Upon arrival at Ithumba on the 3rd Ex Nursery orphans, Turkwel, Kainuk and Sities were greeted even more enthusiastically than usual by all the Keeper Dependent group, recognition immediate among those who had shared Nursery time together. Hence their transition for the three new graduates has been extremely easy, reunited with others they previously loved dearly and whom they thought they had lost. They instantly took the cue from Mutara, Shukuru, Kilabasi, Murka, Olare, and other older females and, as usual, that evening all the Ex Orphans led by Yatta turned up at the Ithumba Stockades to welcome them although the Juniors were already in the Stockades for the night. But, the Ex Orphans were back early the next morning to check them out and spent time acquainting themselves with the three new additions to the Junior herd, now numbering 24.
The rescue of Tundani during a heavy rainstorm on the 8th proved a dramatic event. This yearling orphan had been spotted by the Trust Pilot, Nick Trent at Tundani on the Tiva river whilst over-flying on a routine patrol. A passage had to be cut by hand through thick bush and mud for the vehicle to access the orphan, after which it became bogged several times before reaching the airfield where the Rescue plane was waiting. This orphan (named Tundani) was unique in that he was trusting and friendly towards the Keepers from the start, something most unusual for a calf of his age. We can only assume that he had been in contact with our Ex Orphans, and had also possibly visited the Ithumba Stockades with his wild family and witnessed the rapport that all the Orphans and Ex Orphans have with their human Keepers.
Lualeni has long been the Ex Orphan go-between the Keeper Dependent Youngsters and those now living wild. This month she has only missed 5 days when she has not come to join the Youngsters (14th, 15th, l9th 29th and 30th). Lualeni has a great fondness for Ololoo whom she has chosen as her special favourite, always paying him special attention. On the 5th she, Sunyei and Ex Orphan bulls, Kora (her best friend), Taita and Buchuma met the Juniors out in the bush, and then escorted them to their noon mudbath, spent the afternoon browsing with them and escorted them back to the Stockades in the evening. (Sities put herself in the drinking trough to cool her legs that day, obviously feeling the heat of Tsavo). The next day (6th) Lualeni, Naserian and Sunyei and bulls Buchuma, Rapsu and 2 wild friends met the Juniors in the early morning at the Stockade compound to escort them out to browse. They were joined by the entire Ex Orphan herd at the mudbath that day, amongst whom only Napasha was missing. (Napasha, now 11 years old, has not been amongst the Ex Orphan group for the rest of the month, triggering anxiety about his safety, although an intense aerial search undertaken by the Trust’s Supercub aircraft has found no evidence to suggest he is not alright. We pray that he is merely traveling with other wild Bull friends, as Challa has been doing for several days this month, and that he will show up again soon to put our minds at rest). That day having shared the mudbath with the Seniors, Shukuru led the Juniors back to browse leaving Lualeni with the Ex Orphan group, but she caught up with the Youngsters again in the afternoon and shepherded them back to the Stockades in the evening. She joined them again out in the bush on the 7th, in the early morning at the Stockades on the 8th, and as they browsed the Kone area on the 9th when she and the Juniors were again joined by all the Ex Orphans and 3 wild Elephant friends for the noon mudbath. (Challa and Buchuma as well as Napasha were missing that day). After a heavy downpour on the l0th Lualeni met the Juniors again out in the field and all had fun rolling in wet mud. She was with them again on the 11th and came with Sunyei on the 12th when she joined them after the mudbath. Both then kept the Juniors company all afternoon and escorted them back to the Stockades in the evening
The 13th found her at the Stockades with all the Ex Orphans and 3 wild friends and when the Ex Orphans left, she remained behind with the Juniors for the rest of the day. On the 16th she took Ololoo and Kandecha from the group to browse aside until it was time to escort all the Youngsters to the mudbath where a huge Bull was occupying the drinking trough. Kanjoro and Ishanga were first to pluck up sufficient courage to share the trough with him, followed by Ololoo and Kandecha, (closely supervised by Lualeni). She then took Ololoo to get his milk ration! The next day (17th) when the Juniors were obviously feeling the heat, Lualeni steered them to a rain-filled murrum pit so that they could cool themselves down ahead of the mudbath hour and such has been the pattern of Lualeni’s interaction with the Juniors throughout the month. In addition, either Splinter Ex Orphan groups or the entire Ex Orphan herd have visited the Stockades or the mudbath venue to mingle with the Juniors regularly, usually with wild friends in tow so the Keeper Dependent orphans have had a lot of interaction with older Elephants this month. Rain was plentiful following the first big downpour on the l0th, so water and browse have been abundant for all elephants. But for the absence of Napasha, it has been a very satisfying month for all the Ithumba Orphans.
