Meet the First of Many Elephants Who Have Enriched Dame Daphne Sheldrick’s Life
IMENTI (p. 288) was the tiniest and most fragile baby elephant as he had just been born that January of 1994 when he was brought to the DSWT. He was “heartbreakingly perfect” with “petal pink ears” and so “trusting and unafraid” of humans that he would naturally cuddle up to whomever he happened to be around. A “radical solution” was undertaken in order to save his life and there were no guarantees at that.
ELEANOR became the elephant Dame Daphne came to depend on the most for comforting the new baby elephant orphans who arrived at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. And Eleanor took special care with the weakest little elephants. Having observed that those that had “wanted to lie down” had often failed to survive, (p. 188) Eleanor soon became so overly concerned that she would not even allow a weary calf the occasion to sleep, fearful that they surely die. She would “lift them to their feet to satisfy herself that they were still living”. Yet Eleanor would continue to “collect odd waifs and strays” (p.188) to satisfy her motherly instinct despite her grief when she would lose a little calf to death.
Eleanor was first discovered by David and Daphne (p.179) as the feature attraction at the Nairobi Agricultural Show. This was in 1962 when she was a recently orphaned elephant. Eleanor was just age three. Eleanor’s rescue had occurred in 1961 when Bill came upon the helpless baby elephant all alone “with no other elephants in sight other than the carcass – minus the tusks – of what must have been her mother, lying some distance away”. (p. 178) Eleanor finally came to Voi “one bright afternoon on 19 March 1965”. (p.180)
But what happened that day when Dame Daphne approached “her most treasured elephant” Eleanor, at one of Eleanor’s favorite watering holes? (Prologue p. xv) Reaching up to caress sweet Eleanor behind her massive ear, one of her favorite tickling spots, Dame Daphne was totally unprepared for how Eleanor would react. Could this elephant, on that day, really be Eleanor?
CATHERINE Well maybe one wouldn’t call Dame Daphne’s experience with Catherine enriching but to look at it another way it was a definite learning experience which continues, to this day, to affect Dame Daphne Sheldrick’s life.
SAMSON & FATUMA were already famous; the “first orphaned calves we, in Kenya, knew….. (p.70) and they were ever so smart. The 2 year old little bull elephant, Samson, had a “flair for manipulating gates” and being “ever the gentleman” he would “go round to Fatuma‘s stable… opening “her door as well,” (p.95) this against the wishes of their devoted keepers, of course.
And both baby elephants had the ability to “turn on the tap with a twist of their trunk” when quenched for thirst. The thing is they didn’t seem to be worried by the continual flow of water once they were satisfied. After all, the land was parched for thirst as well, what with the semi-arid environment and the continual droughts! By the age of 5 Fatuma would become Jill’s (Daphne’s daughter) protector, her “strong motherly instincts” (p. 93) setting in.
Read about Samson‘s need to return to the wild and what happened years later when David “spotted a young lone bull”… (p. 189) and why the bull elephant would always “hold a special place” in David Sheldrick’s heart (p.190)
To be continued: Love, Life, and Elephants : An African Love Story by Dame Daphne Sheldrick: Book Review Essay Part 4 : Meet the Elephants!
Images credits: including photo of Eleanor the elephant & Nairobi Nursery elephants Posted on CC Flickr 7 Photos : all copyrights held by Macmillan Books : Elephants from book Love Life and Elephants by Dame Daphne Sheldrick Feature image : CC Google : Love Life and Elephants by Dame Daphne Sheldrick