Shaba and her sister


Nelson Mwangi, National Intern

Date Published

In most animal species after the death of a parent it naturally becomes the responsibility of the older sibling(s) to take care and guard the younger ones. In elephants the bond between siblings and between calves and other members of the family is formed immediately after the calf is born. Most times the females take up the role of alloparents and will protect the young calf from predators and other forms of harm.

When Rozz William from the Poetics family died a few weeks ago her two calves (the younger one now named Shaba after the place her mother was found) were separated from the family and the researchers at Save the Elephants did not find them until a few days ago. The team was out searching for Squall a collaring target from the Storms when they came across the Poetics. The calves were still not with the family but a few minutes later we came across the calves hurrying towards Shaba possibly heading towards the site of their mother’s death.

The team tried to push the calves back to their family by driving into their path but the calves seemed very determined to get to Shaba. The older calf (6 years old) stood between our vehicle and her younger sister with ears spread out, trunk up and covering her sister keeping her out of sight. After a while the team gave up trying to divert the calves’ movements and started following them while waiting for the vet to come and dart the young calf for translocation to a nearby orphanage.

During the few hours we spent following the calves we got to observe the role of the older calf as the allomother to her sister. The calf was always leading the way with Shaba following her and doing whatever her older sister did. She was very reliant on her sister for protection and guidance. When her sister lifted her trunk to smell the livestock on their path, Shaba did the same. When she ran, Shaba ran. When she stopped, Shaba stopped.

Shaba has since been moved to Reteti orphanage in Namunyak Conservancy to increase her chances of survival. She will be released after a few years and hopefully she will reunite with her sister and be reintegrated back into the Poetics.

Shaba playing with her younger sister

Shaba playing with her younger sister