The dry hot weather prevailed in the Northern Area of Tsavo throughout February which meant we were treated to lots of visits from the Ex Orphan herds as well as many wild elephants who came to quench their thirst at all hours of the day, but predominantly in the early morning and late evening. One morning began with only Ex Orphan bull Tomboi drinking water outside the stockades but soon snowballed into over 100 wild elephants all vying for water from the stockade’s vital water troughs. Needless to say quenching so many gigantic thirsts keeps our water bowser extremely busy ferrying from the boreholes and Tiva River.
The most notable guests this month though was Olare’s Ex Orphan herd, who arrived on the 4th of the month after three months away! The herd, which includes Olare, Melia, Tumaren, Kandecha, Naisula, Murka, Kitirua, Kalama, Chemi Chemi and Kibo, are prone to wandering far and wide for long spells, but always return to stay closer to home throughout the drier months. We were very excited to see them return and they all looked in excellent condition, looking happy and well. Orwa, who is the biggest dependent junior, was especially happy to have bigger friends that he could play with and learn from, and teamed up with Kalama, Kibo and Chemi Chemi any chance he got. This was quite frequently as Olare’s herd stayed around the area for the duration of the month.
Yatta’s senior Ex Orphan herd, which includes Mulika, Nasalot, Galana, Lenana, Kenze, Lualeni, Meibai, Orok, Makena, Ololoo, Ishanga, the babies Gawa, Wiva, Yetu and Mwende, were also around for the duration of the month with baby Gawa growing in size and character.
Chaimu’s Ex Orphan herd consists of Kilaguni, Makireti, Kilabasi, Kasigau, Turkwel and Kainuk and they often like join the juniors for lucerne in the morning. Kainuk and Turkwel, who usually belong to Mutara’s group but who like to move together and have remained very close friends since the Nursery both coming from the South Turkana population of elephants in Kenya, chopped and changed between the groups, perhaps because they did not want to wander as far during the day as Mutara’s group. The six members in Mutara’s group, Mutara, Suguta, Sities, Turkwel, Kainuk and Kanjoro, were probably seen most often this month, sometimes in the company of another wild orphan who has tagged onto their group and in the company of some other wild elephants as well. They were happy to join the dependent juniors to feast on the lucerne provided by the keepers in the morning, but the wild orphan fed some distance away and at mud bath time were anxious and kept charging at the keepers.
Ex Orphans Makireti, Kilabasi and Kasigau often showed up around mud bath time and in the late afternoon, sometimes in the company of Ex Orphans Rapsu, Zurura and wild elephants that mingled with Mutara’s herd too. Only at the very end of the month did we spot Ex Orphan bulls Madiba and Buchuma who came for a drink and mud bath with the orphans.
With so many Ex Orphans and wild elephants around the compound this month, it wasn’t very peaceful in the morning for the dependent orphans who were not able to enjoy their lucerne in peace due to the sheer volume or boisterousness of their seniors, who they always respectfully defer to. Although it was a very hot month, the dependent orphans did not always indulge in the mud bath; sometimes it was too windy and at other times, the orphans were more concerned with browsing and filling their tummies. Shukuru’s health has improved enormously and she has been showing off just how much better she is feeling these days, and she was often one of the few who did choose to mud and soil bath after milk feeding. When the temperature shot up in the late afternoon, the orphans usually chose to doze in the shade for a bit before browsing once more and often returning for a mud bath before heading home for the night.
Despite the dry weather, there are still some green leaves about however and poor Roi and Naseku were left feeling bereft one day after they tried to stretch their trunks high and reach some but they were still too small to reach. Of course the Keepers would help in situations like this. Clever Kithaka meanwhile was so thirsty one day that he was spotted taking water straight from the pipe of the water bowser with his trunk to his mouth! Despite the hot weather, Bomani and Garzi didn’t shake their funny habits and together with Lemoyian, Narok and Sokotei they denied several warthog’s access to the mud bath whilst they were in the vicinity! The mud bath got quite thick and sticky in some places due to the hot weather and Enkikwe made the mistake of going in the wrong way one day and got stuck; it took him awhile to extract himself but he managed in the end.
One day, Orwa proclaimed himself the group leader and decided to walk some of the youngsters back to the stockade compound just after the midday mud bath one day. We think Naseku, Roi, Tusuja, Oltayoni, Boromoko and Bomani all thought they might be given more milk in the stockade and obediently followed Orwa all the way back. The keepers foiled their plan however and walked them back out to their junior friends to continue browsing for the rest of the day until it was time to return.
Now five years old, Bomani and Teleki are getting to the age where they might consider joining their fellow Ex Orphans out in the bush, or at least become a bit more independent. It was no surprise one day then when they snuck away from their keepers and it was only shortly before five o'clock in the evening that they were located heading towards the Imenti area.