It has been a difficult seven weeks for one of the Ithumba Rehabilitation Stockades newest arrivals, Tano, as she has struggled to adjust to her new life in northern Tsavo East. Since Tanos arrival to Tsavo on January 25th alongside her old Nairobi Nursery friends Shukuru and Mutara, she has shown signs that have been concerning the Ithumba Keepers. Normally energetic and full of enthusiasm, Tano has been slow and lethargic, unable to keep up with the rest of the orphan herd whilst out on their daily adventures within the wilderness of Ithumba. The hot and dry climate of Northern Tsavo East can most certainly be a strain on many of the ecosystems inhabitants, yet all of the orphans taken to Ithumba in the past have always thrived in the environment, which although tough, is a perfect place for the elephants to reintegrate back into the wild and learn the bush skills they need in order to survive without the constant support of their human family in the future.
Never before has the decision been made to evacuate an orphan from Ithumba, although in the past the DSWT has made the difficult decision to bring back two orphans, Kimana and Maungu, to the Nairobi Nursery from the Voi Rehabilitation Stockades in the southern section of Tsavo East National Park due to health concerns. Benjamin, the Head Keeper at the Ithumba Stockades, has been reporting regularly to the DSWT Nairobi HQ over the past weeks concerning the health of Tano, who has slowly been losing condition, becoming thinner despite still having a healthy appetite, and suffering from erupting boils. On a recent site visit to Ithumba to see the orphans, both Daphne and her daughter Angela Sheldrick spent time with Tano, assessing her situation along with the Trusts dedicated Tsavo Field Veterinary Officer, Dr Poghon, witnessing quite clearly that Tano was not in good health and was struggling within her new environment, so the final decision was made to make the plans to move Tano back to the comfort of her familiar home and family in Nairobi National Park.
On the 14th of March 2013, the DSWTs elephant-mover truck took to the road, journeying south towards Tsavo East and Ithumba. That morning bountiful rains fell over the Ithumba region, quenching the parched lands, which was anticipated by the indigenous flora, which was already blooming. Arriving before sunset, the elephant-mover truck and the two Nairobi elephant keepers who travelled down with the vehicle to care for Tano on her way back to Nairobi, greeted the Ithumba team and began to make plans for the translocation the following morning. Tano had already fed and was quietly playing with the dirt in her communal stockade alongside her friend Kanjoro. None of the orphans seemed to show any sign that they knew what has going to happen only a few hours away, so they all had a peaceful nights rest before the morning wake-up call at 4.30am.
Under a dark sky veiled with thick rain clouds, the Keepers all got to work preparing for Tanos journey. Whilst the truck was put in position and the travelling compartments were opened and milk was prepared, a small injection of Stresnil was given to Tano keep her calm throughout the process. To help persuade Tano into the truck several other of her closest friends including Kanjoro, Mutara and Shukuru were also taken out of their stockade and led towards the truck. Tano was quick to follow her big bottle of milk but soon became aware of the truck and began to back off. Shukuru on the other hand was more interested in the milk and bundled everyone forwards, forcing Tano to also get a little closer. Nearly standing on the trucks ramp Tano began to get more anxious and refused to get any closer, with memories of the previous trip still clear in her mind, so the decision was to use straps to slowly ease her into the compartment whilst being encouraged with her milk. All of the Keepers lent a hand in coaxing Tano into the Truck, knowing that it was the best thing for her.
Finally the compartment door was closed behind Tano and the Keepers gave her as much encouragement and affection as they could to keep her calm. Without delay, goodbyes were called and the Nairobi Keepers jumped into the back of the Truck alongside Tano and headed on their way at just before 5.30am. Driving through the dark along Ithumbas rough roads, light rain dampened the already muddy ground before the sun began to rise in the sky highlighting the beautiful Yatta Plateau which framed the Ithumba ecosystem. The journey went smoothly and a rest-stop was made half way along the side of the Nairobi-Mombasa highway to check on Tano and give her more fresh greens and milk. Although she was visibly stressed she was still feeding well and responding to the attention of her Keepers. The team eventually arrived at the Nairobi Stockades at 12pm where the Nairobi Keepers were all eagerly awaiting Tanos arrival. Positioning the truck, the compartment doors were opened and Tano cautiously crept out to the calls and touches of her familiar Keepers, before the rest of the elephant orphan family arrived, clearly shocked and pleasantly surprised to see their old friend Tano back in Nairobi.
Orwa and Naipoki were first to greet Tano as she finished her milk and stared bewilderedly around the stockades she once called home. Once she balanced herself she immediately took off, knowing her surroundings intimately, heading through the compound and out towards the Parks forest eagerly followed by Orwa and the rest of the older orphans. Once in the familiar setting of the forest she began browsing on the lush vegetation available, whilst the other orphans smelled and touched her, following her everywhere. Having been in Ithumba for a few weeks Tano had already changed colour and was dramatically grey against the earthy red colour of the Nairobi orphans, standing out as having been in the wild and having many stories to tell her younger family in the coming days. As well as having a more temperate climate, the Nairobi stockades are better equipped to offer Tano the medical attention and care she needs. With the DSWTs new veterinary equipment, the Trust is now also capable of regularly checking Tanos health whilst investigating the cause of her medical issues.
Please foster Tano to help her through this difficult time by clicking on the following link: https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/asp/foster.asp?nn=1&addn=219