Published on the 13th of January, 2017
Hot on the heels of the previous move, it was a quick turnaround to get the next three orphans earmarked for the Ithumba relocation Unit down to join best friends Oltaiyoni, Kamok and Roi. Big boy Kauro, who came to us as a tiny infant at the same time as Kamok, Tusuja, and little rascal Naseku, were prepared in the early morning ready to be loaded by 3.00am. Their move was taking place on the 31st of December, the last day of the year, and the Nairobi team efficiently loaded them with little fuss, bar Tusuja for a few moments, in the early hours of the morning.
On this occasion, the Nursery entourage was off even earlier! With few people on the road at that time of the morning the journey down the Mombasa Nairobi highway was quick and without incident. As with previous moves, the orphans were loaded into the three compartments of our customized Elephant Mover truck, which have ample ventilation, a corridor for the Keepers to be on hand and accessible throughout, plenty of spare milk stocks and assorted green browse on hand for the orphans to enjoy. Drowsy from the tranquilizer administered before being loaded, the elephants were lulled by the rocking motion of the truck, and because they continued to feed, it was clear that they trusted their human family implicitly and were resigned to their fate, despite not knowing what lay ahead for them.
As is always the case, the lorry stopped at a specific place along the way where their favoured Grewa browse was available and could be cut for them to feast on for the remainder of the journey. This time a record was set, the entourage making exceptional time passing through the rural village of Ikutha en route to the Northern Area of Tsavo East's main entrance at Kanziku. It was 9.30 am by the time the lorry parked against the Ithumba Stockade Loading Ramp, but a cool and overcast day eased proceedings. Again like the move which took place a few days before, Daphne, Angela, Robert and the family were on hand to meet the orphaned babies at the Ithumba end to settle them in. As the compartment gates of the Elephant Mover were unlocked and opened, one by one the orphans gingerly stepped out, taking in a whole new world. The three Nursery Keepers with whom they were familiar who had accompanied them were on hand, and the babies clung to them like glue as they were guided down with a milk bottle to the water trough, and the mud wallow. Kauro was the most confused, drowsy and dazed, but little Naseku was a revelation and completely at ease, despite being the smallest of the group, her main focus being trying to get more than her quota of milk. Slowly Kamok, Oltaiyoni and Roi were brought in from behind the hill to where the new comers stood and there followed a warm greeting, relieved to find one another again! It was a comforting introduction for Kauro and company.
Then in groups of three the rest of the dependent group were led in to meet the newcomers, which was somewhat overwhelming for them, although Naseku still appeared un-phased. However, there were many old friends in the midst of the Ithumba orphans, which resulted in greetings and rumbles all round. It is such invaluable relationships, friendships and mentoring that will ably guide these new babies back into the wild, which is what makes our Orphans' Project so truly unique. Having spanned Daphne’s life time, with the first orphaned elephants in the world raised by David Sheldrick in the 50’s, it was reflective for Daphne to witness yet another move on the last day of 2016 of orphans who had been robbed of their elephant family and who had been assisted through the difficult early years by their adopted human family. Now they would be taking the next step to living wild in Tsavo East National Park, like so many before them - a National Park built from virgin wilderness by the late David Sheldrick. This giant expanse of Africa is Kenya’s largest National Park, and home to around 13,500 wild elephants. The Trust’s conservation initiatives are largely focused in this region and we are mindful that raising orphaned elephants without taking into consideration the bigger picture, would be futile. The ten anti-poaching teams that we fund and manage in partnership with KWS are so very important for the future of our orphans and their wild peers, as is the aerial unit, where our aircraft patrol the skies of this vast area, keeping an eye out for illegal activities and providing support for our ground teams.
The first day for Naseku, Kauro and Tusuja at Ithumba was a day spent close to home, without wandering too far as they became familiar with their new surroundings. In the evening they shared an electrically fenced Night Stockade for the first time, the six new Nursery orphans sleeping together.
2017 dawned to a beautiful new day, with some of our Ex Orphans waiting outside to greet and accompany the new babies for much of the day amongst whom were Mutara, Chaimu, Kilaguni, Kilabasi, and Suguta. They browsed with the newcomers throughout the gentle and cool morning and frolicked with them in the mud bath during the midday heat. With the Ex Orphans were two wild bulls, one of whom was magnificently huge and who was quite awe-inspiring for the new babies; one could see them sneaking glances his way!
This is the beginning of the next chapter for those new Orphans and we feel sure that they will thrive in their new home, with their much loved and trusted two legged human family at hand, and their elephant family set to grow further as new wild friends are added to the mix.