Our most significant news from Ithumba was the birth of a sweet wild born baby girl whom we have named “Kama” (after the Hindu God of Love) to Ex Orphan Kinna. Kinna was only a week old when she came to us from Meru having been found stuck in mud, and now is a healthy 17 year old with a baby of her own. Nothing endorses the success of our Orphans’ Project more as being able to follow the progress of our Ex Orphans now living wild, simply because they choose to keep in touch with their human replacement family who have raised them with the same loving tender care they would have experienced from their natural Elephant family and especially when they bring back their precious wild-born young to share with their erstwhile Keepers, who remain based at the Rehab facilities busy steering a fresh batch of Ex Nursery young back where they rightly belong. We are delighted to welcome sweet little Kama into the herd. On the morning of the 24th March, Kinna arrived with her Nannies Chyulu, Lenana, Naserian and Loijuk in attendance, visiting the stockade compound to proudly show off their new charge, who must have only been born a few hours before, to their human family waiting there with beaming smiles. As the small group drew closer, the other Ex Orphans were just as excited to meet the new baby. Nothing can be more soul-stirring than to experience the volume of trumpeting and bellowing from euphoric Elephants, who are simply ecstatic to welcome and meet a new little family member. Young babies “Wiva” and “Gawa”, born to Ex Orphans Wendi and Galana, had to contend with the attention they have enjoyed to date being diluted, but Wiva consoled herself by following Kama around everywhere as well, becoming a doting miniature Nannie, while Gawa decided to stick close to her mother.
As the dry season continues before the rains hopefully break next month, we have been providing plenty of water and feeding supplements such as lucerne to both our Stockade Dependent Orphans, Ex Orphans and their wild friends as well, all the more prevalent now with the attraction of new babies in the mix and important also for our 3 breast-feeding mothers in the group during drought conditions. Aside from Yatta’s herd of mothers, babies and nannies, Chaimu’s herd, Olare’s herd and Makireti’s Ex Orphan herd, along with independent Ex Orphan Bulls Rapsu, Kenze and Buchuma, all visited the Stockades and Mud Wallow area frequently this month for water and supplements . Another happy event took place on the 7th March when 11 year old Ex Orphan Kamboyo pitched up at the Stockades for water, having not been seen for close to two years! He went up to smell all the Ex Orphans, familiarizing himself with them again after such a long absence, but only time will tell if this is but a fleeting visit or if he might stay around the area for a bit longer. For the rest of the month we only saw him a couple of times more, in the company of two male wild friends.
On more than one occasion this month, more than 80 elephants and up to over 110 converged at the Stockades or at the Mud Wallow and they often had to take it in turns to use the Mud Wallow, and being elephants, according to their seniority. Elephants usually do not allow any other animals near the mud or water when they are drinking, so should any warthogs or wild dogs try to come for a drink, it is usually Kithaka who spots them first and sees them off!
There have been some changes to the dynamics of the dependent herd this month, with those beginning to feel like they are ready to become partially independent, keeping the Keepers on their toes, by disappearing early or refusing to come back to the night stockades in the afternoon. Narok, Bongo, Teleki, Laragai, Orwa, Vuria and Bomani are starting to feel this way and sometimes join up with Ex Orphans Chaimu, Kilaguni and Challa to browse, and then reluctant to return to the stockades in the evening. These members of the dependent herd are also no longer taking milk so it is only a matter of time before they decide to leave the Stockades and their human family. Sometimes the disappearing acts are simply due to mischievous behaviour, such as when Matriarch Shukuru led Lemoyian and Kamok off to dodge the Keepers and return back to the stockades on their own at five o'clock in the afternoon. This left the Keepers searching frantically around the Kanziku area where they had all been browsing earlier , and it was only after they received a call from the Keepers back at the compound who informed them that the three had returned on their own, that they could breathe a sigh of relief! One day Boromoko, Sokotei and Sirimon sneaked off with some wild bulls as well and enjoyed a browsing session with them until the Keepers managed to locate them at 6 p.m.