• Zoe Cawthorn

Re-wilded Elephant Returns to Her ‘Human Family’ to Give Birth to Her First Wild-Born Calf


The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust are celebrating the birth of Lili, the 31st wild-born calf from one of their orphaned and rewilded elephants, Loijuk. But what makes this story extra special, is the long-standing relationship that even re-wilded elephants have with their human saviours.

Photo: Lilly with Mum, Loijuk and her new herd. © The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

In 2006, The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya rescued an orphaned elephant, later named Loijuk, from a parched swamp where she had been abandoned at just 5 months old. She was rehabilitated at the Trust’s nursery unit in Nairobi, before her long transition period of reintegration into the wild in Ithumba, Tsavo East National Park. The reintegration unit is situated in the national park’s protected zone, in order to allow rehabilitated elephants to integrate themselves into wild herds but remain close to their human families, who keep a keen eye on their progress and offer them protection from poachers.

Photo: Loijuk invited Head Keeper Benjamin to meet her new-born calf. © The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

At the age of 14, Loijuk is now a wild elephant. However, she has not forgotten the care and compassion her human family at Ithumba gave her in her time of need. On 1st September, Loijuk chose to return to Ithumba, with her small herd in tow, to give birth to her first wild-born calf, who has been named Lili. As soon as Lili was able to stand, Loijuk invited Ithumba’s Head Keeper Benjamin to approach and interact with her, highlighting the wonderful trusting relationship she had formed with her human carers. Little Lili was proudly paraded by her Mum, for the keepers and orphans at Ithumba to see. It was a remarkable display of how saving one life can create another.



The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Orphans’ Project was the first organisation in the world to successfully hand-rear milk-dependent orphaned elephants and reintegrate them back into the wild. The project has resulted in 31 new wild-born elephant calves, all of whom would not be here without the Trust's incredible work and devotion for these giant, gracious animals. Find out more about Lili’s birth or read Loijuk’s story directly from The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, one of East Africa’s oldest and pioneering not-for-profit organisations. This wonderful organisation also operates eight other programmes in partnership with local organisations, including running mobile veterinary units, de-snaring teams, a canine anti-poaching unit and aerial patrols.

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