This particular move of six of our Nursery Elephants has entailed a great deal of heart-searching and planning, being more complex than usual, since the decision had been taken that the time had come to split the Voi group
This particular move of six of our Nursery Elephants has entailed a great deal of heart-searching and planning, being more complex than usual, since the decision had been taken that the time had come to split the Voi group. The installation of all the infrastructure required for the new Elephant Re-integration Facility at Ithumba in the Northern Area of Tsavo East National Park presented a daunting challenge, not least financially, but also due to the remoteness of the area, as well as communication and water constraints. An electrically fenced Stockade was already in place for Imenti’s use, but we had to build Staff Lines, Storage facilities for milk and drugs, Water Catchment Tanks to trap precious rainwater, drinking troughs etc., etc. as well as electrically fence the Northern boundary of the Park. At the eleventh hour the purchase of a 4.5 million K. Shs. motorized Tanker became essential in order to cart fresh water to dilute the salinity of the existing ground water in that part of the Park since earlier rains had failed to fill the tanks. We were nervous of exposing our precious Nursery inmates to water of such high salinity without allowing them to become accustomed to it over a period of time. By the June 18th - the deadline for the move - everything was in place, as well as the BBC Natural History Section to film the event for their proposed “Elephant Diaries” series. Luckily it happened that Imenti was also on a long walkabout having at last befriended the wild elephants, which was a relief, since his presence could cause something of a disruption at both an elephant and human level! The six Nursery inmates to be moved were Wendi ex Imenti Forest, (now aged 21 months and the mini-Matriarch of the Nursery), who came to us the day she was born, and like Imenti, was saved from certain death by an infusion of blood plasma taken from “Thoma” due to her latent immune system deprived of the mother’s first Colostrum milk; 2 year old Napasha (ex Mpala Ranch, Laikipia), OlMalo (aged 18 months, ex Loisaba Ranch Laikipia), Taita (aged 16 months, the cess-pit casualty, ex Taita Hills Hilton Sanctuary); and Selengai (aged 15 months also from Loisaba Ranch). The decision to move the six Nursery Elephants directly to the North had not been taken lightly and entailed a great deal of discussion between ourselves, (including Jill), and the Voi Keepers. Emily’s group, consisting of 31 still dependent elephants, had become unwieldy for the Keepers to manage during Tsavo’s long dry seasons, something that was highlighted during the last long dry season of 2003 when the October rains did not arrive until January 2004, and we were faced with possibility of having to walk the entire herd to better pastures. Which elephants to move was another matter of deep discussion, not taken lightly either, for this posed a new and huge challenge. Finally, it was decided that four of the younger females should be targeted for the North to provide the Matriarchal component for the Nursery babies, yet small enough not to rouse the mating aspirations of Imenti if and when he returned, as he was bound to do. Once these young females had settled in and adapted to their new charges and surroundings, we propose to walk some of the bulls of a similar age up to join them, allowing the females advantage over the bulls. Eventually it was decided that those to be moved would be from the four to five year old age set, namely Mulika (ex Meru Park) and Nasalot (ex Turkana), firm friends from their Nursery days; Kinna (ex Meru Park) and Yatta (ex Tsavo Triangle area) – also firm friends who had been together in the Nursery. It was felt that taking older ones from Emily and Aitong would cause a major upset and possibly dissention between Emily and Aitong, should Emily choose to replace her missing “favourites” by taking some from amongst Aitong’s special calves. Also the friendship between the four chosen youngsters was long-lasting and binding. They were sufficient unto themselves and had not yet made lasting friendships with the wild community, something the older elephants had already achieved. As usual, at the Nursery, the large Safari trucks that would be used for the move were in place for several days beforehand, backed up against the loading ramps so that the Nursery elephants could undergo loading practice by being fed their milk inside the open back. As usual, those orphaned old enough to clearly remember the trauma of a journey in a vehicle were the reluctant ones, namely Napasha and Taita.