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Elephants stuck in a well
On the evening of the 19th May 2007, some Maasai from Meshenani called the elephant research office and left a message that there was an elephant stuck in a well at Lake Conch. We couldn't get in touch with the person who left the message since he never left his contacts, and it was very late to launch a search party.
The plan was to try and drive to L. Conch the next morning, and as we were just leaving the house KWS radioed the office to pass the message that already the Community Warden Tuqa Jirmo and his team had headed to the site. We all joined together and headed to L. Conch, we were shocked to find a VA family female -- Velvet and Vinex, her 11yr daughter -- helplessly stuck in a well. As we moved closer, there was something floating in the muddy water; it was even more awful to see that it was a tiny calf who was fighting for its life, continuous raising its trunk up probably to avoid suffocation.
The well was deep and small for the elephants to even move around. We have never seen an incident where three elephants were stuck in the same well, but it came to our mind that the little calf must have slipped inside and, knowing how elephants mothers are bonded to their calves, she couldn’t let her calf die. So she must have gone in too, and while trying to rescue the calf, her daughter couldn’t it stand it and got in as well. This made them spend more than 20 hrs in the well. They were seen by Maasai herdsmen at around 10:30 am, 20th May, when they were walking their cattle to drink to the same well.
There was no way that the three elephants could come out from that well easily. Mr. Tuqa had to send for one of KWS tractor with a shovel, and the poor family had to wait for another 1½ hrs. As soon as the tractor arrived, we had to work out the logistics on how best to rescue the elephants and also without making life difficult for the calf. The shovel was used to dig the ground at an angle making it less steep on one of the well's pits. After some digging Velvet and Vinex managed to come out on their own, but the poor calf was left still floating in the muddy water.
Still the mother couldn’t leave and she had to be pushed away using the tractor; it was a tough one. The calf was finally pulled out using a very strong rope.
It was a very strong and healthy female calf. We didn't have it in our records and we estimated it to be only six days old. The little calf was dying for milk so she kept on following people and at one trying to suckle from the tractor's big tyres.
We tried the first time to take it to the mother.
But when it made some lost call rumble, Velvet came running, and we all had to run back into the vehicles with the calf following us! Our next idea was to drive our Landrover and let the calf follow with two guys walking with her close to the vehicle. She made another call and the mother came running and we drove quickly off. They reunited, and Velvet accepted her immediately. It was a happy ending: everybody loves happy endings.