Every orphan we rescue is offered a second chance at life they certainly would not have been afforded had their lives been left up to fate, once their mothers and families were lost.
Dame Daphne Sheldrick started the Orphans' Project all those years ago knowing that each and every orphan that came through our doors was with us only for as long as they needed our love, care and protection, and after that we must be willing to let them go, to prepare and ease their transition to the wild where they belong. This understanding however does not make it any easier should anything befall any of the orphans we have spent so long nurturing to the stage where they start they journey becoming more independent as they return to the wild, and thus it was a bitter pill to swallow learning the tragic news of Sokotei’s death on the 28th April.
Sokotei came to us from Samburu at only six months old in 2014 after his mother tragically died due to natural causes. After his traumatic beginning and suffering from terrible diarrhoea which gave us cause for concern for some weeks, he eventually settled down and became a loving and friendly addition to the Nursery babies present at that time, so beginning his friendship with Kithaka, Barsilinga and Suguta and, later on, his age mates Sirimon, Enkikwe, Olsekki and Siangiki.
Sokotei’s bond with these same friends since their Nursery days was stronger than ever at the Ithumba Unit and he had recently been so happy and comfortable that he and his band of brothers and sisters sought more and more independence, wandering further afield under the leadership of Laragai, joining up with the ex-orphans, and leaving their stockades at night when Laragai chose to open up the stockade doors.
On the 28th April we were devastated by the terrible news that our dear four year old little Sokotei had been killed by lions a few kilometres from the Ithumba Stockades. Given that his group, led by Laragai, had been more independent recently, whether the incident happened during night or day, we could not be certain. That nature chose to take this course we must accept, although Sokotei will be dearly missed by his Keepers and friends. In the wake of this fatal attack, our partially dependent orphans have been decidedly fearful and have been encouraged to stick close to home with the dependent orphans and their Keepers, tempted with milk bottles once again in an effort to anchor them. Sensing the danger around, the older Ex Orphans in Mutara’s herd also stayed close, to help calm and protect the younger orphans.
We seek solace in the fact that Sokotei was offered a second chance at all, and afforded many more years since his mother passed away all those years ago, thanks to the numerous people and organisations involved in monitoring his mother's condition and eventually coordinating his rescue. Rest in peace little Sokotei.