During the morning of the 25th September, Head Elephant Keeper Benjamin, based at the Ithumba Elephant Rehabilitation Unit in Northern Tsavo East National Park, happened to be taking rocks by tractor to the Ithumba Dam where the Trust has recently sunk another borehole to alleviate the ongoing dry season water crisis which always presents us with a huge headache. Having reached the dam, he noticed that an elephant calf was hopelessly bogged in the black cotton clay of the dam’s receding water level. The calf had obviously become stuck in the black cotton mud during the night, since it had not been there when Benjamin deposited another load of rocks the previous day.
Having mobilized all available Keepers, the calf was pulled free of the mud, and with her legs bound, she followed the Keepers to the airstrip situated close by and into the shade of the open aircraft hanger. Once it was established that the decision had been made by Daphne and Angela for the calf to remain at Ithumba to be raised, in the hope that she may later be united with her mother and herd, she was lifted onto the tractor trailer and driven from the airstrip to the Ithumba Stockades, a short five kilometer journey only.
On arrival the Keeper Dependent Orphans’ Matriarch, Loijuk, lavished boundless love and attention on the newcomer who calmed down instantly, and soon the new orphan had settled down and even accepted milk and water from the Keepers all the while watched by an interested group of visiting wild elephant bulls who had turned up to drink at the Stockade water trough. Later on the Senior Independent Ex Orphans arrived to welcome the newcomer into the fold, all crowding around, rumbling and laying trunks lovingly across her back. A make shift stockade was hastily built so that the calf could tame down adequately before being able to join the other orphans. It was important that she became totally comfortable feeding from the keepers first, so that once she did join the Ithumba orphans, free from the confines of the stockades, she would have enough confidence to take her bottle from the Keepers during feed time along with the others.
The calf is a female, and the Keepers decided that she be named Ithumbah spelt differently to avoid confusion. Calmed and pampered by her new Elephant Family under the care of Benjamin and his team of proficient Keepers, little Ithumbah is a very lucky baby, found and rescued by our Keepers before predators made a meal of her.
Everything needed to cope with every eventuality surrounding a new orphan was flown to Ithumba in a Plane that afternoon with Nursery Keeper Abdi - along with the vital injectable antibiotic to forestall pneumonia in a mud victim.