They were the very first of Tsavo’s Elephants to venture back into the remote Northern Area of the Park – the Scouts of Elephant Society, who were curious about our Orphaned Elephants who suddenly appeared, as though by magic, at the the Trust”s second Rehabilitation Centre at Ithumba established seven years ago. For the first couple of years that the orphans were at Ithumba, they had little contact with wild elephants who never seemed to venture further north than the Tiva river. Then the wild Bulls began to ventured in under cover of darkness to observe, communicate and marvel at so many elephant youngsters who obviously loved the humans that were their human family. Then more recently, initiated by the wild Bull we named “Rafiki”, (the friend), they began to make the odd appearance at the Stockade water trough during daylight hours, but only very briefly until brave “Rafiki” pioneered more trusting and closer contact. He surprised and thrilled everyone by attaching himself to the orphans and their Keepers, walking behind them for weeks at a time, with no sign of animosity or aggression towards the Keepers. He even partook of the mudbath, allowed the orphans to clamber all over his huge body as he lay in the mud, and following them and their Keepers at a distance when they returned to their Night Stockades in the evening. One night he even slept just outside their Stockades, his head resting on a large flat stone at the entrance, contentedly snoring loudly.
The stories are many and each one wonderous and a perfect illustration of the sophisticated communication of elephants. One surprise was when when a large wild Bull brought orphan Ol malo back home to the Stockades. Ol malo had been absent from Yatta’s group for a couple of days, and since this an unusual event, the Keepers were anxious. Nowadays however it is not uncommon for Ol malo to return on her own having enjoyed wild contact further afield, sometimes in the company of wild elephant friends who are, more often than not, Big Bulls. Her time is spent alternating between them and her Senior orphaned group led by Matriarch Yatta now.
Today, especially during the dry season when the natural water pans have dried out, the Stockade water trough is a magnet, and seldom without Big Wild Bulls, who have given the nod to the cow herds who are beginning to venture in with their babies during day light hours. It is not uncommon now to find over thirty wild elephants comfortably intermingling with our Orphans at the stockade water, totally at ease with the Keepers and foster parents visiting the unit.
It is touching that our orphans have been the catalyst that has brought the wild elephants back into the most northern part of the Park, an area they abandoned for 30 years following the poaching holocaust of the late seventies, the eighties when Tsavo East’s elephants went from 20,000 to just 6,000, slaughtered en masse to satisfy the avaricious and growing demand for illegal ivory driven by Far Eastern Consumers.
Now, the elephants are again under threat through an upsurge in poaching for ivory, and it must surely be incumbent upon CITES as the organization charged with the protection of endangered species, to take the plunge and ban the sale of all ivory forever if future generations are to witness the wonder of magnificent wild elephants living in their natural wild habitats. DONATE ONLINE NOW