Celebrating New Life: Orphaned Elephants Welcome a Precious Arrival

The recent triumphs for elephants at the CITES Conference of the Parties have given us all a reason to rejoice.

With the ban on the export of wild elephants and the rejection of the proposal to sell stockpiled ivory, we’ve taken steps to keep more elephant families together.

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Family bonds are crucial for elephants, and they deeply mourn the loss of their own. While our efforts to protect them continue, it’s vital to acknowledge the wins.


On September 1, a new ray of hope was born – baby Lili, bringing immeasurable joy to the elephant herd. This signifies the beginning of a new chapter for the orphans.

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Their journey to motherhood is nothing short of awe-inspiring, with more baby elephants expected in the coming years. This baby boom promises a brighter future for these magnificent creatures.

Witnessing the birth of the next generation of elephants is a source of immense satisfaction and pride for the organization.


These elephants were once rescued, rehabilitated, and returned to the wild, creating a special bond beyond their time in the sanctuary.

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It’s a privilege to see these gentle giants return with their newborns to introduce them, much like a parent or grandparent would.

Reflecting on the journey shared with these elephants, from their early days at the Nursery to their eventual freedom in the wild, fills us with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.


The value of family is paramount for African elephants. When a herd member gives birth, all elephants equally share the responsibility of raising the calf.

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It’s heart-wrenching to consider the trauma that orphaned elephants endure due to poaching, human-wildlife conflict, climate change, and other human activities.

Fortunately, our rescued orphans are the fortunate ones who have been saved from dire situations.


Despite their traumatic past, these gentle giants are resilient, full of love, and capable of overcoming their past.

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Throughout the years, we’ve had the privilege of witnessing several miraculous moments as our female orphans give birth to their calves.

Take Lissa, for example. Rescued in 1988 with a broken leg, likely due to poaching, she has given birth to five calves, including Lara, Lali, Lugard, Lazima, and Leo.


Seeing Lissa proudly introduce her little boy to us after three years was a heartwarming experience.

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To our surprise, Lissa’s firstborn, Lara, had her baby girl around the same time, making Lissa a grandmother.

Although Lissa is now fully integrated into the wild herds of Tsavo, she still visits us during happy moments or in times of need.


Witnessing the strong family bonds of these elephants reminds us of the importance of protecting them for future generations.

The Voi Unit, established by David Sheldrick in the 1940s, has been a sanctuary for nurturing and rehabilitating the first generation of elephant orphans.

It has witnessed countless stories of young elephants overcoming their traumatic pasts to thrive in the wild once more.


Emily, a remarkable matriarch raised from infancy at the Voi Reintegration Unit, fell into a pit latrine when she was barely a month old. Her mother didn’t recognize her and left her in confusion.

However, Emily found solace among other orphaned elephants, recovered, and eventually gave birth to two lovely calves, Eve and Emma, within sight of the Voi stockades.

The Ithumba Reintegration Unit has also seen the birth of many adorable elephant calves, with Benjamin, the headkeeper, assisting in delivering nine babies so far.


Nusu, born to Nasalot, is one such calf whose mother was killed by poachers for her ivory.

Nusu’s playful antics around the water trough created some challenges, but the keepers intervened to ensure her safety.

Another remarkable calf is Wiva, the daughter of Wendi, who arrived at the Nursery on the day of her birth.


Wiva was raised communally by the other elephants since Wendi was more focused on feeding.

Today, Wiva is a cheerful and adored calf with a bright future and, soon, a sibling to cherish.

On the first day of this month, we were blessed with our latest miracle as Loijuk gave birth to baby Lili.


Loijuk, rescued in 2006 when she was malnourished due to drought, has thrived under our care, displaying exceptional maternal instincts.

She often cared for her fellow orphans and acted as a nanny to her friends’ babies after transitioning to the wild.

We are overjoyed that Loijuk has the chance to start her own family and experience the joys of motherhood firsthand.


While elephants live in a matriarchal society, the bulls also play a crucial role in protecting newborn calves.

For instance, Yetu and Mwende’s father, a wild bull, still checks on his family, occasionally bringing his big bull friends along.

During the recent dry season, he stayed for two months, potentially siring more babies amongst our older female orphans.


Interactions with wild-born babies delight our still-dependent orphans, although the nannies determine when these encounters can occur.

These early interactions lay the maternal foundations for our orphan girls, with each elephant naturally inclined to be a nurturing and attentive mothers.

Wendi may be an exception to this rule, lacking maternal tendencies but providing entertainment in her unique way.


A memorable moment occurred in January 2018, as a supermoon drew over one hundred elephants to our Ithumba stockades.

The area was bathed in a heavenly blue light, creating a magical atmosphere where orphaned elephants, wild elephants, and their offspring all converged.

In the midst of it all was Wendi, enthusiastically engaging with four babies sprawled on her. The scene was a stark contrast to Wendi’s condition when rescued fifteen years ago.


Moments like these underscore the profound impact of saving just one elephant’s life and witnessing the birth of the next generation, born to our orphans.

These little treasures remind us of the positive impact that can be made by helping just one animal.

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