Imenti is now based at Ithumba, near the Tsavo National Park’s Northernmost boundary, with a couple of his favourite Keepers to anchor him there

Imenti is now based at Ithumba, near the Tsavo National Park’s Northernmost boundary, with a couple of his favourite Keepers to anchor him there. Our supporters will remember that Imenti had to be moved following an incident with a Minibus which almost ran into his elephant family as they were crossing the road near the Park’s Voi Entrance Gate when he retaliated and put a tusk through the windscreen of the offending vehicle. Thereafter he positioned himself by the Entrance Gate, refusing entry or exit to all white Minivans, until K.W.S. insisted that he be moved. He was sedated and trucked in a crate to the Tiva river in the North where he was released, but within 13 hours was on his way back home, but too fearful to cross the Galana river, never having seen a large river before! He then did a U turn and walked another 100 miles to the North crossing the Park boundary and ending up in a Wakamba community village in search of a human friend, sending the occupants fleeing and taking to the trees, since this tribe have never encountered a “friendly” elephant before, having poached them for centuries!

A runner was hurriedly despatched to the Northern Headquarters at Ithumba, and our de-snaring vehicle and team went to investigate, suspecting that the elephant intruder might be Imenti. Aure enough, it was! He was delighted to meet a friend again, and happily followed the car back to Ithumba, where he has been anchored by the presence of two of his favourite Keepers – in other words, the only “family” he remembers, since he arrived in the Nursery the day he was born.

Imenti has had contact with wild elephants, which is pleasing. He kept a safe distance, but was interested in, two wild bulls on the 5th March, but on the 11th March he joined five wild elephants, and interacted with a wild friend of about 5 years of age, smaller than himself! He encountered no others until the 27th March, when 6 wild elephants passed close by, but he did not interact with them. The next day, on the 28th, he was chased off by a wild cow when he went to touch its baby’s rear end, but he fed close to this herd all day. On the 30th, he joined a wild group in the afternoon, and spent the night with, or near, them, found close to them at 6 a.m. the next day by his Keepers. On the 31st a wild group fed close to his Night Stockade, but he was wary of the Matriarch who had very long tusks. However, he followed them closely all day.

He had no more contact with wild elephants until 29th May, when he spent the afternoon with 5 wild bulls, returning to his stable in the evening. During the interim the wild elephants had moved away from his area, but he fraternised with other species instead. Buffalo were encountered on the 6th March, 23rd March when he and the lone buffalo got an equal fright, happening upon each other at close quarters! On 25th March he enjoyed himself by separating a baby buffalo from the herd of seven and running along between the baby but parallel to the herd for 400 metres. On 9th April, he was happy to join a group of 7 buffaloes, and spent the day feeding in amongst them, even spending a night out with them, the same happening again on the 15th April when he enjoyed the company of 2 buffalo bulls.

He has fun charging and chasing off the following animals - a jackal that approached the Keepers who were sleeping near him, a pie-dog which looked as though it might be rabid, and warthogs on a regular basis who often come to his noon mudwallow, but allowed two to wallow alongside him on the 22nd April. He has also chased off baboons, tried to down a tree that a wood-pecker was busy working, yet grazed peacefully with a group of impalas. He was seen off by a group of zebras intent on a drink, who joined forces to expel him with a “hissing sound” (according to the Diary) and throughout Imenti always wallowed “wonderfully” and “enjoyably” on all but cool days.

He has also spent time away from his Keepers, on the 9th March when he was away all night and only returned at 9.10 p.m. the next day, on the 12th March, when he spent the day feeding far afield from the Keepers and again on the 13th. He was away all day on the 13th May, meeting up with his Keepers only after 6 p.m. near the Ithumba Airfield.

Things that have left him fearful have been a whirl-wind which enveloped him, thunder on the 24th March, strong winds that shook the trees nearby and an unknown threat encountered in thick bush, when he emerged in a hurry screaming for help, and spent the rest of the day glued to his human family!

There have been several occasions when he has paid the Headquarters a visit, not always behaving as he should! On the 20th March and 9th April he went to the Staff Lines and had to be retrieved by his Keepers and on the l0th he caused some havoc in the Radio Room before being removed. The following day he returned, but was better behaved. It could be that we will have to put a hot wire around the Staff Lines to discourage him, as we did in Voi but this is something that can easily be done, especially as the Electric Fencing Experts will shortly be doing the Northern boundary fenceline.

It is encouraging that Imenti has fraternized with the wild herds. As he becomes more confident, this will happen more frequently. “Imenti” came to us the day he was born, as did the current mini Matriarch of the Nursery, “Wendi”. As such they are the youngest elephant calves in the world ever to have been hand-reared. They share their Imenti forest origin with “Ndume”and “Malaika” (the Orphans’ Matriarch who died in childbirth in December 2000) Very few elephants exist today from the beleaguered remnant population of the Imenti Forest, now numbering fewer than 50 individuals. Our three Imenti orphans are, indeed, the lucky ones who will perpetuate amongst the Tsavo population that unique survival gene.