Published on the 22nd of January, 2015
After weeks of preparation the day for Ngasha, Faraja and Jasiri to embark on the next step of their journey back to living a wild life finally arrived. It was decided that our little albino boys rescued from Amboseli National Park, both victims of poaching, would be best placed at the Umani Spring rehabilitation Unit nestled in the beautiful Kibwezi Forest. Kibwezi Forest forms part of the Chyulu Hills National Park, an ecosystem that stretches beyond to both Tsavo West National Park and the Amboseli environs.
On the 16th of January everyone was up early at 3:30am, mixing milk bottles and making sure the elephant mover truck was loaded and ready to transport its precious cargo. At 4am the two albino half-brothers and their best friend Ngasha were awoken in their stockades and tempted out with a milk bottle. Accustomed to having their milk on the truck, the three boys happily walked onboard simultaneously. This happened so smoothly and in record time that it rather caught everyone off guard. Robert and Angela were up early present for the loading and with two Keepers on board and driver James, ably assisted by Harrison, the truck pulled away under the cover of darkness in an effort to avoid any rush hour traffic.
A landrover followed the convoy to ensure that all went well without a glitch. Though everyone at the nursery was sad to see these young very polite ‘Mzungu’ boys leave their care, we all understood that this was a new beginning for them. Despite being at Umani Springs, where they join Murera, Sonje, Lima Lima, Quanza and Zongoloni, they will still be our responsibility for a very long time before they will be confident enough to make their way with their new wild elephant friends. Like our own children this is a slow journey that takes up to 10 to 12 years. With many wild elephant permanently in the Kibwezi Forest their access to wild friends will be immediate and through these friendships along with those of their old Nursery friends, Murera and co. they will be ably guided into the future.
The journey went smoothly and with only a short stop to give the passengers a milk bottle and collect some extra greens for the journey the truck arrived at Umani Springs Stockade by 9am.
Umani’s current residents, Murera, Sonje, Lima Lima, Quanza and Zongoloni eagerly awaited the new arrivals and even the keepers couldn’t stop them from rushing up to the unloading bay to see who was onboard. Faraja, Jasiri and Ngasha, who had been so patient for the whole journey, were just as excited and as soon as the doors were open they walked out to meet their old friends and see their new home.
The three boys stood out amongst the Umani girls as they were the color of the Nairobi red soil, whereas the Umani orphans were grey, coated with the grey clay mud. Ngasha, Faraja and Jasiri seemed fairly relaxed from the outset; everyone greeted each other, touching trunks to mouths and shoulder to shoulder before moving off to finish the left over Lucerne from the morning. The whole scene was remarkably calm and ordered.
Soon it was time for the mud bath and the keepers led the way, with the newest additions following close behind. The forest was very green and lush, more so than Nairobi, so none of the orphans could resist stopping occasionally to get some tasty greens and to revel in the new browse and new flavors. After their midday milk bottle all of the orphans, even Ngasha, Faraja and Jasiri jumped into the mud bath for a good long wallow and once they came out they were all the same color, “They have their new uniforms on now” remarked Philip our Umani head keeper. The new arrivals then followed the others to the dusting area and clambered onto the dust pile having a marvelous rolling and lolling dusting session and to the casual observer it looked like they belonged and had been part of Umani life for years.
The rest of the day the group of eight spent exploring the forest, with Lima Lima happy to lead the way, though not always happy to share the attentions of the Keepers. She was visibly happy to see the much loved Nursery keepers Peter and Eugene again and stayed close by their sides for the whole day.
It was heartwarming for the Nairobi Keepers to see how well Murera, Sonje, Lima Lima, Zongoloni and Quanza were doing, especially Murera. Her journey has been a long one with few people believing she would ever make a full recovery from her terrible injuries suffered at the hands of poachers. A good few years on she is living an incredibly happy carefree life at Umani Springs and physically growing stronger all the time. Murera was however the most lukewarm of all the Umani girls about the new arrivals coming into their fold, seemingly unhappy with any change. Quanza on the other hand was beside herself with excitement, remembering her friends from the Nursery well and she and Lima Lima were chaperoning the boys everywhere.
In the evening, after a very exciting day, the orphan herd headed back to their night stockades. Ngasha was placed in a stockade next to Faraja and Jasiri who were sharing. At first Faraja seemed a bit confused over where to go, but once the keepers guided him to his stockade, with his half-brother, he settled down quickly with Ngasha falling asleep almost immediately!
Robert Carr-Hartley along with DSWT Patron Kristin Davis, and US Friends Chief Executive Melissa Sciacca were all on hand to witness this wonderful day. A celebration, as it is indicative of great progress and the next important step in their journeys. It was clear that Ngasha, Faraja and Jasiri had found utopia, and when we reflect on their difficult and challenging beginnings it makes this day all the more joyful.
The three orphans have settled into their new home seamlessly and love the forest life, plentiful food, midday mud baths and encounters with the wild elephant herds almost every night as they crowd around and visit the orphans in their night stockades sharing stories from the wild.