Ndume is one of the 15 orphan baby elephants rescued by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT), whose names adorn our Elephant London Dry Gin miniature bottles.. The orphaning of Ndume and another baby elephant Malaika is a particularly tragic saga, for their family tried to break out of the Imenti Forest (East of Mouth Kenya) only to find themselves deep inside fields of maize, and surrounded by an irate and growing crowd of villagers, who turned out en masse to defend their crops.
They surrounded the traumatised elephants, throwing spears, firing poisoned arrows, and hacking into living flesh as elephants fell in disarray. Finally, the survivors managed to break free and flee back towards their forest stronghold, but three tiny calves had been isolated, Ndume, Malaika and another smaller calf who was hacked to pieces before their very eyes. Their turn would have been next had it not been for Kenya Wildlife Service Rangers who turned up to persuade the crowd to spare them. At that time, Ndume had suffered such a severe blow on the head that he fell unconscious.
These two calves were taken to the DSWT’s orphanage in a very sorry state. Both were just 3 months old. Ndume was still unconscious, and fitted with a saline drip in an ear vein. He was suspected to not make it, but gradually came round, crying and bellowing for his mother. Pressed close beside Malaika, the two baby elephants were a tragic sight, as lifeless as zombies, but thankfully happy to accept milk from a bottle and snuggle close to their keepers at night. The hours of darkness were filled with bellows because both babies suffered nightmares, which went on for months.
Time is a great healer, however, and gradually both began to take an interest in life, particularly when other Nursery inmates arrived, most of them also traumatised and grief-stricken. Elephants possess compassion in abundance, and this helped the healing process. It was, indeed, a joyful sight when they began to play, for the keepers knew they were winning.
In the fullness of time, at 2 years of age, both graduated from the Nursery and went down to join Eleanor’s group in Tsavo East National Park, there to begin the gradual introduction and reintegration back into the wild elephant community of that Protected Area. Now fully rehabilitated, Ndume can be numbered as one of the Trust’s greatest elephant triumphs. In 2015 DSWT team of his former keepers reunited with Ndume – you can watch it here.
Photo credit and text: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust