It has been a truly wonderful month for our Ithumba unit- a month punctuated by rainstorms and showers right up until the end, and food and water in abundance at every turn. It has been quality elephant time. A lone wild bull visited the orphans during the night of the 31st December,, but as usual they were unable to meet up with him the next day although an attempt was made. They also followed the trail of a wild herd that had passed through their area on the 27th and although the sight of fresh wild dung made the four older elephants rumble a greeting, which brought all the others along to take a look, again, no contact was made. However, the vehicle transporting the night’s browse to the Stockade actually came across a lone one tusked Bull,(possibly the nocturnal visitor) but sadly it was too late to mobilize the Ithumba orphans to him. However, the mere fact that he showed himself is a sign that he is becoming more confident. There was high drama on the morning of the 4th when, as the orphans were preparing to leave the Stockades, two dikdiks fled right to them, obviously for protection, with 4 wild dogs hot on their heels. Confronted by the elephants and the Keepers, the dogs did a rapid about-turn, as the younger orphans rushed to their Keepers for protection, and only Yatta, Kinna, Mulika and Nasalot plucked up enough courage to stand their ground, later charging in the direction taken by the dogs once sure that they were retreating! The 4 dogs again made an early morning appearance on the 19th, obviously hoping to drink from the Stockade trough, and this again triggered an impressive display of aggression from the four older elephants. The Stockade dikdiks obviously have a fraught time, because they also provide a target for the younger set to put on a display, which, on the 21st was initiated by Madiba and Buchuma.
There was deep disappointment when the hole in Kora’s jaw opened up again to exude a small quantity of pus, having been closed for several months and just when we were daring to hope that his immune system had defeated the very chronic bone infection that has plagued him for so long, following the bullet wound he sustained in infancy. However, the hole again sealed after two days, and has since remained closed, so once again, we are hopeful. Kora could not be in better physical condition and we are confident that amongst the amazing spread of highly mineralized low country browse there will be Nature’s medicinal plant remedy to heal his condition.
Other exciting events this month have been an encounter with a buffalo on the way to the mudbath venue, which ended happily with the buffalo noisily crashing off through the bush, leaving the orphans and their Keepers rooted to the spot, but once the orphans were sure that the buffalo was retreating, they again put on an impressive display of displeasure, charging, trumpeting and knocking down small shrubs on their way to the mudbath.
As usual, the competitive boys have been kept in line by the older females, and Napasha has had to be disciplined several times by stepping out of line and challenging one of the Big Girls. When Kinna accidentally trod on Wendi’s trunk, making her yell in pain, Yatta was quick to come and comfort by laying a trunk over Wendi’s back and touching her mouth gently which is the equivalent of an elephant kiss.. Every Diary is filled with examples of compassion and caring, of enduring bonds of friendship, and acts of love and companionship. I find it very touching that when the babies feel threatened, it is to their human Keepers that they run, while the older elephants stand together to protect both the babies and their Keepers and deal with any unwelcome intruder.
In short, the past couple of months have indeed provided quality time for our Ithumba unit, been a truly festive season for all our orphans, as Kenya has experienced unprecedented rainfall that whilst wrecking havoc to roads and the human population, has proved a Godsend for wildlife.