Ndume's Story

The Imenti Forest is one of many small remnant patches of forest in which fragmented elephant herds shelter, threatened by a burgeoning human population of agriculturalists who are definitely not sympathetic to their presence. Cultivation within the elephants’ ancient migratory routes denies them safe passage to the Mount Kenya forests, and that population to which the Imenti elephants rightfully belong.

Ndume's Story

The Imenti Forest lies East of Mount Kenya between the towns of Embu and Meru and today a handful of elephants (probably no more than about 50) shelters within, surrounded by human settlement and isolated from their Mount Kenya brethren. Illegal logging actually within the forest itself is inflicting further pressure on this small band of surviving elephants, whose future is doomed unless safe passage for them can be arranged by way of a corridor so that they can reach the Mount Kenya forests.

Several of our elephant orphans originate from this small band of survivors in the Imenti Forest, namely Ndume, Malaika, Imenti and Wendi. The orphaning of Ndume and Malaika is a particularly tragic saga, for their family tried to break out of the forest only to find themselves when dawn broke deep inside fields of maize, and surrounded by an irate and growing crowd of villagers, who turned out en masse to defend their crops. They surrounded the traumatized elephants, throwing spears, firing poisoned arrows, and hacking into living flesh as elephants fell in disarray. Finally, the survivors managed to break free and flee back towards their forest stronghold, but three tiny calves had been isolated, Ndume, Malaika and another smaller calf who was literally hacked to pieces before their very eyes. Their turn would have been next had not some Kenya Wildlife Service Rangers turned up to persuade the crowd to spare them, though not before Ndume had suffered such a severe blow on the head that he fell unconscious, and Malaika had been almost hamstrung by “panga” blows.

These two calves came to us in a very sorry state. Both were just 3 months old. Ndume was still unconscious, and having been fitted with a saline drip in an ear vein, the serious wounds inflicted on Malaika had to be dealt with. We feared that Ndume wasn’t going to make it, but gradually he came round, crying pathetically and bellowing for his mother. Malaika, on the other hand, seemed unusually happy, obviously relieved to find humans that were not bent on harming her, but this euphoria lasted just a short time before she sank into deep depression and misery that lasted for weeks. Ndume obviously had no recollection of what had taken place to deprive him of his elephant family. His bellowing became so frantic that we knew we had to let him out of his stable so that he could be reassured that his mother was no longer around. As soon as he was out he tore about frantically searching for the mother he would never find until the Keepers gently rounded him up, and brought him back to Malaika. It was upsetting to witness such distress – the fruitless search of Ndume for his elephant family, and the depression suffered by his little friend.

Eventually, Ndume accepted that his mother was not around, and the searching ended, but the grieving began. Pressed close beside Malaika, the two baby elephants were a tragic sight, as lifeless as zombies, but thankfully happy to accept milk from a bottle and snuggle close to their Keepers at night. The hours of darkness were filled with bellows because both babies suffered nightmares, which went on for months.

Time is a great healer, however, and gradually both began to take an interest in life, particularly when other Nursery inmates arrived, most of them also traumatized and grief-stricken. Elephants possess compassion in abundance, and this helped the healing process. It was, indeed, a joyful sight when they began to play, for we knew then that we were winning.

In the fullness of time, at 2 years of age, both graduated from the Nursery and went down to join Eleanor’s group in Tsavo East National Park, there to begin the gradual introduction and reintegration back into the wild elephant community of that Protected Area. They are, indeed, extremely lucky survivors of the beleaguered Imenti Forest population, fortunate to have been spared death at the hands of the irate tribesmen, and lucky to be offered this second chance of life, and above all, a quality of life in a National Park whose size provides an elephant with the space it needs. Malaika grew up to replace Eleanor as the Matriarch of the Tsavo Orphans, but suffered a tragic end when she died in childbirth aged l0. Ndume grew up amongst the other young bulls of Eleanor’s Orphaned family, namely Olmeg, Taru, Dika and Edo, and became a handsome teenager with thick tusks, whose best friend is Edo. Along with Edo and the other “Big Boys” he took to spending time apart from the orphaned group, seeking the acquaintance of wild age-mates and high ranking males whose demeanour and bearing young bulls like to emulate. Like the others, he returns periodically, sometimes with Edo, at other times alone, striding out of the bush to greet his extended orphaned family. He has been seen to mate Aitong on several occasions, as has Edo, so either one could perhaps be the father of her future calf, but then Aitong has also been mated by wild bulls, so the paternity of any offspring will always be in doubt.

Now fully rehabilitated, Ndume can be numbered as one of the Trust’s greatest elephant triumphs. We are proud to have been able to save the life and genes of at least some of the tragic Imenti Forest elephants and offer them a better future. Ndume (whose name means “Bull”), will be 16 in January 2006; a fine representative of that tragic remnant population of elephants. Though slightly smaller in stature than Edo, he is quite obviously now dominant to Edo in ranking, but the image of a distraught 3 month old elephant baby, crying and desperately searching for his mother, plagued by nightmares during the hours of darkness, is seared forever in the memories of all who knew him then.

Adopt Ndume for yourself or as a gift.

Important Note: Thank you for considering an adoption. Each orphan needs more than one foster parent: your adoption donation will be processed by the SWT UK and Kenya to help all the orphans in our care.

Adopt Ndume for yourself or as a gift.

Important Note: Thank you for considering an adoption. Each orphan needs more than one foster parent: your adoption donation will be processed by the SWT UK and Kenya to help all the orphans in our care.

Current Age

35 years old



Rescued date

15 March 1989

Rescue Location

Meru Region, Imenti Forest

Date of Birth (approximate)

1 January 1989

Reason Orphaned

Problem animal control

Age at Rescue

2 months old (approx)

Current Location

Living Wild

Ndume's featured photos

Our digital adoption programme includes the following:

Personalised adoption certificate.

Monthly email update on your orphan and the project.

Monthly watercolour by Angela Sheldrick.

Access to special content; latest Keepers' Diaries, videos and photos

Give Ndume the gift of life by adopting today.

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A vehicle is donated to the Mount Kenya Trust

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Ndume's latest photos

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Magnificent Ndume

Ndume resting under a tree


Ndume pays the orphans a visit

Ndume is sorounded by orphans