Following the 11th January slaughter of 12 wild Elephants at Roko on the Tiva, which resulted in an international outcry, several of our Ex Orphans had been missing from the main Ex Orphan group whenever they returned to the Stockades. As the days passed, fears mounted about their safety. Missing were Naserian, Rapsu, Kora (all aged 9) as well as 11 year old Napasha (aged 11). It was therefore an enormous relief when Naserian turned up at the Stockades on the 12th January, escorted by Rapsu and Kora, but looking thin with a wound in her back, but Rapsu and Kora were mercifully unscathed.
The Keepers cleaned and dressed Naserian’s wound with healing Green Clay and gave her a supplementary treat of dairy cubes. She returned the next day for her wound to again be dressed, this time Madiba having joined Kora and Rapsu as the escort. The following day a few more of the Ex Orphans were with her when she returned and then, after a day’s break, she was back on the 16th, this time accompanied by the entire Ex Orphan Group plus 4 wild elephants and when the Ex Orphans began to wander off,, Naserian remained to enjoy her supplements before following in the direction taken by them. That day at noon, who should turn up, but Napasha who had not been seen for over a month. The Keepers were overjoyed to see him again safe and sound.
On the 22nd, the journey of Kilabasi and Kanjoro to Ithumba in the Elephant Mover was a breeze, and by 10.45 a.m. they were there, greeted very warmly by Makireti, Ishanga and Kasigau who remembered Kilabasi from their own Nursery days. However, Kanjoro was a stranger to them, and was nervous surrounded by many who were bigger than himself. He kept on trying to escape their attention, in the process unwisely giving Melia a rude push, which brought a sharp reprisal! (The Ex Orphans had gathered at the Stockades at 7 a.m. that morning, but having spent about an hour hanging around, had already moved off.
Unaccustomed to the heat of Tsavo, Kilabasi and Kanjoro felt the need to draw on reserves of stomach water in order to cool themselves down whilst returning to the Stockades in the late afternoon. Likewise unaccustomed to the surrounding electric fence, Kanjoro broke one of the wires the next morning – another lesson that had to be learnt the hard way!. However, the newcomers’ older colleagues moved in to show them the new arrivals the ropes, and in the evening, all the Ex Orphans turned up again to welcome them. This time Wendi and Nasalot paid the new babies a great deal of attention, attempting to take them off with them when they left. It took the Keepers about an hour to recover and return Kanjoro and Kilabasi to the Junior Keeper Dependent Group where they now belonged.
Mutara, Shukuru and Tano were the next Nursery newcomers to arrive at the Ithumba Stockades just three days later at 11a.m. on the 25th. Wendi, Mulika and her baby, Mwende, along with Nasalot, Galana, Sunyei, Chyulu and Lualeni accompanied by bulls Taita, Zurura, Meibai and Orok turned up early that day, and when they decided to move off, Lualeni remained behind with the Juniors. The Elephant Mover carrying Mutara, Shukuru and Tano pulled in at the Unloading ramp at 11 a.m. and Kilabasi and Kanjoro were first to greet the three ex Nursery girls the moment they emerged from the truck, extremely happy to all be reunited again. Lualeni, who was browsing nearby at the time with the rest of the Junior group, then came to welcome the newcomers warmly, later escorting them out to browse, and walking them back to the Stockades in the evening. Once they were settled into their various Night Stockades, she left, no doubt to join the rest of her Senior group, knowing exactly where they were out in the bush through elephant infrasound communication..
Lualeni and all the Ex Orphans, accompanied by Yatta’s wild recruit named “Mgeni” and 2 other wild bulls were back to join the Juniors again the next morning. Missing in the Ex Orphan group this time were Madiba, Napasha, Kamboyo and Zurura. Rapsu was cautioned by the Keepers when he engaged Kanjoro in a Pushing Match, and became a bit too rough! Kanjoro, was learning the lesson he needed - that he was no longer the strongest Boy around, and needed to respect bigger male peers! Later the Ex Orphans parted from the Juniors, who settled down to browse the Kone area.
Prior to the arrival of the Ex Nursery five, the Ithumba Juniors enjoyed a lot of contact with the Ex Orphan Unit who turned up at the Stockades almost daily, sometimes all together as one large herd just to drink in passing, at other times in Splinter groups of just several and usually with wild friends in tow. Mulika and Yatta with their wild babies, Mwende and Yetu, plus all their Ex Orphan Nannies, and some, if not all of the usual Ex Orphan bulls, plus wild friends and Yatta’s wild recruits, “Mgeni” and “Kijana” mingled with the Juniors at the Stockade compound on the 2nd,and on the 5th when they browsed with the Juniors for about an hour before parting and again at the compound on the 6th, 7th 10th and 11th.
An unseasonal downpour on the 13th kept them absent for a few days, although Splinter groups returned periodically either to drink at the Stockades in passing, or link up with the Juniors whilst browsing out in the field. Seldom a day past this month without the Keeper Dependent Juniors enjoying Ex Orphan company.
The entire Ex Orphan unit were back again with 2 wild friends to mingle with the Juniors at the Stockades on the 26th, but without bulls Madiba, Napasha, Kamboyo and Zurura who probably thought better of being with much bigger wild opponents who were not as well known to them as was “Mgeni” who was part of Yatta’s group that day. On the 28th Lualeni and a wild elephant friend spent about an hour browsing with the Juniors out in the field and the next day Challa and Tomboi paid a visit to the Stockades in the evening.
Yatta and all the Ex Orphans plus 4 wild elephant friends joined the Youngsters at the Stockades during the morning of the 29th, and again on the 30th, when they met up with the Juniors at the Kalovoto lugga, but on this occasion without bulls Napasha, Kora or Rapsu who are now of an age when they are comfortable traveling apart from their adopted “family unit” under the matriarchal leadership of Yatta and Mulika. Such has been the pattern throughout the month.
A wild bull came to drink at the Stockades on the 3rd who was greeted warmly by outgoing and sociable Junior Sabachi but most of the wild herds have been scattered this month, since surface water remains in many of waterholes, including the Imenti waterhole not far from the Stockades, even though the Ithumba dam has remained dry, and the Orphans’ mudbath is barely one third full. Whilst there has been sufficient rain to green the vegetation, the main rains which usually fall in October and November came very late, in December, and have not been as plentiful as we had hoped. The next rainss (which are unreliable in lowland areas) are expected in April/May, so we wait and see what will unfold in 2013.
Seven of the older elephants in the Junior Keeper Dependent group have been weaned off milk this month, but still enjoy oatmeal porridge mixed in water instead. These are Kilaguni, Melia, Sabachi, Chaimu, Suguta, Naisula and Kandecha.