Attempts to get Kora and Lualeni conditioned to going into the large Safari Trucks parked at the Loading Ramps prior to the journey to Ithumba, began five days before the end of September 2006, but proved fruitless. They simply refused to have anything to do with them, having witnessed others before going in and never returning, so the vehicles held sinister connotations for them. In fact, they did not want any of the younger elephants to go near the Loading Ramp, ushering them away whenever they tried to do so by following the Keepers. Just before dawn on the 30th September, we managed to load the two elephants, thanks to the expertise and skill of both Robert (Angela’s husband) and his father Roy Carr-Hartley using a technique perfected over the years, one hand on either side exerting slight pressure behind the ears, and a strap over the shoulder and front legs. At first they were coaxed to the truck entrance with the milk bottle extended, and then with a pull and a push taken unawares, Lualeni was propelled in protesting loudly, and once the back door was closed, she resigned herself to her fate, a Keeper beside her, comforting her and giving her the morning milk feed.
Kora, who was still in his Stockade, was then enticed to the loading ramp by his bottle of milk and the Keepers, and the same technique got him inside, so by first light, the two trucks departed to the usual tearful farewell. Parting with Nursery Elephants, and sending them off into the next phase of their life in Tsavo is always an emotive occasion, for all who have nurtured them from early infancy, and been with them 24 hours of every day. Kora was just 6 months old when he came in with a shattered jaw, and stalwartly endured months of painful cleaning of the jaw, whilst Lualeni was just four months old, when she was found waiting to die all alone beside a bush near a place of that name bordering Tsavo, no other elephants in sight.
Kora is now a strapping two year old, and Lualeni just a few months younger, so both were now ready for the transition to Tsavo. In fact, they would have been sent sooner, but for Kora’s jaw still showing signs of infection, healing and then opening to exude small quantities of pus. Having endured l0 days of painful penicillin injections, the problem has continued, and so, on the advice of all the Vets we have consulted, both here and in South Africa, the prognosis was to get him down to good elephant habitat, where the minerals and vitamins of the natural browse can boost his own immune system, and hope that in time his body will heal his jaw entirely. Another operation on the jaw would be extremely life threatening, both from a prolonged anaesthetic, the risk of further infection, and the fact that he would undoubtedly pull out all the stitches, quite apart from the risk of bleeding, there being a very large artery that runs through the lower jawbone. As for Lualeni, she had been kept back to keep Kora in line and protect the little elephants from any bull bullying, since little boy elephants, like little boy humans, can sometimes be a bit rough with their juniors, and need to be kept in line by the females.
En route Kora in the truck, became restless, bending the back door of his truck in an attempt to break out, but some tasty greens picked for him by the roadside calmed him down for the rest of the trip. By noon, he and Lualeni were being unloaded at their new home, where Kora was instantly embraced by his former best Nursery friend and pushing partner, Buchuma. Newcomers are always embraced excitedly by the entire Ithumba unit, and the reunion with old friends is always a happy event. Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna, the four older females who were brought in from the Voi unit, again to keep the boys in line, are always delighted to see their herd increase, so the trauma of the morning usually has a very happy and unexpected ending. However, Lualeni felt a little displaced, finding herself demoted in rank and obviously missing her beloved Makena. However, she will soon settle down under the care of three previous Nursery Matriarchs who loved her dearly in the Nursery, namely Wendi, Sunyei and Naserian and in the fullness of time, Lualeni will again be reunited with her. At Ithumba they are still very much dependent on the Trust and their Keepers and will be for at least another 8 – 10 years as they return nightly to their stockades. They are now in the environment where they will grow up and eventually go wild and on their daily walks in the bush they have the opportunity to meet wild elephants, and slowly build the bonds and friendships that will be with them for the rest of their life.
Back in the Nursery, surprisingly, Sian instantly took charge of the remaining six babies, shepherding them out to the forest and ensuring that all were present and correct by rushing from the top of the column to the back. Makena has become very motherly towards little Chyulu, and is already attached to Sian, so the transition for her was not as traumatic as we had expected, although there is no question that the whole unit miss their friends Kora and Lualeni.