The 12th December is a national celebration in Kenya - the day that Kenya attained independence from Britain and the black, green and red flag of the country replaced the Union Jack. This year was the 54th such year of Independence for Kenya, marked by the usual celebratory parades and speeches. For me personally it was another important and emotional celebration for I would be flying with the family to our elephant rehabilitation centre at Ithumba in Northern Tsavo East National Park, the first such visit for me for almost a year having been laid low with Empyema pneumonia in March followed by back surgery in South Africa in July. I am much more mobile now and have been healing well.
I knew there had been bountiful rain at Ithumba transforming the usual dry deciduous scrubland into in a verdant green jungle adorned with wild flowers, beautiful butterflies and rain filled waterholes for the natural world’s animal inhabitants to enjoy. For the elephants this time of the year is always a festive season of plenty when socialization and a celebration of life replaces the strenuous task of mere survival – a time when friends and family gather together to enjoy a brief season of plenty.
I really did not expect to be able to meet our now wild ex-orphans again whom I thought would be preoccupied with their wild friends at this time of the year, but I eagerly looked forward to greeting the keeper dependent orphans based at the Ithumba stockades in the evenings.
Having disembarked from the chartered plane imagine my surprise and delight to find the now wild ex-orphans gathered on the road to the camp to greet us. Since I have worked with elephants for over 50 years of my life I know they are capable of telepathy. There was Wendi whom we had raised from newborn still enveloped in her foetal blanket, Nasalot, Yatta, Mulika and their wild born offspring Yetu and Mwende, big bulls; Buchuma, Kamboyo, Madiba, Napasha, Kora and Rapsu, Challa, Chyulu and Kenze, pregnant Kinna, Galana who was in the company of a handsome big bull, Makena, Meibei, Naserian and Loijok ,Lenana. Ololoo, Lualeni, Orok, Ithumbah, Sidai, Sunyei, Taita, Tomboi and Zurura.
It was an extraordinary sight that humbled me and touched my heart in an almost spiritual way. It was the best welcome I could have imagined.