Sunday, January 30, 2011

My own private rhino

Before Eddy arrived I  received a call from Epako Guy, “We have a new baby Rhino”. That simple sentence began a misson of sorts, the quest was to take THE white rhino mother and baby picture. I was after something photographically transcendent, something epic, an image I could turn down a pile of money from the National Geographic Society for (I may be waxing lyrical here). Six afternoons, two mornings and something on the up side of 30 hours later I think I got there.

This may be hard to believe but Rhino’s are damn hard to shoot. I mean photographically,  well not really except that generally, they are about as challenging as taking a photograph of a brick building and just about as interesting.   This is a typical rhino shot. 'hold still, don't move, Okay I won't....." You could take this shot all day long and into the next.

(A momentary nomenclature digression: as descriptive terms white rhino and black rhino are meaningless. It’s more accurate to refer to them as hook-lipped and square-lipped. Hooked eat brush and are commonly psychotic (Charles Manson), aggressive (Rambo), they are instinctively man, beast and vehicle stompers. Over the years here I have seen more then a few off road rigs that got skewered by a hooked lipped, for getting too close and pissing them off, the hole is unmistakable and funny enough it always seems to be very close the driver...Hmmm not as dim as they seem.  Hooked lips are the "smaller" of the two species at a shoulder height of 5 feet and around a ton. Their gentler saner square lipped cousins, eat grass and run away from trouble rather then looking for it.  But they are taller, 6 feet at the shoulder and much, much heavier, think 1950’s Buick Special and you’ll have a good idea.)

To be generous both are ugly, trying to capture an image that is flattering is trying. Day after day I always seemed to be too close, too far, they were going away from me, mom was blocking the baby, half in and half out of the sun, deep shade, blocked by a tree or an errant clump of grass, shrubbery, baby too far from mom, mom looking the wrong way, wind shifts blowing my “clean fresh scent speed stick” up her nose, poof ghost like, gone, and on and on and on, six days and about 1000 pictures later I had some good stuff but not “the shot”.  There were lots of these:

Don't get me wrong stalking a square lipped rhino and her baby on foot trough the African bush will get your pulse rate up, it is a thrill, somehow in retrospect the 30meters between use doesn't seem to be nearly enough and sadly this as most of my images from these days are ultimately disappointing from a purely photographic perspective.

Day three I got this, it was an amazing display, the baby just started running, back and forth around mom, through the trees, across the road in front of us, forward and back perhaps, she knew that soon she would lose her speed, her lightness of being, the joy of being alive and able to defy gravity if only momentarily, replaced by life's unavoidable weight.

I got this day 4, just as the sun went below the trees.

Day 6 started well, we got down wind on a river bed as they approached, as long as we were quiet and in the vehicle they largely ignored us.

A few minutes later they passed within touching distance oblivious to us and to the truck turning up the stream bank and around behind us heading for Baugh's water hole. We followed them to the water hole but once again I was on the wrong side of the light. The water hole only has one way in through a cut bank. I saw that I couldn’t get to the right side of the light but I thought I could get positioned to capture something special as they came back out the cut bank into the river. That’s where I took this which is the shot I wanted, steady mom, scale, texture, child in motion, sunset desert dust.

Then it got interesting, I had positioned myself across the river from the water hole down, low next to a burnt out tree. I figured they would come out the cut bank and turn up stream away from the truck; instead they came right at me. I froze next to the trunk until she was about 20 feet away and then I decided I needed way more tree between her and me and moved, like a sprung tarp she charged, stopping just a few feet away, the tip of her horn almost within arm reach.  I can report the following, their horns are well polished and the tip seems exceedingly sharp. Time stopped, she spun and left at speed. My heart started again.

My friend Guy took this shot an instant after she turned to run the other way. See how smart I was with my choice of protection.....Remember when this started I was on the other side of the tree...

This last afternoon was amongst the best days of my African life, all my pipes got flushed with a massive shot of adrenaline, fear came later in equal amounts with the elation of being alive and privileged to be so close to such a beast. On our way back to the lodge our paths crossed once more. I would like to think I was already forgotten, all the while certain they would never be.

