As dawn broke on December 12th, Sidai arrived at our Ithumba stockades with a tiny little girl in tow.
Christmas came early for us this year, when we received a wonderful gift in a most perfect package: a beautiful wild baby (the sixth we've met this year) born to an orphan who we rescued and raised. As dawn broke on December 12th, Sidai arrived at our Ithumba stockades with a tiny little girl in tow. By her side were her beloved friends — and now nannies — Naserian, Lenana, Galana and her calf Gawa, and Nasalot with her rascal Nusu. As usual, celebrations ensued, with the dependent and wild-living orphans alike bustling around the baby with great fanfare. This is a moment we've been waiting for with great anticipation; we knew that Sidai was imminently expecting, but she has been absent for many months, so we were delighted to welcome her back. The fact that she chose to share this joy with us, as so many other wild-living orphans do, is a most moving tribute. It's her way of showing how appreciative she is for the kindness and love that saved her life.
Becoming a mother is a momentous step for Sidai, an orphan who we fought so hard to keep alive. We rescued her from the drought in 2006, and she arrived a broken calf who gave Daphne, Angela, and Robert sleepless nights for many fraught weeks. She was plagued by trembling fits and came perilously close to death numerous times, but no one gave up on her. Her name, which is the Masai word for “beautiful thing,” is a tribute to her loveliness inside and out — and we know these are traits that 15-year-old Sidai will now pass on to her own daughter.
We have named Sidai's calf Sita, which means "six" in Swahili. It is a most apt name, because this little bundle now brings our wild-born baby tally this year alone to six. Indeed, our wild extended family is growing. At the current count, we have met a total 35 elephant babies born to orphaned elephants who we rescued and raised, along with orphaned rhino Solio's calf Sultan, who was born in September 2019. The fact that first-time mums like Sidai are so seamlessly accepted into wild elephant populations, to the degree that they are able to mate and start their own families, is testament to the multi-generational impact of our Orphans' Project.
Nothing made our founder Daphne prouder than these precious moments, when our orphans choose to share their wild-born young with us. Forty years ago, in 1979, she wrote a most poignant entry in her journal: "A very special feeling flooded over me when I contemplated my orphans... a feeling of great achievement; a warm glow of pride; of deep satisfaction and contentment; a feeling of identity – almost even of creation, for by being instrumental in giving life to one animal, many others had a chance to live... One last triumph I longed for, was to be able to look with pride on an animal like an elephant, born of a mother I had nurtured from the start, and think, deep inside my heart, 'But for me...'"
When she wrote those words, Daphne had no idea of the remarkable legacy she was creating. By saving the life of one orphan, we are creating a future for entire families, offering hope for all elephants. Daphne will forever live on through the tiny footsteps of Sita and all the other babies whose lives have been made possible because of her pioneering work.