Zongolini is one of the seven orphan baby elephants rescued by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT), whose names adorn our Elephant Strength Gin miniature bottles. We chose to foster these seven beautiful elephants as they’ve shown an incredible strength and persistence, overcoming terrible heartaches, unbelievable traumas, injuries and losses of their family.
DSWT were contacted on 22nd September 2013 about an injured female elephant with her approximately 18 months old calf, within the bush lands of the Taita Sisal Estate. Along with Kenya Wildlife Service Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit, they rushed to treat the mother and in order to do so her young calf was also anaesthetised. A victim of poaching, a bullet wound had penetrated deep and shattered a bone on the right front leg of the mother. She was treated with painkillers, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic drugs, but with a bullet possibly still embedded within the bone, the prognosis for a successful recovery was guarded.
A week later the pair was spotted nearby – the mother collapsed a couple of days before as evidence of her desperate struggle to get back to her feet. She was in a distressed condition from the injury, but also because the pair had clearly been without water or food for some time. Her young calf remained by her side at all times, chasing off any intruders, extremely protective of her mother, but her condition was deteriorating too without milk or water. Those that first located the collapsed mother with her dependent young calf waiting helplessly by her side, observed her drinking her dying mother’s urine as she was so desperate for fluids under the scorching sun.
It was clear that the baby was in desperate need of rescuing if she was to live, and sadly her beautiful mother needed to be euthanised and put out of her misery. Zongolini bravely stood by, protecting her dying mother, frightened and confused, robbed of her family. Back at Nairobi Nursery, drip-fed Zongolini was placed into her stockade next to Vuria, Faraja and Jasiri on the other side. The company of the other elephants was comforting for her and she even took some milk from a bottle clearly still calm from the effects of the tranquilliser. She was named Zongoloni, the Taita name for a hill located close to where she was rescued.
Having experienced what she had, Zongoloni was extremely difficult to tame down and aggressive. The other Nursery orphans were not initially as accepting of her, but as each day passed, Zongoloni became more comfortable with her new elephant friends, and them with her. Despite her heartbreaking journey, we hope that in time the memory of her mother’s trauma and the family lost will fade. Her story, along with many before her, isa graphic reminder of the price that is paid for ivory.