Monday, January 24, 2011


This is from Alexsandra at Harnas:

We would like to thank you all sincerely for the generous contributions and interest you have put into Eddy. Eddy united people from all over the world with his story, and inspired all of us to stand together and fight for his life. With the permission from all the people who donated we would like to continue this battle for the lives of the African baby elephants in the memory of Eddy. It is a big problem all over the world that baby elephants fall into waterholes, and get separated from their mums and become easy prey. With your permission the unused portion of Eddy's funding will go to the rebuilding and restructuring of water points in Bushmanland Namibia, ensuring that there will be no more baby elephants at risk of falling in and getting stuck, and that more baby elephants can live happily ever after with their herd and mums. 

Once again here is the link to Harnas' main site and their Facebook page.

Bad News

Sic Transit Gloria Eddy
My Latin's pretty rusty but that should translate as, "So passes the glory of Eddy". When I went to bed last night,  all was right in my world, I was going to put up a small progress post this morning that Eddy's treatment was starting to work, for the first time since the 29th his poo had turned red brown and was the consistency of a cow flop, which weird as it sounds was HUGE.  A few minutes ago I received word Eddy went to sleep and didn't wake up. At the moment details are sketchy due to telephone problems, bad roads and floods. I just know he wasn't alone when he passed, he wasn't with his Mother, but he most definitely was not alone. Eddy's short time here has changed a lot of people lives, brought strangers together, created bonds of friendship that seem strong
For all of those who have been directly or indirectly involved in Eddy's story, I want to say thank you on his behalf, from the bottom of my heart .
Good-bye Eddy, forever dream, of your Momma's gentle touch,  of tall green grass, clean pools of cool water with silky mud bottoms, trees covered with tender young leaves, and take your place, running with the big bulls from long ago, let the earth quietly tremble as you pass.
I'll post more just as soon as I hear it!


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Eddy catches a standing 8 count and wakes up in Disneyland.

It's not how hard a punch you can take that counts, it's how hard punch you can take and get back up.
R. Balboa

I think Mr. Balboa would've liked our Eddy, he is one tough, wrinkled,  little SOB.  He and we have been on a roller coaster of emotion and travel since Sunday mid-day.  This post will be lengthy and in parts very technical,  it is  informative in relating the difficulty in keeping a very young elephant alive and the extraordinary measures being taking by an increasingly  large team to make sure he does just that, stay alive.  
In spite of our (Betsy, Lionel, Kevin and myself) best efforts Eddy crashed again on Sunday.  Omaruru's private Veterinarian Dr. Otto Zapke, came to Epako Sunday afternoon, fully kitted out, to begin another round of emergency care. However, Dr Otto took just a few seconds to inspect Eddy turn to me and say quite strongly, we need to move Eddy and we need to it now or he's going to die.

Within minutes of Otto's arrival my Toyota Double cab was converted to an impromptu ambulance, Otto driving, me in the back with Eddy doing my best to keep him calm and at the same time not let him stomp the @#$% out me, sick or not, small or not he is very strong and fully capable of dropping my old butt to the canvas. 
We had a couple of choices of where to take Eddy and in the end mostly for security/control reasons opted for my garden.  On our way in from Epako, Otto phoned Johann du Plessis, and asked him to assemble the rudiments of an emergency enclosure. It was all hands on deck and it was up and ready in minutes.

Otto quickly and expertly got a new IV line in Eddy's ear and sutured it in place so it wouldn't get pulled out again and started pumping in the fluids. I more or less spent the next 36 hours with Eddy changing IV bags and feeding him orally. I had great help from Sanjke and Martin who work for me at my house.  It was an exhausting vigil.

Otto made it clear Eddy's stay at my house in Omaruru was very temporary and that he needed to move onward to the care of Dr. Ulf Tubessing.  Who according to Otto is one of the best Veterinarians in Southern Africa.

