Imagine our joy upon discovering that the ‘wild’ bull who had been habitually drinking fresh shower water at Mark Deeble and Vicky Stone’s camp on the lower reaches of the seasonal Voi River turned out to be none other than ‘Ndume’ our 26 years old ex orphan. Suspecting that the ‘wild’ visitor, who behaved in a not-so-wild way might be one of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s ex orphans, Vicky requested Angela co-ordinate long serving Keepers to visit when he passed through next so as to identify which orphan he was. Angela arranged for Head Keeper Voi Unit Joseph Sauni together with Mishak Nzimbi to identify the wild bull on the 4th of February.
Upon hearing the voices of his ex human family, Ndume stood stock still for a few moments and then approached the vehicle in which the Keepers were sitting with a low welcoming rumble. It was indeed ‘Ndume’ now 26 years old who had been born in January 1989 in the Imenti Forest. (A patch of indigenous forest east of Mt Kenya between the towns of Embu and Meru) Ndume was just three months old when he first came to us, rendered unconscious through a blow to the head from irate tribesmen who had come across the herd as they tried to access the Mt Kenya forest via what used to be a traditional migratory route, but which was now filled with un-ele friendly agricultural tribesmen bent on protecting their crops. He was one of three baby elephants who could not keep up with the fleeing herd, one of whom was killed before his eyes, and the other we named Malaika left almost hamstrung after being attacked with machetes. Both were saved only by the timely intervention of Kenya Wildlife Service rangers. When Ndume regained consciousness he could not remember what had taken place to deprive him of his beloved elephant mother and family. When he arrived in the Nursery it was heartbreaking to witness his frantic and distraught search for his missing elephant family, dashing around the bush crying until exhaustion overcame him. It was many weeks before he came to terms with his predicament and many months before his grieving subsided and he began to play again as a baby elephant should.
Ndume was later transferred to the Trust’s Voi rehabilitation unit in the Southern sector of Tsavo East National Park and there he grew up with others such a his friend Malaika, Dika, Edo, Ajok and Olmeg, and then later joined by younger orphans Imenti, Uaso and Lewa until he, Lewa and Imenti fell into bad company, led astray by two wild age mates who were in the habit of venturing into community lands outside of Voi town under the cover of darkness. (This boundary has subsequently be electrically fenced by The Kenya Wildlife Service)
Fearing they would come to harm Ndume, Lewa and Imenti were then transferred to Tsavo West National Park, over 100 miles away where they were released far from any sensitive boundaries. Lewa settled being younger, assimilating into wild herds, but Ndume did a u turn and a month later remarkably arrived back at Voi joining Emily and his other orphaned friends out in the bush just below the Voi stockades. How he navigated his way home from an area he had never been to before is just another remarkable example of the many mysterious ways of elephants, as he was sedated throughout his journey there. Imenti was clearly unhappy with developments remaining in Tsavo West and hovered around Kilaguni lodge for extended periods of time before it was decided to walk him the 100 mile journey home. Imenti embarked on this extraordinary journey with beloved Keeper Mishak by his side.
In the fullness of time Ndume and his friends Edo, Dika, and Uaso joined the ranks of Tsavo’s bulls living wild, though not before retrieving ‘Irima’ who was still milk dependent when he decided to join a wild herd who turned up at the orphans’ mudbath. It was Edo and Ndume who brought him back to his human Keepers.
It is an enormous source of pride and joy for us to know that ex orphan Ndume is still alive and well. Every orphan reared from early infancy that comes into our care has an intriguing story, documented in the Orphans’ Profiles and the Keepers Diaries on our website, but the most recent saga in the story of ex orphan Ndume is indeed a ‘good news’ event that has left us very happy and proud. Ndume last visited his human Keepers at the Voi stockades in 2007 but it is not unusual for the big boys to fly the nest joining the wild herds, as they all eventually do, while the female herds like to share in the joys of their wild born young with their human family choosing to visit their beloved Keepers from time to time despite long absences. Ndume today remains with his very recognizable body shape, with his large head and short legs with his perfectly symmetrical sweeping tusks, and is now a magnificent bull surrounded by wild friends. For Mishak who raised Ndume and Malaika in the Nursery along with Joseph Sauni who ably guided them through their rehabilitation years in Tsavo seeing Ndume again this month was an extremely moving experience. (Malaika very tragically died in child birth years before.)
Vicky Stone and Mark Deeble have written a wonderful tribute to their mysterious friend which can be read here.
Ndume : the story of an elephant http://wp.me/p4hiku-69