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Bona, orphaned calf in Sumatra

Bona upon arrival (April, 2011)

Bona upon arrival (April, 2011)

A tale of an orphaned calf and those who care for her

Bona's story begins in April, 2011

Bona is an orphaned female calf who wandered into Seblat Camp in early April.The previous week, three wild elephants were found dead in one of the neighboring plantations.The presumption is that the calf's mother may have been one of them. It is not known whether the little calf was drawn to the camp because she sensed elephants there or if it was just a matter of taking a lucky turn as she traveled through the jungle.

Desi, an adult female at Seblat Camp, allows Bona to attempt nursing (April, 2011). However, this is only for comfort as Desi is not producing milk.

Desi, an adult female at Seblat Camp, allows Bona to attempt nursing (April, 2011). However, this is only for comfort as Desi is not producing milk.

Just being in camp with an experienced veterinarian and mahouts does not assure survival for such a young elephant. This little calf is estimated to be between six and eight months of age, which means she is still very dependent on mother's milk. Initially, the mahouts and the camp veterinarian, Dr. Yanti, made several attempts to feed different milk formulas (from human milk powder formulas) but all these attempts resulted in diarrhea.

So, the milk formulas were discontinued and replaced with a feeding of palm sugar diluted with water, which did no result in diarrhea. However, the sugar water (for additional calories and fluids) along with the solids the calf was already able to eat and digest were not providing the high energy diet a calf of that age would still be receiving from its mother's milk. Thus, a food supplement consisting of rice, soy beans, palm sugar, coconut and small amounts of milk powder was created for the calf.

Bona helping herself in the kitchen (April, 2011)

Bona helping herself in the kitchen (April, 2011)

After a few trials, Bona started to eat the food supplement without developing diarrhea. As you can see, she must have a good appetite as she decided to serve herself right from the cooking pot!

Bona continues to eat this food supplement and in order to nurture this calf to a healthy weight, this formula (or some variation of it) may be needed for some time.

Asian Elephant Support provided financial support for the food supplement is making a commitment to assist in giving this brave and lucky little girl the opportunity of life that was almost lost along with her mother.

October, 2011

Dr. Christopher Stremme feeding Bona (April, 2011)

Dr. Christopher Stremme feeding Bona (April, 2011)

Dr. Christopher Stremme recently visited Seblat Camp, home of the little elephant orphan Bona, and reports she is healthy, active and alert, but a bit too thin. So, Dr. Stremme has instructed her supplemental feedings be increased from two to three a day.

AES is in regular communication with the team at Seblat camp and we will try to provide news to our supporters on Bona's progress. Thank you.

September 2012

We recently received some photos of little Bona. Aswita, an adult female elephant, has become Bona's adopted mom and does a great job looking after her.

As Bona approaches her second birthday, it is also time for her to start school. Aswita is a very good teacher and Bona has been busy learning how to use her trunk to find natural elephant food. She has also been learning behaviors that will assure safer and less stressful exams when the veterinarian comes to visit, as well as behaviors that will help her in her daily life with the members of her four and two-legged family. Learning at Aswita's side and with lots of verbal praise and food rewards makes school time fun for Bona.

Bona grazing in the forest (July, 2011)

Bona grazing in the forest (July, 2011)

Bona is blossoming into a robust little girl and we would be terribly remiss if, in addition to Dr. Stremme and the full crew who are a part of Bona's life, we didn't also give a nod and very sincere thank you to Murray Munro, from Australia. He and a cadre of his friends have become collaborators and team players on Bona's behalf. For the last six months they have taken over the funding of the supplemental feeding that is still so important for Bona as well as having one of them in camp to observe and help with her feeding schedule. This significant support and sincere concern for Bona has also enabled AES and Vesswic to be able to redirect their funds to other needs. We appreciate ‘Murray & Crew' very much! There are no bounds to what we can accomplish when we roll up our sleeves and work together....and Bona thinks she probably has also expressed her thanks simply by being so darn cute!

August 2013

Bona on the scale (August, 2011)

Bona on the scale (August, 2011)

The Sumatran elephant is now considered “critically “endangered, so every baby is even more important to the future of the species. We have some good news to share about two orphaned elephants that AES has helped support. We are pleased to share that little Bona is not so little anymore! While she still enjoys the companionship of her “adopted mom”, Aswita, she is now completely weaned from the formula. She has a healthy appetite, especially for fruit.