Galana’s New Baby, Gala

Published on the 1st of April, 2024

On Easter Sunday, our Ithumba family was treated to a most special surprise: Galana introduced us to her new daughter — the first wild-born baby we have met in 2024.

As we said in Galana’s original rescue story, which also unfolded on a Sunday... ‘it always happens on a Sunday!’ What should be a day of rest often ends up being eventful, for one reason or another. Thus, we should have suspected something when the morning of 31st March 2024 began without incident. The dependent orphans enjoyed a quiet breakfast, marked by a calm that can only be achieved when there aren’t any ex-orphans or wild elephants present. Naleku led the herd out to browse and the compound settled into stillness.

And then, just after 8 o’clock, a group of ex-orphans emerged from the bush. Galana was in the lead — and beneath her belly walked a tiny calf! Mum and baby were joined by Galana’s firstborn, Gawa, along with Makireti, Naserian, Njema, Wendi, Wema, Wimbi, and Siku.

The group settled briefly by the stockades, where Galana invited the Ithumba Keepers to meet her new addition. The calf — another little girl — looked to be about two weeks old. She is strong, plump, and energetic, with bright eyes and an inquisitive nature. 14-year-old ex-orphan Makireti is the lead nanny, ably assisted by big sister Gawa and Siku, Wema, Njema, and Wimbi. (A touching aside: Gawa, Siku, Wema, Njema, and Wimbi are all the daughters of ex-orphans. Our orphans and their offspring may not be related by blood, but they really do operate as one big family.)

This was clearly a mid-journey stopover, with the express purpose of introducing Galana’s baby to the men who raised her. After a quick visit, the team continued with haste towards Kalovoto — they had places to be! We have named Galana’s daughter Gala, in honour of her festive arrival.

Galana is an orphan near and dear to our hearts. She has overcome a lot in her 21 years of life, beginning with her rescue. On 15th August 2004, a SWT/KWS Anti-Poaching Team Leader alerted us that a young orphan had been rescued on the Galana River, about ten miles from Sala Gate on the eastern boundary of Tsavo National Park. Tourists happened to spot a small elephant foot poking out of the bush. This was then revealed to be a young and terribly vulnerable orphan, trying her very best to hide. The reason she was orphaned remains a mystery, but given her poor condition, she had clearly been without her mother for some time.

Galana, as we named her, arrived at the Nursery full of fight. She alternated between mock-charging the Keepers and dreamily suckling their fingers. Somewhat counterintuitively, this was a good sign — but after the first night, weakness got the better of her and she collapsed. The Keepers heaved her to her feet, Daphne shovelled handfuls of glucose supplements into her mouth, and the other Nursery elephants crowded around her to show her that she was not alone. From that moment forward, Galana has never looked back.

In 2005, Galana graduated to our Ithumba Reintegration Unit. After several more years in our care, she transitioned to a wild life, joining Yatta’s ex-orphan herd. She emerged as a generous and nurturing female, helping many orphans younger than her make the gradual transition to a wild life.

Galana became a first-time mum in 2016, when she was 13 years old. As dawn broke on 4th September, she strode up to the Ithumba stockades with an hours-old calf in tow. We named her daughter Gawa, which means ‘to share’ in Swahili — a most fitting name, given that our ex-orphans never fail to share their babies with their human family.

While Galana and Gawa are leading fully wild lives, we have been lucky enough to remain part of their story, thanks to their regular visits back ‘home.’ Now seven years old, Gawa has blossomed into a capable, intelligent elephant, just like her mother.

In 2021, we bore witness to a heartbreaking chapter in Galana’s story: On the morning of 2nd August, Galana introduced the Keepers to a newborn baby. Our jubilation quickly changed to concern, as all was not well: The calf was premature and very feeble. Galana and her nannies seemed to know there was a problem from the outset. They calmly shadowed the sleeping baby throughout the night, waiting for the inevitable. Eventually, the Keepers stepped in and put the calf on a drip, which Galana allowed without objection. Despite their intervention, the baby was too frail to survive and slipped away. Afterwards, Galana and her friends quietly walked off into the bush, with the stoicism so distinctive of elephants. Nature can be harsh, as these moments remind us.

But as nature also reminds us, hope springs eternal. Last year, it became increasingly clear that Galana was pregnant again. We are thrilled that baby Gala arrived on time, in good health, and surrounded by love and support. We are also deeply honoured that Galana made a point to introduce her newborn to her human family — it is as if she knew that we were anxiously awaiting updates!

When baby Gawa was born in 2016, she was the 22nd known wild baby born to an ex-orphan, and only the fourth born to an Ithumba ex-orphan. A lot has changed in eight years — and our extended elephant family has grown significantly! Gala is the 60th known wild baby born to an ex-orphan, and the 33rd born to an Ithumba ex-orphan. It is a privilege to watch these family trees continue to blossom, all because of one life saved, all those years ago.

Supporting Generations of Elephants

Wild-born babies like Gala are the future of Kenya's elephants — and they are here today because of an orphan rescued many years ago. Donors make these success stories possible, allowing us to save the orphans of today and pave the way for generations of elephants.

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