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The following is OLMEG's Orphan Profile.
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Quick Facts about  OLMEG

Gender  Male Date of Birth  February 1987
Location Found  Maralal
Age on Arrival  2 weeks old
Comments on Place Found  Olmeg fell into a trench
Reason for being Orphaned  Poaching

His name, “Olmeg” is the Masai term for “ the outsider”, in other words, anyone who is not born a true pure blooded Masai warrior. This elephant was born near Maralal in Northern Kenya, and orphaned when he was just 2 weeks old, when his family stampeded under a hail of poachers’ bullets. It is not known how many elephants were killed or wounded on the day that Olmeg was left an orphan, for it was during a period when poaching was still completely out of control throughout the country, with elephants dying daily in large numbers everywhere, the Government Department charged with their protection often the main poaching culprits. The International Ivory Ban, which brought poaching under control, was still 3 years hence. This tiny calf fell into a deep trench as his family were running for their lives and there he was left for dead by the fleeing herd. He was found a day later by herdsmen, sunburnt, confused and very dehydrated. They took him to the nearby Maralal Safari Lodge, where he was kept for the next week, being fed on cows’ milk and grated carrots, which, of course, did him no good at all. Finally, when he looked as though he was going to die, the Manager, (who, nevertheless, had done his best) brought him to us, having heard that Daphne knew something about elephant orphans. The baby was in a pitiful state, suffering from serious diarrheoa (due to the incorrect diet) extremely sun damaged ears and a very septic umbilicus oozing pus.

Olmeg meets a warthog two days after arriving  Olmeg two days after his arrival

We had no stable to accommodate an elephant at that time, nor any trained Elephant Handlers that could help us care for him, so he had to share a bedroom with Daphne’s daughter, Jill, who lived in a small Guest Rondavel to one side of the main establishment. At the time, Jill was assisting her mother to try and raise funds for the first fenced rhino Sanctuary, and for rhinos at the time when they had been nearly eliminated. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust was very young and the fact that we might have to care for elephant orphans all over again, had not dawned on us. The appearance of Olmeg brought back many heart-wrenching memories of the Tsavo years of trial and error struggling to unravel the correct feeding formula and husbandry to succeed in rearing the infant elephant orphans, all of whom perished, due to incorrect feeding. It also brought back poignant memories of one very special baby named “Aisha” whom Daphne managed to get to the age of 6 months, but who died of a broken heart when Daphne left her to attend to the nuptials of Jill, in Nairobi. This was a lesson learnt the hard way - the necessity for many “Keepers” to replace a baby elephant’s lost elephant family.

Olmeg at 18 months  Gill with Olmeg

The intensive 24 hour care of 2 week old Olmeg was shared by Daphne and her daughter, Jill, who took turns to feed him every 3 hours throughout the night and day, and be with him 24 hours a day. We also had to cope with the aftermath of his seriously upset tummy, which entailed a never ending clean-up job! Whilst soiled bedding was being removed from Jill’s bedroom and replaced with fresh straw each time a watery stool appeared, one of them, either Daphne or Jill, had to walk the baby elephant round the yard whilst his bedroom was being cleaned. Since he was so young, he was like their shadow, trusting and determined not to lose another “family”! He was a full-time job, and all other duties had to be shelved for the time being.

Olmeg with Daphne Sheldrick  Olmeg and Daphne

The National Park Director, Mr. Perez Olindo, who had returned to replace the previous unsuitable incumbent, assigned a Ranger to help us care for Olmeg and very fortunately, it also so happened that a Veterinarian in the person of Dr. Bill Jordan, turned up. He was then working for The Peoples’ Trust for Endangered Species, and apart from giving us advice on how to deal with the septic umbilicus, pledged funding from his Charity to erect the first Elephant Stables near Daphne’s house.

Olmeg in his stockade

Meanwhile, we tried hard to persuade Olmeg to spend his nights in a small stone chicken house, (minus the chickens!) with just one of Daphne’s dresses, bearing her scent to represent that vital human presence, but he was having none of it, and the midnight walks around the yard continued, loud protests punctuating the night about the new sleeping arrangement. Unhappily, our Ranger Assistant didn’t work out either, for he lacked the empathy needed, and Olmeg hated him with a passion, refusing even to accept milk from him. Hence, the new Elephant Keeper had to be returned with thanks and we then set about recruiting our own, and, of course, more than just one, so that the men could have time off. Gradually, they took over the Orphan duties, and Daphne and Jill could not only catch up on lost sleep, but also turn their attention to the many other duties that had been sadly neglected!

