Our Ithumba family continues to grow! Ex-orphan Tumaren has become a first-time mother, giving birth to an enchanting baby boy.
Tumaren’s baby made his appearance on 24th October 2023. It was after the ‘evening rush’ at the stockades, and most of the visiting ex-orphans and wild elephants had dissipated into the wilderness. Thus, Ithumba Head Keeper Benjamin was surprised to see a mum and newborn calf emerge from the dust and beeline for the stockades. He was even more surprised when he realised it was Tumaren, making the time-honoured pilgrimage ‘home’ to introduce her baby boy to the people who raised her!
The first-time mum was given a hearty helping of lucerne, while the Ithumba team admired their newest ‘grandbaby’. Tumaren had clearly given birth earlier that day, for she had visited the stockades the evening prior, still heavily pregnant. We named her little boy Tembo, which means ‘elephant’ in Swahili.
Motherhood is a poignant milestone for Tumaren, who lost her own mother under the most tragic circumstances. Her story with us began in July 2009, when we received a heartbreaking report from Tumaren Ranch in Laikipia: A mother elephant lay dying, evidently paralysed. Her little calf, who was just nine months old, stood solidly by her side.
We will never know what happened to Tumaren’s mother, but it seems likely that she was poisoned. With no hope for recovery, the KWS made the difficult decision to end her suffering. Meanwhile, the managers of Tumaren Ranch took custody of the young orphan for the night, for it was too late to action a rescue. It was a sleepless night for all, as Tumaren bellowed for her mother and even tried to climb out a window in desperation.
By noon the next morning, Tumaren was safely ensconced in the Nursery. She was very strong and aggressive — which is actually a good sign, as it indicates that an orphan has both the will to live and the reserves to fight for themselves. We immediately brought the other orphans over to welcome and reassure her, and from that moment forward, Tumaren has been like velvet. She is a gentle, quiet elephant, one who never steals the show but always looks out for others.
In December 2010, Tumaren graduated to our Ithumba Reintegration Unit in Tsavo East National Park. As with all orphans, her reintegration journey unfolded gradually, but by the end of 2015, she was leading a completely wild life. She joined a small herd with her Nursery friends, including Olare, Melia, Kandecha, Naisula, Kitirua, Chemi Chemi, Kalama, and Kibo — and while her social network has expanded, Tumaren remains close with these friends to this day. In fact, Kitirua has emerged as one of Tembo’s top nannies.
After losing her mother so cruelly at such a young age, we are delighted that Tumaren now has the opportunity to raise her own baby in the wild. We are also deeply touched that she chose to share this joy with us, welcoming us into her ever-expanding family.