Ithumba Reintegration Unit
As the dry season grips Tsavo’s vast landscape, it becomes the time we often see the return of some of our ex-orphans who choose to check in with their extended family and benefit from the fresh water supplied at the various water troughs kept topped up by the Trusts water bowser, and enjoy the comforts closer to home. At the end of last month, Turkwel, Kainuk, Kithaka, Garzi and Lemoyian appeared, having been away for five months, and they have since chosen to stick around for the whole of this month too.
A typical day for the dependent orphans would normally mean being greeted first thing in the morning by some ex-orphans who enjoy sleeping outside the Ithumba compound to wait for the dependent orphans and escort them out for the day. This includes Kithaka and his herd but also Mutara’s herd comprising of Orwa, Sities, Suguta, Chaimu, Bomani, Chemi Chemi Kainuk, Kibo and a young wild bull who roams with them too. Suguta and Chaimu were looking after Mutara’s herd until she rejoined them along with Sities on the 7th, having arrived evidently in season and with several interested wild bulls trailing her in hot pursuit. It was nice to see her able to rejoin her herd without being disturbed any further. Her usual herd was almost complete were it not for the absence of Kanjoro, but we were thrilled on the 22nd when he too found Mutara and her herd, having evidently been away with a wild friend, who he brought along with him. With the water pans sufficient enough for an elephants mud-bath drying out across the vast Tsavo landscape, Kanjoro appeared to have gone without wallowing properly for some time and later that day at noon, he went straight into the main water hole, and stayed there for a very long time enjoying a deep swim.
While Malkia still dotes on Sattao, Dololo and particularly Musiara, who she must remember from her Nairobi Nursery days, since her arrival Sities has become besotted with little Dololo. She appears to have fallen in love with him and can spend an entire morning feeding next to him and taking care of him. One day in the soaring hot temperatures of the afternoon we watched on as wild-living orphans Sities, Suguta and Turkwel led little Sattao and Dololo to find some nice shade where they relaxed until the temperature dropped. Sometimes Sities and Suguta will compete over who can keep Dololo company, but they usually end up settling and just following him together; Sities has always been very caring and nurturing of youngsters, and seems thrilled to have discovered three little newcomers to the Ithumba fold.
Siangiki still spends her days browsing with her adopted little brother Ambo, sometimes in the company of Kamok who is also fond of the little bull. From being relatively quiet, Jotto is now full of beans and has become very playful, keen to engage the other bulls like Sapalan in little wrestling matches, having really found his feet in Ithumba now. Mundusi still likes playing with Tusuja but has been taking advantage of the ex-orphans being around and has enjoyed the opportunity to wrestle and learn new tactics from elephants older than him, like Bomani. When Mundusi approached Tusuja for a pushing game towards the end of the month he readily and excitedly accepted, keen to have his friend back to play with. Rapa isn’t left out of these games either and is often on the look-out for any age-mates to play with. Karisa and Namalok are our little brave-boys. Namalok is bold enough to approach wild bulls he is fascinated by, while Karisa is always eager to lead the orphans everywhere and is very independent. Leading the orphans out of the compound one morning he spotted a buffalo and decided to charge at it. The buffalo ran away after seeing Karisa with so many friends behind him. After making sure that the buffalo had gone, Karisa settled for soil dusting before teaming up with Barsilinga to browse together. We are happy to report that Barsilinga’s foot is improving, but it has really been a very nasty injury that has plagued him for a very long time, brought about by a deeply embedded thorn.
At the very end of the month we were happy to see 12 year old graduate Meibai at the mud bath in the company of five wild bulls, socializing and seemingly very content. They enjoyed wallowing in the large waterhole for quite some time, and one of the wild bulls even joined the dependent orphans to relax under a tree and then dust bath as well, the perfect example of how well our orphans assimilate back into the wild and seamlessly interact and converse with their wild friends. Meibai, who owes his life to local tribesmen in Samburu who also adorned him with a very fitting name meaning ‘a priceless object’ in the local dialect, was, like all of our rescued orphans, a very lucky elephant; he was found all alone and in a complete comatose state as a young baby - which makes moments like this, seeing him with his wild friends so content and happy, so deeply satisfying.