Olmeg, was a true survivor. Miraculously, not only did he make a full recovery, but he weathered the many human errors in relation to his care to which we unwittingly subjected him. He taught us a great deal that we did not previously know, one being that even newborn elephants need space and become very claustrophobic when too closely confined. We knew now that the next batch of stables would have to be made a good deal larger. The next lesson was that the elephants choose their Keepers, and if an orphan does not bond with a Keeper, the man cannot become part of the elephant’s human “family” because he does not have the genuine emotional attachment needed. Elephants have an uncanny ability to read one’s heart and mind so the ingredient of “love” (essential to success), has to come straight from the heart. These any many other tips we learnt from Olmeg.

Olmeg 1 year old with Daphne Sheldrick  Daphne and baby Olmeg

Olmeg having fun with David Shepherd

He was soon joined in the Nairobi Nursery by other poaching victims, namely Taru, Dika, Ndume and Malaika and, in the fullness of time, all graduated to become part of “Eleanor’s” adopted family in Tsavo East National Park to begin their gradual rehabilitation back into the wild community. At that time, “Eleanor” was over 30 years old, the longstanding Matriarch of the Tsavo orphans who had lived through three decades of rampant poaching and suffering in Tsavo, when the wild population was reduced from 20,000 to less than 5,000. By the time Olmeg and the other Nursery elephants joined her, many other youngsters had come into her care, brought in old enough to be given directly to her. One was a young bull named ”Chuma” (the Swahili word for “iron”) and he certainly lived up to the interpretation of his name, for although he was under two when he arrived, he was healthy enough for us to risk completing his milk depend period under close supervision in Tsavo. To have taken him from Eleanor at that time would have caused her immeasurable misery, and she had been subjected to so much already.

Olmeg and his friend Taru  Olmeg and another baby

Olmeg, Dika, Ndume, Malaika and Edo with Emily and Imenti

Being equal in age, Chuma and Olmeg were instantly fiercely competitive, so endless sparring bouts occupied their days in an on-going tussle for dominance. Chuma usually won these contests – that is until Olmeg solicited support from an unexpected source. One day another “wild” orphan attached himself to the group, and since he looked like being a more or less a permanent fixture within Eleanor’s adopted “family, he was given the name “Thomas”. He and Olmeg struck up an instant friendship and with the backing of Thomas, Olmeg managed to get top sides of Chuma, which boosted his confidence no end.

During all the years that Olmeg was growing up in Tsavo, no Keeper could begin to match the love he held for Daphne and Jill, who had mothered him in very early infancy back in the Nairobi Nursery. Whenever they visited Tsavo, he greeted them with unbridled joy and excitement, recognizing them instantly, even amongst a crowd of other visitors. When he became a teenager, he, Taru, Chuma and the other orphan bulls, took to spending time away from Eleanor’s group, which was growing year by year, seeking the company of other male friends, as is the way of teenage bulls in elephant society. For several years Olmeg used to return fairly regularly, but these visits became less frequent as time passed. He was last seen in 2002 near the Park’s Sala Gate on the Eastern Boundary, and since then has not been back to the Voi Stockades. That said, it is unlikely that any of the current Elephant Keepers working with the present day orphans would even be able to recognise him, since most have been recruited since he left the fold. His rehabilitation back into the wild community can therefore be said to be successful and complete – in other words, Mission Accomplished, and for us, this is a source of satisfaction and pride. In Tsavo our orphans are offered a quality of life in elephant terms for it is the only Park in Kenya that has the space an elephant needs for that quality of life.

Olmeg 7 years old

By January 2005, Olmeg would be a fine young bull of 18, no doubt with impressive tusks, for they were unusually long and thick even by the time he left. Obviously he is with his friends in a more remote section of the Park, and being happy with them, he sees no reason to return to the Voi Stockades, especially since Daphne and Jill were seldom there to greet him whenever he did return. However, we have not given up hope of another visit from Olmeg, for both Chuma and Taru have been back after absences spanning as long as eight years away, which, after all, is not a long time in the life of an elephant that hopes for a lifespan of three score years and ten. Olmeg is a very special orphan – the very first infant African Elephant to have been successfully hand reared from such a young age, and although the Trust now has 80 such successes under its belt, there will always be two that are particularly special - the “outsider” named “Olmeg” and the tiny baby from Marsabit named “Aisha” whom Daphne so nearly saved, and was so grief-stricken to have lost. Both these elephants taught us most of what we know today, and have been instrumental in saving the lives of many others that followed in their wake.

US$ 50 per year is the minimum fostering fee

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