There was much activity around the Ithumba stockade this month, as the wider Tsavo region remained dry and the Ex Orphans and wild elephants continued to frequent the stockade and mud bath daily for water. Suguta’s group of young semi dependent orphans comprised of herself, Sities, Mutara, Turkwel, Kainuk and Kanjoro have not been roaming far this month, content to remain close to creature comforts such as water and the lucerne pellets which are savoured by our semi dependent herd during these particularly dry months. On numerous occasions this month the Keepers have awoken to find the area flooded with Ex Orphans and wild elephants, sometimes over 50 in number! Most evenings the independent orphans and wild elephants pass by for a drink, before melting away into the park leaving the dependent orphans to sleep soundly in their stockades. The month of July has been a hot one, and often during the hottest time of the day, the dependent orphans convene under the shade of trees to siesta and relax. Ambient temperature was such that even Kithaka, who usually has an aversion to water, ventured into the mud bath to cool off!
With the sheer number of elephants around to take advantage of the water, it is interesting to see the social dynamics unfold between dependent orphans, semi dependent orphans, Ex Orphans and the wild elephants, especially wild bulls. Yatta’s Ex Orphan group comprised of herself, her baby Yetu, Kinna, Kenze, Galana, Meibai , Nasalot, Ithumba and a wild boy sometimes frequent the mud bath whilst the babies are present and the dependent youngsters always respectfully give way to their seniors at the water trough. Whenever wild bulls arrive on the scene the juniors are certainly more wary, cautiously approaching or leaving the mud bath in order to give way to their seniors, mindful of elephant protocol.
On the 5th, when Mulika’s group consisting of Mulika, Mwende, Wendi, Wiva, Sidai, Lualeni, Ololoo, Naserian, Loijuk, Makena and Lenana showed up at the stockade compound, Laragai, Orwa and Bomani mobbed Wiva as each tried to play with her, whilst mother Wendi kept a close eye on proceedings. Ex Orphan big Bulls Challa, Rapsu and Zurura, who seem to be gradually withdrawing from Mulika and Yatta’s herd to join the bachelor ranks, passed by the stockade on this day too in the company of a wild bull.
In the late afternoon of the 6th Makireti, escorted by her group, that of Olare’and Big Boy Tomboi, arrived at the stockade and we were devastated to discover that 7 year old Makireti had an arrow head stuck in the upper left side of her belly. She had clearly been brought to safety by her peers in order to receive treatment. While she was drinking water, Tomboi tried to pull the arrow out of her body, but without success since the vicious barbs held it fast. The Keepers then tried to pull the arrow out but still did not succeed so Dr. Poghon, from the DSWT funded Tsavo Mobile Vet Unit was flown in to treat Makireti the next morning. All her friends were present that morning and Kilabasi and Kasigau came to console Makireti who had spent the night in the stockades. By 8 a.m. the vet was there and Kibo, Kasigau and Kilabasi stood vigil alongside Makireti throughout her treatment; watching closely, with Kibo even coming over to touch Makireti from time to time as she lay immobilised on the ground. Her treatment went very smoothly and over the next few days she remained around the stockade area with her friends, the other junior Ex Orphans., Kilaguni, Chaimu, Kilabasi, Kibo, Kasigau, Ishanga, Mutara, Kanjoro, Turkwel, Kainuk, Sities, and Suguta all remained with her, in a show of solidarity. Having been treated early, infection had not set in, so thankfully her wound healed incredibly quickly. The bush- meat poachers who shot at Makireti were arrested by our anti-poaching teams during the same month.
Cause for more celebration this month was when, on the 10th, the spirited nursery boys Sirimon, Boromoko and Sokotei made the journey to Ithumba to begin the next step of ultimately achieving a normal wild life. They were warmly received by Enkikwe, Olsekki and Siangiki who had only recently made the move themselves and provided reassuring familiar faces. Sirimon and Boromoko felt totally at home amongst the other orphans but Sokotei at first felt slightly uneasy when meeting Suguta’s Ex Orphan herd and faced with new and fairly larger elephants compared to those in the Nairobi Nursery. Throughout the rest of the month though we saw the new and more recent arrivals thrive in their new wild environment in Tsavo; Olsekki having learnt the art of stripping bark from trees using his trunk as well as practicing removing bark from the cut Grewia branches provided for them in their stockade at night. One day little Sirimon and Sokotei became a little too excited and ran off with a wild bull who turned up at the mud bath, but the Keepers together with the help of Narok and Boromoko, (room-mates of Sirimon and Sokotei) managed to retrieve them and bring them back to the orphaned fold. That same day Olare’s group escorted the juniors to the browsing field and two hours later, without the keeper’s knowledge, they made off with Barsilinga, Kithaka, Boromoko, Sokotei, Sirimon, Lemoyian and Narok. However, They had only taken them back to the stockade water trough, and they were there waiting patiently and drinking water when the others returned home only a short while later.
As usual the boisterous nursery bulls continue with their naughty tricks even having graduated, giving their new Head Keeper as much of a headache as those in the Nursery! One day, at mud bath not long after moving down, naughty Sokotei ran back to the crate holding the milk bottles in order to grab another before running off rapidly in the opposite direction in order to avoid being caught. By the time he was spotted, Sokotei had downed half of the milk! The keepers then confiscated the rest of the bottle from him and Sokotei walked happily back to the mud bath, looking pleased with himself and with a story to tell his friends about how he had outwitted his Keepers. Only time will tell if the older orphans manage to instill some discipline in the young naughty bulls to keep them in line!
The Ex Orphan herds continue to chop and change their members: Chaimu’s group seems to have disbanded around the 24th of the month, as Chaimu was spotted in Olare’s herd and Kilaguni, who used to remain with her, appears to have joined Makireti’s 3-member group, previously consisting of Makireti, Kasigau and Kilabasi. Free-spirited Ishanga floats from one group to another and doesn’t seem too fussed about remaining with any one group in particular!