Ex Orphan Mpenzi (whose name means Sweetheart in Swahili) was orphaned just under one year old, and came into our care in May 1993 and given directly into the custody of the then Voi Orphans Matriarch, Eleanor who at the time was ably assisted by Malaika, whom we later lost in childbirth. In the fullness of time Mpenzi accomplished the transition to leading a normal wild life amongst the wild elephants of Tsavo along with Lissa, another young older female orphaned at an age when she, too, could bypass the Nairobi Nursery stage.
When Eleanor left, pregnant with her first calf, fearing that her human friends might hijack her precious baby after it had been born, having witnessed the arrival in Tsavo of a host of young ex Nursery orphaned calves, Lissa, Mpenzi and the other orphans under Eleanors Matriarchship were taken over by the wild elephant who had been given the name Catherine . (This elephant happened to be Eleanors best wild friend and the same elephant that Daphne mistook for Eleanor and who was responsible for breaking Daphnes leg graphically described in her Autobiography An African Love Story Love, Life & Elephants. Lissa gave birth to her first calf, a female given the name Lara, in January 1999 to whom Mpenzi acted as Nannie. Lissas second calf arrived on 22nd November 2002, also a female and Mpenzi was a very able Nannie to both Lissas female calves, having meanwhile fallen pregnant again herself by a wild Tsavo bull.
The Keepers drove to the scene, and were appalled to find that the young mother in question was none other than Ex Orphan Mpenzi. Using the vehicle they were in to try and drive the lions away, they too were out-numbered by the lions, particularly as darkness was beginning to set in. The drama eventually ended when Mpenzis precious first wild-born baby was killed before her very eyes and dragged away by the predators, there being little either she, or the Keepers, could do about it. Dejectedly then, she had no option but accept defeat and sadly and slowly walked away alone, grief-stricken and severely traumatized by the whole unhappy event, the Keepers accompanying her for as long as they could until they could go no further by car.
The next morning the Keepers returned to look for her around the vicinity of Mazinga Hill and they came across her, still on her own, standing dejectedly with streaming temporal glands indicative of her misery and shock. They watched her throughout the morning and were relieved when she re-joined Lissas family in the late evening, who still had Ex Orphan Junior Big Boy Uaso with them. They all rushed up to Mpenzi, laying trunks tenderly across her back to comfort and empathize with her, for elephants are compassionate by Nature, and feel the loss of others acutely.
After the loss of her own firstborn, Lissas babies were obviously an enormous comfort to Mpenzi until she was ready to give birth to her own second calf towards the end of November 2008, this time with Lissas family and orphan Uaso in attendance. We named her second calf - a baby girl - , Asante (meaning thank you in Swahili) She and her baby were featured in the prestigious CBS American 60 Minutes Programme when the unit came to do an update on our Orphans, and just happened upon Mpenzi and her newborn baby out in the bush with Lissas family and Ex Orphan Big Boy Uaso still in attendance. We were overjoyed that Mpenzi now had another baby of her own to replace the one she had lost to the lions, and that it was a baby girl who would be a daughter for life.
Thereafter she remained part of Lissas wild family helping Lissa care for all her wild-born young, (Lissa went on to have four, 2 girls and 2 boys) and on the 20th April 2012 the Keepers based at the Voi Rehabilitation Stockades were delighted when Mpenzi turned up with her very own second wild-born baby another little girl and another daughter for life. The baby, who could have been a few weeks old, was named Mpia (meaning new) and had probably been born in March, probably with Lissa and her family in attendance as protection. However, on this occasion Mpenzi chose to come alone with both Asante and Mpia to the Voi Stockades to show the latest arrival to her erstwhile human family. They were both touched and honoured to have been given such an accolade from this Ex Orphan - indicative of her trust in them that she wanted to share her joy with those who had not only replaced her own lost elephant family when she was young and still milk dependent, but who also so bravely tried to save her first-born from the lions on that fateful night of the 23rd August 2006.