AISHA Perhaps the most famous little elephant that stole Dame Daphne Sheldrick’s heart was this tiny calf. “She was the smallest elephant I had ever seen – still covered in the soft fuzz of elephant infancy, her tiny trunk tinged with pink, toenails of pale yellow – soft and brand new.” (p.229)
Prophetically, the chapter entitled “Turmoil” (Chapter 13), in which Shmetty *** (as she became “affectionately” named) was introduced, became the struggle to save this baby elephant’s life.
*** A group of German tourists once witnessed one of adorable Aisha’s “mock-charges” (p. 231) that almost always “ended with a squeak” rather than a trumpet, which she was ultimately summoning from within her little elephant self. Observing Aisha, just the way her “round dinner plate ears stood out” against her “tiny face” painted the portrait a butterfly, hence the name Shmetty.
A highlight is “Teatime with Shmetty” (p.234) when the baby elephant chose to partake of one of Daphne’s homemade teatime biscuits that some of the other non-elephant orphans thoroughly enjoyed. [“particularly Jimmy and Baby,” the kudu (p.211) and the eland (p. 212) respectively]
And did Shmetty, a “very demanding” orphaned baby elephant create the need for the very first “elephant sitter“? No doubt she did!
But throughout their turmoil one concession was to be found; the discovery of the lifesaving baby elephant formula, which contained the ingredient coconut oil, “the nearest substitute for the fat of elephant’s milk.” (p.231). And this very formula is still being used to this day at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and continues to save orphaned baby elephant lives.
LET US NOT FORGET:
AJOK (p.285) At only one week old in 1990, he was the youngest orphaned elephant in the nursery. He loved attention and found his ‘party tricks‘ of shivering his trunk (he would also “sit down like a circus elephant and even lie with all four legs in the air;” p. 286) would endear him to visitors at the DSWT elephant orphanage. He was a survivor, a product of “strong genes” (p.285) and “having been a confident loner for so long” (p.286) one day he just took off after having finally been discovered to be the cause of some mischievous antics involving the flinging of a camp chair.
RARU & BUKANEZI Bukanezi was “the weak one” which his name implied. As they “dared not feed him milk” (p.176) he subsisted on “hand-picked greens and sweet potato tops” with bits of oranges and apples. (p.177) Both orphaned baby elephants thrived and joined Samson‘s group which was becoming quite comical what with the buffalo and ostriches joining “the ranks”.
Picture this: At drill inspections as the men of the Field Force Rangers were lining up at attention the three ostriches, upon hearing the “bellowing of the sergeant-major,” would rush up “ostrich style” to stand upright with their comrades side-by-side. Guess they had been recruited or most likely just recruited themselves! And the ostriches never failed to keep Daphne’s family in stitches (from the laughter, that is!)
See also another brilliant moment involving the ostriches, elephants and other orphans on p. 195!
To be continued: Love, Life, and Elephants : An African Love Story by Dame Daphne Sheldrick: Book Review Essay Part 5 : Meet the Elephants!
Images credits: including Little AISHA aka SHMETTY & Wendi the elephant 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