It was August 2009 when we received reports in the Masai Mara Game Reserve that a female elephant who had a calf was in a state of collapse, unable to move. By the time the Trusts Mobile Veterinary Unit arrived on the scene, the mother was in a pathetic condition, desperate, terrified and only able to move her front legs and her trunk, her baby close to her side fearful and confused. The KWS Vet attached to the Mobile Veterinary Unit, Dr. Dominic Mjele discovered that she had a shattered femur which had resulted in irreparable nerve damage, and that she therefore had no hope of recovery. It appeared that the injury had been caused by a bullet and it was obvious now that the mother would have to be euthenazed, and the calf rescued since it was only about one year old, and as such still milk dependent. He therefore alerted the Trust in Nairobi that a Rescue was on the cards, and the plane, with the Keepers and the necessary rescue paraphernalia aboard, set off from Wilson Airfield in Nairobi for Olkiombo airstrip in the Masai Mara where Dr. Dominic Mjele along with some KWS Rangers awaited them.
It was a heart wrenching scene that greeted them, the mother desperately attempting to protect her calf. With the assistance of the KWS Rangers, the Keepers managed to overpower the calf and once the baby was loaded and on its way to the waiting plane, the Vet euthenazed the mother and so end her unbearable suffering. The female calf was named Olare- the name of the area in which her mother died and from whence she was rescued.
Little Olare soon settled down in the Nairobi Nursery, comforted by the 13 other infant elephants resident in the Nursery at that time, under the Matriarchship of Lesanju ably abetted by Lempaute and Sinya. By 13th May 2011 Olare had replaced Lesanju as the Nursery Matriarch, Lesanju, Lempaute and Sinya having been transferred to the Voi Rehabilitation Centre in Southern Tsavo East, there to embark on the journey back into the wild elephant herds in the fullness of time.
Now it was the turn of Olare, accompanied by two of the older Nursery boys, Kibo and Kandecha to be transferred to the Northern Ithumba Rehabilitation Centre, there to join Ex Nursery friends who had preceded her, namely females Chaimu, Melia, Suguta and Tumaren, and boys Kilaguni and Sabachi, who had been joined by a newcomer, little Ithumbah, rescued from the mud of the Ithumba dam. This time, however, Olare would be traveling in greater comfort than her predecessors, for the new custom designed Elephant Transporter was now operational, carefully thought out to accommodate three elephants, each in adjoining spacious compartments with a surrounding passageway so that the Keepers could have contact with their charges en route. The elephants could also see and touch one another through the separating poles of their various compartments, and there was plenty of with space for milk, cut greens, and water etc., for the journey.
From previous experience, we had already learnt that whenever Nursery elephants were to be moved to Ithumba, mysteriously the Senior Ex Orphans who were now living wild, seemed able to predict such an event ahead of time, and this time would be no different. All 28 Ex Orphans and their wild friends had been hanging around the vicinity of the Ithumba Stockades for a day prior to the arrival of Olare, Kibo and Kandecha, even though there was no good reason to do so, other than anticipation of new arrivals, for both water and browse was plentiful at Ithumba in May 2011. Yatta was the main Matriarch of the Ex Orphans, and with her were a host of Ex Nursery Matriarchs such as Wendi, Makena, Galana, Sunyei, Chyulu, Lenana and Loijuk who were Sub Leaders of Splinter Groups, often peeling off from Yattas main Ex Orphaned herd to travel independently with whoever feels like coming along as well.
By 10.30 a.m. on the 13th May 2011 the great truck drove through the Ithumba Entrance Gate to the Northern Area of Tsavo East on the final leg of their 8 hour journey from Nairobi, after an early morning pre-dawn Nairobi start. As usual, all the Ex Orphans were there to greet and embrace the three newcomers, as did the 7 Youngsters who had preceded them from the Nursery, and whom they would remember having shared Nursery years with them in early infancy. Tumaren especially was first to extend a very warm welcome before the arrival of all the Ex Orphans moments later. All the Elephants Ex Orphans and those still Keeper Dependent, surrounded Olare, Kibo and Kandecha, tenderly laying trunks across their backs, treating them to elephant kisses with trunk to mouth contact, rumbling excitedly, and all vying to get as close as possible. This made the new arrivals feel wanted, loved and very special and for Olare, especially, poignant memories of her lost and loving Masai Mara mother must have flooded back, whom, as an elephant, she would never forget. Kandecha also responded instantly, overjoyed to find himself amongst a Big herd of Big elephants all over again, remembering the time he spent with the 25 Big Bulls after losing his mother and being rescued at Kandecha in Southern Tsavo East, an event that was captured for the Big Screen in the IMAX film Born To Be Wildwhich turned out to be the most successful IMAX Production ever. Being the smallest newcomer, Kandecha found himself the focus of much attention.
That afternoon the entire herd browsed together near the Stockades, and at dusk the Keeper Dependent Juniors including Olare, Kibo and Kandecha, were ushered into the Night Stockades, an even monitored by the Senior Ex Orphans who remained just outside in the yard most of the night. The next morning they were all there to escort the Youngsters out and introduce the three new arrivals to their new home and at noon the Ex Orphans were still with them at the milk and mudbath venue. As usual the three newcomers were somewhat nervous of actually going into the large mudbath pool, since as a mini lake it was larger than that to which they were accustomed to at the Nursery. Instead the enjoyed a wonderful red dustbath in amongst all the Ex Orphans, and the afternoon spent browsing all together. In the evening the Juniors were escorted back to the Stockades by all the Seniors, and thus ended a very happy first day in Tsavo for Olare Kibo and Kandecha. On the 13th May, 2012, they will be able to celebrate their first year at the Ithumba Stockades when Olare will be well established in her new home and 4 years old.