Heart Warming Stories - THEN AND NOW -

Madiba was born September 2003 in the Southern African country Botswana

Madiba was born September 2003 in the Southern African country Botswana.  He was found abandoned in a dry river bed suffering from a head wound.  The reason for his being abandoned is not entirely clear but having been rescued he was sent to Wild Care in South Africa.  It was the desire of those who rescued him that he should live a wild life again, and not be subjected to 'elephant back' riding or be sold to a zoo.  Wild Care contacted The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and requested that he come to Kenya to join our Orphans Program.  After a delay of a month while permits were sought Madiba on the 23rd December 2003 made a seven hour plane journey to Wilson Airport Nairobi Kenya with Karen Trendler of Wild Care by his side.  He arrived, a tiny fuzzy calf,  very weak and totally attached to his special blanket that travelled with him.   Many sleepless nights ensued as we fought hard for his life but slowly slowly he settled and gained strength and reluctantly after about a year was weaned off his blanket .  Today Madiba is a popular member of our Ithumba Orphans' Unit, extremely happy, thriving and growing up in the Northern Area of Tsavo National Park amongst his many orphaned friends.

Wendi comes from the Imenti Forest close to Mount Kenya and came to us in September 2002 new born with a moist umbilical cord not having had her mother’s colostrum.   Wendi means ‘Hope’ in Meru tridal dialect and It was an apt name as we struggled to keep her alive as without her mother’s antibodies she succumbed to everything.   Eventually we were left with no option but to take blood from one of our older orphans, Thoma, and separate the plasma and transfuse the plasma the following day into Wendi ear veins.  She was by this time in a state of collapse.  Miraculously slowly slowly, day by day she grew strong.    So it was that Thoma gave ‘Wendi’ her life and today she is thriving at the Ithumba Unit, a very friendly and mischievous character who symbolizes one of our proudest achievements.

Tomboi arrived at the Nursery on December 15th  2002 from the Samburu National Reserve.  He was found abandoned after gunshots had been heard the previous night, and we suspect this is the reason this calf was seperated from his family as they stampeded across the swollen Ewaso Niro River.  Every attempt was made to reunit him with his family, but his mother was not sighted again so instead an attempt was made to reintroduce him to a herd where his aunt was, as the elephants in Samburu have been studied at length by Save the Elephants  but the herd rejected him.   He arrived only days old, still pink behind the ears with a deep gash right through his cheek caused probably by another member in the herd as a result of the panic that ensured when trying to reunit him.  Years on he is now growing up to live a wild life in the Northern Area of Tsavo East National Park and is a member of Ithumba Unit.   He has strikingly light amber eyes, and it is something we have noticed over the years, the orphans with pale eyes always seem the more mischevious!   

Thoma was orphaned on the 11th August, 2001.  She is a calf from a refugee elephant population that was sheltering in a tiny remnant forest near a place called Nyahururu.  This area in Colonial times was known as "Thomson's Falls", hence the name Thoma.  She was orphaned when her herd crop raided community farm land under the cover of darkness and then were stampeded a result of the community retaliating.  She was discovered by the villages, abandoned and terrified.  Thankfully they were compassionate enough to rescue the tiny calf and took her to the closest Police station. From there she was then transported 80 kilometers to The Kenyan Wildlife Service headquarters at Mweiga.  By the time our rescue team arrived at Mweiga airstrip they found a tiny calf lying comatosde and almost dead in a Lion Cage, barely even breathing and we estimated her age to be approximately 2 months which means she was born in June 2001. We doubted that she would even be able to make the flight back, but she did, reviving after managing to swallow a little rehyration salts and have a Vitimin B12 injection. Closer inspection revealed multiple puncture wounds on her hindquarters, possibly from thrashing around in the cage, or from a barbed wire enclosure when she was confined at the Nyahururu Police Station. She was severely traumatized to the point of being nearly demented both from pain and fear.   For an entire week little "Thoma" was inconsolable, restlessly pacing the stable, fearful of both the other elephants and the Keepers. For an entire week she never slept, and nor did the poor Keepers! With the attention of the other orphans she slowly found happiness again, and in time became the matriarch of the Nursery unit herself.   She is now with our Voi Unit in Tsavo East National Park, a key player amongst our Voi orphans, and is spending time with the wild herds and making the slow transition to once again live a wild life.  

