When life becomes suffering

There was one orphan, who from the start in the orphanage always had a unsure future.

She was the weakest of all, not mentally but physically. She was a fighter, always willing to go on, but when time passes by her body lost day by day the strength to hold on.

Mweiga was found, together with an older brother, in the Mweiga area. She was a victim of the so called animal-human conflict. Farmers want the herd to go away but Mweiga and her brother were stuck in the swamp. The brother was capable to free himself and join the herd again, but Mweiga was to week to do the same. Rangers found her and called for help, so Mweiga ended up in Voi because she was about 2 years of age. In Voi Emily was the matriarch together with her friend Aitong, they both want to nurse Mweiga. Mweiga was loaded by lots of love but feeding? Despite all the efforts the keepers made, this little orphan didn’t eat a thing until the moment a desperate keeper tried it with a bottle of milk. Mweiga was starved and drunk greedy the whole bottle empty thankfully and was searching for more.

The keepers thought now there was made a mistake with Mweiga, she clearly was fully milk-dependent, and didn’t know what to do with the other food, so she must be younger than the age of 2 which everyone thought she was. Mweiga was large for her age. Finally Mweiga seemed to be just about 8 months. The keepers decided to keep Mweiga in Voi and not remove her again to the nursery, as moving her would be to traumatic for the little baby. Here with Emily and Aitong she could recover and settle down. When time passed by Mweiga indeed settled down well with Emily and Aitong , but it became clear that Mweiga was dealing with a lot of physical problems.

So it turned out that Mweiga has a week heart, as a result of that, she always has a low condition and became soon tired. Her back legs were stiff , she had artrose. Mweiga was indeed tall for her age but also very vulnerable. Her bones were large but fragile, a typical body signal of all the elephants living in the Mweiga area. In this area the quality of the vegetable is poor and missing very important essential minerals and calcium needed for the development of the bones.

For those reasons the life expectation of this little orphan wasn’t very high. But with extra supplements and medication the keepers were hoping to improve her quality of life.  She was very young so everything was still possible for Mweiga.

In the meantime Mweiga was managing well despite her physical boundaries, in the group. Mweiga could fall over the littlest rock possible, but Emily and Aitong always had the most thinkable patience with Mweiga and helped her time after time on her feet again. Everyone who was trying to tease her, could count on a strong lecture from Emily and Aitong. Mweiga’s journey to the wild literally went with falling down , stumble and going on. She became a real survivor and never gave up.

In the following period things began to change for Mweiga. First there was Sweet Sally and soon after little Tsavo came in the orphanage as well, so Mweiga wasn’t the youngest anymore. It also was love on first side for Emily and Tsavo, so Mweiga had to share Emily from now on. Emily being 8 years and the matriarch has the natural strength to increase her family. But her weakness did make Mweiga now 4 years old, feel very unsure. For the first time her weakness became a problem to go on like the others, in particular Tsavo who was younger and more capable than Mweiga was. With 4 years it is natural to become less dependent, but Mweiga was the exception. For the first time Emily didn’t immediately run to her by every call Mweiga made, the others needed Emily’s attention now as well. Aitong became more responsible for Mweiga and her babysitter. Little Tsavo was very dominant and Mweiga became a bit depressive. She was having a hard time to adapt the new situation, and sometimes she was even a bit jealous.

In 2003 Emily’s herd counted 29 orphans. Physically Mweiga didn’t have the strength to stay with the main herd especially when Emily lead the herd into the mountains. A sad Mweiga kept behind close to the keepers, she wanted so desperately join them but her body missed the power to climb the mountain. But if you’re not so strong, then you have to be smart….Mweiga was smart. When you are unable to walk to the milkfeeding place, than you have to be sure that the milk comes you’re way….

Mweiga did.

Mweiga did exactly know when and where the truck with the milk appeared. She insured herself that she was there on time before the truck arrived.

In orphan Edie Mweiga had found a companion so they both blocked the truck so they were really insured that they became first the milk. Sometime she tried to steal milk from Icholta who immediately started screaming until she became a new bottle.

Emily was also smart. It looked a bit selfish from Emily and the herd to abandon Mweiga, but it was not. It is just their natural way, but everyone was always contacting Mweiga by infrasound, so she really wasn’t abandoned at all. Mweiga herself could only accompany the younger orphans, everything else was too difficult for her, and as older female she could lead and learning the young ones.

Every orphan knew from Emily she was weaker, so Emily had also found the solution by organizing a babysit-Mweiga-team. The members of that team joined Mweiga from time to time, one by one. Sosian, Burra, Mpala, Seraa and Solango where the ones in particular who joined her, so from now on Mweiga was never alone. Sometimes Mweiga was waiting on foot of the mountain on the herd. Emily let her lead the herd to the stockade, so everyone then walked patiently and with respect for Mweiga in slow motion behind her to the stockade.

