A highlight of the month was the arrival at Ithumba of Ex Nursery orphans Kalama, Chemi Chemi and Ololoo when, as usual, all the Ex Orphans with wild elephant friends within their herd, mysteriously anticipated this event and were at hand to welcome them. How Elephants are able to predict such events is one of those mysteries that defies human interpretation. The moment the truck drew in, Wendi moved forward to greet the new babies, after which Ololoo and Chemi Chemi immediately went confidently towards the Stockade water trough where all the other Ex Orphans and their wild friends had gathered. Kalama was more hesitant and had to be escorted there by the Keepers, but the assurance and confidence of Ololoo and Chemi Chemi astounded the Keepers. Without a moment’s hesitation they were in amongst the adult herd, dwarfed by them, but welcomed warmly by both the Ex Orphans and also their wild friends, in total about 30 very large elephant strangers! Both calves obviously remember their earlier wild life well - Chemi Chemi being 9 months old and Ololoo over two years when orphaned.
The Junior Keeper Dependent Group now numbers 16 and when they were ready to move off into the bush with the Keepers, five Ex Orphans who had been Mini Matriarchs followed them – namely Wendi, Sunyei, Lualeni, Sidai and Loijuk. They spent time browsing in amongst them, fondling the newcomers gently with their trunks to reassure them.
The Juniors have had plenty of Ex Orphan and wild interaction this month. They were joined by the Ex Orphans and their wild elephant friends again on the 8th, by 3 wild bulls on the l0th, and on the 13th by Lualeni who was waiting at the Stockades to escort them out first thing in the morning. Later other members of the Ex Orphaned herd passed by and picked up Lualeni who then left with them. It is interesting that Kora. Who is Lualeni’s very best friend, has opted to remain with the Keeper Dependent Juniors ever since his poisoned arrow experience.
That day something undetected by the Keepers scared the elephants who all fled in different directions. By nightfall the Keepers had only managed to round up 10 out of the 16 who they first returned to the Night Stockades and then set off in the little Ithumba Suzuki to search for the missing six. Driving round the back of Ithumba hill they came across Naisula, Ololoo, Kibo, Murka, Chemi Chemi and Melia, all trying to make their way back home in the dark, and the moment the elephants spotted the Suzuki, they all ran towards it, rumbling happily, delighted to be reunited by their human family, and be able to be escorted back home. This must have been a very nerve wracking experience for the Keeper Dependent orphans, who, in the absence of their elephant families, rely on their human replacements for protection.
Wendi brought Makena, Loijuk, Sidai, Galana, Rapsu, Lenana, Tomboi and Madiba to join the Juniors on the 20th, browsing with them for an hour out in the bush before parting. And that day Yatta, Mulika, Selengai, Taita, Kinna, Nasalot and Buchuma turned up to join the Youngsters at their mudbath, bringing with them a host of wild friends. On the 21st Chyulu and Lenana passed by to greet the Juniors who were browsing out in the bush, but then proceeded on their way, obviously to keep another appointment. On the 23rd Lualeni brought Zurura, Rapsu, Lenana and Loijuk to browse with the Juniors out in the bush, spending about an hour with them.
Many wild elephants have been regularly drinking at the Stockade water trough this month, so much so that the Stockade borehole has not been able to cope, so the Trust’s Water Tanker has had to make several trips a day ferrying water from the storage tank on the hill to refill the water trough. Waiting with wild elephant to drink on the 24th were the two young bulls who regularly attach themselves to Yatta’s Senior Group, and have been named “Kimethena” and “Kijana”. These two were sufficiently confident to move right up to the hose literally within touching distance of the Keepers holding it, and having seen this, the wild elephants then followed suit, about 30 or 40 all crowding around to drink. It was a unique and very moving experience for the humans to be within touching distance of so many adult wild elephants and says a great deal about the sophistication of elephant communication.!
On the 27th and 29th all the Ex Orphans, again accompanied by wild elephants, came to share the Juniors’ mudbath and later went with the Youngsters to browse amongst them in the bush remaining with them until 3 p.m. Four wild bulls turned up to join the Juniors at the mudbath on the 30th when little Ithumbah brazenly walked in amongst them. Later that day all the Ex Orphans joined the bulls, bringing with them Yatta’s wild recruit named “Mgeni” who has not been seen for many months. The Keepers were overjoyed to see him again and know that he was alright, but only wished that he had brought back Ndomot with him! The same 4 wild Bulls and all the Ex Orphaned herd again joined the Juniors at the mudbath on the 31st.
As always, the three newcomers have felt the heat of Tsavo. Kalama had to draw water from her stomach to spray over and cool herself down on the 9th,after which she climbed right into the Stockade water trough! Olare, Sabachi and Tumaren did not approve of this, and made sure she soon got out! Youngsters that are not used to the hot temperatures of Tsavo always feel the heat until they become acclimatized to it. There have been several very hot days when the Junior Group has had to take to the shade in order to regulate body temperature.
The Junior Boys - Kibo, Kandecha and Sabachi regularly engage one another in Tests of Strength, which have been interrupted this month by either Kora or Suguta. Ololoo was bold enough to unwisely challenge Kandecha on one occasion, biting off a bit more than he could chew! This month the Juniors have had fun chasing off baboons at the mudbath venue, sliding down steep river banks, and playing hide and seek around the thickets. It has been an extremely happy month for all our Keeper Dependent orphans as well as the Ex Orphans, who enjoy a great deal of wild contact.