“Emily” is estimated to have been born in Tsavo West National Park in September 1993. She was just l month old when her family were crossing from Tsavo West into Tsavo East, passing the Manyani Prison Camp en route, and in the process this tiny calf fell down a disused pit latrine. The herd milled around helplessly, confused and traumatized, which attracted Rangers from the nearby Manyani Entrance Gate to the Park. As the Rangers approached, the herd moved a short distance away, following which the calf was able to be pulled out of the pit, but she emerged covered in stinking human faeces. An attempt to reunite her with her mother failed, due to the human scent on the baby which was so over-powering that the mother did not recognize her baby as even an elephant, and flung the calf aside before running away in terror.
It took Emily 4 months to recover both physically and psychologically from this terrible ordeal, which involved rejection from her own family - a devastating blow for a tiny elephant who has always been surrounded by tender care, cosetting and love. During this time she suffered many physical problems as well as deep grieving. These included stomach upsets and eventually a sluggish peristalsis of the gut that caused a blockage and severe stomach cramps. The condition was so serious that it necessitated sedation, in order that gallons of liquid paraffin could be administered through a tube inserted down the throat and directly into the stomach cavity. We feared that we might lose her during this process, but she managed to pull through, and in time made a full recovery.
During her two years in the Nairobi Nursery, she was always very caring of the smaller and younger babies, especially attached to “Imenti”, who came in the day he was born. The elephant who grew up to be Emily’s very proficient “Nannie”, namely “Aitong”, was another Nursery favourite, who had suffered a blow to the head that left her able only to walk in circles for weeks. By holding onto the tail of either Emily or Imenti, she eventually managed to walk in a straight line, and also made a full recovery.
Once through the critical Nursery stage, she joined the other older orphans in Tsavo East National Park, who were in the process of re-integration back into the wild system. At that time, the famous elephant “Eleanor” was the Matriarch of the group, which besides being comprised of the ex Nursery young bulls, (Olmeg, Taru, Dika, Ndume, Edo and Ajok) took charge of three other calves orphaned old enough to be given directly into her care, namely Lissa, Chuma and Mpenzi.
Eleanor left us to become a wild member of the wild Tsavo elephant community when she became pregnant for the first time in her early forties. The three orphans who were more dependent upon her, than the human family of Keepers, namely Lissa, Chuma and Mpenzi, went with her, and were handed into the care of her wild best friend, the Matriarch since named “Catherine”. With the departure of Eleanor, Emily became the oldest female in the still dependent group of ex-Nursery orphans, and in the fullness of time, the bulls who were older than her peeled off to consort with wild male friends, as young bulls do in adolescence, so Emily became the acknowledged Leader, or Matriarch, of the Voi Unit, with Aitong as her 2 I/c and Nannie, a position both cows retain today, as and when they meets up with the still dependent others, for Emily and Aitong have now graduated from the Night Stockades, and are out and about by night as well as by day, now that they are of an age when they will not be targeted by the lions. However, they still keep in very close touch with the other orphans, either waiting at the Stockade Gates at first light to accompany the group out into the bush during the day, and escorting them back at night, or meeting up with them wherever they happen to be during the day if they happen to miss the morning exit. There are occasions when Emily, Aitong, and Aitong’s little shadow, “Sweet Sally” (who refused to be separated from Airong) may choose to spend a few days elsewhere with wild friends and therefore spend several days away, but invariably, so far, they have never failed to make contact again, greeted with tremendous rejoicing and affection from their extended orphaned “family”. We believe that this affiliation will last for life, since elephants never forget, and the ties that bond friends and family are very strong. In their absence, “Natumi” assumes leadership of the still dependent orphans, an arrangement that is accepted by all.
In October 2005, Emily will be 12 years of age, and “Aitong” 11. We suspect that both may now be pregnant, so two happy events are eagerly anticipated in two years time! Unlike Eleanor, who left because she feared humans would take her calf from her after it had been born, Emily and Aitong will harbour no such fears, having been through the Nairobi Nursery themselves, and seen that the human “family” that saved their lives, and the lives of many others that came in broken-hearted and often sick and wounded, are beloved good Samaritans rather than feared abductors of the young!