One thing about elephants: They always keep things interesting! We have been expecting several wild-born babies this year, but Ithumba’s newest addition was never even on our radar.
On the morning of 29th November 2023, ex-orphan Chyulu and her three-year-old son, Cheka, appeared at the stockades. This, in and of itself, wasn’t surprising — mum and baby have been a mainstay around Ithumba these past months. However, the Keepers were delightedly shocked to see a tiny newborn tottering by her side.
Usually, it’s quite easy to tell when an elephant is pregnant, particularly towards the end of their 22-month gestation period. But Chyulu surprised us all. For the better part of two years, she was nurturing new life — and we were none the wiser!
Now, Chyulu is a mother of two strapping little bulls. In keeping with the ‘Ch’ family, we have named her latest addition Charli. Much like Cheka was as a newborn, he is active, curious, and perfectly plump — three ideal qualities for any baby elephant. We estimate that Charli was just shy of a week old when Chyulu introduced him to us.
We rescued Chyulu in 2006. During a morning patrol of the Kibwezi Forest, our SWT/KWS Chyulu Anti-Poaching Team came across an infant elephant stuck inside a drying waterhole. At the time, this particular waterhole was a hot-spot for poaching, as it was frequented by elephants in the dry season. A female elephant had been poached nearby several days prior, who is presumed to have been Chyulu’s mother.
When she arrived at the Nursery, Chyulu’s Keepers noted that she was very ‘spirited and astute.’ As the years passed, she revealed herself to be an excellent nanny — first, to the fellow orphans she grew up alongside, then, to her friends’ babies. She didn’t skip a beat after giving birth to Cheka in 2020, and we know that she will only continue to excel as a mother as her family grows.
As baby Charli reminds us, with elephants, one must always expect the unexpected. Who knows what other surprises might be in store for us this holiday season!