“Honoring Luggard the Lionheart: Paying Tribute to an Extraordinary Creature”

Goodbye Luggard, Our Braveheart
It pains me to share this news – the loss of our dear Luggard, fondly known as the Lionheart. He breathed his last in the wee hours of May 11th, leaving an irreplaceable void in our hearts. His final moments were tranquil, with his loved ones and elephant companions by his side.

Luggard’s decline came as a sudden shock but was not entirely unexpected. Luggard was a miracle rescue as he had survived gunshot wounds at just four months old, something that few elephants could have done. Many people thought that euthanasia was the only option for him, but we saw his will to live in his determined eyes and knew that we had to do everything possible to save him. Despite his brave spirit, Luggard’s body had reached its limit after five years.

We had hoped that Luggard’s body would heal as he grew older, but instead, it began to deteriorate slowly. At first, it was subtle, with his right rear leg swelling up periodically, affecting his mobility. Although he had recovered quickly from these flare-ups in the past, they began to occur more frequently. However, emotional decline is often a better indicator of an elephant’s inner turmoil, but Luggard remained happy until the end. His joyous little rumbles, brought about by a simple trunk hug or ear rub, showed just how content he was.

A couple of days ago, something changed in Luggard’s behavior. Normally, he was always excited for a good night’s sleep, being one of the first orphans to settle down and last to wake up in the morning. This made us worried when he spent the whole night quietly standing in his stockade. The following day, he appeared content, eating well, and enjoying the company of his beloved mother figures from the Umani Herd. However, when we returned to his stockade that evening, Luggard collapsed. We feared the worst, and unfortunately, our dear Luggard never stood again. He looked serene lying beneath the starry sky until he peacefully passed away with his eyes closed.

The loss of Luggard has left us feeling devastated and questioning if there was anything else that could have been done to save him. Despite our efforts, it appears that Luggard’s life was defined by his struggle and unfortunately ended too soon. We reached out to several vets in the months leading up to his passing to uncover the root cause of his decline, with a vet even flying in from Nairobi last week to conduct blood tests. However, each examination only left us with more uncertainty. Despite this, our Keepers went above and beyond for Luggard, providing him with nutritious supplements and carefully selecting greens to compensate for his limited browsing abilities. They also ensured he remained close to home during his daily walks and surrounded him with the company he craved, both human and elephant alike.

The older elephants at Umani Springs were fully devoted to taking care of Luggard. They were attached to him from the moment he arrived in their world. Murera, Sonje, Lima Lima, and Quanza spent the last year prioritizing Luggard’s well-being and temporarily putting their own reintegration journeys on hold. These elephants knew Luggard’s limitations and went above and beyond to make sure he was comfortable, even creating a schedule to take turns watching over him so he was never alone. Surprisingly, they didn’t find this task burdensome; instead, being assigned “Luggard duty” was a highly sought-after and competitive privilege.

We had to make the difficult decision to relocate Luggard to Umani Springs, although we questioned whether it was the right choice. Elephants’ physical health is closely tied to their mental well-being, and as Luggard got older, it became apparent that he needed more than what the Nursery could provide. However, we take solace in knowing that Luggard’s last adventure was joyful. Umani Springs allowed him to expand his horizons and experience all that life has to offer while also receiving affection and attention from older elephants.

Luggard teaches us a valuable lesson in forgiveness and positivity. Despite the wrongs our species has committed against him, he has never harbored any bitterness towards humans. Even during his early days at the Nursery, despite the pain he must have been experiencing, he never let his circumstances get the better of him. Each day, he eagerly emerged from his stable with a spring in his step, excited to see his friends and discover what the day had in store for him. This same positive attitude characterized his time at Umani Springs, as illustrated by an incident earlier this year. The young elephants encountered a majestic bull in the forest, and while the others hung back, Luggard approached him without fear. The two had a lovely interaction before Luggard returned to his herd, proud of himself for stepping out of his comfort zone.

If the world was more fair, Luggard would have been able to grow into a magnificent bull elephant. Although he was denied that fate, the time he spent with us was filled with joy. It’s unfortunate that his story couldn’t have had a happier ending. Luggard’s passing has created a void in the hearts of everyone who knew him, including the caretakers and fellow elephants who were always by his side, as well as all the people across the globe who were rooting for his survival. He was a kind and gentle giant, embodying all the wonderful qualities associated with elephants. Even though he’s no longer with us, Luggard’s spirit will continue to watch over the herd who adored him.


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