The team of staff and volunteers at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) are, without a doubt, conservation superheroes. They work tirelessly to rescue and rehabilitate ill, injured, and orphaned animals throughout East Africa, in addition to tackling the ever-persistent threat of illegal wildlife poaching.
And now, their newest arrival, a baby elephant named Tusuja, has been welcomed by other herd members with open arms.
Tusuja was rescued after being found wandering alone through the Olare Orok Conservancy in the Maasai Mara ecosystem of Kenya. There were no herd members in sight for the vulnerable baby so the wildlife researchers who found him decided that he had to be rescued urgently, as they feared he would not survive through the night on his own.
Tusuja’s carers said, “his resolve when rescued and once safely back at the Nairobi Nursery, his understanding of the situation, cooperation and gentle calm nature have led us to choose a Maasai name for him, ‘Tusuja’, which means ‘to follow’ in Maa.” On their Facebook page, they further added: “It’s been a long journey for Tusuja since his rescue but, thanks to expert care and treatment, he has finally overcome the parasites (picked up from livestock) which caused him to lose so much weight. A friendly and playful elephant, he is extremely gentle and always takes good care of his best friend, Rapa.”
Elephants are highly intelligent, social beings. They typically live in matriarchal herds, headed by the eldest female member, her daughters, and their calves. When the matriarch dies, she is replaced by one of her daughters, usually the eldest. Adult males live in separate bachelor groups. Elephants of all kinds are renowned for going through an elaborate mourning process when a herd member dies, and the bonds they form with family and friends can last a lifetime.
The ease with which baby Tusuja has been welcomed into his new herd by the other orphans shows that when it comes to love, friendship, and trust, elephants have a lot more in common with us than we realize. These animals lead complex emotional lives – and we humans have only a limited understanding of what this entails. It is a tragedy, then, that so many elephants around the world are forced to live in captivity and solitary confinement, or forced to perform back-breaking work for years on end. These majestic creatures are also exploited by the tourism industry, with elephant trekking camps and elephant painting demonstrations known to be particularly cruel.
As if that weren’t bad enough, the African elephant population is being systematically decimated by the ivory trade. An estimated 35,000 to 50,000 African elephants are killed for their ivory every year. International pressure to end this horrific trade is growing by the day, but unless concrete action is taken, the African elephant could be faced with extinction in the near future. You can find out how to help here.
It is such a relief to know that the DSWT team were on hand to save Tusuja from his precarious fate and that he now has a new loving rescued elephant family. You can help donate toward the cost of his care here. To find out more about the incredible work of the DSWT, visit their website or Facebook page.
Image source: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust/Facebook