On the 27th May 2008 a tiny 3 week old elephant bull calf simply wandered into a ‘manyatta’ (homestead) seaking the company of the cattle at Kimana Springs, close to the Amboseli National Park. The Masai owner of the cattle was away at the time, (A scout for KWS) but his brother noticed a disturbance amongst the cattle, and went along to investigate. To his surprise, the cause of the disturbance in amongst the herd, was a tiny elephant calf. He managed to restrain the calf and shepherded it into a safe enclosure, from whence the message about its presence spread rapidly, alerting our Chyulu anti-poaching De-Snaring team as well as Richard Bonham, who owns a tourist camp on the western slopes of the nearby Chyulu hills. Richard took to the air in his Cessna 206 plane to try and search for the herd, hoping that the calf could be returned to its mother, but there was no sign of a living elephant anywhere within the Kimana Springs area. This calf had obviously been abandoned for good while.
The Kimana Springs lie within the Amboseli ecosystem within the traditional land of the Masai pastoral people who have coexisted with elephants since the beginning of time, sharing their watering places and grazing their cattle on the lush pastures abutting the springs. However, more recently the Masai landowners have leased land to agricultural tribes such as the Kikuyu, who grow a host of crops, including onions, maize, vegetables, bananas and fruit due to the availability of water from the springs. Due to this new development, the elephants are no longer welcome in the area which now suffers a great deal of human wildlife conflict, the wildlife, of course, being the losers. In fact, according to the local press, at least 14 elephants have been killed due to this within recent weeks, so the calf is more than likely been orphaned because of this human wildlife conflict.
From the start, he demonstrated that he was no push-over, head butting anyone who, in his opinion, did not belong to his new herd i.e. the many admiring visitors, and even Daphne Sheldrick when she returned from Tsavo and was first introduced to him. We felt it prudent that he occupy one of the vacant stables, fearing that he might be tempted to suck too much on the ears of a stable companion which could blunt his appetite, but after the first night he made this quite clear that it did not suit him. Strangely enough, nor did it suit Shimba, who had been used to having Dida in with him, (until she made it clear that she wanted to be in with Lesanju and Lempaute). Both Kimana and Shimba refused to sleep a wink the second night, so on the third night we relented, and the baby was allowed to share a stable with Shimba, after which both have been settled and sleeping soundly. Kimana is still strong, and in good condition, and he has slotted into the Nursery routine like a veteran, very much an integral part of Lesanju’s Junior herd, adored by all the elephant girls, and the pride and joy of Lesanju who is very much the the Mini Matriarch of the Junior Group. He has also met the older group of Lenana, Makena and Chyulu, but only briefly, because they will shortly be moved to the Ithumba Unit. They too were excited and enchanted to welcome him into the Nursery orphaned family.