As the age-old adage goes, an elephant never forgets. This stunning, surprise encounter poignantly proves that fact.
Last week, one of our helicopter pilots was flying an anti-poaching patrol in Tsavo East with the KWS Company Commander. The team landed on a road to meet up with rangers operating in this remote part of the national park. Just as they were preparing to take off again, an elephant emerged from the bush.
‘That’s Kilaguni!’ Taru Carr-Hartley, the SWT pilot, exclaimed. Kilaguni is an orphaned elephant raised through our Orphans’ Project. Taru, who is Daphne Sheldrick’s grandson, grew up alongside him. Kilaguni is a distinctive bull, with a missing tail and ragged ears — injuries sustained by hyenas as he stood vigil beside his dead mum before being rescued in 2009.
Recognising each other, Kilaguni strode right up to Taru. Nelson, the Company Commander, looked on in disbelief as this incredible encounter unfolded. After some beautiful shared moments in the middle of nowhere, the bull disappeared into the bush and the team resumed their patrol.
Kilaguni has been living wild for well over a decade. This meeting unfolded some 80 kilometres from Ithumba, where he was re-wilded. He clearly heard the helicopter land and felt it was worth an investigation. Only after recognising Taru’s voice and scent did he step forward and reveal himself.
Even after several lifetimes spent with elephants, we are constantly amazed by the intuition, intelligence, and emotional connection of these remarkable creatures. This spontaneous reunion was a pleasure and a privilege — and a testament to the fact that an elephant truly never forgets.