But what would her future look like?

Would Mweiga grow stronger and grew over her problems?

Four years passed by. Years where all 26 orphans of Mweiga’s group grown stronger and bigger and more mature every day. They all became gentle giants now, whom day by day went a step closer by living back to the wild again. Imenti, Uaso, Edo, Lewa where completely living wild again now. Emily took her decision after a period of serious doubts and then also decided it was her time to live back to the wild , but she didn’t go by her own. She took her own herd with her, but only the ones being ready. In the beginning she only took Aitong with her and from time to time Ilingwesie joined them. Every morning they returned to the stockade to take the youngsters with them for the day, at night she brought them back. But even that became less. At one day Emily took Sweet Sally and Tsavo also with her to live independently back into the wild.

In the stockades Natumi took the lead now instead of Emily, and she led the orphans day by day to Emily’s group so they all were together almost every day.

Mweiga also became 4 years older, and sadly not 4 years stronger. In fact she didn’t make progress at all, so that means 4 years grew bigger and grew weaker. The bigger Mweiga grew the harder her heart had to pump the blood through her vessels, and oxygen through her lungs. Her mind and body and tusks grew each day, but her bones and hearts suffered each day Mweiga grew a bit more. Every step she made hurts her and costs her so much tension.

In the formal days Mweiga lived surrounded by all 26 other orphans in and amongst the stockade. The other orphans passed her by in development and they all were ready to take the next step, every day they were closer by living independently wild again. But all the orphans kept in close touch with Mweiga and she was never alone, one of the other always joined her for the day.

A few years ago(2003) Mweiga was surrounded day and night by the whole herd as a member of the herd.

Now the whole herd was staying in the wild (2007) and she was on her own in stockade every single night, except with the one who was stay behind to kept her company for the night, mostly Burra. The herd most of the time visited Mweiga first before going back for the night in the wild. But they were ready to live on their own, but what kept them to stay close by the stockade was their worry about the one who didn’t go so well like them.

Mweiga wanted to live and was fighting for it each day again. Her spirit was young just like she was, but her body was old very old and made her suffer. Her body condition made her feel so tired.

SONY DSC
Mweiga with Joseph, going to stockades few weeks before her passing.

It was short after the elections in Kenia, 23 december 2007 and everyone was busy with Christmas events. By night Burra and Mweiga went back as always, to the stockade. It was about 8 o’ clock when the keeper heard a lound scream and rumbling . The keeper thought it was Mweiga, that she was fallen again and needed help.

But this time it was Burra who was completely in panic. Indeed Mweiga was laying on the ground. Kepper Joseph kneeled down to Mweiga , and he understood that it was useless to try to get her on her feet again. He gently and softly spoke to Mweiga. In his arms she blew her last breath and died safely in the arms of her beloved keeper. She died cause of her heart that stopped.

Burra was so scared that he run in panic to Emily and the herd in the wild. They all were close by as if they already knew and understood what was happened. All the orphans say farewell to their beloved Mweiga and grieved in way only elephants do. Even the orphaned zebra and the kudu came to say farewell. After that they all went silently back to the mudpool, where Emily and her group were waiting for them. It looked like as if they washed their youth away and make theirselves ready for a new chapter in their life’s. For the very first time ALL the orphans spent the night together as one herd, free and with Mweiga in their heart.

Christmas 2007,  27 orphans, who were raised with the highest effort, love and dedication possible, reached the end of their journey, a fully independent life in the wild. Emily, Aitong, Ilingwesie, Tsavo, Sweet Sally, Natumi, Icholta, Edie, Mweya, Mukwaju, Solango, Morani, Irima, Nyiro, Ndara, Thoma, Vita, Laikipia, Lolokwe, Loisaba, Seraa, Maungu, Mpala, Salama, Sosian, Burra, and….Mweiga.

But when you look closer you saw only footprints of 26 orphans in the red sand from Tsavo.

At the time her need was the biggest, that her life began to mean suffering, Mweiga will be carried from now on by God and live forever in every ones hearts who loved her and knew her, like the sun is warming the earth.  Mweiga , you really are dead when forgotten, and the ones who loved you will never forget you.

Mweiga’s death meant full freedom of the other 26 orphans. With Mweiga, passed away there was nothing what kept them from living dependent in the wild anymore, no worries about the weakest anymore. Mweiga travelled from now on always with them without suffering , in their hearts. Emily and her group came back one night to made really sure that Mweiga wasn’t left behind and then all The 26 orphans went away for a long time, about 3 months, to grieve, to enjoy their freedom, being wild again, to settle in the whole group together in the wild like they were born. They were back home.

Mission accomplished.

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