Luggard, our beloved lionheart, continues to inspire us. Five months ago, in the early hours of 31st May 2020, he strode onto the elephant moving lorry and embarked on the next phase of his journey.
When we rescued Luggard in 2016, we wondered if he would survive the gunshot wounds that riddled his legs, let alone ever walk again. He spent the next four years at the Nursery, regaining his strength and stealing the hearts of all who met him. When it was clear that Luggard had outgrown the Nursery, we thought that Umani Springs — our third Reintegration Unit, tailor-made for physically compromised elephants like himself — would be the perfect next step.
From the moment he stepped foot in Umani Springs, Luggard has been met with an outpouring of love. Murera immediately claimed him as her own, while Sonje and Lima Lima round out his trio of most ardent admirers. They coddle him from sunup to sundown, forming a circle around him to ensure that he remains undisturbed. Luggard is a bit intimidated by the sheer size of some of the older orphans, so he appreciates the protective presence of the older girls. Murera orchestrates complicated maneuvers with Sonje and Lima Lima to ensure he is protected at all times. If she ever needs to take a break, she signals to the other two, who tap in to be on Luggard duty.
Enkesha, who graduated alongside him from the Nursery, is a very independent girl and quickly formed friendships with the older orphans. For Luggard, who has been so ensconced by Murera, it has taken a little longer. However, he is starting to form more friendships among the Umani Springs herd, and the Keepers often observe him joining Quanza and the others at the waterhole. Just because Luggard is the apple of everyone’s eye doesn’t mean he is immune to the occasional discipline: If he ever shows any hint of petulance, Sonje or Murera will gently guide him to do the right thing through. He listens right up when he knows his matriarchs are being serious.
When Luggard and Enkesha moved to Umani Springs, it was the cool season and the Kibwezi Forest was still emerald green. As the months progressed, the forest dried out significantly. This makes things more challenging for an elephant like Luggard, and we noticed a dip in his condition. We brought in plenty of fresh lucerne and other supplements to bolster his diet, and we are pleased to see that he has been putting on weight and is generally looking healthier. This is most evident in his face, where his cheeks are growing plump and his eyes are ever-bright. Luggard’s body is deforming due to the severity of his leg injury, and his spine is now significantly twisted to compensate for the unequal weight distribution. We are hopeful that this will even out in time.
Thankfully, the rains have just broken in the Kibwezi Forest. Big storms continue to sweep through the forest, transforming the vegetation and leaving a fresh blanket of grass covering the ground. This grass is what Luggard loves most, and he has certainly been having his fill. Now that the green season is ahead of us, we remain optimistic that he will continue to improve. After all, Luggard is the heartbeat of Umani now. Everything pivots around his needs, and he is so loved, nurtured, and happy, despite his continued physical challenges. If the past four years have taught us anything, it is that Luggard does not let much daunt him. As he continues to forge ahead, we will be there to support him every step of the way.