Bill Teasdale was out in Kenya observing some elephants in their natural habitat with The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. However, as he watched the pachyderms interact at a waterhole, the herd suddenly made a run for it. Then rangers discovered what it was that had so terrified them.
Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick established The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in 1977, in memory of her late husband. David Sheldrick was a prominent conservationist who acted as the first warden of the Tsavo East National Park in Kenya.
As part of his work there, Sheldrick established a team of staff from the Game Department and National Parks to ward off poachers. With elephants now safe to roam the land, the naturalist was able to study their every move, learning a great deal about the gentle giants in the process.
Alongside his research, Sheldrick and his wife began caring for vulnerable elephants and other animals in need. And it’s this side of the conservationist’s work that is still honored by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust today – particularly by dint of its Orphans’ Project.
Through the Orphans’ Project, the Trust has rescued and reared by hand more than 150 infant elephants. Furthermore, it has succeeded in reestablishing orphans back among wild herds, providing Kenya’s elephant population with a much-needed boost.
For decades, Kenya’s elephant numbers plummeted, mainly as a result of poaching. Tragically, between 1973 and 1990 the population dwindled by 90 per cent. But thanks to the efforts of organizations like The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, elephants in the country are thriving once again. Indeed, elephant numbers in the Tsavo-Mkomazi ecosystem alone rose by nearly 15 per cent between 2014 and 2017.
Its noble work has also won The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust many supporters. Among them was videographer and flying enthusiast Bill Teasdale, who in 2015 posted some footage on YouTube that documented a recent visit to the Trust’s reintroduction center in Ithumba.
During his visit, Teasdale had got to witness some of the organization’s former elephant orphans as the animals socialized by a waterhole. He captured the natural phenomenon on camera, and his footage shows a number of the magnificent beasts lingering around the pool. Some of them even bathe in it.
But the idyllic scene is soon interrupted. All of a sudden, the alarmed herd begin to flee the watering hole. It appears they have been startled by some sort of noise. As a result, they make off in the opposite direction to the source of the sound.
Curious to know what has frightened the elephants, some rangers then decide to investigate. Teasdale’s footage captures them trudging through the mud in search of the noise’s origin. And eventually they all come to a halt after spotting something moving in the sludge. But what on earth is it?
At this point, a guide named Parashi wades out alone to get a closer look at the mysterious being. Then, once he gets within reaching distance of the object, he grabs it, pulling it partly out of the mud as he does so.
It is only then that it becomes obvious that the slippery soul is in fact a baby buffalo, perhaps just two days old. Clearly, the calf had wandered too close to the water’s edge, becoming stuck in the thick mud in the process. With none of its herd to be seen, it looked like the rangers were now the young animal’s only hope.
Using all his might Parashi tries to pull the calf onto its feet, but he doesn’t succeed. That’s when some fellow rangers step in to offer their help. And together they yank the animal out of the quagmire and on to some firmer ground.
Freed at last from the glutinous mud, the animal lies exhausted at the side of the water. And this gives the calf’s saviors an ideal opportunity to scrape some off the excess dirt from its fur – much to the elephants’ curiosity. By now, the pachyderms have returned to the waterhole to see what’s going on.
Eventually, someone brings over a bucket of water in order to give the buffalo a better wash. After that the rangers help the animal, a female, to her feet. But given that she had been stuck for several hours, the calf struggles to find her balance.
Finally, though the calf manages to steady herself. However, with no one to care for the animal in the wild, the rangers weren’t keen on the idea of simply letting her go free. Instead, they made plans to take the calf to an enclosure where orphaned elephants sleep at night.
Towards the end of Teasdale’s video, the little calf appears to have gathered her strength. Now able to walk unaided, though understandably still a little wobbly, the youngster follows the rescuers religiously. It seems clear that she is grateful to them for literally getting her out of a hole.
But the animal’s happy ending doesn’t end there. Later on in the clip, the rangers notice an adult buffalo on the other side of the waterhole. It’s the calf’s mother, and it appeared that she had come to collect her baby.
Likely keen to be reunited with her mom, the calf then makes a move in her general direction. Hilariously, though, she succeeds in bolting straight towards the elephant herd, who are once again so startled by the feisty youngster that they run away.
Realizing that the calf needs a helping hand, one of the rangers subsequently scoops her up and carries her towards her mom. Happily, mother and child were reunited, then, after what was believed to have been several days apart. So, it was another job well done for The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust team. It might not have been an elephant that they saved this time, but a life is a life no matter how big or small.