Orphaned Baby Elephant Gets to Ride in a Helicopter

“Panya has a long way to go on her journey, as tiny elephants are exceptionally fragile and susceptible. Once she is through the first few critical months, we will be highlighting the efforts to which many people went to save this calf.” – Rob Brandford, executive director of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.


Under normal circumstances, an elephant calf is too big to ride safely in a helicopter. This little elephant, however, was the exception. The undersized calf was born prematurely, and was too short to reach its mother’s teat.

Newborn African elephants normally weigh about 200 pounds and stand three feet tall, but this baby weighed just half that. According to Mara Elephant Project CEO Marc Goss, the baby’s mother tried for hours to get the baby to stand up, and eventually abandoned her.

That was when the Mara Elephant Project stepped in. The Mara Elephant Project is a Kenya-based conservation program, and they usually save baby elephants when their parents have been poached and the babies are left abandoned. This was a special case, and a team ran to rescue the calf with a helicopter.

A pair of conservation staffers carried the undernourished baby elephant in their arms to a waiting helicopter, loaded the elephant onto a worker’s lap, and then flew her to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya. There, she was put on a drip and monitored overnight.

Seven hours passed, and then the calf took her first steps!

“Intervening with abandoned baby elephants is something we do on a regular basis,” a spokesperson for the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust said,  “This was, however, the first time we’ve had a pachyderm passenger in our helicopter… they are usually slightly too big for the trip.”

The baby elephant was named Panya by the Wildlife Trust workers, and the keepers wrapped her up in blankets to help her stay warm, and bottle-fed her milk. The rest of the details about her condition have not been made public, but the trust will continue to care for her in the time to come.

Watch the video of the amazing rescue below:

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