Nothing is more precious to Loijuk the elephant than her family, especially now that she is creating her own.
The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (SWT) in Kenya saved the orphaned elephant in 2006 when she was discovered all by herself when she was just 5 months old.
SWT reared her by hand until she was old enough to go back into the wild.
Even though it has been a while, Loijuk and her human family remain close. Every month she returns to the sanctuary’s grounds for a visit.
But Loijuk shocked her previous caregivers by arriving with a baby elephant calf.
It was obvious that the happy mother elephant was keen to display her baby. The calf, later given the name Lili, was only a few hours old and likely had just been born the previous evening.
The generosity of the people who assisted Loijuk has never left her mind. Even the head keeper, Benjamin Kyalo, was permitted to share a special moment with her new calf.
According to Rob Brandford, executive director of SWT, “Benjamin was able to get close to Lili (who nestled into his legs), stroke her delicate newborn skin, and breathe into her trunk, thereby letting her know who he was via his scent,” Rob Brandford, executive director of SWT, told The Dodo.
“Elephants have an incredible memory and sense of smell and our keepers will often breathe into the orphans’ trunks so they can recognize who they are.”
Here is a video of Loijuk and Lili’s heartfelt visit:
During the meeting, Lili was a little unsteady on her feet, but Kyalo saw her progress as the week went on.
“Loijuk has stayed close to the area around the unit, allowing our keepers to watch over her and check how she’s getting on,” Brandford said.
“Considering September is the peak of the dry season in Tsavo, not the most favorable of conditions for a new baby, we are delighted that Loijuk has returned close to home so that we can help supplement her diet when she visits.”
In the wild, female relatives from the herd assist in raising calves. Before giving birth to Lili, Loijuk served as a nanny to other children, and now her calf has two other wild orphans named Naserian and Ithumbah as nannies.
Lili will live in the wild with her mother’s herd and now understands there is a secure haven she can always go back to if she ever needs it.
Lili is the 31st calf to be born to female orphaned elephants that SWT has reared and who are now surviving in the wild. She is a symbol of hope for endangered elephant populations all around the world.
“Moments like these are momentous,” Brandford said. “In saving one orphaned elephant’s life, we are not only seeing that orphan thrive but start a family.”
“Lili has a brighter future ahead of her than many elephants,” Brandford added, “and we look forward to watching this little girl grow up in the wild.”