Early on the 15th April Ziwa and Balguda made the journey to a new home in the Kibwezi Forest, which forms part of the Chyulu Hills National Park ecosystem. What was unexpected is how accommodating Ziwa was about entering the elephant moving truck for a second time, as he had made a journey in it almost a year ago when he was moved to our Ithumba Reintegration Unit in Northern Tsavo East.
His time there was short lived when soon after arrival he went downhill growing weaker to the point where Angela made the decision to fly Ziwa back to Nairobi so that he could have the intensive care needed to save his life. While we never did discover what his problem was, with nothing conclusive revealed in the barrage of tests done, he was treated assuming he had blood parasites. To everyone’s relief Ziwa returned to life, and slowly grew stronger to the point where he could once again make this journey.
Umani is our most recently constructed rehabilitation Unit, completed a year ago, and purpose built considering elephants that needed a gentler environment. Murera with her broken hip and Sonje with her compromised knee due to a bullet wound were the first two orphans to christen this new unit. They were accompanied by their friends Zongoloni, Quanza and Lima Lima. In January this year our two little albino elephants Faraja and Jasiri joined the fold along with good friend Ngasha, mindful that for their tender skins a forested environment would be preferable. And for Ziwa and good friend Balguda, who have both had ongoing health challenges, we felt sure Umani Springs in the Kibwezi Forest would be the most suitable place for them, with plentiful food and water easily available all year round, along with the ability to interact with the resident wild elephant herds in the area.
The Kibwezi Forest is part of the Trust’s Saving Habitat Project, with the Trust having secured a public private partnership with the Kenya Forest Service with a 35 year concession agreement to preserve, protect and manage this unique and very important ground water forest. Recently the Trust electrically fenced the three boundaries bordering the communities, with the fourth boundary remaining open onto the expansive and very beautiful Chyulu Hills National Park.
This ecosystem stretches to Amboseli National Park beyond and Tsavo West National Park to the east, with the ability for wild elephant herds to move throughout this region. As a result Kibwezi Forest is a favourite haunt due to being secure and safe with plentiful water and abundant food.
On the morning of the 15th Ziwa and Balguda were loaded at 4.00am in the morning so that the convoy could be out of the Nairobi environs long before the Nairobi traffic could slow things up. The journey to Umani Springs is straight forward, tarmac all the way, with just the last 15 kms on a dirt track through the forest. Both the babies were loaded without a glitch, Ziwa eager to return to Ithumba it seemed as he obviously remembered it well. Balguda who is extremely attached to Keeper Wilson followed trustingly and in just minutes they were both safely secured inside the truck along with their Keepers, browse for the journey and their milk bottles.
With just one stop enroute to cut their favourite fresh greens the convoy turned into the Kibwezi Forest off the main road at 8.00am and arrived at the Umani Springs stockade by 8.20 am. The truck doors were opened and both Ziwa and Balguda exited slowly, confused by their new surroundings. Balguda at this stage was particularly clingy to Wilson who had made the journey with him, and Ziwa was visibly agitated, clearly he had thought he was returning to Ithumba, but instead found himself somewhere completely different! Soon they were enveloped by their old Nursery friends Faraja, Jasiri and Ngasha who had travelled to Umani in January this year, and then older girls Lima Lima, Zongoloni, Quanza, Murera and Sonje gently welcomed the new comers.
It was not long before they were heading off into the forest accompanied by the Umani orphans and their Keepers and enjoying the delicious selection of food which was abundant thanks to the recent rains. They explored the area and later in the day headed for a midday milk feed, mud bath and dust bath. Within a short time it was hard to notice who the new ones were, it was only their red colour from the red mudbath in Nairobi that gave them away.
The first evening Ziwa and Balguda were led home ahead of the rest who have grown so greedy that they literally stampede to their stockades in the evening eager for their milk bottles. They are sharing a stockade so that they have each other for comfort as they get used to their new home. Heavy rain fell the first night which frightened them a little, but Wilson was on hand throughout the night to impart love and comfort while they settled, but by the following night they were completely used to the routine and seemed relaxed and comfortable. As the days have passed both have settled incredibly well, and seem very content and happy in their new home amongst their old friends, and are fast becoming as greedy as the rest! Balguda has latched onto Keeper Eugine, as he remains very attached to his Keepers still, but they are both ushered and closely escorted by Zongoloni and Lima Lima at all times so are well taken care of in a beautiful new home.