“The Miraculous Tale of Mayan: A Struggle for Survival” –


The remarkable tale of Mayan’s rescue has been a long-awaited story for us to share. He is considered one of our most extraordinary cases, perhaps even a miracle baby. Our efforts to save him were riddled with both triumphant and challenging moments, making it an unforgettable saga. Throughout his early stages of life, we were in a constant battle to ensure his survival.On the 5th of December 2018, Manyani Prison contacted KWS with alarming news. One of the prison guards discovered an elephant calf trapped inside the septic tank. The poor creature was entirely submerged, with only his trunk sticking out like a snorkel. It’s tragic to imagine the distress his family must have felt, but there was no way to rescue him from such an unfriendly environment. Ultimately, they had to abandon him.

When KWS received a report from the Prison, they realized that there was no chance to reunite the lost calf with his herd. Therefore, KWS organized a rescue mission and sent Dr. Poghon from their Tsavo Mobile Vet Unit and the Burra Anti-Poaching Team to retrieve the calf. After being retrieved, the calf was transported to KWS’s elephant reintegration unit in Voi where he underwent a much-needed cleaning. Due to the calf’s fragile state, KWS decided to bring him to their Kaluku Neonate Nursery via helicopter where they could offer him the best hope for survival. The calf was given the name Mayan.

Rescuing a baby elephant is not an easy task, and Mayan’s case was even more complicated as she had spent a long time in a septic tank. In the past, we have rescued Emily from a similar situation when she was the same age as Mayan, and it took her four months to recover completely. Therefore, we anticipated that it would be a challenging journey to save Mayan’s life.

Despite the terrifying experience, Mayan appeared to be doing well at first. He was given antibiotics to prevent infection and was able to eat and gain weight. However, things took a turn for the worse during the teething stage, which is a difficult time for baby elephants as their large molars emerge from their gums. This often results in significant weight loss and can be a serious threat to their survival.

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We faced a similar challenge with our beloved elephant, Mayan. Despite our efforts to nurse him back to health, he gradually declined right before our eyes. Although his molars had come through, he still couldn’t seem to gain any strength. For several months, it was heart-wrenching to watch him struggle between life and death. He continuously experienced hypoglycemia dips and required frequent IV drips to revive him. Nonetheless, his caretakers never wavered in their commitment to him. They never lost hope, even when the odds were against them.

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After three months, it became clear that Mayan’s time was limited as the veins in his ears were collapsing due to the many drips needed to sustain him. Despite this, the team continued with the drips as they were crucial to his survival. However, hope seemed to fade until Mayan started to make progress. It wasn’t a sudden change, but rather a gradual one where two days without a collapse turned into two weeks and then two months.

Daphne Sheldrick believed that you could tell if an orphan would survive by the fire in their eyes, and for Mayan, his extraordinary golden eyes gave an added dimension. When his eyes lit up again, the team knew that they were going to win the battle to save his life.

After that point, Mayan wasted no time and went into full gear. He quickly became a part of Lemeki and Thamana’s team and was determined to catch up on lost time. As soon as he had enough energy to keep pace with them, he wholeheartedly joined in on the elephant shenanigans. Although Lemeki is often seen as self-centered, she deserves recognition for taking care of little Mayan. She recognized that he needed extra attention and always made sure to give him special treatment.

A terrible tragedy struck our dear Mayan once again – a stick had pierced his eye, leaving him partially blind. We were devastated as his once-beautiful honey-colored orb turned an ominous white hue, and we feared that he may never regain his sight. However, we refused to give up hope and sought the help of an expert eye specialist to create a treatment plan. With perseverance and dedication, we followed the protocol week by week until we saw the honey color return to Mayan’s eye, and we were overjoyed to see that his sight had been restored.

Mayan has had an incredibly colorful upbringing as part of our Neonate Nursery’s christening crew. He’s grown up surrounded by a diverse selection of orphaned animals, including rhinos, giraffes, buffalos, and antelopes. Despite this, his closest friend is Vaarti, a little bull rescued ten months after Mayan. These two are inseparable and can often be seen frolicking around Kaluku in tandem, spreading joy wherever they go.

Mayan’s health issues have hindered his physical growth, making him smaller than one would expect for his age. Despite this, Mayan’s personality more than makes up for his size. Mayan is an eternal optimist, never allowing even his toughest health setbacks to bring him down. This resilient attitude has been key to his survival, as he has faced many challenges that most young elephants could not endure. Though he may seem small and cheerful, Mayan possesses a strong and indomitable spirit that makes him a true lionheart.

When his parents’ herd was struck by lightning, Eliot, a young African elephant, was left orphaned and faced a tough start. However, he was fortunate enough to be rescued on Christmas Day and taken in by a sanctuary when he was only three days old. Despite the trauma he had faced, Eliot managed to find solace in the company of two older elephants – Kadiki and Beatrix. Both Kadiki and Beatrix had also experienced tremendous pain in their lives after losing their families and coming close to death. Kadiki had survived a lion attack at just one day old, while Beatrix was rescued after getting stuck in a gully. The trio has found comfort in each other’s company and continues to heal and grow together at the sanctuary.

In the picture, we can see a trio of elephants named Beatrix, Kadiki, and Eliot, with Eliot being the baby of the group. It’s worth noting that these lovely elephants are all orphans.

Like Eliot, Kadiki and Beatrix, his newfound companions aged three and one respectively, have experienced the loss of their parents and a near-death experience.

Eliot, who was saved on Christmas Day when he was only three days old, found solace in the presence of two older elephants at a sanctuary. Kadiki, who played a maternal role to another young elephant called Beatrix, now shows affection to Eliot by wrapping her trunk around him. These three gentle giants live at the Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery located near Harare, where they are cared for by Wild is Life, an animal charity organization. According to Roxy Danckwerts, the founder of Wild is Life, the emotional bond between elephants is unique and intense. Once the trio is strong enough, they will be relocated to a reserve near Victoria Falls to join a herd of wild elephants and be protected from poachers.


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