Many visitors to our Orphanage are surprised to learn that even as young babies, the orphan elephants are highly intelligent animals, capable of a whole range of emotions and this month, whether it was sympathy or jealously, we watched all our young charges display a whole range of characteristics. For instance, one day Ambo and Jotto fought over some greens that were being hand-fed to Jotto, believing the grass was greener on the other side! Another day, Ambo felt jealous of the attention the new baby boy Musiara was getting from the matriarch Mbegu and pushed him over when she was not looking before running away to avoid being disciplined. Just like when a child might join a new school, sometimes the orphans also occasionally take advantage of a ‘new arrival’ in the nursery and this month, Lasayen has been bullying Ukame before feeding time, despite her being older and bigger! Of course the Keepers intervene and restore order in times like these.
There are caring babies like Godoma, Dupotto, Mbegu and Murit, greedy babies, like Esampu, and quiet babies, like Tagwa, who is shy and retiring sometimes bullied by even some of the smaller ones like Malima. Ngilai is one little bull that is developing into quite a handful, and has to be watched closely by the keepers so he does not become too boisterous with the other youngsters, or too over-excited at visiting time! Murit is quite the opposite however, and is a caring young bull who looks after those younger than him and makes sure to play fairly, especially with Luggard who wants to play all the same wrestling games but who has to be handled with care due to his broken leg. Godoma is quite a ‘tough-girl’ but is being trained up as a ‘mini matriarch’ by Mbegu and this month, allowed Pare to play with her – a rare treat. Luggard suffered a setback this month, obviously having injured his broken leg again, developing an infection which resulted in him being dull and loosing condition. He was moved to the baby herd to take things easy, and has improved thankfully, but it is clear his injury will take a very long time to fully heal.
There are also different character traits between boys and girls. The young bulls will, generally speaking, are much more pushy and boisterous whilst the girls are more gentle and caring of the young babies. For instance, one day, Sana Sana who loves to roll on the ground and play with the younger orphans let Malima and Kuishi clamber on her. Their fun attracted the attention of boys Ndotto, Lasayen and Ngilai who also wanted to join in, but the minute they did, the girls decided to end their game, knowing that they wouldn’t get a moments peace from then on as the boys always like to play rough!
One common trait among those orphans rescued at a slightly older age is that they are willing to venture off alone earlier than those who are rescued at a very young age and retain no memory of the wild and their wild family. Kelelari, who was rescued when he was nearly four years old, and Ukame, Karisa, Maramoja and Wanjala who were all rescued at a slightly older age, like to wonder off away from the main herd during the day and browse on their own. Orphans like Kelelari and Ukame will assimilate back into the wild, once they have reached our Rehabilitation Units in Tsavo sooner than most. Karisa, who is extremely close to his keepers, if called will come out of the thicket and give away the location of all the others!
On the evening of the 9th it was a nice surprise when six year old Ex Orphan rhino Solio visited the stockade with a wild, male friend! When she arrived, she was unable to access her old sleeping room due to it housing some animals feed now. She stood by the fence calling for Lucerne as her wild friend watched from a distance. She went on to interact with Maxwell and ended up staying the whole night in the compound area. Her friend waited for her in the bushes that surround the stockades, but when he saw the elephants coming out with their keepers in the morning, he ran away into the forest, leaving Solio behind. Solio was very happy to see the keepers and started calling for her Lucerne again and stayed until 9.30am when she left Max to go back into the forest. She visited once more during the month and then disappeared back into Nairobi National Park which she calls home. Maxwell enjoys her visits and he is left in an excited frenzy every time she leaves to go back into the Park.
Kiko seems to have forgotten his boundaries with the orphans and got himself into trouble one day when he scared one of the new babies. He kept following the baby trying to smell it but the baby was obviously frightened of this new and strange creature and shouted for help! Mbegu, Ndotto and Godoma came running charging and trumpeting towards Kiko who was sent away into the thicket and was not allowed close to the little one again!