On the 4th of June everyone at DSWT celebrated Daphne’s 80th birthday. It was a wonderful day with Daphne making it home from hospital in time to enjoy her special day. There were feasts for everybody and at 3pm all of the staff along with all the orphans congregated down at the mudbath area. Arruba took charge of the little ones, but Murera tried her best to usurp that role on this day. After the orphans had taken their milk the staff enjoyed and shared birthday cake. We are all so touched by the numerous birthday cards, messages and gifts that came from around the world on this auspicious day. Thank you all..
The month of June saw a further seven Nursery Orphans graduate to their new stockades. At the beginning of the month Vuria, Garzi and Ziwa made the long journey to Ithumba to begin their slow transition into the wild. They coped very well with the move, and it seemed the trip didn’t stress them at all as they have settled into the routine at Ithumba with ease. Later on in the month Murera, Sonje, Quanza, Zongoloni and Lima Lima ventured off to greener pastures when they moved down to the brand new third relocation unit that is Umani Springs in the Kibwezi Forest, Part of the Chyulu National Park ecosystem. Murera was incredibly calm throughout the whole loading proceedure and travel, and behaved perfectly along the way which was a great relief, because she is a large elephant, and with her compromised leg we certainly did not want any drama that could possibly aggravate her condition. Quanza and Sonje however, who both throughout the training process never set foot on the truck, had to be put to sleep in order to be loaded. Little Lima Lima and Zongoloni were too tempted by their bottles to care otherwise and simply walked into the truck without a second glance.
After months of preparation the new Umani Springs establishment looks amazing, and has everything meticulously in place and we hope will offer a wonderfully practical option for our slightly impaired elephants, Sonje and Murera. They will have plenty of browse, water and access to wild elephants all within easy reach. Their special friends Lima Lima, Zongonloni and Quanza who whilst are able bodied, have joined them in this unique environment. Lima Lima in particular has really taken to her new surroundings and from the moment she stepped from the truck she reveled in all the new experiences and rushed around exploring every inch of her new home. Her excitement really rubbed off on the other four who were a little more subdued to start with. Murera, the oldest of the group, seemed the most nervous, possibly because she has the more severe disability and could be insecure about the new terrain, but the other orphans and the keepers will help her adjust quickly and she will soon thrive in her new home.
Back at the Nairobi Nursery, a few days after the relocation of the other orphans in the early hours of the night, Faraja and Jasiri created an unusual drama of rumbling and yelling very loudly. Soon after Tundani, Lentili, Ngasha, Kithaka and Barsilinga all joined in; waking the whole compound. The cause of this was unknown and the keepers quickly tried to calm them with an extra milk feed, but sure enough, moments after their feed they were at it again, only now it was louder and more robust than ever. Its likely that they were missing the company of Murera, Sonje, Lima Lima, Quanza and Zongoloni as all the trumpeting elephants stayed in neighboring stockades.
The graduations have left the younger orphans at the Nursery a little subdued. They definitely missed their orphan friends but are fast settling down to normal with the help and love from their keepers, who provide continuity and comfort to all those who remain. Tundani who normally accompanies Lima Lima while out in the fields during the day was very dull all day after her move, but he has turned his attentions to Rorogoi to find some sort of company, and has now fully settled.
The orphans are developing their own characters as they grow and it seems, like with people, we have a wide range of personalities in the Nursery. We have the more sensible and gentle - Barsilinga, Balguda, Suswa, Oltayoni and Mashiriki; the rebels - Kithaka, Tundani and Ngasha; the guzzlers - Lemoyian, Sokotei and Lentili, the fun loving - Jasiri, Nelion, Arruba, Rorogoi and Faraja and of course the cute babies; Kauro, Kamok, Ashaka and Mbegu. As the herds dynamics change due to older orphans moving away it will be interesting to see what roles the younger orphans will fill and which of the girls will step up to take on the matriarchal role since Murera and Sonje’s departure, and that has been evident already.
