Throughout the month of June the Ithumba orphans have enjoyed the company of a good number of wild elephant visitors coming to both the stockades to share the orphan’s water trough and to their midday mudbath. Wild elephant herds, including a big bull nicknamed Half Trunk who we have known for years, are returning after a long absence throughout the wet season. Many wild elephants over the years have become such regulars that they now have names and are considered very much part of the Ithumba fraternity. We are delighted to have a good number of them return this month to spend the dry season close to permanent water and their orphan friends.
Magnificent wild bulls; Rafiki, Pembe Moja and Kijana have been frequent visitors too, and this month has seen the return of the wild dogs as well visiting the stockades along with a number of buffalo and the regulars like bushbuck, kudus, dikdiks, warthogs and jackals.
The Lucerne hand outs enjoyed by our orphans in the early morning and early evenings just outside their night stockades never go to waste as once the Keepers are a safe distance away, every last scrap is then enjoyed by the wild elephants who move in for the leftovers.
During mud bath hour the company of the wild elephants is thoroughly enjoyed, especially if there are female herds with calves as the dependent orphans always love to interact and play with the small wild babies.
This month the orphans from all the groups; dependent orphans, Suguta’s partially independent group and of course, our ex orphans headed by Yatta and Mulika, are all preoccupied with browsing as the vegetation begins to dry up which leaves less time for play.
The mud bath hour during cold days becomes a quiet affair with most of the orphans reluctant to get into the cold black cotton watery mud. Even water baby Bongo has been reluctant to enter the mudbath on the colder June days which is a surprise, as he is seldom daunted, come rain or shine. Both the wild elephants and the orphans are extremely sensitive to water temperature and the cold water is not appreciated except in extremely warm conditions. On the cold days the dust bathing takes priority and the loose red earth that is brought in by our tractor and deposited next to the mudbath to accommodate their love of dust baths gives our dependent and ex orphans hours of pleasure. Even the wild elephants can’t resist the red earth pile.
This month the Ithumba orphans welcomed some new additions who graduated from the Nursery, young bulls Vuria, Garzi and Ziwa arrived to join the others who recently made the transition.
Initially Ziwa showed some signs of missing his Nairobi friends but Makireti and Kainuk have befriended him and kept him company. He has really enjoyed meeting up with other wild herds and playing with wild calves his own age; he naturally gravitates to the wild elephants, remembering this wild herd vividly. Ziwa has not been with us long, and it seems like he will adjust to being an independent orphan extremely quickly.
Two ex-orphans, Sunyei and Sidai, one day tried to kidnap poor Ziwa as they were so taken with him, but the keepers intervened as he still needs his milk and is too young to be without that just yet. Vuria has adjusted to his new routine extremely well and even leads the group of orphans to the mud bath at 11am. He has always been extremely greedy and no doubt the lure of the milk bottle prompts him to get going first! Teleki, Orwa and Bomani have also settled into their new surroundings and welcomed the next group of their nursery friends Vuria, Garzi and Ziwa which of course eased their transition.
Garzi and Vuria are inseparable, with Vuria opting to hang out close to the Keepers who he is still very dependent on. He remains the clinging vine. This recent batch of baby bulls have settled in very quickly and learnt the ropes and are all clearly extremely happy in their new home.
Sabachi was unwell last month but we are pleased to report that he has recovered. At the beginning of June he was sleeping in the stockades understanding that he needed additional attention, medication, tender loving care and a milk feed before heading out to browse with Suguta’s group who slept nearby keeping vigil over their friend. By the end of the month he felt well enough to stay out over night with Suguta’s group, who would then return in the mornings so he could have his morning milk bottle at least before heading off into the bush. It is extraordinary to see how they seem to know what needs to happen, and collectively ensure that it does.
Mutara and Makirieti are showing signs that they may soon be ready to leave the dependent herd and progress to the Suguta semi independent herd. On one occasion these two left the dependent orphans and spent the day with Suguta and her group. Only Mutara returned to the stockade in the evening as Makirieti decided to spend the night out with them.
The big ex orphans have been very much part of the fold, coming and going throughout, freely giving attention and guidance and love to the young dependent orphans. This month only Napasha is yet to return, with big boy Kora and Challa evident often. It was not common place for female wild herds to visit the Ithumba stockades, but these past years more and more females with their babies are comfortable and trusting enough to interact intimately with the orphans at the stockades now which is wonderful to see.