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 Shira returns to Voi - 5/21/2012
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On the 13th May 2012 the Voi Unit Keeper Dependent Orphans, led by Lesanju, were at a waterhole enjoying a drink and a mudbath when a wild herd happened to pass by. Out of the herd rushed a young female elephant who instantly joined the Orphans, greeted as usual with enormous enthusiasm trumpeting, rumbling, and urinating. She was the size of Kenia estimated to be 5 years old. The Keepers were dumbfounded by this unexpected addition to the unit. Could this elephant possibly be Ex Orphan Shira, who had joined a wild herd that happened to turn up at the Orphans noon mudbath on the 25th March way back in 2010? Despite having mounted an immediate search undertaken both on foot and by car, Shira had not been seen since, even though the Keepers continued to look for her throughout the ensuing months.

Two years had past since Shira joined that wild herd as a three year old, so the Keepers were unsure as to whether this elephant was, in fact, Shira, or perhaps just a wild friend whom our orphans had befriended whilst fraternizing with the wild elephant community of the area. They knew that Shira could be positively identified by the tell-tale scar on her back, the legacy of having fallen down a Meerschaum well at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro in March 2009 when she was just one year old. She had spent a night down that well, and had been rescued by Masai tribesmen the following morning, after which she was airlifted to the Nairobi Nursery. During her time in the Nairobi Nursery the bruised skin on her back turned necrotic and had to be laboriously pared off as replacement skin gradually grew beneath to cover exposed raw flesh. All this took the next 9 months as a Nursery inmate. But, once her back had healed, she was ready to be transferred to the Voi Rehabilitation Station, along with Kenia, which took place on the 4th November 2009. Right now, however, the elephant in question was plastered in red mud, so the Keepers wee unable to see any scar, and remained wary of actually approaching too close just in case this was not, in fact, Ex Orphan Shira who would be now 5 years old, and sporting short sharp tusks.

Shira at the Nursery in 2009  Shira and Taveta at the Nursery in 2009

Shira in 2009  Shira at the Nairobi Nursery in 2009

However, the behaviour of the newcomer amongst the other orphans suggested that it was, in fact, Shira for the elephant was perfectly at home amongst the others, paying special attention to Kenia, who had been Shiras Nursery companion and traveling partner on the journey to Voi on the 4th November 2009. Since Elephants Never Forget she would remember Lesanju, Lempaute, Wasessa, Sinya, Taveta and Tassia, all of whom shared time with her at Voi, but not later additions such as Ndii and newcomers Emsaya, Kivuto, Dabassa, Layoni and Rombo. It surprised the Keepers that the wild herd did not object to one of their number leaving them in order to rejoin the Orphans, nor did they try and entice her back. The Keepers viewed this as another indication that the elephant was, in fact, Shira. And they were later able to confirm this when the rell-tale scar on her back became visible once the mud had worn off.

Shia playing at Voi Unit  Shira following the ex-orphans

Shira at Voi November 2009  Shira joining a wild group

Meanwhile, having browsed during the afternoon in amongst the Voi Keeper Dependent group, she walked back with them and their Keepers to the Voi Stockades in the late evening, and immediately went back into her old Stockade just as though she had never left, tucking into the cut Grewia browse that is elephant food.. And so, after two years as living as a wild elephant, Orphan Shira from the Amboseli population of wild elephants, who was orphaned when she became trapped down the same Meerschaum well at a place called Sinya at the foot of towering Mt. Kilmanjaro the self same well that had orphaned Sinya, Kibo and Mawenzi - has chosen to return to the fold. We are delighted that she is whole and well. Her presence has returned the number of Keeper Dependent Orphans based at the Voi Rehabilitation Centre to l7 now that Siria has opted for a wild life after a period of indecision when he was an elephant of both worlds for a short time. And happily that Meerschaum well which over the years has obviously taken a toll of baby elephants, has since had a low stone wall constructed around it, to prevent baby elephants from falling in.    

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