How To Be A Wild Elephant

Orphan elephant Sities must learn how to be a wild elephant when she leaves the safety of a Kenyan sanctuary to begin her journey back to freedom.
Available on CBC Gem

How To Be A Wild Elephant

Nature of Things

Elephant poaching worldwide has reached epidemic proportions. In Kenya, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust provides a sanctuary for baby elephants who are its greatest victims, left to die without the nurture and protection of their matriarchal herds. In 2010 a baby elephant named Sities was rescued and brought to the Trust’s Nairobi Nursery to begin her rehabilitation. Her remarkable story was followed by audiences worldwide who watched her progress from day one. Now three years later we catch up with Sities, who has reached the age where she can be integrated into the wild elephant herds of Tsavo East National Park. HOW TO BE A WILD ELEPHANT observes the challenges Sities will face as she leaves the safety of the Nursery and moves on to the next phase of her journey back to freedom.

SITIES is a 500 KG, three year old African Elephant who tragically lost her family at just three months old. She was rescued and brought to the Nairobi Nursery, were she formed a human-elephant family that allowed her to stabilize, bond and become part of the orphan elephant herd. Many orphans do not survive this transition, but with help from the keepers and around the clock care she was one of the lucky ones, and now she prepares for the next stage of her journey back to the wild. For a long time she was the youngest of the herd and her attitude has earned her the nickname “Tricky Sities”, so although she has reached the right age, Head Keeper Edwin is unsure if she is ready for the next stage of her reintegration.

Along with her orphan friends Turkwel and Kainuk, Sities undertakes the tough eight hour journey southward to the Ithumba Stockade in Tsavo East National Park. There, a herd comprised of older orphans, ex-orphans and wide-ranging wild elephants who congregate around the various watering holes, will decide if the new arrivals will be accepted as part of the wild herd. Their first months at the Stockade will present them with many challenges: they need to learn new survival skills - sleeping alone and finding edible plants, and they need to become less dependent on their human companions. The wild elephants can be intimidating, which is something the orphans will need to get used to. In addition, the dry season brings its own risks of drought, famine and more poaching that could be detrimental to the elephant’s survival.

The tragic slaughter of elephants for their ivory means the number of orphans at the Nairobi Nursery is continually on the rise. As Sities leaves for Ithumba a new baby named Boscha arrives, merely a few days old, he has special needs which the Nursery keepers struggle to meet. Meanwhile, another young elephant is orphaned in an area close to Sities’ new home. Aerial patrols, anti-poaching ground units and mobile vet units collaborate to protect the elephants of the region that are constantly under threat.

HOW TO BE A WILD ELEPHANT offers an inspiring look at the lives of these courageous orphan elephants and the people that dedicate their lives to helping them. Sities and her friends are true survivors, and their brave journey gives hope that more elephants will one day re-join the wild herds where they belong