This month the vegetation is turning a yellow hue as things begin to dry out at Ithumba. Following excellent rain this year the area has remained greener for longer than usual which has made life easier for our dependent orphans and ex orphans alike. Our older ex orphans have remained within the Ithumba orbit, visiting our dependent orphans regularly. This month we were blessed with the return of Olare and her independent group of orphans who have been absent for three months. They are a fascinating group, all extremely good friends, comprised of Olare, Melia, Tumaren, Kandecha, Naisula, Kitirua, Chemi Chemi, Kalama, Murka and Kib, all of whom were raised in the Nursery together and who seem to want to remain an intact herd of their own without assimilating into Yatta and Mulika’s ex orphan herd. Ishanga, Kilaguni, Chiamu, Kilabasi and Kanjoro are another herd of friends who sometimes join the Olare herd, and sometimes act more independently sticking to themselves. They too are back in the fold. Both these young herds savour their independence and tend to venture further afield than the others. On the day they returned to the stockades after such a long absence, there followed an exuberant reunion with the ex orphan herds led by both Yatta and Mulika who returned to the stockades to share in the joy. From that day on Olare and her group have remained close to Chaimu, Kilaguni Kanjoro, Kilabasi and Ishanga, choosing to spend protracted time with their dependent orphan friends close to home and their company has been relished by all.
Big Boys Kora, Kamboyo, and more recently Napasha remain unsighted this month having gone walk about like bulls always do. Orphan bull Orok has been visiting the dependent babies, enjoying their company, sparring with Kanjoro and playing mounting games in the mud wallow, which resulted in Kanjoro making a rapid exit due to the size discrepancy! Early in the month Orwa and Barsilinga gave their Keepers the slip and went missing. A search was mounted and due to the late hour, eventually the Keepers returned to the stockades only to find the missing truants already there, enjoying the cut greens uninterrupted! Later in the month big bulls Madiba, Rapsu, Taita and Tomboi chose to spend time with their little dependent friends.
One day Yatta, with her wild born baby Yetu, and big bull Taita, joined the juniors for a good swim in the mud bath which still remains deep. Later in the day ex orphan bull Tomboi arrived to hang out with his little friends who always relish interaction with the ex orphans, whose wisdom is so important for them as they navigate their journey back into the wild. On another occasion Mulika came with her baby Mwende and Nannie Makena to hang out in the mud wallow with the dependent orphan group. We are so fortunate to have the continuity of the older orphans who play such an active role in the rehabilitation process of the dependent orphans. Suguta and Mutara, who are morphing into more independent orphans, have been spending time out with their independent friends Ishanga, Kilaguni, Chaimu and Kanjoro with Kilabasi seemingly becoming increasingly independent. However they remain within proximity of the younger dependent orphans, and join up with the dependent herd on most days. Some nights they choose to remain outside the confines of their night stockades but nevertheless hang around throughout the night resting and sleeping, content in the fact that they are totally safe whilst in an environment they know so well.
Vuria is a wonderfully playful and friendly little bull - one who came to us so emaciated and weakened that we had to retrieve him multiple times with IV drips as his life hung in the balance. These days it is difficult to remember how he once was as he epitomises the picture of health, fat, playful and boisterous! On some days this month Vuria has taken to charging and bush bashing with outspread ears, trumpeting and kicking up the dust! Little Lemoyian, the baby of the group, has been ambitiously attempting to mount Bomani, who is, understandably, not cooperative. Undeterred Lemoiyan then resorts to stealth tactics, ambushing Bomani in order to leap onto his back!!!
Light rain on the 9th of the month at Ithumba settled the dust, and refreshed everything once more. It also put the orphans into an extremely playful mood as they relished the cooler muddy conditions. Rains in February are extremely rare, but most welcome as February and March are extremely hot months in Tsavo and can be exceptionally dry ones as well, which thankfully has not been the case this year.
There was one day when a number of Marabou Storks perched on the branches of trees fringing the elephant path the herd was using. Their presence unnerved the young dependent orphans who looked to their Keepers for guidance. The Keepers walked ahead scaring the birds into flight, and only then would the elephants proceed!
On another day Sities, Kainuk, Turkwel and Shukuru kept close to semi independent Mutara, Kanjoro and Suguta. It seemed normal behaviour at first but in retrospect these orphans were actually hatching an elaborate plan. As they all ambled towards the stockade compound in the evening, Suguta, Mutara and Kanjoro decided to elope with Shukuru, Sities, Turkwel and Kainuk. It was only towards the big rock when the keepers managed to split the group into three for feeding purposes upon their return to the night stockades that they realized that several orphans were missing. As they pondered what to do next, the Keepers heard trumpeting from the east where the Truants were heading towards the Kalovoto lugga. The Keepers tracked them down and eventually found Shukuru, Sities, Kainuk and Turkwel, after which they promptly proceeded to walk these milk dependent orphans back to the stockades, bringing an end to another brief drama. That same day, just as the sun was setting, Yatta and Mulika’s independent ex orphans returned to the stockades in the company of 10 wild elephants. Here they remained, peacefully drinking, communicating with the little ones and catching up with their human Keeper family before slipping off into the night.
On the 22nd of February big ex orphan bull Buchuma returned home after an absence of months, looking thinner than usual, but otherwise healthy. It was lovely to see him back in the orphan’s fold after his travels, and he has remained close to home ever since. Towards the end of the month the ex orphans have been spending more time in the company of the small dependent ones. Now we had a full complement of orphans at Ithumba with the exception of bulls Kamboyo, Kora and Napasha who remain on walk- about.