Tuesday morning Eddy was  stable enough to move to Dr. Ulf's farm outside Windhoek, we rode in the back of a Mercedes Sprinter, entirely less dangerous than the back of my double cab (for both of us).  We left Omaruru at about 9AM and arrived at Ulf's farm just after 11. I cannot say enough about the driving skills of Ms. Hillke Waldschmidt. She was a star.

Once we arrived Ulf climbed in with all the tools modern veterinary medicine can muster. Vitamins, hopped up IV, antibiotics, + oral fluids and 24 hour care.  I have known since the beginning that my day to day caretaking of Eddy would have to end. My main responsibility since Roberto, Paul and Guy had to leave  was to be this little guys advocate and do absolutely everything to insure he will survive to charm the pants off large gray girly elephants. So once Eddy was in Dr. Ulf's care we began to introduce a very selective, very skilled, sympathetic group of dedicated caregivers.  Ulf has a game capture business and his best guys from that operation were literally arguing over who would get to sit with Eddy for 8 hours at a whack, talk to him, touch him and make sure he got plenty of food.

Ulf's farm  Ongos is an amazing place just 20 minutes from Windhoek you step out of the urban into the wild. He has one of the rarest of all commodities in Namibia, a year round river, right below his house. At the edge of the Khomas Hochland it is a visually astounding farm, thus the Disneyland reference....

The speed with which Eddy recovered yet again from the edge of the abyss is incredible and leaves zero doubt as to his will to survive.  So much so, that by Thursday morning Ulf deemed Eddy well enough to come off the drip and go for a walk. Along the way Eddy explored his environment, a really good sign and made a new friend.  Yet again the little @#$% made me blubber.  Eddy meets Sampson the horse cat.

Ulf made it clear I had to leave and I understood the importance of doing so, I left my clothes that I had not changed since Sunday with Eddy's new caregivers to put in their laps when they feed him. Packed my bags and got ready to leave.  Overnight the rains had really come and the river on Ulf's farm had gone from running to running very high. We managed to get across, I got to my bus with about 10 minutes to spare and was on my way home to restart my life, happy that Eddy was on his way to a full recovery. 

But, not long after I got home, I received a call from Ulf with bad news, Eddy had crashed again. Ulf stayed with him all night nursing him with all his skill. As he did again last night.
In the 24 hours since, I have learned yet more about Eddy's situation. The short version is this. It goes all the way back to the first bottle of milk we were told to feed him. There is a mucous lining in Eddy's digestive track that is essential to his ability to metabolize his food, without it he can't metabolize anything that he takes orally.  Eddy can't get  stronger and reestablish his gut function without getting nutrients, without a functioning gut he can't get the nutrients, you don't need to be a Vet to see where this is going. 

Ulf and Otto spent a bunch of airtime today calling around Southern Africa looking for a 30 or 40cm central line to put deep  into Eddy so he can be feed nutrients by IV in the hopes he gets strong enough  to start his gut functioning again.
I'm going to take the liberty of including a e-mail from Ulf to other Southern African Veterinary Specialists that outlines the treatment problems and efforts being taken, to give you all some idea of the complexity of this.

Ulf wrote:.......Fortunately I am pretty up to date with critical care medicine as well as wildlife medicine/rehab. Eddy as a say 3 month old Elephant is a midget way underweight and not nearly getting in enough calories on a daily basis to maintain body functions, never mind growing and thriving. He is starving in front of our eyes and if that is not changed he has no chance – clinically it looks like he has given up but nobody can hang in there with hypoglycaemia, hypokalaemia and a hugely negative caloric balance! The fact that he has a diet induced osmotic diarrhoea does not help. He is currently getting the S 26 formula with added pancreatic enzymes (to aid in the lipid maldigestion he has) and Omeprazole (gastric ulceration) as well as supplemental potassium (which helped him a lot as far as muscle tone is concerned!!). I currently also have him on total parenteral nutrition (lipids, amino acids, glucose IV) which really made a big difference and turned him around in the past few hours. After being up and about during the day and still drinking 3,3 l of milk in the afternoon he was down and out, near zero muscle tone, not drinking and really close to death during the night. I spent the entire night with him gradually building him up again. I spent a lot of time speaking to various SA vets who have clinical (not just the orphanage care) experience and work closely with various rehab organisations. I also spoke to Karen Trendler whom I believe to be an excellent rehabilitator with really great clinical knowledge as well (as a vet nurse) and Rachel Murton (Zambian Elephant Orphanage). From all their advise and experience (together with info from the Knysna guys and Daphne (had stuff from her for a while) I now compiled a management and treatment plan which I honestly believe is optimal for Eddy right now.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