Arruba has recently started to show signs of being the matriarch and absolutely adores the youngest orphans, particularly Mbegu. Kauro had a special bond with Murera, but since Murera has left he has moved onto Suswa. Everyone was concerned about Oltaiyoni who had such strong bonds with both Sonje and Murera, but as always these little elephants never cease to surprise us and Oltaiyoni has blossomed into a young independent elephant since their move. Far from regressing she seems to have blossomed. At first she became fully attached to Arruba who frequently sneaked away from her group to join Kamok, Ashaka, Kauro and Mbegu. Oltaiyoni then joined Arruba on all her mischievous missions and instead of mourning for Murera and Sonje she has taken her lead from them and takes great pride in watching over our four young nursery babies. Oltaiyoni has been playing with little Kauro and has been seen letting little Kauro climb all over her and they play endlessly with one another. This only proves that Oltayoni will be an excellent caregiver one day too just as Sonje and Murera were to her.
It seems that with the absence of the recently moved orphans, orphans like Nelion are becoming more boisterous and even a little bullish. Nelion used to be quite quiet and polite but now he sometimes even disobeys the keepers! He has long tusks and uses them to intimidate the other orphans, especially poor Tundani, who used to be very close to him, but is starting to find him a handful so is beginning to keep his distance. One day whilst, Suswa, Tundani and Sokotei were having a lovely time together minding their own business, Nelion started butting all three of them. The keepers immediately intervened but instead of listening to them he started kicking at the keepers with his hind legs! This is a new side to Nelion that we have not seen before and the keepers will have to work hard to keep control of his new thuggish trend! He is obviously feeling like one of the big boys in the establishment now.
Kithaka continues to be very mischievous and loves to play. He is always one to watch at the visitor hour as he is prone to the odd charge simply to stir up a reaction. Lemoyian is also becoming increasingly naughty and loves to create a bit of chaos to liven up everyone’s day. There was a great deal of drama at the mud bath one morning when Lemoyian decided he wanted more milk! He went over to the wheel barrow which was carrying the remaining milk bottles and began sucking up the split milk. This was fine but it encouraged Sokotei to behave badly too and he joined Lemoyian at the wheel barrow. Lemoyian, however, was not willing to share at this point and shoved Sokotei, pushing the wheel barrow over and then promptly began kicking the milk bottles! More chaos ensued when Zongoloni and Lima Lima engaged the wheel barrow on a second occasion. The wheel barrow was uplifted and milk bottles were strewn everywhere and then these two greedy girls pushed each other around in an attempt to latch onto any teat in order to guzzle some more.
The weather has changed quite a bit during June and the Nursery Orphans have experienced both very hot days and extremely chilly nights! It seems the Kenyan winter is upon us so everyone will have to wrap up tight – the ‘ele blankets’ will come into good use over the next few months! We also had a notable thunder storm with hefty hail stones this past month, which sent the orphans into frenzy. The orphans actually became quite distressed, trumpeting loudly and running off in different directions. The down pour lasted an hour; after which the keepers had the challenging task of rounding up the scattered elephant herd. THE search to round them all up took a couple of hours. Murera and Nelion were the only wise ones choosing to run back to their stockades for shelter, unlike the others who had dashed off in all directions! It was tough tracking them all as their foot prints had been washed away by the torrential rain, but they were all rounded up in good time. They had split into 2 groups and crossed over the dirt road deeper into the park – into an area they have never been before! It was a great relief when the orphans were safely found before darkness set in.
The other unusual pets are also doing well; the little suni orphan, Piwi, is growing fast and has a firm friend in the hyrax orphan Alphie; the two of them engage daily, enjoying each other’s company and spending a great deal of time together. Piwi spends her days outside with a Keeper cutting her greens and keeping a close eye out for hawks and baboons, both of which could target her very easily.
Solio our fully grown female rhino orphan gave the elephant orphans quite a fright one day when they were browsing in some thickets and unwittingly encroached on her territory breaking branches and making noise. She wasn’t impressed being woken so rudely, so she leapt to her feet and started charging through the bushes, huffing and puffing, towards the unsuspecting elephants.
The orphans found this most alarming and clumsily, falling and tripping over themselves, took off in an attempt to find safety closer to their keepers. From the commotion the keepers thought the orphans had stumbled upon a buffalo or possibly a wild rhino so not being sure they kept their distance sensibly!
Solio has made a number of appearances this month, visiting the stockade at all hours of the day and night. She sometimes greets her friend Maxwell, but on other days ignores him too! Her visits are much more frequent, so even he is becoming more blasé about her appearances. Maxwell has had a happy month with lots of attention from the orphans, Solio, wild rhinos in the night and he especially enjoys plenty of tasty fruit offerings from the ladies in the office!