Aitong is an elephant from the Masai Mara population of elephants, orphaned early in November 1994 when she was approximately just 2 weeks old. She takes her name from the area where she was found staggering around in circles having obviously suffered a head injury, probably during a stampede when her family fled from poachers. When first seen, she was still surrounded by her confused elephant family who for the next three days desperately tried to get the brain damaged infant, who could only walk in circles, to follow. In the end, they had to give up and leave her, by which time she was in a near dead state of total collapse. Fortunately, it was a Veterinarian who rescued her and who was able to administer rehydrants through a tube inserted down her throat directly into her stomach, which undoubtedly saved her life.
She was flown back to the Nairobi Nursery, and for many weeks precariously hovered between life and death, still only able to walk in tight circles. We feared that she would never recover, and, would end up having to be euthenased. Indeed, there was one night when she almost died, but again was saved by the insertion of a pipe directly to the stomach by the same Vet who rescued her. Weeks turned into months, and slowly and painfully Aitong began to recover, initially learning to walk straight by holding onto Imenti’s tail, so that she could follow the other Nursery elephants. Their patience, care of her, and sympathetic understanding undoubtedly contributed towards her final recovery.
Today, she is a normal and very caring “Nannie” who assists “Emily” who is the Senior Matriarch of the Voi orphaned unit. As Emily’s Nannie, Aitong is extremely caring of each and every member of the group, usually the first to rush to the rescue of any who need help and the one who keeps the peace by separating sparring young bulls. She is very out-going and comfortable socializing with the wild herds, with a particular attraction for handsome bulls! One of her longstanding “boyfriends” is Edo, an orphan from Amboseli, who has been seen to cohabit with her on many occasions and when he did the same to Emily, elicited Aitong’s jealousy! Her greatest love, however, is a young female originally from Sweetwaters Ranch, named “Sweet Sally”, who can be likened to her shadow, and firmly refused to be separated when both Aitong and Emily were of an age when they no longer needed to be enclosed in the Night Stockades during the hours of darkness; large enough to take care of themselves and not end up a meal or a lion. The three now totally “wild” orphans form what is referred to as “Emily’s group” in the monthly Keepers’ Diaries. However, they remain in close touch with the younger still dependent orphans, who, in their absence are under the Leadership of Natumi. Often Emily, Aitong and Sally are waiting at the Stockade Gates first thing in the morning to accompany the others out into the bush, and also escorting them back to the Stockades in the evenings before leaving for a night out. Whenever they meet up with the youngsters, Emily is still viewed as Leader and Aitong next in seniority. There are, occasions when Emily and Aitong choose to spend time away with their wild friends further afield, and are therefore absent for several days at a time, but they return to make contact with the other orphans wherever they happen to be at the time, either out in the bush, or at the noon mudbath, and whenever they are reunited, there is tremendous excitement and outpouring of love in a full-blown elephant welcome. We believe that all the Trust’s orphans will retain these family bonds for life, having grown up as a family, even though each and every one comes from a different part of Kenya, and even further afield.
Aitong has turned into a wonderfully caring elephant who can always be relied upon to come to the help of others in trouble, the adored mother figure to Sweet Sally, who will undoubtedly be her “Nannie” when she eventually has a baby of her own. We believe that both she and Emily are now pregnant, so this event is eagerly anticipated in two years time. It is hard to remember her as the brain damaged waif that we almost lost on many occasions ll long years ago, for in November 2005, Aitong will be ll years old, the equivalent of an ll year old human child, yet so much more responsible! She epitomizes the boundless love of the elephant female.
Like Emily, Aitong also epitomizes the caring nature of elephants, fiercely protective of all the youngsters.