This year has proved the most challenging of them all for us at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, with numerous orphaned elephants coming in due to drought, the exacerbated human wildlife conflict as a result, and the ever increasing poaching threat. Seven orphans in a year was in the past considered a busy year for us, now it is not unusual for us to receive seven orphans in one month.
Due to the influx of orphaned calves we were forced to move some of our older orphans down to join the others in Tsavo in order to make more room in the Nairobi Nursery. The latest two to head down to join Lesanju, Lempaute, Sinya, Shimba, Wasessa, Siria and Mzima were two males, Tassia and Taveta.
Under the guidance of Roy Carr-Hartley they were duly loaded onto the waiting truck at 4.15 am on the 13th of August, both together in one truck in the company of their favorite Keepers. The team was on the road by 4.30 am so this ensured they missed the Nairobi traffic and traveled during the cool of the day. These two young boys were the easiest two we have every moved, probably because they were slightly younger than usual. They were both totally accepting of the lorry and their destiny in the hands of the men they love and know as family and for the whole 500 km journey they remained calm and fed well throughout.
Before 12 noon they were at Voi, with the stockade mudbath prepared for their arrival and their old nursery orphan friends waiting close at hand. They were greeted by the older Voi orphans amid rapturous trumpets and much excitement, and Tassia was immediately singled out as Lempaute’s favorite calf. Lesanju and Lempaute seemed especially delighted to have two little ones to tend to and ensured their first steps in Tsavo East were shadowed by protective ‘Old Hands’. The new babies seemed totally at home in their new environment the moment they arrived, with Taveta even jumping into the water trough completely submerging himself.
Their first night was uneventful too, they seemed to know the drill well in advance, the others obviously having communicated this to them. They spend the nights together as one group and have not looked back since, seemingly delighted to now be with the big elephants, away from the nursery and exposed to ‘elephant country’ and with the chance to fraternize with the wild elephant herds.
For Taveta it is essentially a return home, for he was rescued from the Taita Hills Sanctuary, just 40 minutes away from Voi. Despite being rescued young, the memory for him remains, and the transition has been for them both an easy and happy one.
This is by no means a goodbye, they are moving on to the next phase, and are still, along with the other seven at Voi, Keeper and milk dependent, and will not be ready to join the wild herds permanently for at least another five years. Elephant lives duplicate humans and an orphaned elephant anywhere between five and seven years old is just beginning to find the courage and confidence to spend time away with wild friends, the integration process is a slow one that happens at each individual’s own pace.