For us the 11th December 2008 was a very special day, for it was on that day that we learnt that Emily, the erstwhile Matriarch of the Voi Unit, had given birth to a baby on a rocky kopje not far from the Stockades. Emily (now 15 years old) had not been seen for three months, simply living amongst her wild peers in Tsavo East National Park. We suspected, however, that her first baby was imminent, the Keepers having witnessed her being mated by a wild bull 2 years ago. During their daily routine patrols they had been on the look-out for her and during the evening of the l0th December, they were rewarded. Standing under a tree on a rocky kopje not far from the Stockades, attended by two adult wild cows and surrounded by members of her orphaned family, was Emily. The Keepers were delighted to see her again after such a long separation, and know that she was safe and well, but any closer inspection was firmly rejected by the two wild cows, who sent the human family on its way with a spirited and determined charge.
Early the next morning the Keepers returned to find Emily still under the same tree, the two wild “midwives” still in attendance and shuffling around beneath on unsteady legs, a tiny newborn baby. After a while, Emily crossed the road with her baby, escorted by an excited and very attentive entourage, all of whom were desperate to protect, fondle, and escort the new addition, but still the two wild midwives resisted the close approach of the Keepers and again sent them on their way.
During the next four days, the adult midwives left, and on the 5th day Emily brought her baby to the Stockades to show it to her human family. It was still lovingly attended by all the other female orphans who were with her, while some of the orphaned bulls were keeping their distance, simply tagging along, probably quite confused about the little object causing so much excitement. Emily herself could not have been more relaxed, seemingly confident and happy to entrust the close supervision of her newborn to the host of eager “Nannies”, all of whom were attentive to its every move. The baby ran in and out of a forest of legs, and under large elephant torsos, and gave a spirited miniature charge at the Keepers, its little pink ears standing out at right angles to its tiny head! Edie, in particular, was acting as the main Nannie and was in a high state of anxiety over the welfare of the baby, far more so than its own very relaxed mother!
The Keepers, the orphans’ human family were understandably delighted to welcome this little miracle, the first baby born to an orphaned elephant hand-reared from early infancy in the Nairobi Nursery since Malaika died in childbirth in 2,000, unable to give birth to a still-born calf lying breach in the birth canal. (Emily was just l month old when she came to us, having fallen down a dis-used pit latrine near the Manyani Prison Camp when her elephant herd were crossing from Tsavo West into Tsavo East, and after her mother rejected her, unable to recognize what came out of the latrine as her calf. Baby Emily was tossed high in the air, after which the mother fled along with the herd.)
It was not long before Emily and the Orphans brought the calf to the stockades for a drink and to share their joy with the Keepers. Having all had a drink, the orphans decided to go on a walkabout and on this occasion, since they were far from the tourist circuit, the Keepers went with them, just as they did in bygone days, accompanied by Angela’s husband, Robert who was there to document this milestone event for all the elephant foster-parents. Today, humans and elephants were again all simply part of the elephant’s loving “family”, the humans able to walk in amongst them, totally accepted and trusted by Emily and her satellites, the tiny calf running around between both human and elephant legs, without a care in the world, with Edie keeping a very close eye on the precious new addition to the family. What a privilege, and how touching to be so trustingly accepted by a herd of now wild elephants and what a wonderful and fitting reward for 15 years of care and attention to steer this young elephant into motherhood. No-one could wish for a more amazing Christmas Gift! We know that our joy, and the joy of the Keepers will be shared by all Emily’s devoted foster-parents in far-flung lands all over the world who through their support, have helped bring about this miracle! For us, Christmas 2008 has, indeed, already been a VERY HAPPY ONE.
Next in line for a baby is Aitong, and if she has a boy, he will be named “Adam”. We feel that this will be appropriate, for Aitong was, like Emily, reared from a very young age in our Nairobi Nursery.