When Elephants Sleep

It's a lovely Saturday morning in Namibia, rain clouds are building in the East, we are holding thumbs (crossing fingers) for rain late in the day.  There's no big drama today, Eddy has begun a slow climb to health, settling into a routine of sorts. Transitioning reluctantly out of the Gatorade mix, into a full strength milk formula every liter of S26 that flows down his big yap takes another knot out of my neck.  His fluid intake remains up and down from 10 liters per day, just where he needs to be. He's started to be more active, pushy, "I WANT IT NOW" we laugh genuine laughter, without the underlying stress, fear and hesitation of the last week.

Eddy drinks a liter of warm milk and much like any other baby, anywhere, when it hits his stomach, it flips a switch in his head and out go the lights.  Gratifyingly, he has started to lay down to sleep again, without the telltale lung rattle that was causing me great concern. I had a bottle of antibiotics ready to launch but Dr. Lionel and Betty held it back. I'm glad they did, it has a tendency to cause the trots which are on the wane.
There are a number of interactions with Eddy that I love, but none more than laying down with him as he drifts off to the land of nod to watch some eyelid movies.... I wonder what's playing?.....
From this morning.

Knee, neck, ear.....

After the noontime feed with Dr. Lionel, driftin away......

This last one strikes me as a child, deep in slumber, at complete peace with his world.....

I should tell you all, that just as things are calming down with Eddy's health, we're cranking up his relocation plans.  Lots of people in various places working feverishly to organize his passport, visas, transport, accompanying veterinarians and ultimate destination.  I have been asked by the parties involved not to give up too much at the moment, we really don't want this deal getting @#$%ed up because of overexcitement.   But this much I will blab, if it comes together the way I think it might, Eddy's most excellent adventure's finish, woulda made, Cecil B. demille drop his stogie and weep as the elephant angels sing.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Eddy aint no quitter

Sometimes you just get lucky.....

Tuesday I didn't expect my boy to live, just in time, the drip seemed to blow life back into his tiny, fading, little spark. Yesterday he was gaining strength but still not very active, still laying down to sleep, still snoring like a drunken sailor, which we now think was some fluid in his lungs from drinking with his trunk. We now know that very young elephants have little control with their trunks and frequently send fluids into their lungs, and that's a very bad thing.  So for now he gets 100% of his fluids by bottle to keep water out of his wind bags.  
This is Eddy at about 4pm today falling asleep on my hip, he sleeps better when he's connected to someone.

The wet spots are from ointment we are putting on his skin in a few places to  heal scrapes and sores. Think of him as the guy who has just emerged from the ICU, banged up, bruised, sore, weak, BUT out of ICU.  We were instructed by Eddy's remote medical team in Knysna to get him on animal Gatorade for 24 to 36 hours and try and get 8 to 10 liters a day in him, yesterday it was 6 liters, from 11pm last night till 5:30pm today, when I left, it was 9.25 home and dry. Yippppppeeeeeeeeee!

He started leaning into me later this afternoon and flapping his ear, I finally got the message, "scratch my ear ya dip@#$%!"  I did as instructed, which prompted the very low frequency rumble he makes when he talks to me,  I think of it as a cats contented purring....

Eddy likes his Gatorade.....We are using bottled water, bottles from the restaurant and hotel at Epako , they're as sterile as we are going to get and the 500ml size is perfect for a single sitting feed.

Just after this last feed at 5:15 today, before the night shift relieved me, Eddy took another nap, this time as you can see putting his complete trust in my hand, sleeping like the baby he is.

