It has been a convoluted journey getting Emoli back home - rescued from the brink of death when he was first found in Tsavo, collapsed and unresponsive, back August 2017 - a victim of a terrible drought that gripped the southern area of the Park that year, claiming the lives of over 390 elephants that we know of.
He was one of the very lucky ones, discovered in the nick of time, rescued and not given up on, because it took a good long time for him to become responsive. It would have been easy to assume he was too far gone to save and not bother to call in the helicopter to airlift him to the Trust’s Nairobi Nursery. Thankfully we did, because Emoli finally came to life after being plied with copious amounts of IV fluids.
His early days were a struggle, then slowly but surely this emaciated little bull began to grow stronger, put on condition and eventually become quite a force! Once the worst was behind us this little boy began to thrive and make special friends amongst the Nursery orphans, including many who had suffered the same plight as him.
It was particularly heart warming to return Emoli to Tsavo in June, to our Voi Reintegration Unit not far from where he was orphaned two years earlier. His mother may still be alive, if she too didn’t fall victim to the drought that year, and there would be no knowing that, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the two meet again one day. In the meantime Emoli has dropped into the Voi dependent orphan herd as an absolute favourite and has basked in love and attention ever since!
He has been an extraordinarily uniting influence as, before his arrival, Mbegu's herd and the bigger dependent females were rather segregated, probably intentional on Mbegu’s part, not wanting her little charges getting too hooked on any of the bigger girls and leaving her herd, but now with Emoli’s presence both of the groups want a piece of him and he is just savouring all of the attention. Aside from settling fast into the Voi Reintegration Unit routines, with his friends Sagala and Tagwa by his side, he has enjoyed the continuous interaction with the wild herds, which since he arrived in Voi has pretty much taken place daily.
While much of Tsavo is drying fast, Voi has a green tinge still and the wild herds have noticed that too, congregating in the area, and they have quickly learnt that the fresh water trucked into the Orphans’ waterhole each day is worth waiting for - just like in Ithumba, where we have another Reintegration Unit - they have learnt the time to arrive. Huge handsome bulls come to drink, boisterous wild bull youngsters thrash around in the mud and spar with age mates, while the more sedate female herds with their little ones converge too, so our orphans are having the full spectrum of elephant society join them in the midday mud bath revelry. In the heart of them all one can often spot Emoli enjoying himself, and one cannot help to reflect on his road to recovery, and how important it is to always remain hopeful, even when the odds seem extremely unlikely, because miracles do happen, and Emoli is certainly living proof of that, rescued from the brink.