It has been a very exciting month for the Ithumba elephants, who have enjoyed many nocturnal visits from wild elephants, both bulls and cow groups, who have spent time at the compound, leisurely taking water from the Stockade trough, and rumbling to our orphans. The four Big girls, Yatta, Nasalot, Kinna and Mulika have begged to be allowed out to join them, desperate to make contact, eagerly following the tracks of the wild herds at daybreak, but so far have failed to find them during the hours of daylight. Wild elephants came to the Stockade during the night of the 27th June (covered in this Diary); 2 wild bulls arrived during the night of the 11th and again on the 12th, when one touched the hot wire of the Stockade with his trunk and got zapped, prompting a hasty retreat! On the l8th, a wild herd returned and spent a lot of time at the Stockade, communicating with our orphans, the orphans having come across an area where this wild herd had been during the previous day. The wild elephants appeared again during the night of the 20th, and on the 21st a lone wild bul lpaid a visitand spent a long time at the Stockade trough, chatting to our orphans, and also damaging one of the Stockade acacias.. Wild colleagues again came during the night of the 23rd and during the night of the 25th , the wild bulls again appeared, making the month of July a record for wild nocturnal visits to the orphans at the Ithumba Stockades, which is very gratifying. Were the four Big Girls allowed out to join their wild visitors during the hours of darkness, the Keepers are sure that they would go off with them, taking some of their adopted babies with them, but it is still too soon to allow this, some of the youngsters still a vulnerable target for the Tsavo lions.
A lone Tsavo lion scared the group one night by passing by the Stockade roaring, but apart from this, and the intrusion of 2 jackals at the mudbath, plus the usual dikdik scares (when Kenze had to be comforted by Nasalot) and a herd of zebra at the dam when the elephants went for their mudbath, it has been the wild elephant visitors that have dominated the month;s Diary.
The weather this year has been very unusual for this time of the year, which ostensibly should be “winter” in the tropics, with cool and even chilly weather from June until the end of August. Yet, it has been astonishingly unpredictable throughout the country, sometimes cold, at other times suddenly turning very hot, something that even the Keepers have remarked about.
An interesting interlude happened one day when Sian, Loijuk and Naserian in the lead headed in the wrong direction, something that was instantly noticed by Nasolot. She hurried forward to block their path, but found that she was unable to catch up, because the trio merely quickened their pace, not wishing to be overtaken. Nasolot then deliberately broke a branch off a tree, making a loud crack, and this immediately halted the three youngsters, sending them into panicked retreat! Once they had met up with Nasalot, who was waiting for their arrival knowing they would seek protection, being fearful of such an unexpected sound, she was able to usher them towards the correct path. This surely shows amazing ingenuity, demonstrating yet again the reasoning capability of an elephant.
Kenze, who is the smallest member of the Ithumba herd, surprised everybody by suddenly taking the lead on the morning of the 28th, taking the entire group to the Kalovoto watercourse to browse. This was the first time that Kenze has felt sufficiently confident to act as the Leader, something that is admired by the others, and considered a huge privilege. He and Orok remain Nasalot’s chosen “babies” whilst Yatta faithfully sticks to Olmalo and Mulika has always adored Selengai. Wendi, Sunyei, Naserian and Sian, all ex Nursery Matriarchs retain that status over the younger set, but Yatta is undountedly the overall leader, and a very responsible one at that, despite the fact that she is smaller in stature than Mulika, but nevertheless a little older. Age definitely determines rank amongst both the bulls and the females. However, many of our young bulls are very close in age, and hence the pushing and wrestling bouts are indicative of strength, which is a very important factor for the elephant boys, victory usually celebrated by one up-man-ship mounting behaviour.