I want to thank all of you in the outside world who are pulling for Eddy, AND it is, clear around the world.  I also cannot thank the folks in Knysna enough for their incredible support, Greg, Lisette and Dr. Debbie you saved Eddy's wrinkled ass. 
We are optimistic at this point that Eddy's going the right way, he's getting transitioned out of the Gatorade mix into a soya based milk product tonight,  Eddy has already made it very clear he doesn't like the new @#$% much, what is it about kids and softdrinks?
Most of the afternoon I kept telling him to stop his nonsense and drink his milk or I was sending him to his room.  It's a war of wills at the moment and his is getting stronger by the minute.  

We are all blessed,  Eddy got his bucket of mojo and I could feel the tailwind picking up this afternoon....

More soon.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Eddy caught some mojo

This will be very short, its 10:30, been jamming hard since 4:45.  Late in the afternoon Eddy started to rally, he's been banging back his sports drink done 3liters since 4pm this afternoon and was at it when I left, also getting some antibiotic creams on some sores he's got here and there, plus treatment of an iritateded eye and bags full of love. I layed down with him for a nap both of us ended up snoring till some @3%t%$ tourists woke the dog, who woke us... Eddy also getting some vile goo in a syringe shot down his gullet every 8 hours you can see he hates it, but it is to heal sores in his GI track. Late tomorrow if all goes well we are going to start him on his soya milk based formula.  He's feeling good enough to start being a little bit pushy, I'm thrilled.

Keep the prayers coming


Thank you all for your thoughts......

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Eddy is struggling

This chapter was supposed to be about girls and mud,  but that was last week and well, this, is this week, so I'm going to real time.
Off the top,  there has been a touching outpouring of good wishes for Eddy, thank you from all of us to all of you.  Surprising us,  were offers of money. What can we say but thanks, followed very quickly by "no thanks".  We are a small group, none of us rich, doing this because it's the right thing to do, and so far it hasn't put any of us into overdraft.  This is a story being written simply because we all find it powerful, captivating, life changing, its most definitely not about the cash.
Eddy is struggling, noticeably thinner, as you can see.

We're having a hell of a time getting enough nourishment into him. This seems to be a universal problem with hand caring for very young elephants. We think  the biggest problem is the digestive track damage that the initial formula containing beef milk fats inflicted.  If only the first vet we spoke to had said;
 "beats the @#$% out of me what you feed 'em, call this guy he knows"
As a result Eddy has had a bad case of diarrhea, his system simply couldn't process what we were feeding him. To be blunt following a doctors suggestion we poisoned him. We tried a number of variants all without animal fats all with limited success.  At best we've been getting 4 to 5 liters of nourishment a day into him and about the same in water.  In the wild Eddy would get at minimum 10% of his body weight a day in milk from mom, we're 50% short of where we need to be, and that puts Eddy on a downhill slide.  Here's part of our effort to feed Eddy.

While one part of our effort has been to stabilize Eddy there has been a parallel effort trying  to find a group of elephants with lactating mothers that might adopt Eddy. 70kms from Omaruru is the fantastic Erindi Game Reserve,  they have lactating mothers, they were initially interested but ultimately declined to try and integrate Eddy into their herd, mostly based on the real concern that 10 years from now he will be a problem animal.  It's a good decision on their part, bad for Eddy, but in context it was well thought out and we have no hard feelings.  There have been a number of other facilities of various sizes and capabilities step forward willing to take Eddy "off our hands".  When we investigated these other options we concluded that none of them were ideal.  With the possible exception of the Knysna Elephant Park Lodge, but the prospects of getting Eddy a passport and transporting him the best part of 2000kms seems daunting.
Paul from Erindi put us in touch with Greg at the Knysna Elephant Park who I spoke to at length this morning. The news was not good, Greg then had Lisette phone me back with a specific set of instructions.  Lisette and Greg were hugely helpful and we are grateful to them for their assistance. In fact without it, I don't think Eddy would have made it through today.

We had to get Eddy on a IV drip immediately and force at least 6 liters of fluids into him.  Then we had to stop all food and back up to a solution designed to restore the good bugs in his gut and try and get his GI track working again. Only then could we start with S26 the correct fomula.

