Date of Birth: August 1999
Where now: A fully independent orphan (Icholta was slowly released INTO THE WILD from The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust after living happily and thriving at Voi with the Partially Independent Orphans for many years.)
This sweet elephant is all grown up!
For more details (including latest updates) & photos of Icholta: Into the Wild : see them here at DSWT
& see Icholta’s photo gallery
For a look into the life of Icholta during her years at DSWT (from her very beginning in the Baby Elephant Nursery) see her Keeper’s Diary here which includes all of the latest entries of this now fully independent elephant orphan including encounters with Icholta by her human family and stable mates after her release INTO THE WILD.
They say she came from a beautiful place, although the area has since suffered from “the depredation of a burgeoning human population”. But at one time the flora and fauna thrived on the Marsabit Mountain and the mists rising from the forest floor on any given morning were magical. It was an idyllic place for an elephant herd to call home and this is where our little elephant Icholta was found.
But one day this baby elephant, so tiny and new, (her age was estimated to be no more than 6 weeks old & she still had a covering of “soft fuzz” all over her head and body) found herself alone, abandoned by her elephant family. It seems the curious little elephant had ventured out into a “drying waterhole” and became stuck. Unfortunately her mama had found it necessary to leave her calf behind when, it was reasoned, the herd could not “risk venturing in” to pull the baby elephant out.
So, this is how The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust rescuers found Icholta (named after that dastardly waterhole), unequivocally stuck in place, her little trunk and limbs sunken in the mud. And she was already worn-out, weakened from the panic of her ordeal.
After her transport to the Nairobi Nursery, it was feared that Icholta “would not be able to pull through” as she was increasingly panicked over the separation from her elephant family. (This attributed to the decline in her health, especially during the months she was cutting her molars.) But with a little elephant angel watching over her as she received an abundance of love and care from her Keepers, not to mention the reassurance she felt from the other elephant orphans who surrounded her, little Icholta held on.
Soon the orphaned elephant began to thrive and feel joy again. Icholta would splash and play in her mud hole alongside her new family until she was called out by her Keepers telling her it was time to go back to the stables, her new home. (Ironically the one fateful habit that got her into trouble “in the first place,” her “passion for water” and mud baths, never left her. She continued to enjoy such endless dips in the muddied waterholes.)
And so the tiny elephant grew into a “loving” soul with an easy & “charming disposition”. Her charges even made note of her quite “beautiful face”. Her eyes were the darkest brown “fringed with extra long lashes”, a little showgirl, that’s what she was! Who would think that one day she would be chosen and featured in famous wildlife photographers book**? That she was, and if you get ahold of a copy it would make an elephant, especially Icholta, beam with pride!
** Wild Orphans by Gerry Ellis
When it was her time to say goodbye to her family at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, she did as so many others among her “Nursery mates” have done before her. She was grown now, ready to accept responsibility for herself. It was time for her to join another, yet familiar, elephant herd.
Yet this elephant knew that the DSWT would always remain in her heart, and really, she would never be very far away. It was just… so long, for now.
(The herd she would join was made up of former DSWT orphans, the whole lot of them. There was Matriarch Emily and her longtime “Nursery mates from infancy” Laikipia, Lolokwe and Edie who have continued to “remain by her side” through thick and thin.)
Icholta knew she would return time and again (one time bringing news of a delivery of the most precious kind) to visit her old stable mates and human friends. For this is an elephant’s way to thank her “human family whom she has never forgotten“, for giving her the life that she has now. For giving her the very chance to have the life of an elephant roaming free in the wild again.
To learn more about The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s (DSWT) Fostering Program and how to Adopt Icholta click here.
Watch YouTube Video of Wild Orphans from the book by Gerry Ellis of the same name.
Image: Featured elephant drawing illustration by Biswajit Das “The Elephant Way IV” CC Flickr & elephant meeting a new friend …Elephant Drawing Illustration by zhudandan CC Flickr
See also Marsabit National Park Wiki to learn more about the claim to fame of the herd of elephants (Icholta’s direct descendents) that once lived there.