This story is about a little guy who is lucky to be alive. He was born in Northern Malawi (Vwasa Marsh Area) during the annual rainy season between December 2011 and March 2012. This period turns a relatively dry climate into a very wet and soggy 3 to 4 months of every year.
Rivers swell up considerably, bridges are sometimes swept away, animal browsing areas reduce substantially due to swollen rivers and paths that have been cut-off due to flooding.
During the 2011 to 2012 rainy season, our little guy was born on such a wet day somewhere in the Vwasa Marsh. We are unsure of the events between his birth and the time he was seen trying to cross this deep river but we are sure that his mother was not around.
Mothers never lose sight of their babies and so we assume that his mum was shot by a poacher or caught somewhere in one of the swamps or flooding rivers.
Not to be outdone by the tragic loss of his mother, our little hero of only a few days old, was seen struggling across one of these swollen rivers. Exhausted, afraid and alone, it was very unlikely that he would have survived to the end of the day.
A Malawi Game Ranger spotted our survivor in the middle of this large river, probably still searching for his mother. Realising that the baby elephant was in trouble, he quickly stripped down to his shorts and waded toward him.
Rivers in Malawi are commonly inhabited by crocodiles and hippos, both extremely dangerous animals and regular killers of humans that wonder into their territory. But our story was not going to end today.
The Ranger eventually reached the elephant and guided him through the dangerous waters toward the swampy river banks
The Ranger pushed, guided and coaxed the elephant toward the river banks
Tired and scared, the baby elephant reaches the river bank and struggles toward dry land for rest
A visitor that happened to be in the area was made aware of this rescue and arrived with his vehicle to assist the Ranger
Unprepared, stripping down to be able to walk through the mud and water was the only way to avoid wet clothing
Although very docile, baby elephants weigh up to 100 kilograms at birth and pushing this weakened baby through the mud takes considerable human effort.
After the rescue, he was walked to the Rangers field office where, at least, he had the safety of now being under the watchful eye of Game Rangers.
While our little guy was very shaken, he was uninjured and lucky to be alive. This was, in many ways, only the beginning of a very large challenge.
Elephants are very social mammals. They hug each other by wrapping their trunks together as a greeting or signs of affection. A baby elephant will suck it's trunk like a baby sucks it's thumb for comfort. The herds work as a family whereby older elephants teach the younger elephants.
The young females and the grannies all help to look after the babies. This social structure is very important to a baby elephants survival, without it, it will die within a few days.
With no mum, no milk and no herd, his death was again imminent, even though he was rescued by the rangers and now in their care.
Inquisitive, playful and hungry, there was still a long way to go and now that the novelty of having a baby elephant in the camp was over, it was time for some decision making that would decide the fate of this little guy.
Even though humans have the capacity to care for elephant orphans, this takes considerable human effort, money and infrastructure – none of this exists in Malawi.
The closest elephant orphan centre is in Kenya and there was no way to get him there. He was going to die and all this effort would be in vain unless something happened.
The visitor that was in the area at the time of the rescue agreed to take him to Mzuzu – a small town in Northern Malawi. Mzuzu has grocery stores, telecommunications and friends that would take the responsibility of looking after him for a few days while searching for a solution.
To avoid panic while driving, the elephant had to be secured
At around 100 kg, it takes several strong men to gently pick up the baby and place him into the back of the Land Rover
The final adjustments to make sure the back door can be closed
All done and now waiting to start the journey
Friends on board to travel with the elephant to Mzuzu
To put this into perspective, imagine a friend of yours knocking on your door one weekend and saying “Hi, I found this elephant. Would you mind looking after him for a few days while we try to figure out what to do?”
Our babies weigh 2 to 3 kilograms when born. This little guy is around 50 times heavier, needs around 50 times more milk, needs a bed with a human in it and where on earth to find nappies for him ?
This remarkable story of human endeavour, animal trust and blind instinct took unimaginable proportions when Jenny Webb, a resident in Lilongwe and my neighbour at the time, agreed to take him in and more importantly, act as a pseudo-mother until such time that a proper plan could be made to get this survivor into a facility that is properly geared to care for 100 kg babies.
Many of us know what it is like bringing up a child from birth to maturity … do you have any idea what is required to do the same with a creature 50 times bigger with similar needs of care and attention?
Nevertheless, Jenny drove up to Mzuzu to collect him and bring him back to her house in Lilongwe.
Settling down to sleep
Asleep on the mattress with new Mother for the next 2 to 4 years
Our lucky to be alive hero had probably found the best possible human mum that any baby elephant could ask for. For the next 2 to 4 years, Jenny will probably never sleep in her bed again, never have a night out with her friends and is very unlikely to have spare change in her purse.
In the kitchen watching the milk being prepared
This little guy costs around $4 000 per month, just for food, bedding and skincare!!
Here is the breakdown :
He still needs medicine, staff costs, vet services and infrastructure. For the next 2 years, this will cost an additional $250 000 (About $150 000 for the infrastructure and about $100 000 for his upkeep)
It takes a very special person to give up her life and take on a $350 000 responsibility for one animal.
Human compassion can take on epic proportions and Jenny is an
example of just that
Just a few days ago, our little hero was hours from death by drowning or crocodiles
Now he is the centre of attention
Today he has hope and with your help, he will have a future
He is not just lucky to be alive. He is a survivor and he is our hero.
As are we when we are young. He needs our help.
He will take anything that you can give him :
Then please spread the word.
Be part of the Lucky to be Alive campaign. For every 500 Likes on our Facebook page, we will donate $100.
Click here or the Butterfly below to take you to our Facebook page.
This is the Trust that has the potential to secure his future. Right now he has hope and with your support of this Trust, he will have a future.
One day you may just meet Moses (If you happen to be in Lilongwe, come and visit)
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Forgot to add a photo
Moses having a late afternoon snack a few hours before bedtime.
Thinking of you little guy
I've met him and he is cuter than all the pictures. Hope to continue watching him grow up and do what I can to be part of it.