baby elephant and nowhere in the vicinity any sign of another elephant.

It is very possible that the herd little Lempaute was born into had panicked and streaked from the flashes and thunder of a thunderstorm and her little legs simply couldnot keep up.Judging by the severe degree of sunburn on her delicate ears she had been without the protection of her mother for at least 24 hours. After initially running away and hiding in some bushes little Lempaute in the end decided to come out and started following the men.

On board the rescue plane she panicked and fought to get out and arrived at the nursery in a state of over exitement and her breathing was going way to fast. Luckily she took to the bottle of milk immediately and soon after calmed right down. The other two babies at the nursery were very exited about their new playmate and made her feel at home in no time.

The medication from the practice helped her get over the initial usual stress related imbalance and she got through her teething period with the help of a few weeks of extra pro biotica. She is the little clown among the babies and a sturdy, happy and healthy little baby elephant.


The Chyulu desnaring team was alerted to the fact that a young elephant in terrible condition had been spotted.

He had looked for protection from predators and had wandered close to a nearby village.

Completely exhausted but terrified out of his wits this two year old elephant bull resisted his capture with what strength was left in him. It is assumed that he witnessed the slaughter of his family by poachers.

Even though completely emaciated and weak he still was very dangerous when he arrived at the nursery, nobody could get near him and the only option was to wait and indeed within a few hours he collapsed and lost consciousness. Immediately he was hooked up to an IV and medication was given to him. For two days he remained unconscious while liters of lifesaving rehydration fluids were given to him.

In the practice the tests done on his urine/saliva swab indicated that apart from being terribly undernourished nothing much was wrong with him, in fact he was a very strong young elephant with a healthy solid basis.

Shortly after he started on his meds they could be reduced and within two months he was completely without medication and gaining weight and strength every day. He is still very much wary of humans but with the loving care his friend Lenana gives him he becomes more and more a part of the group every day.

KILGORIS (05/01/2007 - 22/03/2007)

The morning of january 5th a call came in to alert the Trust of a near drowning victim, a 3 weeks old baby elephant found near the Mogor river. He had been swept by the raging waters and when he reached dry land he was completely shocked and confused and started walking in the direction in which he could hear the sounds of cattle. The cattle belonged to a masaii herdsman who was very surprised to find a baby elephant among his cows. He fed him some milk and decided to walk to the nearest KWS ranger station 15 km away. The little elephant baby followed him all the way and was transported in the back of a jeep to the nearest airstrip where the rescue plane could pick him up.

As soon as Kilgoris had arrived in the nursery it was obvious that his stomach was very upset as a result of having ingested the cows milk. The usual protocol was followed and because he had ingested both water from the river as well as the cows milk he was given an extra heavy dose of antibiotics. Of course he also got the emergency cocktail of meds from the practice and very soon he started to get better.

He soon started playing with the other nursery babies and even though he too suffered from the expected depression he was doing very well. The moment the balance started to tip was when he started pushing out 3 big molars and pretty soon his stools started to get too loose.

Suddenly he refused his milk and it became obvious that the situation was getting very serious. Several antibiotic cures followed which brought no relief.

The lab results showed an e-coli infestation and a very heavy antibiotic aimed at the bacteria was given to him. Around this time swabs came to Amsterdam and the test indicated that we might be dealing with a viral infection. When he started having blood in his stools and the inside of his mouth showed ulcerations everybody started to fear for his life. But little Kilgoris did not give up yet and what followed were the longest most heart wrenching twelve days and nights in which he fought until there was no more fight left in him and finally in the night of March 22nd he slipped through our fingers and died in the arms of his favorite keeper.

Meanwhile I had contacted Dr. Marja Kik from the veterinary department of the university of Utrecht, section infectious diseases. She was immediately prepared to help and try and find out what had happened with little Kilgoris who by this time had died. She suspected an infection of a herpes virus could have been the cause especially because of the ulcerations in his mouth, and this could be dangerous for any new babies that might come into the nursery, but because no autopsy had been done there was no material for her to do any research on.

A while later two other slightly older nursery elephants, Zurura and Lesanju suddenly had swollen glands of which they both soon recovered. Marja Kik is debating and consulting with a colleague from the Rotterdam Zoo if it would be an idea to do the research on blood serum of one of these two. The sending and testing of material from endangered wild species is not so easy however and bound by very strict CITES regulations.


Kora was my first patient at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Daphne Sheldrick was very worried about him because of an old jaw wound that was showing signs of infection again.

Kora was found in September 2004, six months old and completey exhausted, starved and dehydrated with the soles on his feet a mess because of all the walking he had done. He had probably witnessed the slaughter by poachers of his entire family and had been wounded by a spear or bullet. his jaw had a big open and infected wound with bone splinters sticking out.

His recovery took many months and the rinsing out of the infected area was a daily ordeal for Kora.

Finally the wound closed and Kora could begin to grow strong and healthy again. Everything seemed fine until the spring of 2006, his jaw was obviously bothering him and a small opening appeared leaking pus.

The first test showed immediately that this had been a process that had been going on for quite some time, the jaw injury had turned into osteomyelitis, a chronic bone infection. His immunesystem was completely worn out having had to battle this for such a long time. Immediately his treatment was started. A complete cleansing of his entire system and a strong drainage of the lymphatic system, a strong support of the suprarenales, suppletion of Thymus gland extract, pro-biotica to help restore his intestinal flora, multivitamins and extra suppletion of calcium/magnesium.
Very soon he regained strength and the infection was brought back to a minimum.

