A third miracle in as many weeks has just unfolded in Ithumba! The baby parade began on 17th October, when Kinna introduced us to her second daughter, Kaia. Just a few days later, Naserian arrived to celebrate the arrival of her firstborn, Njema. And now, after an absence of more than eight months, Nasalot has appeared with a newborn by her side.
Nasalot comes from extremely fraught beginnings. She hails from the lawless lands of north Turkana, an area that had been decimated by poaching. The remaining elephant population had essentially become nocturnal in order to survive, feeding under the cover of darkness and hiding during the day. Nasalot was just three months old when she lost her own family to poachers. She came to us deeply traumatised in April 2000, and spent her initial nights at the Nursery pacing disconsolately as the other orphans slept.
Nasalot became one of the most nurturing females at the Nursery, overcoming her own grief and pouring her compassion into younger and more vulnerable orphans. In 2004, when we were selecting the orphans who would make up the founding herd at our new Ithumba Reintegration Unit, she was an obvious choice. With her placid nature and unerring empathy, Nasalot has always been an elephant that others look up to. She thrived at Ithumba, learning how the ways of the wild and eventually transitioning from our care.
In 2017, Nasalot gave birth to her first calf. Nusu, as we called him, was not an easy introduction into motherhood. He bounded into the world with all the bravado of a full-grown bull, mischievously diving into water troughs and instigating altercations with elephants five times his size. Looking upon his antics, you can almost see the incredulity in Nasalot’s face that she produced such a hopeless rascal!
When Nasalot strode up to Ithumba on 4th November 2021, it was with an unmistakable air of pride and excitement. She was accompanied by her longtime friends, fellow ex orphans Melia, Lenana, Tumaren, Olare, Makireti, Chaimu, Galana, Chemi Chemi, Namalok, and three wild elephants, along with Lenana’s baby, Lapa, Galana’s baby, Gawa, and little Nusu. We immediately realised this was a celebration committee: Trailing in Nasalot’s wake, just like a tiny shadow, was a newborn bull. We have named her latest addition Noah.
We haven’t seen Nasalot since March of this year. This is a challenging time to be an elephant in Tsavo, given the prolonged dry season. Despite the difficulties she must have encountered, Nasalot made it her mission to return to Ithumba, to share her new arrival with the people who raised her. Only time will tell if Noah is another rascal, but no doubt Nasalot’s hard-earned motherhood expertise will come in handy. Nusu, for his part, is proving to be a model big brother. Muscling his way between over-eager nannies, he is protectively trailing little Noah’s every step.
21 years ago, Nasalot was utterly alone in this world. Today, she is flanked by her two boys and a herd’s worth of lifelong friends. While her home is now the whole of Tsavo, Nasalot knows that she always has a family waiting for her at Ithumba. After months away, this is the place where she — and so many other ex orphans like her — returns to commemorate life’s biggest moments. What a privilege it is for us to be a part of this milestone.