Shimba was born in August 2006 in the Shimba Hills to a mother who had lost half of her trunk to a poacher’s snare. A planned translocation of elephants from Shimba National Reserve to Tsavo East National Park by the Kenya Wildlife Service then took place and unwisely Shimba and his compromised mother were amongst them. Whereas his mother could get by in the forests of the Shimba Hills, she could not cope with the harsh conditions of arid Tsavo which proved too much for her. She died soon afterwards just north of Lugards Falls near the road from the Voi Headquarters to Ithumba. It was thanks to a road gang working on the road who came across the dead mother, that Shimba was rescued in time. He was clambering all over his dead mother, attempting to suckle her lifeless breasts, a tiny calf of just 6 weeks old.
He was airlifted to the Nairobi Nursery, where he spent the next 3 years before being translocated to the Voi Rehabilitation Centre from whence he would gradually make the transition to a normal wild life again. Under the protective matriarchship of Lesanju, Lempaute and Sinya as well as support from the Voi Keepers, he thrived, a very gentle and “laid back” little elephant, and a great sparring partner for Mzima, Taveta and the other smaller boys.
During the late evening of the 6th April 2013 all the orphans happened to be mingling with a friendly wild elephant herd when a huge clap of thunder overhead scared them all witless, sending the orphans fleeing in the midst of the wild herd. A search ensued with little success, all teams on high alert fighting through the storm in an effort to find the missing orphans, yet they had no luck until first light when they first came across Shimba, who was making his way home alone, and who had tragically been attacked by a lion and had been left seriously mauled, especially around the face, one ear having been chewed to pieces, with horrendous wounds around his back and hindquarters.
Sadly, the Keepers escorted him slowly back to the Stockades, where his long recovery would take place, and where his horrendous wounds would have to be cleaned and regularly treated over the ensuing months. The face wounds were deep because when he took his milk, some would come out of his right ear hole, indicating that the internal damage was extensive. But, other than that, over the months his wounds healed, but in the process the ear hole of the damaged ear closed completely. But, as soon as he felt up to going out to browse, he accompanied little Panda and fed around the Stockades, taking himself back into his Stockade before nightfall.
Whilst Shimba appeared to be contented and happy, ever since the lion incident he consistently lost condition, despite continuous veterinary attention and supplementary feeding of Lucerne, Dairy Cubes and even milk. Gradually, he became ever weaker, until the day came when he could not get to his feet unaided, but nevertheless appeared to enjoy his food. He was put on life support and rallied briefly, whilst we, and the Vets, were all baffled as to what ailed him internally and which would not respond to injectable antibiotics. Eventually, he died on the morning of the 20th October 2013 surrounded by his grieving human family of Keepers, who adored him and will miss him sorely. It was also a very sad and tragic day for his little Elephant friend, Panda, who also adored him, but who by now had another orphans named Mudanda and injured Mbirikani for company, as well as her long time zebra friend, orphan Lualeni. Shimba was 7 years old when he died at the age when he was almost ready to make the transition to a wild life, but for the lion attack which ultimately sealed his tragic fate despite everyone’s very best efforts.
When one has known an elephant so intimately ever since the tender age of just 6 weeks, and have followed every step of his life, every single day, and watched him grow, one knows him as intimately as one would your own child. One is conversant with his personality, his temperament and his likes and dislikes. Shimba promised to be a fine bull. He had thick, long tusks and a gentle and responsive nature, a friend to all, and a huge favourite who was deeply cherished and loved by us all. His death is a tragedy and a painful loss, especially after he had been through so much, and so stoically as well, standing quietly despite the pain involved in cleaning and dressing his wounds. He so trusted and loved his human family that he understood that they would never have ever done anything intended to harm him and that the pain he had to endure was for his own good, for his human family loved him and only wanted to heal him. The trust he held for them was very moving.
Rest in Peace Shimba, somewhere in the Great Somewhere, at peace now and reunited with your Elephant Mother. You will live on forever in the hearts and minds of all who knew you personally, and hundreds of others who fostered you from all corners of the earth, and who followed your life monthly, and grew to know and love you as well.