Roi, who has been weaned off bottles, emerged as another milk menace this month. One afternoon, she devised a clever plot to steal some milk. She strategically placed herself where she could observe the Keepers and waited for the right moment to strike. For added effect, she even closed her eyes, pretending to be asleep! When Roi saw her window of opportunity, she came in like a flash and grabbed a bottle that had been set down for the incoming group. She sped away and gulped down her stolen milk, looking quite proud of her successful heist.
Ex orphans filtered in and out this month. However, Mutara’s herd, consisting of Suguta, Sities, Turkwel, and Kainuk, remained mainstays. Mutara’s baby should arrive any day now, and the first-time mum clearly wants to spend the remainder of her pregnancy in the environs of Ithumba. Suguta, Sities, and Turkwel have been using the time to practise their nannying skills on Dololo, who they remain curiously besotted with.
One morning, the dependent herd was joined by Lenana, Narok, Kitirua, Kasigau, Ishanga, and Lenana’s baby, Lapa. Faced with the tantalising prospect of looking after little Lapa, Suguta, Sities, and Turkwel dropped Dololo like a hot potato. Esampu and Mteto competed with the older girls to win Lapa’s heart, but in the end, Lapa rebuffed all the strangers and followed his loyal nannies Ishanga and Narok instead.
However, Esampu and Mteto got their moment of glory later in the month, when Yatta and her ex orphan herd were visiting. Yatta’s infant boy, Yogi, made the mistake of cutting in front of Kamok, who is known for being very apathetic — and, occasionally, antagonistic — towards little babies. When Kamok roughly pushed Yogi away, Esampu and Mteto took the opportunity to swoop in and comfort the young baby.
Kamok aside, our dependent females are really honing their nurturing skills. It is lovely when the ex orphans visit, as they are always very generous about allowing the younger girls to spend time with their babies. One memorable afternoon, Yatta’s ex orphan herd took Naseku, Olsekki, Siangiki, Oltaiyoni, Tusuja, Roi, Galla, Mteto, and Esampu on a browsing expedition. Ever the good leader, Yatta escorted the orphans back to the stockades later that evening.
Barsilinga’s foot injury kept him anchored to Ithumba for more than a year, but now that he is fully healed, he has been enjoying his independence. He is exploring the wild with Kithaka, who has been his best friend since their Nursery days. They have also been spending time with their older friend, Kibo.
Our other injured boy, Enkikwe, has also completely recovered from his lion attack. His hind leg will never be the same, but it doesn’t hold him back in any way — much to Mundusi’s dismay! At six years old, Mundusi is desperate to establish his dominance in the herd and constantly challenges the other bulls to sparring matches. Perhaps he thought Enkikwe would offer an easy win, because of his leg. However, Enkikwe wasn’t about to let Mundusi off the hook. He found tooth and nail to show the younger bull that that disability is not inability. In the end, Mundusi surrendered and scampered off.
Jotto, who is also six years old, learned a similar lesson from Kauro. The bulls had a disagreement when Kauro pulled a branch from Jotto’s mouth. Jotto tried to retaliate, but he wasn't strong enough to beat the older boy. As a final indignity, Kauro pushed Jotto down and climbed on his back, while all the girls watched his humiliation unfold.
Our ‘good students’ Larro, Mukkoka, and Naboishu are doing so well at Ithumba. Larro has already mastered the area and leads the herd out most mornings. Musiara and Nabulu remain their steadfast friends and self-appointed ‘Ithumba guides’ — although the trio no longer needs much hand-holding! The older girls, particularly Malkia, Kuishi, and Sana Sana, have really taken the three babies under their wing. They single them out for special hangout sessions, spending hours at a time with them.
Mukkoka had a thrilling experience with several of the older bulls. One afternoon, some guineafowl passed by the orphans and made a lot of noise, which really annoyed everyone. Mukkoka, Wanjala, Rapa, and Dololo united to bring an end to the disruption. They charged and trumpeted as they ran towards the birds, sending them scattering in all directions. The bulls were very happy with their result, and Mukkoka must have been especially pleased to be part of the older boys’ activity.
The older boys had some thrilling experiences of their own. During a browsing session, a wild bull appeared from the northeast. Rapa, Mundusi, Wanjala, Olsekki, and Pare gave their impressive new friend a warm welcome and even offered to escort him to his next destination. Sometimes, wild bulls like to put youngsters in their place, but this fellow accepted their offer. Pleasantly surprised by his inclusiveness, the five boys eagerly followed him.
The month wasn’t without its drama. Predictably, Nasalot’s rascal son, Nusu, was at the heart of it — as was our own resident rascal, Sapalan. One afternoon, Yatta’s ex orphan herd arrived at the mud bath. Sapalan pushed Nusu, thinking he was an easy target, but Nusu turned and tackled Sapalan like a gentleman. The fight only ended when Nasalot separated the boys. Another evening, Nusu blocked Sapalan and Rapa’s path into their bedroom. Perhaps he was antagonising the orphans for having a bedroom, while he sleeps out among his herd!
Interestingly, it was Naboishu who had the best interaction with Nusu this month. He boldly teamed up with the young bull, and they proceeded to enjoy a private and peaceful conversation. They only parted ways when Sana Sana arrived and took Naboishu away. Nusu continued on to sweet Siangiki, who always welcomes a new playmate.
We had a special reunion on 22nd February, when a wild herd appeared after an absence of many months. During their last visit in November, the matriarch was heavily pregnant. This morning, she arrived with her two-month-old baby in tow. Now, she has four babies and a grandchild! It is so lovely to see wild families flourishing all around us.
The December rains sent most wild visitors away, as they travelled far and wide to enjoy the ample browse to be found in Tsavo. Now, however, everyone is beginning to circle back. One afternoon, thirty wild bulls were at the mud bath, which was the highest number yet this year. It was a definitive sign that it is getting very dry in the area.