Mapia lost his mother to the severe drought that ravaged many areas of Kenya in 2017. He was less than a year old. Conditions were desperate for the elephants in the Tsavo East National Park, as failed rains and soaring temperatures depleted water sources and turned formerly fertile grazing lands into deserts.

Little Mapia was spotted by Kenya Wildlife Service rangers on a foot patrol. He had collapsed on an elephant path, emaciated, horribly sunburned, and barely breathing. The rangers alerted the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, who rushed a ground team to the site. The team found him close to death, but they had become well versed in the protocols needed to revive drought victims. Jumping into action, they were miraculously able to stabilize him. As the air rescue helicopter arrived on the scene, his eyes opened and he became increasingly responsive.

Air-lifted to the SWT’s Nairobi Nursery, Mapia was put under immediate 24/7 intensive care. He hovered close to death for days, collapsing repeatedly. Each time, the SWT team responded rapidly. Gradually, he began to feed well on his milk, and then on the greens in his stable. He still looked much the worse for wear, with ears shriveled and skin cracked from his ordeal. But he had turned the corner toward recovery. As the weeks passed, he grew strong enough to join his new elephant family out in the forest.

Mapia is named after the location in Kenya where he was miraculously found in time to save his life.

How Climate Change Impacts African Wildlife

The prolonged drought that left Mapia an orphan is a direct result of global climate change. In Kenya, failed rains and desertification of land are the most obvious signs.

In 2017, those conditions were particularly harsh. Hundreds of elephants died, out of a population of only about 2,500.

During a drought, even when some water supplies remain for wildlife, food becomes exceedingly scarce…and that’s the main challenge facing very large animals like elephants. Young calves can’t travel the distances required to find better grazing, so their mothers often opt to remain close to known watering holes. But in the devastating heat, nothing remains for them to eat.

These elephant mothers and their babies are usually the first to fall victim to the increasingly brutal droughts.

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