All elephants are special; all are individuals in their own right, just as every individual human is unique. All the orphaned elephants that come into our care have their own unique and dramatic rescue story - One of the most special orphans the Trust has ever hand-reared is Wendi, whose name in the Meru dialect means “hope” and who came to us a newborn on the 11th September 2002. She was found lying as though dead beside a waterhole in the Imenti Forest, a small isolated forest which still harbours a dwindling population of elephants who have been cut off from their traditional migratory route to the Mt. Kenya forests by human settlement.
When little Wendi first came in, we prayed that she was at least a few days old, and not absolutely newborn and as such not having benefited from her mother's first milk which is crucial to trigger the natural immune system. Unhappily, it soon became evident that Wendi was, in fact, a brand new Colostrum deficient baby. Being Colostrum deficient manifests itself early on. Severe enteritis sets in with bleeding from the rear, followed by other infections such as the dreaded pneumonia. When Wendi began to show these symptoms, we knew we had another real challenge on our hands, but we had the benefit of hindsight for we had managed to retrieve another Imenti forest orphan, named “Imenti”, from the jaws of death under similar circumstances. What did it for him, was plasma taken from the blood of orphan “Malaika”.
We chose Thoma. She was anaesthetized out in the bush, surrounded by her very concerned little Nursery friends, so that 2 pints of blood could be drawn from an ear vein. As she lay unconscious, all the other Nursery babies fondled her, but at the same time, since she was with her Keepers, they understood that she must just have been asleep. All this took about 15 minutes, and Thoma was woken up, much to the relief and joy of us and her friends, because anaesthetizing an elephant always involves the element of risk. The blood then had to have the plasma separated centrifugally and the next day it had to be dripped into little Wendi's ear vein whilst she, too, lay unconscious and still.
For a day or two later, she was very wobbly, sleeping a great deal, but gradually she became stronger and even attempted to play. At the time it was a question of keeping Fingers Firmly Crossed, and with a great deal of tender loving care and the concern and prayers of all her foster-parents, we all hoped and prayed that little "HOPE" would grow up to be as fit and strong as that other Colostrum deprived baby that we battled so hard for - Imenti the Brave.
And she did. Having eventually filled the role of Mini Nursery Matriarch, she graduated to the Ithumba Rehabilitation Stockades in Northern Tsavo East National Park where she evolved into a Matriarch of the Keeper Dependent Orphans based at night in the Stockades. In the fullness of time she made the transition into the wild elephant community, and today, at nine years of age, Wendi is a very important member of the 28 other Ex Orphans now living wild under the leadership of Yatta. Wendi is the main Leader of a Splinter Group that regularly separates from Yatta’s main Ex Orphan herd to keep in closer touch with the Keeper Dependent Youngsters who still return at night to the Ithumba Elephant Stockades, obviously with the consent and approval of Yatta and her Senior peers. Usually accompanied by other Ex Junior Matriarchs and several Ex Orphan bulls, Wendi keeps in very close touch with each and every batch of new Ex Nursery orphans who are transferred to Ithumba and who, in their own time and pace, like her will also become “wild” elephants again within that part of the giant Tsavo East National Park.
But, Wendi is special in another way - She is also equally as loving to her human family and foster-parents and other well wishers that visit the Ithumba Elephants at the Stockades and at their noon mudbath venue. Never having known her Elephant Mother and family, she fondly remembers the tender loving care she received from a host of Human Carers, She seeks them out and is always gentle and loving towards them, even though at nine years of age, she towers over them.
She confounded all those skeptics who assumed that she would never be able to cope with life as a wild elephant having been raised by humans from the day she was born. There are still some skeptics out there who believe that her love of the humans that shared her infancy and childhood years might make her more vulnerable to poachers bent on killing her for her ivory. But, Wendi is wise, and will have been “told” by her wild friends that not all humans are to be trusted. She recognizes and knows her human family and visting friends, it is her way of thanking them and us for saving her life and that is what makes Wendi, so very special.