March is usually the hottest month of the year down in Tsavo but this time, according to the Diary, it has been interspersed with cooler days when the Orphans even declined a mudbath, so the temperature has been more variable. However, on the lst little Chemi Chemi - the smallest of the Ithumba Unit- had to resort to drawing water from his stomach with his trunk in order to spray it over and under his ears to cool himself down. On the 23rd he had to do the same again, as did Ololoo. Ex Nairobi Nursery Youngsters take some time to become accustomed to the Tsavo temperatures, which is why we usually move Youngsters from the Nursery during the cool months of June, July and August.
Kilaguni and Sabachi are long term rivals for dominance. They engaged one another in tough Pushing bouts no less than 12 times during the month, Sabachi usually emerging victorious, but on two occasions Kilaguni managed to get the better of him. Kibo and Kandecha also enjoy such sessions, but are not as competitive as Kilaguni and Sabachi, who seem to be able to think of little else! It would appear that the big girls have given up trying to separate them, although Chaimu intervened on one occasion, and took over Kilaguni’s role to teach Sabachi a lesson.
Overall, it has been a happy month for the Ithumba unit, the Juniors usually heading out swinging their trunks, and indulging in playful deliberate bumping. They have also enjoyed a great deal of interaction with the Ex Orphans, led by Yatta and who, this month, seems to have also been traveling with wild elephant friends in amongst her group on at almost every sighting. All mingle happily with the Keeper Dependent orphans who enjoy their company enormously.
On the 2nd Yatta plus just some of her group came to drink at the Stockades with her 3 wild recruits – teenaged bulls “Mgeni:, “Kijana” and “Kimethena” but on the 4th, 6th, 8th all the Ex Orphans accompanied her to drink at the Stockade water trough, accompanied by a larger mixed wild entourage. Wild elephants also came to drink independently at the Stockades during the evenings of the 4th and 6th.
The Juniors met up with Wendi and a Splinter Group of Ex Orphans at their noon mudbath on the 12th and on the 14th all the Ex Orphans plus their wild friends joined the Juniors at the mudbath. On this occasion Lualeni and Kora (best friends) peeled off to be part of the Junior group during their afternoon browsing session, after which the two Ex Orphans escorted the Youngsters back to the Stockades in the evening. On the 7th 2 wild bulls came to drink at the mudbath trough and on the 15th 3 wild bulls mingled with the Juniors at the noon mudbath. The Ex Orphans plus their wild entourage joined the Juniors again at the mudbath on the 22nd, this time with a large tuskless cow in tow, and on the 16th more than l0 wild elephants spent 30 minutes romping amongst our Juniors in the mudbath. The Ex Orphans and their wild friends were at the mudbath again with the Juniors on the 28th and on the 29th the Juniors enjoyed the company of a very Big Bull out in the bush for sometime, until the wild elephant was spooked by the scent of the Keepers.
Light showers relieved the heat on the 6th, providing a welcome diversion in the form of soft mud and rain puddles for the Juniors’ enjoyment, but by month end the main rains had yet to break. The two wild-born babies of Yatta and Mulika, namely little Yetu and Mwende are thriving, with no shortage of Nannies drawn from both the Ex Orphan group and also their wild friends. And so, March ended happily for all the Ithumba Orphans, with no evidence of poaching casualties amongst them, which is a relief for us all.