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Farewell to A Friend

July 03, 2009 Susannah Rouse

On June 20th, Cello lost her fight for life. Despite the best efforts of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy team, we were not able to stem the infection that ravaged her body. Saturday afternoon she laid down for the final time. Sometime during the night, she died – in anguish and without the family with whom she had spent her entire life. Cello was a frequent visitor to Lewa and one of the conservancy’s best-known elephants.

On April 18th, shots rang out in northern Kenya; eight days later, a wounded Cello made her way back to the safety of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. She was darted and treated within hours of arriving. Over the course of the next nine weeks, the Lewa team administered massive doses of time release antibiotics, drained her wound, injected pain killers and even administered an antibiotic that has been particularly effective in treating equine joint infections. From time to time, Cello appeared to be improving, but in the end, the infection proved too virulent.

Cello the Elephant As matriarch of the “Instrument” family, Cello had kept her family safe for over two decades, leading them to water in times of drought and bringing them to safe havens such as Lewa. Cello’s family did not come to Lewa with her – most likely they scattered in terror when the bullets were fired. Her four-month-old calf has surely died, too young to have survived without her mother. The whereabouts of Cello’s family remains unknown. We can only hope that they have reunited and that the female who has taken over as matriarch has the wisdom and experience to keep the family alive during the devastating drought.

It is possible that Cello was shot by poachers, but it is equally likely that she was fired upon simply because she brought her family to drink at a watering hole where herdsmen wanted to water their cattle.

The illegal killing of elephant continues to challenge the authorities throughout northern Kenya. The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is working daily with the Kenya Wildlife Service to help combat this growing problem. Although this is one of Lewa’s key missions it costs precious dollars to keep these men positioned and the vehicles and aircraft fueled. If you would like to help and make a donation in support of these efforts please designate your funds for the "Elephant Monitoring and Anti-Poaching program” or contact Elodie Sampéré at elodie@lewa.org.