On the 20th Yatta and her baby Yetu, Ithumbah, Lenana, Sidai, Madiba, Tomboi and Challa were absent from the Splinter Group that came to the Stockades after the Juniors had already left and on the 21st Lualeni and Sunyei spent just an hour with the Juniors out in the bush but were back at the mudbath with Loijuk, Naserian, Sidai, Lenana and bulls Tomboi, Madiba, Kamboyo, Buchuma, Taita and Kora in tow to join in the Junior mudbath.
This month’s Diary indicates yet gain the sophistication of elephant communication - how elephants keep in close touch with one another even when separated. At all times it is obvious that Lualeni is conversant with the location of the Junior Group and also of the whereabouts of the rest of the Ex Orphan group of which she is a member, moving confidently between both units at any time of the day and night.
Challa had been missing from the Ex Orphan group for several days but turned up again on the 22nd in the company of a wild bull friend. The next day all the Ex Orphans (save Napasha) came to the stockades with the Big Wild Bull named Rafiki (the friend) and Yatta’s wild recruit named Mgeni. Rafiki then led the Senior Group to join the Junior’s at their noon mudbath which all enjoyed together. They then all went with the Juniors to browse the slopes of Ithumba Hill and were with them until it was time to return in the evening. (Rafiki was the first wild elephant at Ithumba to reveal himself during the hours of daylight many years ago, trailing the Orphans and their Keepers, joining them at their mudbath, and even sleeping in the yard for about l0 days before leaving to return with some wild Bull friends. Since then, the word has spread, and wild elephants now frequent the Ithumba compound on a daily basis during the dry seasons to drink at the Stockade water trough)
Rafiki came alone to the Stockades this month on the 9th but was with Mgeni (Yatta’s wild recruit) and Yatta, her baby Yetu, Wendi, Kinna, Sidai, Naserian, Ithumbah and bulls Kenze, Orok, Taita, Zurura, Rapsu, Meibai, Tomboi, and Challa when he returned again on the 23rd. Rafiki again led the entire herd to join the Junior group at their mudbath, and remained with them as they browsed the slopes of Ithumba Hill before returning to the Stockades in the evening.
The 24th was a day filled with activity at the Stockade Compound when the Ex Orphans and their wild recruit named Kijana joined the Juniors. With Yatta and her baby were Wendi, Lualeni, Naserian, Ithumbah, Loijuk, Makena, and Sidai and Chyulu who were acting as Nannies to little Yetu. With them were Orok, Zurura, Meibai, Challa, Kenze, Rapsu, Tomboi and Kora. Kandecha tried to mount onto Ex Orphans Makena and Ithumbah while Sabachi challenged Meibai and Naserian, but found both too much for him. At the same time Naisula engaged Kilaguni and then Ithumbah and Kilabasi had a go at Meibai. In the afternoon the joint herd was joined by Mulika and her baby Mwende, Nasalot, Lenana, Galana, Sunyei, Madiba, Kamboyo and 3 wild friends.
On the 25th Lualeni and her best friend Kora spent the day with the Juniors having joined them out in the bush, peeling off only when the Juniors began to return to the Stockades in the evening. However, by the time the Juniors arrived at the Stockades, Lualeni was already there along with Mulika and her baby Mwende, Nasalot, Sunyei, Galana and bulls Madiba, Tomboi, Taita, Buchuma, Rapsu, Zurura, Meibai and 2 wild friends in tow. On the 26th Lualeni joined the Juniors at the mudbath with the same Ex Orphan group plus Kora, 3 wild friends and Yatta’s wild recruit, Mgeni. That afternoon while browsing the slopes of Ithumbah Hill, un-noticed by the Keepers, Lualeni and Madiba managed to sneak off with Ololoo whose absence the Keepers only noticed back at the Stockades. However, just as they were about to instigate a search, Lualeni and Wendi brought him back and handed him over!
Before dawn on the 27th, there was huge Elephant commotion near the Stockades. When daylight dawned Lualeni was at the Stockades with Madiba and Rapsu to escort the Juniors out to browse but later on Wendi was seen being chased by 2 Big Bulls obviously anxious to mate with her. Whether or not they were successful is not known but the Keepers believe that Rafiki is likely to father Wendi’s first baby since she is comfortable with him.
On the 28th Sidai brought Yatta’s baby Yetu to drink at the Stockade water trough, ahead of all the others. Yatta came to drink later with 4 wild elephant friends, Mulika and baby Mwende, plus Kinna, Nasalot, Galana, Buchuma, Taita, Rapsu and Orok, while Wendi, Ithumbah, Lenana, Sunyei, Chyulu, Makena, Lualeni, Loijuk, Naserian and bulls Challa, Kora, Kamboyo, Kenze, Zurura, Madiba, Tomboi, and Meibai browsed close by. Still missing was Ex Orphan Napasha who has not been seen for the past 3 weeks.
Apparently Sities has settled into the Ithumba Juniors’ routine extremely well, often even leading the rest. She and her peers have earned the title “The Olympic Team” since when it is their turn for milk, Sities sprints ahead of all the others, eager to be first at the Milk Bar!