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Projects in Sumatra, Indonesia

Bona, the orphaned calf

Chris Reifschneider

Bona upon arrival

Bona upon arrival

Bona is an orphaned female calf who wandered into Seblat Camp in early April, 2011. 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's 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.

Bona 2 months later

Bona 2 months later

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.

Bona helping herself to her food supplement

Bona helping herself to her food supplement

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.

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!

Dr. Christopher Stremme feeding Bona

Dr. Christopher Stremme feeding Bona

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 has transferred an initial $1,350 to Vesswic for these foodstuffs, but with a monthly cost of a bit more than $200 per month for the ingredients for the supplement, our initial gift won't keep the kitchen open for very long.

AES 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. We will be there for her continuing needs, and if you could help us with a donation at this time, it would be most appreciated.