Published on the 2nd of October, 2016
Here at the DSWT HQ in Nairobi National Park, we never know quite what tomorrow will bring so we have learnt to take each day at a time and do our best to grapple with whatever the day throws at us.
So it was when news came in on the 14th October 2014 that an infant orphaned elephant had been rescued in the Milgis Lugga, Laikipia district.
Since infant elephants are essentially extremely fragile, as usual a plane was chartered to take the rescue team and all the emergency medical equipment needed to the nearest airfield where the rescued elephant had been taken.
When the plane landed the team were greeted not only by an orphaned infant elephant, but also by 2 identical newly hatched ostrich chicks – also now orphaned. Instantly the saying that they were like 2 peas in a pod came to mind, so they were named “Pea & Pod” and along with the orphaned elephant, they were flown back to the Nairobi Nursery.
During the time that my late husband was warden of Tsavo East National park many orphaned ostriches passed through our hands, and we had learnt from experience that while the females were gentle, the males always turned out to be “otherwise” and in order to live wild, had to be taken far from human habitation since they could be dangerously aggressive and capable of slicing a human from head to toe using their legs and the claw.
In the beginning it was impossible to identify the gender of the Pea and Pod, but as they grew up amidst the orphaned elephant herd it soon became apparent. Whereas Pea loved the elephants and their keepers and was always gentle and well behaved, even in the company of a crowd, Pod was more independent, wandering further afield, and also took an aversion to the keepers donning a rain coat during the wet weather, instantly showing overt signs of being a boy.
Each day the orphaned elephants and the 2 ostriches were taken on long walks down to the open plains of Nairobi National Park and sometimes they had the opportunity to mix with the wild ostriches of Nairobi Park, and must opportunely, one day, Pod never returned as usual with the herd. The elephants and Pea returned without him, and we can only assume that Pod joined the wild ostriches, since there was no evidence to suggest otherwise.
Meanwhile, Pea obviously felt totally “at home” amongst the orphaned elephants, allowing them to suckle her thighs, lying down in the soft earth pile with them when they enjoyed dusting their wet bodies after the mudbath. She would fan her wings and by so doing cause a soft dust cloud to envelop everyone. At times when the elephants took a nap, she would lie next to them, cradling them with her neck and covering them with her soft feathers. She truly believed she was part of their herd, and since birds are known to imprint, she believed she was an elephant and behaved as such amongst them, during the open visiting hour between 11am and 12 noon, parading around the visiting public standing behind a cordon and never pecking them or attempting to peck any shiny ornament they happened to be wearing. With the absence of Pod, peace and order reigned again for the keepers who can now wear their raincoats again on rainy days!
And so it is today the orphaned elephants and Pea always together during the hours of daylight, and at night Pea is kept safe in specially designed stables to accommodate those with long necks – i.e. Kiko the orphaned giraffe and herself.