Rescuing ‘Bahati’ the elephant calf – by Abraham Chege Njenga

It was Monday 6th March 2017 in Tsavo East National Park. I was in the company of students from the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya who were undertaking various diploma courses in the field of conservation, ranging from wildlife and tourism to tour guiding. I was enthusiastic to not only inspire but equip the trainees with knowledge, skills and attitudes to identify flora and fauna. 

We had left Voi Safari Lodge for our afternoon game drive when we noticed something peculiar at a water point. As we came closer, I saw that it was an elephant calf trying to find its way out from the muddy water. For hours we watched as elephants came to drink. As they left, the little one tried to follow but his little feeble legs and the slippery edges wouldn’t allow him to come out by himself. The safari drivers who came by told us that the calf had been there for almost two days, and as much as I was angry at them for not reporting the incident, I knew leaving him there was not an option.  

I called Joyce Musimbi – a friend who was my classmate back in campus, and an education officer at Tsavo East. I explained the situation, and she told me to stay put as she communicated with the rescue team from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. 

I called her a few minutes later to check on progress, and the call went straight to voicemail. This is quite the norm due to the poor network coverage in the wilderness, and my next speed dial was to Edwin Lusichi, the head keeper at the Nairobi nursery.  

He contacted the team at Tsavo and called back to tell me that Joyce had already contacted them, and they were on the way. By this time the calf was now at the center of the pond and only the tip of the trunk could be seen emerging from the muddy water. It was then that I realized that the calf was drowning. I couldn’t just sit back and watch. It was an open water area and I sprang out and into the water and we got the calf out. 

By this time the rescue team was there to take over. I received a call from Angela Sheldrick, who sounded shaken about the news, especially that the calf had spent a night alone in the pond. I assured her by sending pictures that though he was quite emaciated, and had very red eyes, he could survive. The vets and rescue team took over, and I felt relief as they ferried him off as darkness fell, knowing he was in safe hands. 


He was taken to the orphanage the next day, and I checked in on him regularly. In the company of David Wanyama – a senior lecturer at the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya College – we visited him in the late afternoon before nap time.  

Together we discovered he had been given the name ‘Bahati which is Swahili for luck – for he truly was lucky to survive such an ordeal! He was already showing signs of recuperation though he was still feeble and his eyes still reddish. He had a blanket on him to keep him warm, and after taking his milk he was tucked in and fell asleep.  

After each orphan rescue, the long and complex process of rehabilitating begins at the nursery (elephant orphanage) nested within Nairobi National Park.  

It is here that the milk-dependent elephant calves are cared for and healed both emotionally and physically by the dedicated team of elephant keepers. Each elephant remains at the Nursery until they are ready to make the journey to one of two rehabilitation stockades at Voi or Ithumba in Tsavo East National Park. The Ellies are moved to Tsavo after three years.

Months later, we lost little Bahati. I felt disappointed with the tour drivers who saw the poor calf stranded in the pool as their clients took pictures. Had they taken the initiative to report the incident, he could have been rescued earlier and had better chances of survival. 

William Wordsworth said, “Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendour in the grass or glory in the flower, we will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind”. It’s also said that “We have a unique status among things on this planet, and morality only applies to us”. 

The threat to elephant populations is human greed, habitat loss and political conflicts. Unless someone like you cares about the plight of elephants, nothing will get better.  

Conservation is about more than wildlife and its success cannot be left to conservation organizations. It’s about time that we ordinary citizens take the lead in protecting our unique wildlife heritage. 

This entry is adapted from the original story published on

About the Entry

  • Blogger name | Abraham Njenga
  • Site name | I am Justice for Wildlife
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