I sent Greg and Lisette pictures of Eddy and their reply has broken our hearts, Eddy is nowhere near as old as we thought, likely no more than 6 weeks,  at 6 months his chances were poor at 6 weeks I don't even want to think of his odds.

Eddy caught a break this morning when Betsy Fox and Dr. Lionel Depoisier arrived to assist us, Betsy runs Elephant Human Relations Aid which is an organization designed to help desert elephants and humans coexist. Lionel is a MD volunteering in Namibia on animal related efforts. Dr. Lionel was able to put the IV into Eddy's ear and get the fluids started.

Here are two photos the first of Eddy after getting hooked up by Dr. Lionel and Betsy, the second Eddy is sleeping getting the liquid of life.

I'm devestated that my best intentions have put this little guys life at the edge of the abyss. I've looked into Eddys eyes every day for the last two weeks, they are alive, there is a sentient being in there, thinking and afraid, he is trusting in us to save him and I fear we are failing him, not because we aren't trying but because we didnt get the right information fast enough. 

Please say a prayer, light a candle or incense, we need a bucket full of mojo and a huge tailwind our way to help Eddy get back on his feet so we can start again to save his life.

More as I can.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Eddy Settles In

Eddy hamming it up.

The trip from Martin's farm to Epako is about 70kms, the roads are good to horrible, this is Africa, so it's part of the deal. Eddy has settled into a small enclosure next to the managers house at Epako. This is Eddy and his #1 benefactor, Epako General Manager Guy Claveau;

At first, Eddy went straight into the small lean-to, backed his butt into the corner and cowered, his terror was absolute, his exhaustion was total.  I'm told that the first few hours of human/baby elephant interaction is the most dangerous. How the orphans are approached means the difference between a chance or hole in the ground.  Eddy's luck was still holding, to his great good fortune his first caregivers were Roberto Reviglio, Paul Claveau  and yours truly.

Paul Claveau, is Guys son, who was on holiday with his family from Atlanta.......Can't you just hear the office coffee klatch, " So Paul how was your vacation?" 
This is Paul beginning to coax Eddy into the light.

This is Guy's son-in law, Roberto Reviglio who lives in Windhoek, melding minds with Eddy;

(Just in case you are curious, there are two parts of an elephant that are soft, the ends of their trunks and their tongue, the rest of them feels like sun dried leather on top of rough wood. Their trunks can peel your skin off)
.....And finally moi (the Epako guys are mostly French), sounding like a complete moron speaking baby elephant talk;

All of us involved in rescuing Eddy are kind and gentle, but, what we knew collectively about caring for an orphaned elephant, wouldn't make a complete sentence. (the only reason I appear literate is friends who edit for me)
Here's what we knew:
Eddy was in trouble.
Eddy needed contact with warm living creatures.
Eddy needed to start eating and fast.
Eddy has a long thing at each end and sometimes when he gets excited he gets a slightly shorter thing in-between.
Eddy missed his mother more then we could possibly imagine.
Here are the highlights of what we didn't know:
How old he was
What to feed him
How to keep him alive long enough to get him back with elephants.
First things first, we had to figure out WTF to feed him, since the Spar was fresh out of baby elephant chow.  Being the holidays in Namibia, we had a terrible time finding a vet who could tell us anything.  The vet we did contact (who shall remain nameless)  told us to "just feed him baby calf formula".   Which we did, that's what Paul is feeding Eddy. BUT here's the thing, the vets recommendation was complete bovine fecal matter.  Eddy got the runs and wasn't eating anywhere near enough. What the hell were we doing wrong? A quick Google search told us the danger of diarrhea.
Desperate,  I called Dr. Bertie Venter. [This is Bertie trying to figure out the thingies on his Canon. (I'm a Nikon guy) ]

