Published on the 13th of January, 2018
The move of Kauro, Sapalan and Namalok to our Ithumba Relocation Unit in Tsavo took place in the early hours of 7th December. Given the recent rains in Tsavo it was an ideal window to move some of the older orphans at the Nursery to get them down to perfect elephant habitat and to have the stimulation and interaction of the older elephants, our Ex Orphans and the wild herds. Kauro had experienced this a year ago, but was returned to Nairobi when he lost condition, so in order to treat him comprehensively and effectively the decision was made bring him back to Nairobi where intensive veterinary care could be administered and we could safely nurture him through his troubles. Thankfully Kauro made a full recovery, and so it was that he was earmarked to be first to return to his beloved friends in Ithumba.
Namalok and Sapalan are recent arrivals at the Nursery, Namalok a drought victim and Sapalan an orphan rescued from the Maasai Mara, both were rescued in September. Both older bulls, and all friends, they combined to make the perfect trio to be first to make the journey to Tsavo, specifically Ithumba, where the rains have been better and the vegetation and food more abundant than Voi which has been suffering challenging drought conditions this year. Incredibly Kauro would have been excused if he were to show some reluctance about reentering the elephant moving truck given his previous experiences, but through the training that lasted a week he showed absolutely no reluctance whatsoever, and his confidence rubbed off on the other two who offered little resistance for elephants of their size. This made loading that morning incredibly straight forward, infact all three were safely in by 3.00am, ensuring the entourage were able to depart in exceptionally good time.
We have learnt over the years that the journey undertaken at night, while cool with few vehicles on the road, is the right approach, and so it was that excellent time was made. The three orphans were loaded into their designated compartments with easy access to each other despite the separating bars, with Sapalan sandwiched in the middle compartment, and plenty of cut greens and ample bottles of milk to accompany them. Namalok with his quirky ways, having to be fed his milk from a bucket had his bottles poured into his bucket and happily continued his routine of sucking up the milk with his trunk and then bringing it to his mouth as oppose to taking it directly from the bottle. Before being loaded they were lightly sedated to keep things calm for the journey, and remained calm and collected throughout, with the exception of Sapalan who clambered around his compartment initially as the truck pulled away, but the rocking motion soon settled him and the three of them continued to feed throughout. They were accompanied by three of their favourite Nursery Keepers and their presence was reassuring. It is important that they have the continuity of the men they know and trust while they get familiar with their new environment so their Nursery Keepers will remain with them at Ithumba for some time until they are comfortable in their new environment. Kauro it seems knew from the outset exactly where he was headed!
Once the convoy turned off at Kibwezi they were met by a number of diversions now that the original the dirt road is under construction and being tarmaced. This slowed proceedings down, but still they arrived at the Ithumba stockades in incredibly good time, and by 9.30am the babies were walking out of their compartment to face a new day in a new land. Kauro knew exactly where he was appeared delighted to be back at Ithumba as he exited the truck. Sapalan was certainly taking in the unfamiliar surroundings but remained surprisingly calm and was warmly greeted by Dupotto, Roi and Wanjala, and Namalok initially looked rather confused.
They took some more milk, and were then led to the mud bath where they took their fill of water and cooled themselves down. Then more of the dependent Ithumba orphans joined them and there was great excitement as old friends were reunited with Kauro, and Namalok became the gentle favorite with the dependent babies in an instant. Sirimon was the only one who had a tendency to bully, trying to assert himself early on with the new boys Namalok and Sapalan. Kauro immersed amidst old friends appeared totally at ease and comfortable and very happy to be back. For the other two, who have been wild elephants for three years up until three months ago remember the wild well, but they were very definitely bewildered by events! It was not long before they too settled and enjoying the abundant browse and food surrounding them, because right now Ithumba is a veritable paradise, a jungle of greenery, creepers and wild flowers. As the next days passed it has been so lovely to watch Namalok and Sapalan, rescued as lonely abandoned calves each with a bleak future, now have the company of elephant friends, in a new magical home that is quite literally elephant country, with miles and miles of pristine wilderness, elephant age mates as company, and many wild elephants to fraternize with every day and to see them healthy and happy with a fresh start feels good.