The month began with a visit to the Stockades of Yatta’s Senior Group comprised of, (Mulika, Kinna, Selengai, Orok, Buchuma and Taita) as well as their wild recruit “Mgeni”. The Juniors were already ensconced for the night on this occasion but rumbling greetings were exchanged. The heat of Tsavo was relieved by intermittent showers of rain this month, so it has been a happy time for the 7 remaining milk and Keeper elephants based at night within the Ithumba Stockades. Ithumbah, who is an orphan of the area, obviously knows the terrain better than her Junior peers, and has evolved into the Leader, backed up by Suguta, Chaimu and Melia. With girls out-numbering the only two Junior boys, Kilaguni and Sabachi, strength testing male Pushing Matches are often interrupted by the girls, on one occasion by Suguta who took over a shady patch over which the boys were arguing!
This month the Juniors have enjoyed interaction with the Ex Orphans who have been coming regularly to drink at the Stockade water trough, often accompanied by wild bulls. Wendi’s large Splinter Group comprised of ex Junior Matriarchs Naserian, Sidai, Sunyei, Lenana and Galana who succeeded her during dependency have been the most frequent ex Orphan visitors to keep in touch with the Juniors. On the 4th Wendi was accompanied, besides all the ex Junior Matriarchs she had with her bull graduates Meibai, Tomboi, Madiba, Kenze, Challa and Zurura. All were at the compound the next morning to greet the babies and interact briefly with them before separating and heading off. Kamboyo, who had not been with them on the 4th, had joined them overnight which means that they must have met up with Yatta’s Senior group somewhere out in the bush overnight.
The Juniors morning usually begins with a drink from the Stockade trough followed by scratching against nearby rocks to dislodge ticks before heading out for the day, usually led by Ithumbah. The journey to the noon milk and mudbath normally takes place around 11 a.m. but following rain showers mud has not been in short supply, so playing in rain puddles and rolling in mud and damp earth has been an almost daily occurrence whenever opportunity permits. At the milk feed Tumaren and Suguta have impressed the Keepers by holding their milk bottle in their trunk, and having downed the contents, even politely handing it back to a nearby Keeper when empty!
Senior Ex Orphans Kinna, Mulika and Selengai were accompanied by ex Junior Matriarchs Loijuk and Makena as well as bulls Kenze, Orok, and Taita, when they came to drink at the Stockades during the morning of the 9th . The next morning the Juniors were joined out in the bush again by Loijuk who was with Lualeni, Lenana, and Naserian as well as Madiba and Kora. All browsed as one herd until the mudbath hour when the Ex Orphan Group escorted the Juniors to the milk and mudbath, separating later. That same evening two large wild bulls came to drink at the Stockade water trough, one identified by the Keepers as the father of the unborn babies of Mulika and Yatta both of whom are obviously pregnant.
Soon after the Juniors had left for the field on the 13th Ex Orphans Nasalot and Wendi came for a drink at the Stockades, this time accompanied by Makena, Loijuk, Lenana, Lualeni, and Senior Boy of the Ex Orphans, Napasha along with more recent graduates Rapsu, Kamboyo, Zurura, and Taita. Whilst the compound they were joined a few minutes later by Galana, Sunyei, Naserian, Sidai and the most recent Senior group member, Meibai. On that day the Juniors were treated at the mudbath to a visit from Senior Main Matriarch of the Ex Orphans, Yatta and the wild recruit Mgeni who came with Galana, Sunyei, Loijuk and Sidai Meibai also in tow. Yatta and her entourage mingled with the Juniors and shared the mudbath with them before heading off elsewhere.
Yatta and Mgeni accompanied by Mulika, Kinna, Selengai, Nasalot Orok and Buchuma were again at the Stockade water trough for a drink on the morning of the 15th but after the Juniors had already left. That day Nasalot came alone to join them at their noon mudbath, as usual giving her favourite “baby”, (Kilaguni) special attention and loving, laying her trunk tenderly across his back. Strangely, the next day (16th) it was the young bull Challa who turned up on his own at the Stockades first thing in the morning to escort the Juniors out into the bush to browse. When he attempted to mount onto Suguta, he was cautioned by the Keepers and strolled off into the bush, chastened. However, he turned up later at the noon mudbath, and behaved impeccably! That day Napasha came alone to drink at the Stockade water trough accompanied by a wild bull friend and on the l8th it was the turn of Kora who came accompanied by two wild bull friends. Our Ex Orphan Bulls are obviously enjoying all male company as they grow up, learning the rules of status and rank amongst elephant bull society.
At 4 p.m. on the l9th the entire Ex Orphaned herd comprised of both Yatta’s Senior Group (including Mgeni) and that of Wendi came streaming into the Stockade compound. With them were 3 wild bulls, bringing the total to a sizeable herd of 30 elephants! Still missing from the Ex Orphan herd is Ndomot, who left for a wild walkabout with Mgeni some 4 months ago, and has not as yet returned. However, after 2 other wild bulls joined Yatta’s group, Mgeni has again absented himself, and we all hope that this time he will bring Ndomot back home when he returns. The entire Ex Orphan herd plus their 2 wild bull friends joined the Juniors at their mudbath on the 27th, but on this occasion Mgeni was not amongst them.
Wendi had Nasalot with her when she came with Galana, Naserian, Sidai, Sunyei, Loijuk and Meibai during the afternoon of the 20th to spend time with the Juniors and their Keepers, browsing alongside them until 5 p.m. when it was time for the Juniors to return for the night. The next day a wild female herd came to drink at the Stockades – 2 adult cows and 2 small calves along with 2 sub adults. It is only relatively recently that the cow herds have visited the Orphans’ Stockades at Ithumba. On the 28th Nasalot came with Ex Junior Matriarchs Galana and Chyulu and bulls Meibai, Kenze, Tomboi, Challa and Rapsu to join the Juniors at their noon mudbath, Nasalot again focusing on Kilaguni. After the Juniors left the mudbath venue the Ex Orphan group remained behind waiting for Tomboi and Wendi to finish their dusting session.
All the Ex Orphans again came as one large herd to drink at the Stockade trough during the morning of the 29th. Mgeni was again absent from the group, but they were still with their two new wild bull friends. The month ended still hot prompting the Juniors to stick to the shade during the morning before enjoying their cooling mudbath at noon. In all, it has been an action packed month for the seven Keeper Dependent Juniors based at the Ithumba Stockade. Kilaguni and Sabachi will be overjoyed to be reunited with Kibo again next month when he is upgraded from the Nursery along with Olare and others.