Epiya is a plucky elephant who faced tragedy with remarkable bravery, after she lost her mother before her very eyes. She is one of the ‘Voi kids', an older orphan who was rescued from the Tsavo ecosystem and brought directly to our Voi Reintegration Unit.
On 27th October 2022, the SWT/KWS Tsavo Mobile Vet Unit received reports of an ailing female elephant in the Sobo area of Tsavo East. They arrived to a grim scene: The female had wasted away and was too weak to stand. Further compounding the tragic situation, she was accompanied by her young daughter. Based on the calf’s poor condition, her mother had long since stopped being able to produce milk, which is another symptom of emaciation.
At the time, Tsavo was in the grips of a terrible drought. As vegetation evaporated across the landscape, elephants — creatures that require large quantities of food to sustain themselves — struggled to survive. Nursing mothers, who are essentially eating for two, and their calves emerged as perhaps the greatest victims.
Tragically, the fate of her mother was sealed — but there was still hope for her dependent calf. KWS park management called for a rescue. Given Epiya’s slightly older age and her urgent need for care, we decided to bring her to our nearby Voi Reintegration Unit. This was a time of non-stop rescues, so she had plenty of company at the stockades as she rested, recuperated, and regained her strength.
Epiya’s first day out with the Voi herd was memorable. She partnered up with Itinyi, another ‘Voi kid’, for their big debut. Sensing their nervousness, Mbegu, Sagala, and Tamiyoi gently surrounded the newbies and escorted them out. As the herd returned home that evening, Laikipia — a 24-year-old ex-orphan bull — was waiting outside. His presence confused both Epiya and Itinyi. They eagerly approached the big elephant and refused to leave his side. Once again, Mbegu, Sagala, and Tamiyoi saved the day, settling the youngsters and shepherding them into their bedroom for the night.
Today, Epiya is fully immersed in Voi life. Her Keepers describe her as a ‘feisty little girl’. Tamiyoi has become her honorary big sister, while Ushindi is her closest friend among the Voi kids.
Epiya is named after the place of her rescue, to forever connect her with her origins. Because she is growing up in the Tsavo ecosystem, these beginnings will also remain part of her future.