How an orphan baby elephant is helping others of his kind?

orphan elephant kenya
Mbegu (right) post her rescue. Image courtesy: The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

In early 2014, a female elephant killed a woman from a Kenyan village, sparking a violent clash between man and the wild. This led not only to the elephant being shot and killed but also saw the angry humans spear and pelt stones at the orphan baby elephant Mbegu.

In the chaos, it was deemed impossible to try to reunite Mbegu with her herd. An innocent calf at the cusp of a tragic end. But thanks to the efforts of the Naibunga Conservancy, Mbegu was saved and taken to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT).

baby elephant rescue

Since becoming a resident of the elephant orphanage at DSWT, Mbegu has bonded really well with her keepers and the other orphans with their painful pasts.

As a young matriarch figure, Mbegu is known to give away her own treats to the younger orphans. She loves playing mock hide-and-seek and even encourages the sad orphans by stroking them with her trunk, all this to escape their collected grim pasts.

The Elephant population in Kenya (and African continent at large) has gravely suffered from poaching and the subsequent loss of habitat. “Wild elephants are displaying symptoms associated with human post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD”, Elephant researcher Joyce Poole notes in a study. She adds, “An elephant whose family members are killed by people is unlikely to forget it very quickly. Just as children learn prejudices from their parents, so, too, do elephants. In Amboseli [Kenya] the elephants are fearful/aggressive toward Masai [people] but not toward tourists as they are regularly speared by Masai.”

orphan baby elephant
Mbegu (right) helps Ngilai play in the dust.

One can’t help but wonder in awe at the resilience of this orphan baby elephant! Mbegu draws this dog to Pablo Neruda’s lines:

Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.    

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The Teddy bear man!

The Teddy bear man, ram and rani bear
The Teddy bear man. Photo courtesy: AP

The Indian forests have changed a lot from the life and times of Mowgli and the irony couldn’t have been starker. In what seems a modern adaptation of the famed Jungle Book, this tale of a female sloth bear is more heart wrenching than the movies featuring such story lines for this still awaits a happy ending.

Rama Singh Munda (member of the indigenous tribe) from Ruitisila village in Orissa’s Keonjhar district, about 225 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, gave shelter to female sloth bear Rani when she followed him home and was 2-3 days old. The bear would have met a certain death at the hands of predators had she not followed Rama. The family christened her as ‘Rani’ and she was the loved new member of the family. The family which was bereaving the loss of Rama’s wife discovered a reason to smile. The 5 year old daughter of Rama, Dulki found a companion to play with. The family used to share their meals with Rani, Rama even used to take her for joyrides on cycle and all through the time they never used new her for any commercial purposes nor did they caused any harm to the furry animal. However the euphoria of the girl and bear was short-lived as the news reached media circles and the officers took away the bear (only on second attempt as Rani had escaped to forest during the first raid. However the bear returned to her only home later in the day where they darted her and took her to the zoo) Rama was held captive in the jail for breaching the law and keeping a sloth bear at home.

Sloth Bear Rani
Sloth bear Rani with Rama and Dulki in happier times. ~Image courtesy Hindustan Times

It can only happen in factual realms that an innocent tribal who has been keeping the bear for over a year with affection and care was arrested and put behind bars. We have heard time and again about the pitiful state of zoos in India, the conditions at Nandankanan Zoo are no better. How judicious a decision it was on the part of officials to send Rama to jail and Rani to an unkempt cage? Solomon would be deranged in heavens.

The man is now set free but then who cares about the family…the feelings of the bear who found herself in a cage without her family? The court of law, the animal activists, the NGOs must see at affairs from an animal’s viewpoint too. What good are animal laws if they fail to serve the animals?

Motherless Dulki never knew any Archies teddy bear, for her only buddy was her furry friend with animation.

Dear Bear, the fiction lore of Rudyard Kipling was better than the realism and Rama you’d always remain our Teddy bear man!

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