Two little elephants came into our care last year, literally ravaged, one from a poacher’s cable snare that almost severed his leg, and another victim of poaching who while alone, abandoned and vulnerable, was torn apart by hyenas, and was extremely lucky to be rescued in time. These two little bulls and their struggle has been humbling to watch, and their healing has been nothing short of miraculous. Mwashoti and Alamaya were both dealt a cruel blow, and both had such bad injuries that we felt their chances of survival were slim indeed. However, as the months passed, we watched them heal, defying all odds, and both have recovered and healed better than we could ever have imagined possible.
Alamaya’s hyena wounds robbed him of his genitals and as he healed the scar tissue compromised his urethra, necessitating a lengthy reconstructive operation. Mwashoti’s foot was almost severed by the cable snare, the cable literally cutting through to the joint. For us working so hard to give them a second chance, it has been rewarding to see a positive outcome against such odds.
Sunday the 29th was a special day indeed, as it was the day that Mwashoti and Alamaya made their journey to their new home, embarking on their next phase of growing up and destined for the beautiful paradise that is Umani Springs.
Our most recently built Rehabilitation Unit- Umani Springs- is situated in the Kibwezi Forest over which the Trust has a 35 years concession in partnership with the Kenya Forest Service to preserve and protect this beautiful ground water forest. Given the Trust’s input of protection and i9ntensive supervision, the place has been transformed. The Forest is now electrically fenced into the Chyulu National Park, home to resident wild elephants, buffalos, bushpigs, bushbucks, klipspringers, leopards, and many other species as well as for our orphaned elephants who have been left compromised through poaching related injuries. Murera and Sonje are the oldest orphans who christened the Umani Springs Rehab Centre in July of 2013, and since then they have been joined by a number of other orphans, some of them completely healthy and without disabilities, but who accompanied best friends. Umani offers a gentle environment with plenty of food and water available all year round, making it the obvious choice for best friends Mwashoti and Alamaya. These two orphans amazed everyone in the early hours of the morning of the 29th of May at 3.30am when loading them in the Elephant Moving truck began. Both walked in simultaneously without hesitation and the loading process was completed in all of four minutes! This meant that the convoy was on the road extremely quickly and out of the Nairobi environs in no time and it also meant that they arrived at the other end extremely early.
There, to greet them, were Angela, Robert and their sons, Taru and Roan, along with the expectant Umani Keepers looking forward to some new babies to take into care. Once the lorry backed up against the loading ramp, and the doors were lowered, the two walked out, eager for their bottles of milk. Soon they were surrounded by the Umani elephant orphans, who, as usual, anticipated that something unusual was up on this day, having read the body language of their Keepers and probably also benefitting from their telepathic abilities.
Sonje and Zongoloni could not contain their excitement, and within minutes the new arrivals had inherited two extremely dedicated and attentive “mothers”. Watching Mwashoti and Alamaya settle into to Umani Springs was a revelation. They quite simply loved it from the outset, and just hours later could be seen smiling as they splashed and frolicked in the plentiful mudbaths within the forest at this time of year. They were surrounded by more delicious browse than they had ever encountered before, as well as the soft grasses that are such a great favorite, and all the while showered with attention from loving older and caring elephants. From being big boys in the Nursery they were suddenly again pampered babies once more.
Watching them slip so easily into the Umani routine, one was acutely aware of the magical powers of communication that elephants possess, because these two seemed to automatically know the ropes and were perfectly calm and content going through the motions of their first day. In the evening they came rushing back to the stockades as do all the other Umani orphans, eager for their evening feed, and even leading the way! They were guided into their stockade which was designed so that they could share for company and comfort, and immediately set about feeding on the freshly cut greens, feasting on the bark of the much favored grewia branches. Sonje and Zongoloni were in attendance to ensure that the newcomers were settled and calm before heading to their own night stockades. One of the Keepers who were familiar to them and who had travelled with them from Nairobi was in their stockade for the early part of the evening, anticipating some reaction such as restlessness or distress during the night, but these two little stalwarts seemed extremely content and instead rested well, sleeping on the softly turned earth as their bed for most of the night.
The following morning, they approached the day with the same enthusiasm and vigor, trailed by their attentive new adopted elephant family. A rather unexpected further chaperone has been Faraja, who has shown extremely tender and caring traits towards the new arrivals. We are so pleased that their move has been such a success, embraced by the welcoming Umani orphan residents, who appear to be absolutely delighted to have new little babies over which to fuss! Ziwa - bless him, has had his trunk put somewhat out of joint, no longer being the focus of Sonje’s attentions, but even he is getting used to the ‘new’ arrangements.
We are confident in the fact that these special little elephants, who have suffered so much, have been gifted with a beautiful new safe home and seem extremely happy as they embark on the next phase of their growing up journey, although they will remain milk and Keeper dependent for many years yet. However they will benefit from exposure to the wild herds that will equip them for a normal wild life in the fullness of time and that is the greatest gift one can bequeath an orphaned elephant.