Following late rains over Tsavo, which at last turned the parched countryside green, the decision to move five of the older Nursery elephants was finally made. It was decided that they be moved to Ithumba where there is more browse rather than the Voi Area where the wild elephants are very much at risk whenever they move onto the neighbouring ranchlands in the dispersal area and migratory corridor between Tsavo East and West, which is even more of a poaching hot-spot than the North. In fact, these days, no elephant is safe anywhere in Africa, irrespective of location..
Selected to go first were Kanjoro and Kilabasi. As the oldest Nursery Boy, Kanjoro had become pushy around the smaller boys, and needed to be taught elephant manners by even bigger Boys, and it was time that Kilabasi was upgraded, being one of the biggest of the Big Nursery Girls. After a brief period of training to get them used to walking into the customized Elephant Mover parked up against the Loading ramp, their transfer to Ithumba went very smoothly on the 22nd and by noon they were at Ithumba, where they were given an exuberant welcome by the 15 resident Keeper Dependent Youngsters. Later, as usual, all the Ex Orphans now living wild under the Matriarchship of Yatta, mysteriously also turned up, having predicted the arrival of Nursery newcomers.
To begin with the remaining Nursery youngsters appeared unconcerned about the absence of Kilabasi (and were probably pleased to be without Kanjoro!), but the next day they certainly missed Kilabasi, to whom Ngasha and Balguda were particularly close. Both little boys ran to her vacant Stockade first thing in the morning, and spent the rest of the day scouring the bush for her, Ngasha crying out in distress. Although Sities and all the bigger girls did their best to comfort and calm him, he was inconsolable throughout the day. More than all the others, Ngasha missed Kilabasi most.
However, now it was the turn of Mutara, Shukuru and Tano whose training to the Elephant Mover began the moment it returned from having delivered Kanjoro and Kilabasi. Shukuru and Tano posed no problem, happy to walk in and take their milk, but Mutara was having none of it, refusing to even come anywhere close, having seen many of her previous Nursery companions mysteriously disappear having done so! Just three days later - on the 25th - Tano and Shukuru were safely loaded by 3 a.m. in the morning, but Mutara had a rope round her body whilst still in her Stockade, and after a hefty dose of Stressnil was escorted to the Mover, one Keeper walking ahead with her milk, and the rest pushing her from the back. Even so, she solidly baulked at the entrance, and no amount of people power could move her, so the rope had to be attached to a Landrover positioned behind the truck, which literally towed her forward while all the Keepers shoved her from the back! Then she had no choice but find herself in, and by 4 a.m. the Elephant Mover was again on its way to deliver another precious cargo to the Ithumba Unit, which would bring the number of Keeper Dependent youngsters at Ithumba to 20, and those remaining at the Nursery, also to 20.
At the other end, Kilabasi and Kanjoro were overjoyed to be reunited with Mutara, Shukuru and Tano, who were also treated to a very warm welcome by all the others who, as elders, had shared Nursery time with them. And yet again, as always, Yatta’s Ex Orphaned Unit also turned up to welcome them into the extended Orphaned Family and let them know that they were also there for them when the time came to join them.
Mutara, Shukuru and Tano, being the Seniors who had comforted and loved all the current juniors, were definitely sorely missed by all the Nursery contingent, who were visibly upset and confused by their sudden disappearance - huddling close to their Keepers all day, and nervous of any sudden movement in the bushes around them. Their unease extended into the next few days. Bomani, again demonstrating post traumatic stress symptoms, became pushy, knocking down both Ngasha and Barsilinga during the public viewing hour on the 28th which resulted in him being upgraded to the older set, so that Orwa (now the oldest and biggest Nursery boy) could put him in line.
The discomfort of the babies was not helped by the usual adjustment to the sleeping arrangements, Kihari and Teleki being particularly intolerant of having their usual routine disrupted. It took a few days for everyone to get used to their new bedrooms!
Particularly interesting has been the adjustment in terms of Leadership, the obvious candidate to take over the Matriarchship being Turkwel, who tried to do so, but discovered she had to contend with the jealousy of satellite Kainuk, who has been firmly glued to her side ever since arrival. Kainuk would only tolerate the close proximity of Kithaka, and rejected the close presence of the younger calves such as Balguda, Ngasha, and Barsilinga. It was then that Sities saw an opportunity to take over custody of the smallest ones, and in this she was backed up by Sonje, whilst Naipoki chose to distance herself by remaining an interested observer!.
Meanwhile Faraja and Kwale’s friendship has cemented further while Teleki is close to Narok and Kihari. Teleki has lost his Mt. Kenya winter fuzz which earned him the nickname “Rasta” while Faraja still is lumbered with “Mzungu” (meaning white-man). Narok is becoming more trusting of the Keepers, but Quanza remains extremely wary of all humans, approaching the Keepers with outspread ears to gulp down her milk ration before retreating rapidly back into the safety of the herd.
Murera, now of an age when her milk is being reduced, has not taken kindly to this development, demonstrating disapproval by giving the Keepers a right run-around - going off on her own, (even without the company of her best friend, Sonje); reluctant to return as usual to her Stockade in the evenings, and sometimes rocking up to demand milk when the younger elephants are taking theirs. During the month she has become much more active and independent of both the Keepers and the other elephants, illustrating that she has a mind of her own, whereas Sonje prefers to be a member of the main group.
The smallest Nursery boy is still Kithaka, despite being over a year old. He makes up for his lack of size by taking pride in his strength, giving unsuspecting outsiders a playful shove! Like Kanjoro, he, too, will be put in line by bigger peers when he is of a size to be upgraded! Little Lemoyian, the youngest Nursery baby who is in fact bigger in size than Kithaka, is also beginning to show that he is no push-over either, taking on Balguda and even when overpowered, coming back for more until Bomani broke up the uneven contest by squeezing between the two. During the month Lemoyian also surprised everyone with a very grown-up but somewhat squeaky trumpet that even surprised himself!
The month has not been without extraneous excitement such as lions pouncing on and killing a warthog not far from the orphans and the Keepers out in the Park forest. The ensuing commotion left all extremely jittery! Then some buffalo who were being pursued by lions ran through the Elephants and this triggered a mass stampede in all directions. Mutara, Shukuru and Tano ran to surround little Lemoyian who was bellowing in fear, and escorted him hurriedly back to the safety of the Stockades while both Keepers and Elephants scattered in different directions, everyone for himself. Afterwards the Keepers had quite a job rounding up all their charges who by then were scattered far and wide!
On the 9th Narok, Quanza, Balguda and Ishaq-B were enjoying playfully chasing a mother and her piglets around the bushes, but had the tables turned when one piglet found itself trapped beneath their legs, and screamed for help. This completely un-nerved the chasers, who ran back to their Keepers trembling with fear! It has certainly been an eventful month for the Nursery brigade, the usually hot and dusty month of January relieved by intermittent showers and cool fronts.
The Rhinos:- For the rhinos it has been “business as usual” Max thoroughly enjoying the public viewing hour, pressing his great body up against the perimeter of his Stockade hoping for a rub. Solio, now unencumbered by human Attendants simply does her own thing and has been sticking to her own routine – sparring with Max before leaving each morning, turning up to put herself on view during the public viewing hour, sometimes giving the audience a treat by taking over the elephants mudbath before returning to her Stockade. Once all the visitors have left, her Stockade door is opened up again, and off she goes for the rest of the afternoon, returning at dusk for another Max sparring match before going to sleep on her bed of straw within view of him doing the same next door.