It is starting to dry out in the area surrounding Ithumba but thankfully they received more rain than other parts of Tsavo during the rainy season. This means the area will take a while to become very dry and as there is still water in the water hole which the DSWT keeps topped up, more and more wild elephants and Ex Orphans have been returning to the stockade area where a permanent source of water can be found. Sometimes this leads to a bit of jostling for the lucerne and as the junior dependents dislike all the pushing; they often end up leaving early for the bush to begin their day of browsing. Other times, the likes of Kamok and Laragai will pick up their share of lucerne and move to a quiet corner to enjoy it in peace.
On any given day, there can be over one hundred elephants at the mud bath area, with elephants mud bathing in a queue like fashion, neatly orchestrated without fuss due to the strict social hierarchy that elephants have in place. Sometimes the dependent orphans will bathe on one side and the Ex Orphans and wild elephants on the other, as a show of respect and to give them their space. All the Ex Orphans in Yatta’s group, as well as Kinna and Galana and their babies Kama and Gawa and nannies, were around this month and seen on an almost daily basis. Gawa in particular loved to play with the dependent orphans, especially Wanjala, although sometimes he would lose his patience with her and the nannies would whisk her away before the playful games became more serious. It’s lovely to see how comfortable the wild babies are in the company of the Keepers and the dependent orphans, enough to even take a nap in the middle of them watched over by Roi, Naseku and Oltaiyoni, the latter being the former Matriarch at the Nairobi Nursery.
The younger Ex Orphan elephants in Narok’s herd (Orwa, Bomani, Bongo and Vuria) and Mutara’s group (Olare, Makireti, Kanjoro, Kainuk and Chaimu) were also present throughout much of this month and joined the dependent orphans most mornings to share their lucerne. Sometimes Narok would wait for the orphans at mud bath with the others and rush forwards to greet them when she saw them coming. They would occasionally be in the company of Ex Orphan bulls Tomboi and Buchuma, especially around mud bath time, and the two big bulls would join the orphans to mud bathe. One day Olare, Mutara, Makireti, Chaimu and Narok took Siangiki off to browse with them after mud bath but they made sure she was back at the stockades in time for afternoon milk. Zurura was around as well and would sometimes play with the orphans, especially Kamok who is still a very playful girl like when she was in the Nursery.
The orphans have valuable lessons to learn from their older peers especially with regards to respect. One day little Enkikwe tried to stand in front of 13 year old Madiba as if to challenge him, but he certainly did not stand there long when confronted with the face Madiba was showing him and for fear of being knocked down! He moved on to challenge Olsekki to a pushing game which was much more suitable for his age-group. Garzi has been looking slightly restless this month and looking for his recently-independent friend Vuria quite often; we think he might be ready to join his friends in the wild soon, perhaps with Kithaka and Barsilinga too. The three new arrivals, Wanjala, Galla and Ukame are settling in well although Ukame is still the most anxious and sometimes keeps herself a separate from the others. She is doing well though and enjoys leading the orphans ‘home’ in the afternoon.
We were delighted to see the wild bull ‘Limpy’ towards the end of the month at the mud bath in amongst all the other wild bulls; a bull we treated for a nasty cable-wire snare wound a year ago and which has healed so nicely. Masikio, who has a collapsed ear, was also at mud bath towards the end of the month, the wild bull we presume to be Yetu and Mwende’s father.