Bertie is one of two Doctors in the Kruger National Park,  he gave me the cell #  for Dr. Roy Bengis who turns out to be one of the most respected and senior vets in the South African Park system.  I called Dr. Roy at the crack, he was in his truck on the way town. I gave him a brief summary of how our motley crew ended up with Eddy and the conversation went something like this:
"Roy we're in deep here, for starters we don't know how old he is or what to feed him"
"How tall is he?"
"Plus minus a meter"
"Haven't put him on a scale yet, but a lot more than me, call it 150kgs"
"Does he use his trunk to drink water?"
"He's at least 6 months"
Amazing 10 seconds on the phone and we know how old eddy is......
"what are you feeding him?"
"One of our locals said beef calf formula"
"NO. No No.  The diameter of bovine milk fat globules is too large for an elephants digestive system, they cannot metabolize it."
"@#$% ( I'm prone to expletives when excited) what do we do?"
"50/50 skim milk and brown rice, cooked in skim milk, pureed, with a splash coconut oil, funny enough, coconut oil fat globules diameter is the closest natural occurring fat to an elephants."
[I will remember this fact for the rest of my life and smile, maybe someday I'll be on Who Wants to be a Millionaire and this will be the last question....Cha-ching]
Another 10 Seconds and we know how to stop killing him with his food, I got weepy, tears rolling down my cheeks weepy  (something else I'm prone to)
"Roy, Eddy's skin on his ears is cracking what do we do?"
"Its most likely a result of his dehydration, find some cream with a lot of lanolin in it and lay it on good and thick"
(Eddy is now sporting an off-white layer of human nipple cream on his ears, please don't laugh he's sensitive.)

Eddy on the road to recovery:

Chapter 3: Eddy learns about girls and mud...


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Eddy Gets Lucky

This is Eddy:

Chris Johnston Photograph

He is an African elephant loxodonta africana  

Eddy was orphaned at Christmas in the Namib Desert near the Erongo Mountains of Central Namibia. He was rescued  December 29th, changing his luck and changing the lives of everyone who has come in contact with him since.

Eddy's mom is part of a small group of six elephants that were imported 19 years ago to Epako Game Lodge from Etosha National Park one of Africa's premier national parks.
In 1970's and 1980's wildlife managers dealt with elephant over-population by culling the adults and capturing the youngsters. We now know killing the adults and relocating the youngsters is barbaric. Imagine human children watching their parents being shot and then getting dragged away by aliens. Because of this the Epako elephants grew up without a matriarch and suffered because of it.

Once moved to Epako this small group of elephants became ghosts in 13 years of visits to the farm I never saw them. They simply vanished into the bush. About two years ago a lone desert adapted bull elephant wandered up the Omaruru River  from the Namib Desert, and then overland breaking fences all the way until he ended up in the middle of the Epako herd, he was looking for LOVE.  Not long after he showed up he whistled and said "come girls we're outta here". Down the Omaruru River and into the Erongo Mountains they vanished.

This is where Eddy was rescued, as you can see its remote....

How Eddy came to be abandoned by his family group is a complete mystery. A few years ago I witnessed the aftermath of a mother elephant trying to fish her calf out of the swimming pool at Hobatare, it was like a bomb had gone off. utter destruction. So the feeling is Eddy's mom being young without a grandma around just didn't know how to care for him.   Local farmer Martin van Wyk found Eddy Christmas Day, Eddy was lost, disoriented and desperate. Capturing a baby elephant is the last choice, it's only done to keep them from dying. From the 25th till the 29th Eddy wandered miles every day along Martin's farm boundary screaming for his mother, but she never came back. Reminds me of when I was a kid and got lost in Sears.....Eddy was going to die so Martin called Namibia Nature Conservation who made arrangements to capture Eddy and move him back to Epako.

It was a miracle that Eddy lasted four days without his mother in the Namib's summer heat, think Phoenix sun with Miami moisture. Eddy never would have seen New Years, dehydration, stress or predators would have killed him. It was hoped Epako could keep him alive long enough to find him a new family and that is where this story really begins.

These are Eddy's rescuers , Alice, Simpson and Jeffi from Epako.

                                                              Roberto Revigilo Photograph

Next: Eddy gets settled in......