Published on the 6th of July, 2016
Orphan Embu was rescued from the slopes of Mount Kenya on the 2nd August 2014 in an emaciated state, and was subsequently nursed back to life in our Nairobi nursery over the following two years. Along with her special friends she was later translocated to our Voi Rehabilitation unit, one of the three such facilities that the DSWT operates. At Voi she thrives in the company of her nursery play-mates Arruba and Suswa, mixing frequently with the now Ex Orphans living wild, and wild herds as well; but at 3 years old she is still milk dependent, relying on guidance from her human family of Keepers and the protection of the stockades at night.
During the late afternoon of the 24th of June, Embu was having a jovial time with her dependent friends who had encountered a wild elephant herd that afternoon, when she became entangled up with them and a particular older female she had taken a familial shine to. The Keepers called the dependent orphans to move on with them, who normally readily return to begin the journey back to their Stockades, but on this occasion Embu was encouraged to leave with the wild herd who prodded her to come with them, and who would not allow the Keepers to approach close enough to retrieve her, still besotted with the older female; the herd were determined to keep Embu within their midst. As the herd moved off with Embu, the Keepers followed from a safe distance, hoping that Embu would eventually lag behind so that they would be able to reclaim her. However, they were unsuccessful and Embu remained out overnight in the custody of this wild herd.
The next morning Neville Sheldrick flew in to assist our ground team in the search for Embu but despite spotting numerous wild elephant herds in the area, and after many hours of flying, Embu nor the wild herd she went with could be located. Keepers were then positioned at waterholes in a monitoring role in case she and her newly adopted herd turned up to drink, but by evening Embu had still not been found. The ground patrols were out again at dawn on the 27th, when they spotted a lonely figure on the Irima plains and, sure enough, it turned out to be Embu. Embu appeared confused and vulnerable and, worse still, we were appalled to discover she had been mauled overnight by a lion! Why the wild herd had abandoned, rather than protect her, we do not know, but perhaps she had already been on her way back home when the lion attacked.
Thankfully, the wounds on her back and hind legs were not life threatening and she was not seriously harmed. She was overjoyed when she saw her keepers and was fed some milk whilst out on the Irima plains. Thereafter she clung to her Keepers like glue, walking back alongside them and another vehicle to the Voi stockades, a journey, as the crow flies, of about 25 kms. The Vet attached to our Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit, Dr. Poghon was on hand to treat her wounds, and she spent the rest of the day feeding in the comfort of her stockade.
Embu is a very lucky elephant to have survived such an ordeal, as the Tsavo lions are very capable of killing young elephants, and, indeed, often do so. Thankfully, we are relieved that this story has a happy ending for Embu, who is a very loving and caring elephant who has been a mentor for many others younger than herself, particularly attentive to traumatized baby Dupotto in the Nairobi Nursery, whom Embu helped to heal from her traumatic past.