Meanwhile, back in Nairobi the vet was contemplating inserting Gentamicine beads in Kora's jaw, a slow release over a longer period of time of antibiotics.

The lab tests however showed a resistance to this anti biotic by the bacteria that was causing the infection.

To open up the wound and clean out any dead and necrotic bone tissue would involve a massive surgery with long anesthetic and no guarantee of a complete recovery. On top of that the after treatment would have been impossible for a small elephant to undergo not to mention the very real possibility of him losing more of the jaw bone which might make it impossible for him to chew properly.

Finally it was decided to give him, one more cure of specifically aimed antibiotic and hope that in combination with his now in top shape functioning immune system, it would kill the bacteria. Sadly the miracle we had all hoped for did not happen and as soon as he had recovered again he was transferred to the Ithumba location where the vegetation is much better suited for a now 2 year old elephant.

The expectation is that the infection will show itself every now and then and we will keep tabs on him and regularly test his urine/saliva swabs and help and support him whenever he needs it with whatever he needs.


Lenana came to the Trust's nursery when she was already 14 months old. Daphne Sheldrick was notified that a elephant calf was seen next to her dead mother. The mother had already been spotted a few days earlier and was obviously not well. From that moment the mother was kept under surveillance by patrols to assess the situation. The mothers condition was however far worse that initially was thought and when she died it was unexpected and already quite late in the day. Too late to launch a rescue to save the calf, so that night an armed patrolman kept watch over the dead mother and her calf to prevent any predators from taking this easy prey. Lenana was grief stricken and tried all night to get her mother to get up again.

The next morning the rescue plane flew in and although she was very scared of the keepers and initially very aggressive towards them, her hunger was stronger and by the end of the afternoon she took her first bottle of milk. With the help and comfort of the other orphans she soon calmed down. The depression she fell into, something all the orphans go through at the beginning as a result of the trauma and grief over having lost their mothers, was very severe and for months Lenana stood quietly apart from the other elephants lost in her mourning. The other orphans kept trying to coax her to participate in games and were very loving and tried to comfort her all the time.

Her test results at the beginning were very bad but very slowly her physical condition got better and she started to respond to the other orphans, but the real turn around came when Kenze was brought to the nursery. She felt he was in need of comfort and loving after his traumatic separation from his family that was killed by poachers in front of his eyes and she reached out to him. They have since been inseparable and both Lenana and Kenze are doing just fine.


On August 18th 2006 the Chyulu desnaring team from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust during a routine patrol, found a five month old elephant calf stuck in the mud of a drying out watering hole. This waterhole is often frequented by elephants in the dry season and therefore very atractive to poachers.

There was indeed a carcass of a female elephant found about ten days before and the assumption is that she was this calf's mother. Although very skinny she had nevertheless remained quite strong. Without putting up much of a resistance she let herself be taken and took to the bottle of rehydration fluids immediately. When she arrived in the nursery she was soon calmed by the influence of the other little orphans who came to welcome her.

The next morning she went out with them as if she had never done anything else. To everyone's amazement she played in the mudbath in front of all the visiting tourists during the open hour at the nursery. This has been one of the easiest rescues in the history of the Trust.

When her swabs came to Amsterdam it was soon clear that she was a very healthy and strong little elephant and she was she was one of the first who could soon be without any medication.


October 25th 2005 the call came in that a small 6-8 week old baby-elephant had been found in an open opal mineshaft in the area that separates Tsavo-East from Tsavo-West. This narrow corridor is a migration route of elephant herds and was getting more and more crowded with human habitation. The herds prefer to quickly traverse this for them dangerous corridor under cover of the night and at great speed.

The ground surrounding the hole the baby had fallen into was completely trampled, a sign how hard his family members must have tried to get the little elephant out. The decision to leave him before the breaking of dawn to ensure the safety of the rest of the herd must have been heartbreaking for the matriarch. The miners heard the cries of the baby and managed to get him out. When the keepers of the Trust came to collect him there was written on his ear in feltpen "Zurura"which in Swahili means "he who got lost".

April 2007
Because we had just lost little Galdessa to among other things unrelenting bouts of diarrhoea and Kilgoris was showing similar symptoms for which he was getting an strong antibiotic, as a precaution Zurura was given the same.

The test results of the practice indicated the possibility of a viral infection. After a few days Zurura also developped swollen lymph glands that have since than returned to normal again. In March the tragedy of losing Kilgoris after such a vigilant struggle made me decided to try and find out what it was that we were dealing with. Dr Marja Kik from the Veterinary department of the University of Utrecht offered help and feared that it could be an infection caused by a herpes virus. A serum sample from Zurura would have to be sent to the Erasmus university of Rotterdam and Prof. Ab Osterhaus would be doing the research.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Named after Nelson Mandela by the name his friends affectionately call him, this three months old woolly little baby-elephant was found in Botswana in a dry riverbed. He had a gaping head wound , probably caused by a predator and was so terribly confused he could only stumble around in a circle.

Transport to the Nairobi nursery had to wait for the necessary CITES documents so in the meantime little Madiba stayed in Pretoria till his departure. Three months later he finally arrived at the nursery where mini matriarch Wendy immediately took him under her wing.

From the time he arrived he had strings of what are probably swollen lymphglands on the inside of his front leg and running up his trunk. The diagnosis was a chronic lymph gland infection that will probably stay this way forever. The medication that was given to Madiba by the practice slightly diminished the size of the glands but other than that Madiba is in top shape nothing much seems to be changed in the situation.