The Highest Highs and the Lowest Lows…

Scott and I returned Thursday from a very emotional trip to Elephant Havens. We experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows. I made a decision today to share both with all of you, as you are part of this incredible journey with us.

First, the highs…

One of our generous donors donated the funds to turn our little office space into a bush lab with the basic equipment we need to perform simple lab tests on site. We are also honored and thrilled to have The Dallas Zoo’s support on this project. They sent an amazing team to set it up. Matt James, Senior Director of Animal Care, and Deborah Chase, Lead Veterinary Technician, taught our men how to take samples from the elephants and how to run the tests we need to help us determine the health of our herd and also to keep them thriving and healthy. 

I’m afraid we are going to have a hard time getting Kingsley, one of our elephant handlers, out of the lab! I was amazed at how quickly he picked up the procedures with just a few days of instruction. He is a budding lab technician. One day we hope that he can get more instruction and be a full-time tech in the lab. 

Also, our orphans were amazing. They were more than willing to give as many samples of blood, urine and dung as the team needed. I think we were all surprised how easily they allowed blood draws without having been trained to do so. The trust that our orphans have in us is apparent with each new experience they encounter without hesitation. 
We were also very lucky to have Leslie Gomez, former head chef at the amazing Nonna restaurant in Dallas, visiting for the next three months! She set up our kitchen with everything we need and prepared the most amazing meals for us. I usually just eat peanut butter while I am at Elephant Havens, but this trip was another story. 

There’s no “roughing it” while Leslie is visiting. The list of things she prepared is too long to share, but I think the highlight was mushroom risotto!  Or maybe it was the chocolate brownies she made for us that accompanied an evening of singing and dancing. This was the last night that the Dallas Zoo team was with us. I just want to also mention that we had Matt wearing a traditional skirt and dancing his heart out. 

And, sadly, the lows…

The day before Matt and Deb left, we got a call about another orphan. Matt was able to accompany Bee and Dr. Comfort for the rescue. They successfully returned with a little 3 to 4-week-old male calf. He had an umbilical cord infection that was treated immediately. He stole all of our hearts with his out-of-control trunk that gave us all hugs and kisses. 

From experience I knew this was going to be a hard case, as he was so very young, but all of us were hopeful, and we never left his side. We took him for walks and climbed sand piles. He tried to pick up little twigs with his tiny trunk, but he just couldn’t get the hang of it. We got the sad call Saturday morning that he lost the battle with the infection. 

Scott and I were there, and we watched our men and woman love him and encourage him every step of the way. It just was not enough. No effort was spared. We had many veterinarians involved. We tried everything and every suggestion to keep this little boy alive. He was just too young. 

I want to always tell you happy news, but sometimes I can’t. I do want you to know how very hard our team works to help these tiny babies survive. This little boy was loved and cared for until he took his last breath among people who adored him. We are all heartbroken. As I have said many times, we will not save them all, but we will save many. 

Our mission is to protect and preserve the African elephant. That’s why we continually ask for donations. Any amount helps toward rescuing and keeping these little orphans alive. 

We are currently seeking donations to put toward a third truck. It takes two trucks to successfully rescue a baby. Currently, when the men are out on a rescue mission, we have to rather inconveniently borrow a truck to have at Elephant Havens in case of emergency and to collect vegetation for our orphans to eat in their enclosures at night — they eat 22 hours a day! Please consider donating toward this goal. 

Thank you all for being a part of this remarkable project. Your love and support keeps us moving forward even with broken hearts. 

With gratitude,
Debra Stevens and Scott Jackson


  • Jason Rochester May 12, 2020 2:28 pm

    Thank you for your post. I appreciated reading about the developments with your elephants and volunteers. I enjoyed viewing the photographs as well. Such beautiful and little elephants, your work is noble and venerable. I am very delighted you all made every effort to save the baby elephant. Your work warms my heart sincerely.

    • Debra Stevens May 19, 2020 11:58 am

      Thank you for your kind words. We will never give up!

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