We, who struggle so long and hard in order to rear orphaned newborn elephant babies, and in the process shed gallons of tears and stress over every disappointment and failure observe with wonder and heartfelt joy the progress of Emily’s first newborn baby, “Eve” under natural conditions. Emily was reared in the Nursery from the age of just 1 month, having been extracted from a pit latrine near the Manyani Prison Camp abutting the Manyani Entrance to Tsavo East. Her infancy in the Nursery was not without its fair share of stress and tears, for she suffered persistent stomach upsets and on one occasion had to have a pipe inserted down her throat by the Vet so that gallons of liquid paraffin could move what appeared to be a constipation blockage in her gut. What a joy it has been for us to watch the progress of this new mother on a daily basis from the early fragile years of infancy, throughout her growing up at the Voi Stockades becoming the Matriarch who replaced Malaika ultimately finally taking her place along with 36 others amongst the wild elephant community of Tsavo East National Park, where the Orphans’ Project first started way back in 1950. We recall the tragedy and heartbreak of Malaika, the first Nursery reared orphan to give birth, who died after l0 days of grueling labour, unable to give life to a still born calf. That tragedy, makes the birth of baby Eve to orphan Emily just that much more special.
Little Eve was born either during the night of the l0th December, or the early hours of the morning of the 11th, Emily having been spotted by the Keepers standing under a tree not far from the Voi Elephant Stockades during the afternoon of the l0th, attended by some of the female members of her unit, as well as two wild adult midwives, who firmly rejected any closer involvement of the human Keepers. The next morning the Keepers set out early again to try and find Emily, suspecting that her time to give birth had come, and sure enough, wobbling around on unsteady legs was the newborn calf, fussed over and being guided along by the host of eager little “Nannies” , as well as the two wild anti-human elephant Midwives who were still very much in attendance. Once again, the Keepers were firmly dispatched, even though Emily and the orphans would have enjoyed their company and probably wanted to proudly show off the latest addition to their family unit.
For the next two days the Midwives remained with Emily and her baby but as soon as they had departed, Emily and the orphans brought baby “Eve” back to the Voi Stockades to show her to their human family – the Keepers. Emily appeared totally relaxed in their company, but the Keepers felt it wise not to actually handle the calf, for a host of orphaned “Nannies” monitored her every move, surrounding the baby and protectively shielding her. During the process the baby stumbled and fell into the Stockade water trough, which fortunately had already been drunk dry of water. Immediately, Emily and all the elephant Nannies were down on their knees, desperately trying to extract the calf, but it then became evident that they could do with a little human help. Two Keepers jumped in, and lifted the baby out, much to the relief of all who clustered around. Emily was elated and didn’t mind the human scent on her calf at all, expressing her appreciation with loving low rumbles and the touch of a trunk, while baby Eve confronted her rescuers with outstretched ears and attempted a miniature charge! Thereafter, the Keepers were treated to a four hour walk with the orphans, accepted as part of their family as of yore, the new baby running in and out and around both the human and elephant legs, every movement still carefully monitored by her many Nannies while Emily appeared totally relaxed and un-concerned, confident that her baby was in good hands, or shall we say, trunks! What a special privilege to be accepted so trustingly by what are now ostensibly wild elephants, and to have been able to share in the joy of Emily’s newborn and bear witness to the love and attention little Eve enjoyed and the happiness she had brought to so many members of her adopted orphaned family.
During the months of January and February Emily’s group and baby Eve remained near Mazinga Hill, their main haunt whilst still Keeper dependent, often coming to drink at the elephant stockades. However, un-seasonal rain during mid February filled depressions out in the bush with rainwater, and brought on a fresh flush of greenery, so their stockade visits became less frequent. Nevertheless, the Keepers were still able to keep in touch with them regularly, on one occasion witness to an interesting interlude with a wild teenaged cow who happened to be amongst orphan Lissa’s family and who began to take too much interest in baby Eve for Emily’s liking, laying a trunk lovingly across the baby’s back in a gesture of love, trying to steer the baby away. All female elephants are exceedingly maternal, and none more so than those that have lost their natural family, who are desperate to try and rebuild another, and therefore very prone to trying to hijack the young of others. Emily was having none of that, and reacted ferociously, driving the young cow away before returning to take possession of her calf. This resulted in a stand-off between her and Lissa’s family, who had befriended the wild teenager and welcomed her into their particular family. Thereafter each of Eve’s older Nannies challenged the wild teenager to a test of dominance and strength, and when it was obvious that they had taken on more than they had bargained for, Big Boy Laikipia moved in, enacting his chosen role of “Protector”and Guardian of the group, having been on the periphery of the action when Eve first came into the world. He had no difficulty in vanquishing the young cow, and as she tried to escape, according to the Keepers, Laikipia enjoyed a “Victory Mount”!
During February, whenever and wherever Emily and her unit were seen, whether on their own, or drinking at the Voi Safari Lodge waterhole in amongst hordes of wild elephants, baby Eve was being indulged by her many loving little Nannies, while Emily remained calm and relaxed, confident to entrust the custody of her precious bundle into the care of their very conscientious little Nannies. Eve spends her days playing and being cosseted and adored, escorted back to her mother to suckle, on demand. She just has to look around for Emily, and two Nannies, usually either Edie, Loisaba or Icholta are instantly at her side to escort her back to the milk bar! We, in Nairobi, struggling to rear 13 elephant orphans, amidst a great deal of recent emotional trauma, envy such an example of how it ought to be in a perfect world! Nevertheless, we do have the satisfaction of knowing that without the stress and tears of the Nursery years, the joy that we are now privileged to share could never have been, for neither baby Eve’s mother, Emily, nor any of her Nannies or Big Boy bull Protectors, would be alive today without a great deal of human emotional input, not forgetting, of course, all the foster-parents who have empowered us to bring it about.