Four More Elephants Heading Back to the Wild

The Reteti Elephant Sanctuary team is ready to rewild four more of the elephants in our care.

Nchurai, Nadosoit, Baawa and Loisaba will be leaving us soon. While we’ll be sad to see them go, this is ultimately what we work so hard to achieve. Being in our care for the past four years has taught us to love with grace, to accept our little elephants when they come and allow them to leave when it’s time. It is hard to believe that these little ones have out grown us and are ready for full time life in the wild!

Nchurai was a drought victim, and arrived at Reteti Elephant Sanctuary when she was just eight months old in July 2017. She was so weak that no one thought she would even survive the journey to Reteti from Oldonyiro Community Conservancy, Isiolo County, where she had been found and rescued by rangers. As she grew stronger under the care of her keepers, so did her relationship with Shaba, the orphan herd matriarch who was rewilded last year. In her absence, Nchurai has assumed the role of matriarch.

Nadosoit was one of our many reunite trials. She was rescued on 18th March 2017 after falling into a well in Lodosoit, in nearby Kalepo Community Conservancy, at three-and-a-half years old. The Reteti rescue team stayed at the rescue site with her for 24 hours, hoping her family would come back to look for her. When they didn’t, we decided to take Nadosoit into the Sanctuary.

When little Baawa, a two-week old baby, came to us in January 2017, he was hovering between life and death. He was emaciated, dehydrated and scared after being stuck and submerged in the mud near Maralal for a long time. His eyes were burnt from staring up at the sun for 12 hours and his skin was peeling. He had swallowed a terrible amount of mud and was very sick. It took many weeks of dedicated work and loving care from the amazing keepers here at Reteti for Baawa to recover. Even the elephants here joined the effort. Once Baawa was strong enough to begin joining the herd out on walks, Shaba the then matriarch took him under her wing. Baawa was never without Shaba and Shaba was never without Baawa. We’re excited to reunite them by releasing Baawa into the same area that Shaba was released into last year.

In October, 2017, Loisaba Conservancy Conservation Officer Amos Chege received an urgent call from the Loisaba Starbeds Lodge manager. A malnourished elephant calf had been seen around camp. When Chege arrived, he witnessed the calf trying to join a nearby herd, but it was repeatedly rejected by the matriarch. Clearly, this was not his herd. We do not know what happened to Loisaba’s mother, but we took him into Reteti and gave him a substitute family. Loisaba quickly integrated into the Reteti herd.

The elephants are being fitted with GPS tracking collars for post-release monitoring. Photo: Jane Wynyard, Save the Elephants.
GPS tracking collars are being fitted for post-release monitoring in partnership with Save the Elephants. Photo: Jane Wynyard, Save the Elephants

Like their six adopted siblings that were released last year, Nchurai, Nadosoit, Baawa and Loisaba have been chosen because they are of an age and strength suitable for rewilding. When we start to re wild the elephants at Reteti we do it on a carefully calculated case by case basis. We monitor their behaviour, and start to see signs that they have outgrown the nursery herd and are ready to spend more time in the wild and less time with their humans. We feel that the more time they spend with keepers in a man made environment the less likely they are to go truly wild.

The four elephants will be closely monitored after their release, and we have partnered with Save the Elephants to fit them with GPS tracking collars to help us keep an eye on them as they adjust to their new life in the community-run Sera Rhino Sanctuary.

Nchurai, Nadosoit, and Baawa have been fitted with the collars already, but Loisaba is nervous of it and out-smarted us when it came to trying to put it on him, but we will try again as the re-location day draws closer. 

The tracking data from the GPS collars will enable researchers to monitor our orphans with minimum human interaction.  Data from the collars of their stablemates who were released last year (Shaba, Warges, Mpala, Lingwezi, Pokot and Sosian) shows that they are interacting with one wild elephant family, however it is a gradual process.

We have partnered with San Diego Zoo Global and Save the Elephants and in collaboration with Namunyak Community Conservancy, Sera Community Conservancy, the Northern Rangelands Trust and Kenya Wildlife Service we are all working to make sure that post-release, the orphans are safe and healthy. We are also learning a huge amount from them as they embark on their wild life.

Header image courtesy of Jane Wynyard, Save the Elephants.

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