The New Year began with the following orphans (numbering 29) having made the transition to leading an independent wild life as part of the wild elephant community of Tsavo’s Northern Area:- Yatta (the main Senior Matriarch) assisted by Nasalot, Mulika and Kinna, Junior Matriarchs who often lead Splinter Groups from Yatta’s main unit, all of whom were Junior Leaders of the Keeper Dependent group in their time and who now are part of the Ex Orphaned group - Wendi, Loijuk, Sunyei, Galana, Naserian, Sidai, Lualeni, Lenana, Makena and Chyulu. ( Ol Malo has not been back to the Stockades for some time now. However she was always a very independent (albeit somewhat fragile elephant), who spent a lot of time either traveling with wild friends or alone, but we have no evidence to suggest that she is not still alive). Ex orphan Bulls permanently now part of Yatta’s main herd are Napasha, Taita, Ndomot, Madiba, Buchuma, Rapsu, Challa, Kenze, Kamboyo, Zurura, Orok, Tomboi and Kora with Meibai who should really still be classed as a Junior, but who oscillates between the Keeper Dependent Juniors and the Ex orphaned herd, spirited away again by Galana,( who adores him, on the 25th ) having been returned to the Keeper Dependent Unit on the 12th. That evening he turned up at the Stockades as part of Galana’s Ex orphaned Splinter Group which included Naserian, Sidai and Sunyei, and because Meibai is still milk dependent, the Keepers returned him to the Night Stockade along with Kilaguni, Sabachi, Suguta, Melia, Ithumbah, Chaimu and Tumaren who comprise the Keeper Dependent Junior Group. Galana and the other Ex Orphans objected strongly to having Meibai taken from them, pushing their way into the Stockades to try and repossess him. However, In the end, the Keepers managed to get the Ex Orphans out, leaving Meibai inside, but they camped just outside the Stockade gate all night, and were there to greet him first thing in the morning, along with all the rest of the main Ex orphaned Group. Thereafter Meibai remained as part of the Junior Group until the 25th when Galana cunningly sneaked him away again.
All the ex orphans were at the Stockades early on the 3rd and spent two hours feeding with the Juniors out in the bush before separating but leaving Nasalot behind to Baby-Sit the Youngsters. Nasalot adores Kilaguni and is often happy to shoulder this duty. Wendi has selected Ithumbah for special loving attention and Galana is extremely possessive of Meibai who is her favourite “baby”. Splinter Groups have met up with the Juniors on many occasions this month - during the afternoon of the 9th, on the 17th when Nasalot, Wendi, Galana, Sunyei, Tomboi joined the Juniors at 10 a.m. out in the bush with a wild friend in tow and shared the mudbath hour with the Babies. On the 21st Naserian brought a Splinter group to join the Juniors as they fed out in the bush. With her were Lualeni, Kora and a Junior wild bull and on the 22nd a Splinter Group of 11 Ex orphans led by Galana came to drink at the Stockades. On the 24th Galana brought a Splinter Group of l7 Ex Orphans to join the Juniors for the morning browsing session, and when the main group left, Galana remained behind and was with them throughout the day, escorting them back in the evening. She was back at the Stockade Gates first thing in the morning to again accompany them and it that afternoon (the 25th) that she cunningly spirited Meibai away again without the Keepers noticing as a time when the Juniors spread out to feed in the bush after their noon mudbath! The Keepers are determined that Galana deliberately devised a strategy to hijack Meibai from his Keeper Dependent colleagues without them noticing!
On the 27th Wendi brought a Splinter Group and 2 wild bulls to drink at the Stockades in the evening, and on the 28th a wild female family, comprised of a mother and her 3 children, two boys and a girl aged 3, 6 and 9 respectively came to drink at the Stockade water trough and were sufficiently relaxed around the compound to enjoy a cooling mudbath at the Compound mini wallow having taken their fill of water. It is only relatively recently that female herds have visited the Stockade Compound. Their presence is an important milestone as the wild elephants begin to re-occupy an area they all abandoned for close on 30 years due to the poaching that spanned the late seventies, eighties and early nineties. Our orphans can take full credit for enticing the wild elephants back again.
During the month Challa, Ndomot and Yatta’s wild recruit “Mgeni” absented themselves from Yatta’s main Ex Orphaned herd and did not put in an appearance for many days. It was therefore a relief for the Keepers to welcome Challa back, who turned up on the 29th along with Wendi, Loijuk, Rapsu, Galana and Meibai but there was still no sign by month end of Ndomot and Mgeni who are still no doubt on a wild walkabout with wild male counterparts.
Likewise, Yatta’s main Seniors have also spent time with the Juniors this month – on the 11th when they turned up with two rather nervous young wild bulls, the Keepers trailing the herd at a distance in order not to scare away the wild friends. All, including the wild friends, shared the Juniors’ mudbath that day. Then on the 30th Yatta Mulika, Kinna, and Nasalot came with Makena, Lenana, Chyulu, and Sidai and boys Orok, Buchuma, and Kenze, plus 2 wild male friends, spending the entire day with the Youngsters and escorting them back to their night stockades in the evening. Noticeably absent amongst the group was Meibai, who was still obviously enjoying his wild outing with Galana.
The month ended with Seniors Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot, and Kinna, coming to the Stockade compound in the evening along with Makena, ( who is a recent graduate) Selengai, Lenana, and Chyulu and bulls Buchuma, Taita, and Orok plus a wild male friend. There have not been many days this month when the Keeper Dependent Juniors have not enjoyed the company of some of the Ex Orphans, and on occasions, all. As the dry season tightens its grip yet again, autumn shades dominate the thickets, as the trees drop their leaves in preparation for their tropical “winter” season.
Of the Keeper Dependent Juniors, Ithumbah and Suguta often lead the group to and from the various venues throughout the day, but more recently Melia and Chaimu have also taken on the role of Column Leader. Kilaguni and Sabachi, the only two boys amongst five girls, enjoy tussling with each other on a daily basis, and also try their luck on Meibai whenever he happens to be around. Whilst Meibai obviously misses his milk, he still gets his share whenever he turns up, but he is obviously happy to forego it in order to participate in a wild life with Galana and the others as opposed to being part of the Junior set. It is heart-warming to see this little boy strong and happy again having come into the Nursery during 2009 as an emaciated two year old “hat-wrack”, staring death in the face!