Meanwhile, all is well with the rest of our eclectic orphans. Rodney and Harvey the duikers prefer to hang around our field manager’s house, while Susu and Billy the elands have been exploring further afield. Sometimes they disappear for a day or two, but they always return. It’s quite sweet to see how Susu has adopted Billy — observing them, you would never guess that they are fellow orphans, not mother and son.
Apollo the orphaned rhino:
June was a rather dramatic month for Apollo, after he made the mistake of tangling with some wild elephants. We will never know why he chose to poke an adult female in the bottom with his horn, but the retaliatory toss it earned him certainly helped him see the error of his ways!
Fortunately, this month was considerably less eventful. Apollo kept himself to himself, instead focusing on the daily routine that he has become so accustomed to. It starts bright and early in the morning, when he has his breakfast bottle of milk. Then, he makes a beeline for the water trough in the compound. Sometimes, Kwale the hartebeest joins him for a communal drink.
Every day, the Keepers mix up the path they take with Apollo. This keeps things interesting and ensures that he maps out his entire environs. Some days, they walk along the Athi River; other days, they follow sandy luggas or venture deep into the bush. No matter where they begin the day, however, they end up at the mud bath. Although it’s been quite warm in Tsavo, Apollo can be picky about wallowing. Some days, the Keepers have to work hard to convince him to stop and have a proper mud bath. He’s really starting to embody the stubbornness that is so characteristic of his species!
The orphaned elephants:
This was a big month for our ‘little beetle,’ Doldol. After a year and a half cocooned over at the smaller stockade compound, she has finally started joining the bigger orphan herd during the day. We don’t want to overwhelm or rush our cosseted little girl, so we have been taking things one step at a time. Doldol joins the Rokka, Vaarti, Mayan, Manda, Mwinzi, and team a few days a week, always in the company of her beloved Keepers. Unsurprisingly, everyone has been very welcoming towards their new friend. (Mwinzi can be a bit of a bully, but he is that way with everyone!) While she remains shy, Doldol has cautiously embraced her expanded social circle. Although she sticks close to her Keepers, she seems very curious about the others. It's a great start!
Over at the larger orphan compound, July was dominated by ‘hose wars.’ Vaarti is the reigning champion through sheer determination. He hustles to the midday milk feed, just so he can finish his bottle first and then snatch the hose while everyone else is still busy feeding. But he’s met his match in Rokka — she may enter hose wars late, but then she refuses to surrender. This wily young girl often manages to wrest victory away from the bigger bull.
But recently, a new player has thrown his proverbial hat into the ring. Mwinzi may be one of the smallest members of our Kaluku herd, but he is bursting with confidence. While he hasn’t quite perfected the art of drinking from the hosepipe — more water ends up on the ground than in his belly! — that doesn’t stop him from trying. Although Rokka dotes on Mwinzi, she is unwilling to give him a charity win when her precious hosepipe is at stake. Being older and more experienced, she has the upper trunk and usually manages to manoeuvre her way to victory.
Mayan remains best friends with his young protegee, Natibu. Sometimes, we even see Natibu suckle behind Mayan’s front legs, just as a nursing baby might do. Of course, there is no milk to be had, but it is a comforting ritual all the same. The boys are perfectly paired; Natibu shares Mayan’s gentle nature and has been learning a lot from him, including where the best browsing spots can be found. As the dry season progresses, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find good greens, but the Keepers and their little charges forge ahead.
We call Manda our ‘quiet leader.’ He is quite reserved, but he also has a very powerful personality. However, we have also noticed that he is starting to become more ostentatious, which shows how comfortable he has become in his new home. One morning, as the orphan herd headed out into the bush, he balanced atop a stump, purely for the show of it. Another morning, when the Keepers opened his stockade gate, he used his trunk to open and close it several times, still standing inside. Then, with a final flourish, he flung open up the gate and burst outside, completing the grand entrance he had clearly been trying so hard to achieve.
Twiggy the orphaned giraffe:
Twiggy is a beautiful blend of curious and gentle. While she never craves the spotlight, she always loves to be in on the action. Very often, the Keepers will be out in the bush with the orphaned elephants or Apollo, when suddenly a long neck pops out of the branches — it’s none other than Twiggy, who had been silently shadowing their movements. Kwale the hartebeest is one of her most regular companions, but sometimes she brings nearly all the little orphans with her. One afternoon, the Keepers were surprised to find that even little Harvey the duiker had tagged along on Twiggy’s expedition to visit the orphans!
During one of these expeditions, we witnessed a very funny moment between Twiggy and Manda. As the orphan herd made their way back for their midday bottles, they had to cross a small dirt road. Twiggy was all grace as she manoeuvred from road to bush, making the transition in two elegant leaps. Manda decided to follow in her footsteps. In stark contrast to Twiggy’s graceful exit, he made a real meal of things, sliding, rolling, and stretching his way across the small barrier. It is worth noting that Manda has unusually long legs for an elephant, but even still, he couldn’t compete with the giraffe’s effortless athleticism!
Visit the video section of your online SWT account to watch a special - extended - video featuring Kaluku's orphans this month.