Finally, after over a year in Samburu, the time has come for me to head home. I am trying my best not to feel too heartbroken about leaving my friends and of course my elephants to return to the cold wet winter of the UK. And although I am not succeeding I know that I will always have the happiest of memories from my time here in camp.
The elephants have obviously been a big part of my life here in Samburu. I have had the opportunity to get to know these animals as individuals, and this is perhaps my proudest achievement since arriving in camp. Being able to recognise the families has made the work I have done all the more interesting as I observed the interactions between them and the relationships that developed.
During my final two weeks in camp the elephants did not disappoint and provided me with yet more amazing experiences watching them in the field. The Royals family, the largest and most dominant family in the reserve, have been expanding their numbers even more in the recent weeks. In the last 12 months they have had a whopping 7 new calves between them. And recently there have been two more new additions. Margaret, one of the oldest family members at a little over 40 years old, gave birth to a bouncing baby boy who we had the privilege of meeting when he was just a few hours old.
Margaret is an impressive elephant, not only because of her age and her distinctive and beautiful big tusks which point almost directly downwards towards the dusty earth, but also because of her successful calf bearing record. This latest boy comes swiftly after her daughter who was born in 2012. This is in an unusually small gap between calves, the average being around 4 years, and considering elephants have a two year gestation means that Margaret must have fallen pregnant immediately after giving birth to her daughter! We need more mothers like her to help us boost the elephant population!
On my final drive we came across not only Margaret’s branch of the Royals but also another group who we call the M8s. We were astonished to see yet another new born amongst them. This time belonging to a young female who is yet to be named and is known simply as M8.03. At only 11 years old she is a first time mother and unfortunately she is also an orphan. However, coming from such a large family, and surrounded as she is by her many older sisters and nieces she will hopefully have enough support and guidance to make her first mothering experience successful.
I could not have hoped for a more enjoyable final week, coming as it did following the death of my grandma the opportunity to see these new babies comforted me and reminded me that when one life is lost, others are just beginning. It was a real circle of life kind of moment!
But of course it is not just the elephants that have made my time here so special. Without all the people in camp this experience would have been all work and no play. I have made so many new friends here and had so many exciting experiences that I can’t thank everyone enough for making me so welcome. From sitting drinking tea with the fundis, having movie nights with the interns, visiting my old friend Lekomet and his baby daughter Rebecca, attempting to communicate with Lembara through crazy hand gestures and hugs and of course spending many hours in the field with Jerenimo and Shifra, there has never been a dull moment.
So once again I would like to thank everyone at STE for making my time here so incredible, and of course for keeping me here so long! Thank you to everyone in the Nairobi office for their constant support throughout and of course everyone here in camp for teaching me all they know and making Samburu a home from home for me.
Thank you Save the Elephants. And goodbye…for now!