Mukwaju males born in September 1999 and aged about 3 weeks when orphaned. This little bull was rescued stuck in the mud at a place called Mukwaju in Tsavo East National Park. He was desperately weak at the time, probably the first born of a young mother suffering the affects of drought exacerbated by the fires that ravaged Tsavo at that time.  At that point in time about l000 plus elephants were drinking at Mukwuju so there was intense competition for water amongst the thirst crazed herds, with each Matriarch desperate to ensure the survival of her particular family. In the struggle to gain access for water during the dry seasons, when survival supersedes normal good elephant behavior, there is often aggression as older more senior Matriarchs insist on taking precedence over those younger. Mukwaju's young mother tried desperately to rescue him from the mud before being driven off, in the process inadvertently puncturing the skin behind his right ear with a tusk leaving a deep wound that became infected and which needed months of attention.   Mukwuju is now growing up at our Voi Unit in Tsavo East National Park and will live a wild life in the same National Park where his mother still lives.  Whether they will know each other now is unlikely but he is a very happy successful bull with big ivory for his age.

Kinna is estimated to have been born on or about 15th October 1999 and was only 1 week old when she was  rescued. This little female elephant was found almost competely submerged in mud at a waterhole near "Kinna" in Meru National Park. She lay with one ear exposed to the unrelenting sun all day before being found and extracted and rescued.   When she arrived in the Nursery, desperately weak and dehydrated and with her one ear so sun damaged that it was like parchment and despite all our efforts to heal it, the top finally died and fell away.  Due to her sun-damaged ears, Kinna will always be very distinctive and easily recognizable even amongst the wild herds when grown.   She has played a very privital role in establishing our most recent rehabilitation unit at Ithumba.  She is one of the four females we chose to translocate from the Voi Unit four years ago and take to the Northern Area in the hope that they would become the guiding influence for our younger orphaned elephant that are now being taken to the Ithumba Unit.  With her forceful character she has not disappointed and along with Mulika, Nasalot and Yatta offers the discipline, and comfort the younger orphans need. 

Imenti is a male born on the 19th of January 1994 near the Imenti Forest in Meru.  He came to us just hours old.  We named him after the forest that still harbors what remains of his beleaguered herd, entirely surrounded by cultivation and cut off from their traditional migratory route to Mount Kenya, this calf was still covered in the fetal membranes on arrival, born as his mother died in a hail of gunfire, so is the youngest wild born elephant ever to have been successfully hand reared in the world. Deprived of his mother's first colostrum to stimulate a new baby's immune system, he was a very fragile infant. Normally such calves never survive more than a few weeks, but in this case an infusion of plasma drawn from the blood of one of the older orphans saved the day. Imenti grew up to become the self appointed Protector of our orphaned family, chasing away intruders such as buffalo, and also protecting his human family from attack by buffalo the orphans encounter on their daily wanderings in the bush. He later developed a hate for the white tourist vans that are so common place on the Voi River circuit in Tsavo's Southern sector, and on one occassion while with the wild herds charged a bus full of tourists and who had ventured too close and broke the windscreen.  Imenti speeded up our plans to establish the Northern Area relocation Unit at Ithumba where there are few tourists and mini vans.   With our growing elephant orphaned family it was time to look to create a second unit.   It took Imenti a long time to settle as he missed his orphan friends enormously.   He lived there with the comfort of this Keepers for eighteen months while he became familiar with the area and then joined up with a handsome wild bull and began spending weeks away with his new found elephant companion.  The weeks turned into months and then years.  Imenti is now a successfully integrated wild elephant whose last confirmed sighting on the Ithumba to Lugards road was in February 2005.