This month all the orphans with the exception of Napasha were united once again, with Ishanga coming back into the fold after a very long absence. Napasha is the only Ithumba independent orphan who has not been sighted this month, as he once again left for another walkabout in January and has not yet returned. This is not unusual for the bulls as they grow older, and last year Napasha headed off on a walkabout for nearly six months before returning.
Our ex orphans and semi dependent orphans are breaking up into splinter groups this month and jump around between groups, but all of them seem to be one close and happy family who keep in close communications with each other at all times even when separated.
Our dependent babies have been treated to many visits from the independent orphans, the semi independent orphans and a number of wild elephants. This interaction is a crucial part of their journey back into the wild, as these friendships and bonds are what will sustain them in the future, as the knowledge, and guidance they receive during these interludes is vital.
Our dependent Ithumba orphans are spoilt for choice with so many ex orphans remaining in their orbit, along with their wild friends. A special moment this month was the visit from a one tusker matriarch with her new baby born that very day. What made this visit even more memorable was she was saved last year when she visited the stockades with a poisoned arrow in her side and was treated by the KWS/DSWT Tsavo Mobile Veterinary unit. She has made a full recovery, and what we did not know then was at the time of treatment she was pregnant. Despite her near death experience, and subsequent survival thanks to the timely treatment she received, she has given birth to a tiny little calf that she was trusting enough to share with the orphans and the Keepers that day.
This month the waterholes are drying and this is evident by the more frequent daily visits from our ex orphans and their wild friends, with many now coming to the midday mud bath and also the stockades for fresh water. Sometimes our ex orphans return in the company of younger wild friends even who have obviously peeled away from their natal herds for a short while to spend time with their orphan friends. The comings and goings of the wild elephants, and our now independent and semi independent orphans, is a constant source of fascination, and we are able to learn so much about just how like us they really are.
Shukuru has been off colour for months, much slower than the rest, and just not as she should be which caused Angela great concern. This month after medication and extra supplements Shukuru is a completely changed elephant with excellent energy levels, a willingness to bathe in the mud wallow, which was not there for months, and a general lust for life once more. Her body condition too is much improved so this is a great relief for us all.
The dependent bulls have been enjoying time with some of the older ex orphan bulls who have been giving the young ones time and attention, and the pushing and strength testing games are very much a daily thing as they joust and show off. Details of their antics are chronicled in the Keepers daily entries.
There was one day when the orphans basked in the soft red earth brought in especially to compliment their midday mud bath when a troop of baboons dashed past chattering, clearly distressed by something. This freaked the dependent orphans out who immediately lept from their sand pile and charged towards their Keepers for comfort with trunks aloft sniffing the air for any signs of danger. They chose not to leave their keepers side for a long while until they finally calmed down. Despite being fairly independent while out in the bush doing what they do everyday, browsing, mud bathing and playing a midst each other, the company of their Keepers remains vital at this early stage. They are still very vulnerable and will dash back to their Keeper's side in these situations, and one is reminded that the are still young babies, despite growing apace.
The roles do change with the passage of time, and as the orphans grow more independent and comfortable with all things wild they become more protective of their Keepers understanding that they are vulnerable. They protect them from the dangers in the bush the a sleeping lone buffalo or a puff adder on an elephant path. There is nothing more rewarding than to know an elephant's intimate love and ultimate protection which is something our keepers are lucky enough to experience.