Djako Patience Collared in Nki
by Mike Loomis
March 29, 2003
We got up at 5:30 am and had a quick breakfast of beans and rice, and then headed north of our location to a series of natural clearings and salt licks. Jason was still a little under the weather, so he stayed in camp. We reached the first clearing after about an hourís hike. We found very fresh elephant tracks leaving the clearing. We followed the tracks to the next clearing, and found a cow and her calf eating soil for the minerals at the edge of the clearing.
We approached to within about 30 meters of the cow, but the rifle malfunctioned and I was not able to fire a dart at the elephant. By the time the dart rifle was repaired, the cow and her calf had left the clearing. We followed their tracks, and within a few hundred yards, found a large number of very fresh elephant tracks; we could also hear a large number of elephants vocalizing from two different directions. We approached to within 10 to 12 meters of another large cow, but could not fire a dart because the vegetation was so thick. Another cow approached, but the vegetation was so thick that she wasnít a very good target. I decided to attempt a shot anyway.
The dart hit a small branch and missed the elephant. However, there was so much elephant activity in the area that the cow did not even notice that a dart had been fired at her. We decided that there were enough elephants in the area that we could leave this group and try to get a shot at another elephant.
We explored for ten minutes, and the came up on another salt lick. A cow and her calf were eating soil. There was a fairly unobstructed shot of about 40 meters across the stream. Just as I fired the dart, another elephant approached. The target elephant moved when the other one did, and the dart missed. This elephant and her calf disappeared into the forest.
We heard more elephant vocalizations, and decided to go in the direction toward them. We came to the edge of a very large clearing and, around the edge of the clearing, there were a large number of elephants feeding. We selected an older female, and this time the dart hit the elephant. The elephant and the rest of the herd began running through the forest. They ran for approximately 15 minutes, and then the darted elephant started to slow down and show signs of reacting to the anesthesia.
The rest of the herd moved off, and the elephant went down. The rest of the team, with all of the equipment, arrived in about five minutes. We attempted to intubate the elephant, but were unable to do so. We delivered oxygen to the elephant through her trunk the entire time she was down, and she remained stable during anesthesia. The collar was placed on the elephant, and she was reversed. When she got back on her feet, she faced us with her ears flared and backed away from us for about 50 meters before she turned and ran into the forest.
Collaring this elephant was significant for two reasons: it is the first elephant collared in Nki National Park, and it is the 25th elephant that has been anesthetized by the team. Vincent, the WWF team leader for Nki National Park, chose the name Djako Patience. Djako is the name of ethnic group around the village of Ndongo. Patience was added to the name because the people in the Ndongo region have been patiently awaiting conservation efforts in the Nki area. Of the three national parks in southeast Cameroon, conservation efforts had so far been initiated in only Boumba Bek and Lobeke national parks. The village of Nki was very happy to be involved in the first elephant tagging in the national park. Some of the villagers felt that magic was involved in bringing the elephant to life when the antidote had been given.
We hiked back to camp in a very festive mood. We arrived in camp about 11:00 am, packed up, and hiked back to the trail head. A vehicle took us to Ndongo where we celebrated our success and toasted Djako Patience with champagne. We then loaded our vehicles and drove to Mambele and spent the night at Camp Kombo.
About the author:
Dr. Mike Loomis is Chief Veterinarian at the North Carolina
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