The following is information on the Elephant Orphan named: LISSA  (foster now)

Name Gender Date Born Location Found Age on Arrival Comments Reason for being Orphaned
 LISSA  Female  October 1986 Tsavo National Park  2 years old  Found abandoned near Mackinnon Road  Poaching 

Latest Updates on LISSA:

View to Location map for LISSA (opens a new window)

Most Recent Keeper's Diary Entry: (view all the latest entries for LISSA)

5/22/2018 - It was Mbegu, Ndotto, and Lasayen’s second day at the Voi reintegration station and following a peaceful night they were ready to begin the day. Mbegu, Ndotto, Lasayen and Tahri were the first to take their milk bottle as they slept in the same stockade. The three arrivals chose to stay close to the keepers while occasionally interacting with the resident Voi orphan elephants.

After browsing for more than four hours, the small family unit that was joined by Panda and Kihari on the 20th, came to join the orphan elephants on Msinga Hill. On closer inspection the keepers noticed that it was ex-orphan Lissa herd that was browsing with the orphan elephants. Ndotto got a little scared on seeing elephants that were much bigger than him and nearly ran away but the keeps were able to keep him calm.

Lissa was with her last born who was about seven months old, and her second last born calf.
The other members of her herd, first born Lari, second born Lali and last born Luggard were absent from the group. Mudanda had a lovely time interacting with Lissa’s small calf and the two enjoyed playing and entwining their trunks while Lissa’s teenage boy engaged Ndii and Bada in strength testing games.

The dependent orphan elephants left Lissa’s herd behind as they made their way to the big water hole in the afternoon where they enjoyed a milk bottle followed by a mud bath. Mbegu was seen interacting with Ndii and the two browsed in one another’s company for most of the afternoon while Lasayen stayed close to the keepers.

The Two Latest Photos of LISSA: (view gallery of pictures for LISSA)

 Lissa last born baby left lft Suswa  Lissa Lissa
Lissa last born baby left lft Suswa Lissa
photo taken on 5/22/2018
photo taken on 5/22/2018


Lissa was born in Tsavo in 1986, and was found abandoned and alone near Mackinnon Road when she under 2 years old, obviously a victim of the poaching that was rampant during the latter half of the seventies, eighties and early nineties; known as the years of the “elephant holocaust”. Armed Somali poachers invaded Tsavo following the death of David Sheldrick, and poached elephant carcass were found on a daily basis throughout the Park. One of these, near Mackinnon Road, was obviously the mother of this calf.

She was spotted by Lissa Ruben, who orchestrated her rescue – hence this elephant’s name, “Lissa”. At the time she was pathetically emaciated, and had a back leg that had obviously been broken in infancy, and had healed mis-shapen, all too obvious in view of the gaunt appearance of this calf, who had practically no flesh on her bones. Because of the age of the calf, she was handed over directly into the custody of the then elephant Matriarch, “Eleanor”, who nurtured and took into her care all the orphans that were brought in aged two and older during those tragic years.

Lissa immediately bonded with Eleanor, and was with her until Eleanor became pregnant in the early nineties, handed over her adopted family to a wild friend, the cow given the name “Catherine”, and left to have her baby far from the possibility of human intervention, obviously fearful that her human family might take it from her. (Female elephants who do not have an intact blood family of their own, are very prone to trying to abduct young calves in order to build one, and Eleanor herself had been guilty of this with the first-born of another elephant named “Mary”, who was within her unit. Since Eleanor was not raised through the Nairobi Nursery, unlike others that were, she did not understand how Daphne came to have so many elephant babies, and thinking in elephant terms, feared that they, too, must have been abducted!)

Lissa one year old on the right with Chuma on the left of Eleanor  Lissa 6 months old on the right of Eleanor

Eleanor with Mary and Lissa and Chuma infront  Eleanor behind with Mary and Lissa and Chuma in front

Following the departure of Eleanor, and also Mary and her calf, who left the group once she recovered her calf, the Matriarchal duties of the orphaned family were taken over by a young cow called “Malaika”, who had been reared from early infancy in the Nairobi Nursery and later died in childbirth aged l0, surrounded by her human family – the Keepers. Thereafter “Emily” took control of the still dependent orphans, but Lissa continued to keep in touch with them, and their Keepers, returning periodically to either share a mudbath, or spend time amongst them out in the bush. She is therefore a permanent part of the orphans’ extended family, sharing her time between the wild herd of Catherine, and our orphan unit.

Lissa and Mpenzi

Lissa gave birth to her first calf in mid January 1999, when she was 14 years old. She returned with her newborn calf, and an ex orphan named “Mpenzi”, who was the “Nannie” and proudly showed the new baby to the keepers and the other orphans, before leaving again. We gave the calf the name “Lara”.

The next time Lissa returned, the calf was trailing a wire snare from one back leg. Fortunately, the noose was not tight, but it needed to be removed. Being wild-born, the Keepers could not catch up with the calf, but Lissa obviously understood what needed to be done, for she walked calmly into the Stockades, and continued quietly feeding, paying no attention to the terrified bellows of her baby as the Keepers pursued it around the Stockades in an attempt to capture it. Eventually, the other orphans were brought in. Immediately, they surrounded the calf, who was pinioned in their midst, which enabled the Keepers to crawl beneath the surrounding elephant bodies and remove the snare from Lara’s leg. Lissa, was then reunited with her baby, and all was well once more, as they walked calmly off together back from whence they had come.

Mary and Lissa chase away the buffalo with Eleanor in the foreground445  Mary and Lissa checking out the buffalo

On the 22nd November 2002, Lissa returned to the base of Mzinga Hill in the vicinity of the Stockades, along with a large herd of about 50 wild elephants, all in a great state of excitement. Sensing that something unusual was about to happen, some of the Keepers climbed onto a huge rock, and from this vantage point, they could see Lissa in the midst of the wild group, obviously in labour, lying down and getting up at intervals. After a while, the baby was born as she was in a squatting position, and amazingly, a huge bull barged through the attendant cows, and immediately mated poor Lissa. (Apparently, the hormones released when a birth is imminent, and during the birthing process, closely resemble those of a cow in estrous. In a natural elephant family, the cow about to give birth would leave with a few close adult female relatives to seek a secluded spot, protected by her adult female family).

After Lissa’s second baby was born, the excitement within the herd was intense, with trumpeting, rumbling, and elephants milling around the mother and her baby, trying to encourage the baby to its feet. When things quietened down again, and the baby was moving on wobbly legs, Lissa and Mpenzi took the new calf under some shade, and the other elephants began to disperse. The Keepers were able to see that her second baby was also a female and we have named her “Lali”.

Lissa's second wild born calf  Lissa visits the orphans stockade with he two wild born calves

Lissa, Lara and Lali remain regular visitors to the still dependent orphans. Hence, the tragic little orphan from Mackinnon road, with the mis-shapen hind leg, is now a healthy, healed and very successful elephant mother - one of the Trust’s proudest success stories.
Lissa now has six calves over the years, and their stories can be read in the updates section of Lissa's profile.

Lissa with her two wild born calves


Please see the resources above for more information on LISSA

| View the Orphan History List Foster LISSA | Print this Profile |

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