Yet again, the move of Galana, Sunyei, Ndomot and Madiba from the Nairobi Nursery Unit, involved a great deal of heart-searching, in view of the fact that the Tsavo rains have all but failed, so a long and exceptionally dry season will now tighten its grip. However, it was felt that the move could not be delayed any longer, with Galana and Sunyei now two, and Madiba and Ndomot almost so, added to the fact that the large Safari trucks were going to be very busy during the forthcoming tourist season. Lewa Downs very kindly allowed us to purchase a lorry load of Lucerne to supplement the youngster’s intake of greens until the November/December rains bring on the green season and a flush of natural browse. Being a low rainfall area, the vegetation of Tsavo is rich in minerals, which young growing elephants need for their big bones, and it was also felt important to allow the babies to acclimatize gradually to the heat rather than tipping them in the deep end when Tsavo is at its hottest.
And so, a couple of days prior to Daphne and the family heading off to London on evening of the 3rd July for the launch of the BBC Natural History Unit’s series, “Elephant Diaries”, four of our nine precious Nursery Elephants embarked on the 7 hour road journey to Ithumba in Northern Tsavo were our Second Reintroduction Elephant facility is based. Having been fed in the two large Safari Trucks, parked against our Loading Ramp, only Galana was at first reluctant to go in, but when it came to departure, it was Sunyei who was most disturbed once inside the vehicle, during which, somehow she managed to tear one ear. Next door, the loading of Madiba and Ndomot proved a breeze, and by 6 a.m. on Saturday 2nd July, the four elephants were on their way, two to each truck, along with their Keepers, their milk, Madiba’s Lymph Drainage pillules, and everything needed at the other end. Our Mobile Veterinary Unit was in attendance, just in case any of the elephants panicked as did Napasha a year ago, and needed a sedative, although each truck was armed with a goodly supply of Rescue Remedy!
Travelling with the elephants was Roy Carr-Hartley, a Veteran when it comes to handling animals, his son Robert (Daphne’s son-in-law) and a BBC Camera Unit to film the reunion at the other end, hopefully for an update at a later date. Ndomot and Sunyei, as tiny babies, were particularly close to Wendi, then the Mini Matriarch of the Nairobi Nursery, whilst we anticipated that Madiba would be delighted to rejoin his friends, Tomboi and Taita. No doubt Napasha being the oldest and largest bull, would lord it over the boys, whilst Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna, although they may never have met the newcomers before, would be overjoyed and very excited to have a larger “herd” under their care.
The convoy arrived at Ithumba by 1 p.m., all the elephants having travelled well, but for the tear in Sunyei’s ear, which was not serious. Whilst the newcomers awaited the arrival of the Ithumba ten, the Vet attended to Sunyei’s torn ear, but then the surrounding bushes exploded, and out came the Ithumba ten, led by Wendi! They arrived unexpectedly and in a rush which unnerved the new arrivals somewhat. Trumpeting, bellowing and rushing around dominated this reunion, which intimidated the Nursery group, especially Ndomot and Galana, who took to their heels. Hot on their heels were the older elephants, namely Yatta, Mulika, Kinna and Nasalot, who were every bit as exuberant in their welcome and probably the largest elephants some of the newcomers could ever remember seeing! Taita immediately homed in on Sunyei and had to be restrained a little, to allow the Nursery elephants some space. But by that evening, they had all settled in, and Ndomot was overjoyed to find himself reunited with the little mother he thought he had lost – namely “Wendi”.
Learning about the electrically fenced Night Stockade Compound is always an off-putting experience for newcomers, and on this occasion poor Ndomot found himself “zapped” first on the head, and then the Bottom! The babies were then steered into the adjoining compartment of the electrically fenced Stockade together with Yatta and Olmalo, and there Olmalo took a shine to Galana, each elephant investigating the tiny tusks of the other, both being of a like size. Later Yatta made it obvious that she would rather move back to her usual place amongst the established Ithumba set, so her place was taken by Nasalot who took on this responsibility happily. Nasalot, Mulika and Wendi were immediately very loving to the little ones, whilst Yatta remained a little distant, probably slightly jealous of the attention they had generated amongst her satellites, but by the next morning all were again one happy family, set to embark on their first sortie into the Big Wide World of Tsavo’s giant Northern Area.
UPDATE 10 DAYS LATER
Having just returned from England, where Elephant Diaries has been an enormous hit, we are happy to report that Sunyei, Ndomot, Madiba and Galana couldn’t be happier in their new home. Ndomot and Wendi are inseparable again, Ol Malo has formed a strong bond of friendship with Galana, Sunyei remembers and loves all her erstwhile Nursery inmates and has confidently slotted into the role of junior “Sub-Nannie”. Madiba’s best friend remains Ndomot, and he, too, is a favourite with Wendi, who probably at first had a hard time recognizing him, having known him only when he was a fuzzy mini-mammoth alien from another world, who wasn’t sure who he was! He is now very much an elephant and a strapping lad, comfortable and gentle with everyone whether they have four legs or two!
AN UPDATE ON THE FIVE NURSERY ORPHANS
The day the four older orphans left for Ithumba was a subdued one, for all of us left behind, and of course for their four legged friends. We were particularly worried about Naserian, how she would react to being left back as the mini matriarch, and of course Buchuma, who was loosing his best friend and sparring partner Ndomot for a time. They have however settled in well, and Naserian has really taken her new role of mini matriarch seriously, with endless love and time for all her four babies. Buchuma has now taken to pushing Rapsu around, who despite having bigger tusks than him is not overly eager to partake in the sparring games, but is definitely Buchuma’s special friend now in Ndomot’s absence. Lualeni’s maternal instincts are beginning to show over Kora, who she adores, and is very protective of. Happily the Nairobi nursery despite initially missing their friends, has settled in well, and now seem a wonderfully contented little unit with Naserian at the helm.