February is always an extremely hot month in Tsavo, and the remaining Keeper dependent orphans based at Ithumba (now numbering seven - Suguta, Melia, Chaimu, Ithumbah, Tumaren, Kilaguni and Sabachi) have suffered from the heat this month as a result, often having to browse under shade, cool themselves earlier than usual at the mudbath venue and spend the early afternoon under shade until temperatures begin to fall in later afternoon. A light rainstorm that fell on the l8th brought relief for a day or two, when the Juniors thoroughly enjoyed playing in the puddles and rolling in natural mudbaths out in the bush, but February is always a challenging month for elephants who have to try and regulate their body temperature through access to shade and water since they are unable to perspire.
Splinter groups from Yatta’s main Senior group have visited the dependent orphans on several occasions throughout the month, as has Yatta’s Senior Group. The Juniors were joined on the way to the mudbath on the 2nd by Wendi, Naserian, Galana, and Lualeni (all ex Junior Matriarchs in their day) with young bulls Meibai and Kora tagging along, both having recently upgraded themselves to the Keeper Dependent Ex Orphaned Group. Then on the 3rd Big Boy Napasha came with Chyulu and Makena to frolic in the mudbath with the Juniors. During the evening of the 6th a larger group of Ex Orphans turned up at the Stockades for a drink, namely Nasalot and Selengai (both Big Girls from Yatta’s main group) with Wendi, Lenana, Loijuk, Makena plus Big Boy Napasha and his younger male admirers in Yatta’s group namely Kenze, Rapsu, Buchuma, Taita, and Zurura. Having enjoyed a drink they then headed out again because as the country dries out browsing takes on greater significance, food being more difficult to source..
On the 9th Yatta’s wild recruit, the young bull given the name “Mgeni”, who had been absent from Yatta’s group for the past 2 months, put in an appearance again when Yatta and her satellites came to drink at the Stockade water trough. Also present were Big Girls Mulika, Kinna, Selengai, and Nasalot, who had with them on this occasion Lenana, and Makena, and young boys Buchuma, Taita, Rapsu, and Orok. However, Ndomot did not return with Mgeni, having gone off with him in the first place, nor has he been seen since. We hope he is alright and has merely found a new close friend amongst the wild herds further afield to whom Mgeni introduced him.
On the 11th the Juniors were joined out in the field by Yatta, Nasalot, Mulika, Kinna, Selengai, Orok, Taita, and Buchuma, Nasalot as usual homing in on her favourite “baby” Kilaguni, while Selengai took care of her favourite, little Ithumbah. The next day Yatta was absent from the group that joined the Youngsters out in the field but Mgeni was there with a wild male friend, plus Mulika, Nasalot, Kinna, Selengai, and Lualeni, and boys Buchuma, Taita, Challa, Napasha, Rapsu and Kora. On the 13th a wild female unit came to drink at the Stockade water trough. Three females had three babies with them as well as an adult bull.
The Ex Orphans were then not seen for a few days, but then came to drink at the Stockades again led by Yatta who was with Mulika, Kinna, Nasalot, Lenana, Makena and young bulls Orok, Taita, Kenze, Kamboyo plus “Mgeni”, the wild recruit. On the 22nd Ex Orphans Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot, Kinna, Naserian, Selengai, and Lualeni plus bulls Orok, Buchuma, Zurura, Kenze, Kamboyo and Kora (but minus Rapsu and Challa) again came to drink at the Stockades and during the evening of the 23rd Wendi turned up with Junior Matriarch peers Loijuk, Chyulu, Galana and Naserian accompanied by Tomboi, Madiba, Challa and Rapsu.
On the 26th the Juniors were joined for a while in the morning by all the Ex Orphans and at 1 p.m. Yatta again showed up at the Stockade water trough for a drink accompanied this time by Kinna, Nasalot, Selengai, Mulika,” Mgeni”, Orok, Taita and another wild bull. Then on the 28th the entire Ex Orphaned herd comprised of both Yatta’s and Wendi’s usual satellites came to drink at the Stockades at 8 a.m., and this time they had with them two wild elephants.
From the above, one can see that the Ex Orphans usually fall into Yatta’s Senior Group in which are the older females, the wild recruit Mgeni, Big Boy Napasha and always little Orok along with some of the younger bulls. Wendi’s Splinter Group usually comprises all her Junior Matriarch peers such as Galana, Sunyei, Chyulu, Makena, Naserian, Lenana, Loijuk and Sidai, with some of the younger bulls although Big Boy Napasha was with her when she and Chyulu joined the Juniors at the mudbath venue.
Kilaguni is obviously the main mudbath enthusiast. Having persuaded Chaimu to join him on the 20th she became temporarily bogged in the black cotton “gum” and Kilaguni came to her aid, pushed her gently until she was able to regain her footing and extract herself. Despite the heat, it is telling that the Juniors are often not all that keen on going into the mudbath, probably for that very reason, Ithumbah having been trapped in the mud of the drying dam and would have perished there had the Keepers not come across her in time and been able to rescue her.
All the Ithumba orphans, both those Keeper Dependent and the Ex orphaned herd, are thriving but we anxiously await the reappearance of Ndomot to put our minds at rest about his long absence from the main Orphaned Herd.