Baby Elephant Stands Vigil, Refuses To Leave Dead Mother’s Side

A heartbreaking scene unfolded in Northern Kenya last week, as a baby elephant clung to its dying mother’s side, stubbornly refusing to leave her.

The tear-jerking vigil was caught on film by wildlife experts from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, the Kenya Wildlife Service, and Save the Elephants. According to a post on the Wildlife Trust’s website, the teams tracked a female elephant they named Cherie after she began to exhibit stomach pains. When she collapsed on April 7th, doctors inspected the animal but determined that they were unable to treat her. The female Elephant clung to life for several days with her baby by her side, but on the evening of April 9th, she passed away.

Sokotei the elephant stands over his mother's body

Rescuers feared that the baby elephant would be unable to fend for himself, and were able to sedate the dehydrated animal the next morning. The baby elephant, whom the rescuers named Sokotei, was then transported to an elephant orphanage operated by the Wildlife Trust. According to The Express, Rob Branford, the Trust’s director, commented on the rescue of the baby, calling it a “battle against time to keep him safe,” and highlighting the urgency that rescuers felt:

“Throughout the night, teams from Save the Elephant and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust were there to support the young calf and everyone had a long night battling to keep him safe from predators by trying to catch him. Alone he was extremely vulnerable, but rain and the fact that he’s a wild animal meant we had to wait until morning, when everyone woke very early and ready to face a dramatic few hours.”
-Rob Branford

Once at the orphanage, which specializes in tending to elephants that are under three years of age and incapable of fending for themselves, the baby was greeted by several of the 30 other orphaned elephants that populate the center. After the animals pass the age of 3 and are able to subsist without milk, they are transferred to reintegration centers to prepare them for reentry back into the wild. According to Branford, they not only meet other elephants during this process, but also “learn what food is safe and essentially learn how to be a wild elephant.”

While the idea that elephants can feel emotion is largely anecdotal, another baby made headlines in September of last year, as reported by The Inquisitr. That incident, which took place at a zoo in China, saw a mother elephant violently rejecting her baby, which cried for five hours afterward, according to zookeepers.

Anyone wishing to follow Sokotei can keep track of his progress, along with all the other orphan elephants, at www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org

[Images via Daily Mail]