On Thursday 27th September in the glow of a waning moon, just two days past it being full, ex-orphan Lualeni made her way to the Ithumba stockade water trough in the company of friends. Our ever present Head Keeper Benjamin was watching proceedings when to his surprise he made out the diminutive figure of a perfect little baby elephant beetling between her feet.
On closer inspection he realized Lualeni had just given birth, and with attentive nannies Chyulu, Lenana, Galana and her baby Gawa in tow - they had come to share their joy with their human family!
It is hard to describe the feelings a sight like this evokes in those of us who have been a part of Lualeni's remarkable journey. She came into our care, having lost her mum and family, such a broken grief stricken little calf, psychologically crippled, with little will to live. So intense was the mourning of her loss that it lasted for six months. In that time she remained detached from the other Nursery orphans by choice, dejected and visibly sad, with no desire to interact or play.
She worried us all as we tried desperately hard to bring joy back into her days. Slowly slowly it was time that healed Lualeni and, of course, the company and love she received from the others in the Nursery who worked equally hard in healing her. To this day no elephant that has ever come into our care has grieved so profoundly for so long. The BBC was filming Elephant Diaries with us at the time Lualeni was rescued, and her heartbreak is well documented in their series.
As the years passed Lualeni moved onto our Ithumba Reintegration Unit, and here she thrived forging new friendships between older orphans, and their wild friends. Once she became independent of her Keepers and milk bottle, and began living a wild life, she developed a reputation for baby snatching! Lualeni was tasked as being the one who would recruit those dependent babies she felt were ripe for a wild life, and surreptitiously spirit them away when the Keepers were not looking. She developed quite the reputation, so much so that the Keepers soon realized that her innocent appearances were not always as they seemed; her visits came with intent.
For everyone involved in Lualeni's rescue, recovery and wild release, the emotions we feel in moments like today are hard to describe. This tiny perfect baby, not even 24 hours old as I write this story, is our 30th baby that we know of born to our ex-orphan females now living a wild life. There is no elephant more deserving of this beautifully packaged bundle of life, and we just know Lualeni will make a truly awesome mum.
"As I reflect on our latest wild born baby I think of my incredible mother Daphne, and marvel at the extraordinary legacy she leaves us all, with miracles just like this unfolding all the time. She would be so pleased with this news, our precious Lualeni now with a female baby to call her very own; she will never have to take another step alone for the rest of her life, a life which will be filled with gigantic love that elephants are the very best at giving. We have named Lualeni's wild born baby girl Lulu!"