Christmas 2014 was an auspicious occasion for us
Christmas 2014 was an auspicious occasion for us. Not only had bountiful end of year rains transformed Tsavo, a normally arid environment into a lush green jungle adorned with wild flowers and pulsating with life, but waterholes were filled with rain water and so for elephants and others food and water was readily available for all. So it was the festive season for the elephants, the natural world generally, and for the humans who were there as the custodians of the many orphaned elephants, many of whom were now living wild. On the 23rd of December Angela and the family together with Daphne had turned up to enjoy the Ithumba dependent orphans noon mud bath, now transformed into a mini lake, where the elephants could romp and play submerging themselves during the heat of the day to cool their over heated bodies.
The icing on the Xmas cake for us was an event that took place a 100 miles away at the same time at the Trust’s Voi rehabilitation unit. Ex orphan Emily, who had been absent for much of the latter part of 2014 living a normal wild elephant life walked back to the stockades at 10.30 am on the 23rd of December to give birth to her 2nd wild born calf in the company of her erstwhile human family of Keepers who had been instrumental in her own upbringing during her formative years. This was witnessed and captured on film by the Keepers and the event was filled with trumpets and rumbles of joy from Emily’s satellite herd of ex orphans who had accompanied her back, all of whom were eager to gently help get the new precious bundle to its feet, nudging it gently, and using their trunks to lift the baby. It was another daughter for Emily named Emma, a little sister for Emily’s first born Eve, who was born on the 11th of December 2008.
Emily was orphaned in early infancy when she fell down a disused pit latrine near the Manyani Prison Camp which abuts Tsavo East National Park in 1993. She completed her milk dependent years at the Trust’s Nairobi Park Elephant Nursery before being transferred to the Trust’s Tsavo East Voi rehabilitation facility to embark on her journey back to her birthright – a normal wild life amongst the wild elephant community of the area. In the fullness of time she morphed into an extremely able matriarch, leading and guiding the younger orphans who were part of her orphaned herd and who originated from almost every elephant population throughout Kenya with even a Ugandan elephant Mweya in the mix.
Emily is a gentle and loving elephant who transcends both worlds. She is extremely well known globally thanks to BBC’s highly acclaimed Elephant Diaries series, and the two 60 Minutes shows highlighting the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s work with special emphasis on Emily’s story. She has once again rewritten her story by amazing us further in choosing to share such an intimate moment, seldom witnessed by anyone, with those who she trusts and loves, her human Keepers. Emily knew that in their company she and her calf would remain safe from predators and because elephants never forget she will always love and trust the Keepers who have played such an important role in saving her life. Never could there be more tangible proof than her willingness to share her precious wild born babies with them, even allowing them to witness the birth of little ‘Emma’.
Emma is doing well and Emily’s herd of ex orphans have remained in the orbit of the Voi stockades choosing to visit the Keepers and the dependent Voi Orphans every day since the 23rd of December with their most treasured brand new little package. Of course Emma’s presence has sent all the Voi orphans into a euphoric state as they love nothing more than tiny babies, and now they have another they can call their very own.
Emily, who was so cruelly robbed of her elephant family when just a baby herself now has two female calves of her very own and a blood bond that will last a life time together. Sharing her family joy makes the hard work, and the much heartbreak we experience at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust worthwhile, and we thank those around the world who make our work possible. We are thrilled to share this story with you all.