Return to nature, to live wild again

On Wednesday 19 January 1994 a tragedy took place nearby the Imenti Forrest on the foot of Mount Kenya. A herd of elephants bumped half way their migration route suddenly onto human territory which was never there before, as these elephants went on these paths for centuries. All routes are passed on from one generation to the next.

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herd of elephants

What do they know about advancing humanity which lead to their shrinking habitat? The elephants don’t know where else to go to.
This year this particular herd suddenly were confronted with appearing fences in the middle of nowhere. According to their memory there where never fences before here. Now they had to find a solution to go around these fences but how?
The matriarch was confused about this fence which was never here before and she didn’t know what to do. Her confuse affected the whole herd and everyone was upset now. All knew only the way as they followed since generations and this hurdle was new. All knowledge passed on from many generations seemed now worthless. The elephants now saw farmland, agriculture and a fence…where was the grass and where were the trees, food they need so urgently?!

What to do now????

In their frantic efforts to go around the fence, the herd end up just more and more on the cultivated farmland of the people instead of walking away from it.
One of the elephants was in need. She was pregnant and in distress as she was just about in the stage of delivering new life in this world. Just when her need was on the highest level there was danger everywhere.The upcoming mother elephant was on the wrong moment on the wrong place and the baby entered also on the wrong time. The worst possible moment to give birth was unthinkable.

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mother in defense to protect herself and the herd

Angry farmers discovered the herd on their farmland and feared their crops to be eaten by the elephants. Now the whole herd panicked and the run everywhere being scared for the humans and they were in distress because the mother elephant was about to give birth any second now. The next moment it rained bullets everywhere and the whole herd hit on the run except the mother elephant.

What should be a tender special and happy event after 22 months in the womb for this new mama turned into tragedy and became a bloodbath. On the moment the rain of bullets deprived her life , she pressed in her last breath her baby in this world. The last thing she did before dying was giving new life. A mother died, a baby was born.

The farmers went away not impressed by the tragedy that just had happened on their farmland. The herd was gone and the land was protected that was all they cared about.

Meanwhile the newborn baby elephant lay helpless next to the still warm body of his mama while her blood flooded out her body. The little baby stayed motionless in silence close to his mama. He didn’t took any effort to stand up. At this point it was even uncertain of the newborn was hit by the bullets as well. The vulnerable innocent baby didn’t realize yet in what kind of cruel world he was born.

The next day rangers discovered the body of the mother during their patrol. Then they saw the tiny baby who soaked in his mother’s blood. The bay was mostly still covered in the amnion. Thanks to the thoroughness of these rangers the newborn baby was brought to the DSWT-orphanage in Nairobi. He was the youngest baby orphan ever as he even hadn’t had his mothers colostrum. He was named Imenti after the forest where his mother lost her life and gave him life.
Colostrum is essential for the immune system of all baby elephants and Imenti didn’t had any. Because of lack on colostrum is immune system was dysfunctional. Normally this means that the baby will die. The only chance on survival was to give Imenti a blood transfusion with blood plasma. The keepers used the blood from older orphans Malaika who was also born in the Imenti Forest. The transfusion was a success. Now Imenti had a chance to survive!

As Imenti grew older he became a very gentle sweet elephant baby, his best friend was Emily. When all orphans were scared of baboon there was always Imenti who chased them away and protected the herd as he wasn’t scared of anything. Imenti became very protective so buffaloes, warthogs and other animals better think twice before walking in the way of the orphans. Imenti was also like a big brother for all younger orphans, always ready to play and always patient with them. The orphans and the keepers were his family and that meant everything to him. Emily and Imenti bonded for life.

Around 2001-2002 Imenti became a teenager and that made him restless. One time he was just as he always was, patience and playful the next moment the felt the call of nature to move on and started to go more and more his own way. The keepers let him be as he showed all natural behavior. It is the main goal that all orphans at some point are ready to return back to nature to live independent. The decision about when it was his time to take the next step had to be Imenti’s own choice. Only Imenti himself knew when he was ready, when it was his time. Sometimes Imenti went his own way and stayed away for several days. Suddenly he appeared then in the mud bath and rejoined the orphaned herd again.

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playful orphans at DSWT

At some point he started to intimidate his keepers sometimes as he was now the dominant bull. This change in Imenti’s behavior became an important reason for the keepers to take the decision to relocate Imenti and 2 of his friends named Ndume and Lewa, and bring them to the Ngulia Valley in Tsavo West.

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young bulls at DSWT and their keeper

At some point the orphanage received a lot of complains from the local population that a tame elephant walked in their village every time. This elephant was Ndume and he had found a pigs farm and joined the pigs as he had found out when the pigs became food. Why taking an effort as it is so convenient. All the pigs stepped aside for the young bull. Although the pigs didn’t mind the owner didn’t like it at all. One time Ndume am back with poisoned spear in his head. Bigger problem was the fact that Imenti and Lewa joined Ndume often and the pig-owner had not 1 but 3 elephants amongst his pigs. The rangers controlled and guided the 3 young bulls as much as possible to provide them from getting into trouble.

By doing this the rangers and the keepers learnt a lot about the habits and routes of the 3 young bulls. Another issue was that the young bull were not afraid for people because they all are hand raised by humans. They wanted to become friends with the humans in the villages. When all 3 the young bulls became hit by spears and they needed for the third time medical treatment the decision was made to relocate all 3 the bull to a safer location 160 miles further away.

The 3 bull were anesthetized and load into trucks. When they arrived the safe location all were loaded out the trucks. The keepers said goodbye to their elephant-friends and left. Imenti run for miles behind to the truck as he didn’t want the keepers to go away from him. Nothing was changed very much in Imenti’s situation only the 3 bulls were now in a safer area but still on their own as they were ready for this step. Only time would tell how the young bulls would manage to live on their own being all independent now.

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finding their way independly in the wild

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