Our elephant family has welcomed a new member, Baby Lexi, born to Lualeni. This is Lualeni’s second baby girl and motherhood holds a special significance for her as she had to overcome a lot of heartbreak as an orphan. 17 years ago, Lualeni’s life was in danger when staff at a lodge in Taita Hills Sanctuary found a tiny elephant sleeping under a tree, all alone and trying to join passing herds. It was evident that the calf had lost its mother to poachers. This birth is a joyous occasion for our extended elephant family.
It was a constant challenge for us to assist Lualeni in overcoming the intense sadness that had taken control of her after she was rescued. Even to this day, no other orphan has experienced such profound and prolonged grief as Lualeni did. After her rescue, Lualeni was emotionally broken for several months. She kept herself away from the other orphans, showing no signs of happiness or excitement towards her new family. Despite the efforts of her Keepers and fellow orphans to demonstrate that life was worth enjoying, it took four months for Lualeni to have a breakthrough. One morning, she woke up with a renewed energy and decided to embrace life. She came out of her stable with a spring in her step, playing with the other orphans, and displaying a level of happiness that was previously unknown to her caretakers.
Lualeni, a remarkable elephant at our Ithumba Reintegration Unit, has always been known for her nurturing nature towards other orphans. Despite having gone through traumatic experiences as an orphan herself, she has become one of the most caring elephants we have seen. However, her desire to care for others sometimes led her to make attempts to kidnap dependent orphans, much to the Keepers’ dismay.
Having her own little herd was something Lualeni always longed for, and when she gave birth to her first calf, Lulu, in September 2018, it fulfilled that desire. Lualeni has proven to be an exceptional mother and has done an excellent job raising her daughter.
In April, we noticed some familiar behavior from Lualeni when she called out to the Ithumba dependent orphans to join her and Lulu at a mud bath. It seemed as though she was trying to recruit them as nannies! Despite her past attempts at kidnapping, she remains a beloved member of our elephant family.
It’s heartwarming to witness Lualeni thriving as a devoted mother of two today, considering her difficult past. It had been a while since we last saw Lualeni and Lulu, ever since the amusing recruitment campaign they were part of. However, on January 7th, 2022, Benjamin, the head keeper at Ithumba, spotted a group of previous orphans on the road to the stockades. Among the usual suspects – Yatta, Kinna, Nasalot, and their offspring – there was a small baby elephant, though it’s becoming challenging to distinguish between the numerous calves in Ithumba’s current baby boom. Eventually, Benjamin recognized Lualeni as one of the group members, and it was evident that the young calf with them was hers!
Lexi, a healthy and happy baby elephant, is surrounded by love from her family and friends in Tsavo. The area has become a green oasis after months of dangerous conditions, providing an abundance of vegetation for the elephants to enjoy. Although the ex orphans’ visits are now infrequent due to the availability of water sources, Lualeni and her family have been spotted recently, with three-year-old Lulu taking on the role of big sister to little Lexi. It’s clear that Lexi was born into an elephant paradise filled with playful companions and adoring family members.