Normally, our Keepers are so excited when our ex-orphans visit, as nothing is more gratifying than seeing the babies they raised for years now living wild lives. The sight of Mutara’s ex-orphan herd approaching, however, now fills them with dread. Some of the more devious members of her herd, namely Suguta, Sities, and Turkwel, have started spiriting away their favourite dependent orphans. They artfully whisk them away from under the watchful eyes of the Keepers, so that they can have the babies all to themselves as they browse. Suguta is the worst offender of the trio. She always targets Dololo, and occasionally Musiara, too. These two babies are also beloved by the older females in the dependent orphan herd, particularly Roi, Oltaiyoni, Kamok, and Maramoja, so they are certainly not lacking attention. Despite the Keepers’ best efforts, Suguta and Turkwel managed to abscond with their favourite babies for a day of doting. This month, whenever the Keepers saw Mutara’s herd approach, they would spring into vigilant mode. They knew that if they didn’t keep an extra close eye on the youngsters, they would have to spend hours tracking them and their well-meaning kidnappers down in the dense bush. The girls sometimes bring the babies back to the dependent herd to save the Keepers the ordeal, but not always!
Female elephants adore babies and want to fawn over them as much as possible. Another notorious ‘baby-snatcher,’ as the Keepers used to refer to her, was Lualeni. Now that she has her own calf, Lulu, she seems cured of her kidnapping ways. Lualeni and Lulu arrived on the 8th of the month in the company of fellow ex-orphans Ithumbah and Kilabasi. They spent the night just outside the stockade compound, waiting for their dependent herd to be let out in the morning. After years of honing her nurturing skills, it is wonderful to witness Lualeni as a mother. Instead of trying to abscond with the dependent orphans, she is now content to bring her daughter close to home, just to spend some quality time with her human-elephant family.
Suguta isn’t the only elephant who signals a long afternoon ahead for the Keepers. Rapa has started to test his independence, venturing deep into the bush and returning to the stockades on his own schedule. He is occasionally joined by Jotto, Tusuja, and Mundusi on these adventures. Even if the Keepers can’t locate them, they always show up at the stockades later to put themselves to bed for the night.
Yatta’s entire ex-orphan herd remained in the area throughout the month. Yatta is heavily pregnant and has been denying three-year-old Yoyo, her second born, the opportunity to nurse. She gently nudges Yoyo away, just to let him know that a newborn is on the way and he won’t be able to have milk anymore. This seems to rankle Yoyo, as he surely notices that his friends Nusu and Kama, who are slightly older than him, are still nursing from their mothers, Nasalot and Kinna.
The dependent orphans were thrilled to have Yatta and Wendi’s ex-orphan herd remain in the area, as it gave them ample opportunities to play with their wild-born babies. Ukame and Namalok, who recently joined Yatta’s herd, are thriving in their wild lives. Ukame takes her newfound nanny duties very seriously, particularly when it comes to looking after Lenana and Chyulu’s babies, Lapa and Cheka. Dependent girls Maramoja, Malkia, Roi, and Esampu must be rather envious of Ukame’s station, as they covet any opportunity to interact with Lapa and Cheka.
10-year-old Kanjoro continues to come and go freely, without hitching himself to any particular group, as bulls are wont to do. Sometimes, he was with Mutara’s group, or occasionally in the company of Kibo and Kilaguni. These three bulls spent an entire day with the dependent orphans, waiting for them to come out of their stockades in the morning and escorting them back home in the evening. The youngsters were very happy to have these older friends around and clearly felt comfortable in their presence.
We are happy to report that Barsilinga is doing much better. It has taken our poor, patient boy nearly two years to heal from a mysterious foot injury that left him lame. We believe that a thorn penetrated deep into his foot and, even after two medical interventions, remaining slivers inhibited his recovery. At the beginning of this year, we had a breakthrough when an abscess formed on the side of his leg. It finally popped, expelling the offending object once and for all. Now that he is feeling better, we expect that Barsilinga will seek his independence once more. Tusuja is very close friends with him, and we wonder if they will take this bold step together, or perhaps join up with one of the ex-orphan herds.
Before his injury brought him back home, Barsilinga originally went wild with Kithaka, Garzi, and Lemoyian. These old friends visited on several occasions this month, in the company of Mutara’s herd. Even at nine years old, Kithaka remains extremely naughty — so much so that the dependent orphans and Keepers prudently give him a wide berth! He and Barsilinga have been best friends from the outset, but they have opposite personalities. Barsilinga is loving and tolerant, while Kithaka is always plotting some disruption or other. We wonder if that is the reason why Barsilinga has not teamed up with his troublesome friend quite yet.
While he is no Kithaka, ex-orphan Lemoyian succeeded in own roguish activity this month. He finally managed to sneak into one of the stockades and raid the dairy cube stash, which is something he had been attempting for weeks. We must admire the ingenuity that went into the heist: As the orphans were coming home one evening, Lemoyian nonchalantly entered the oldest group’s stockade and proceeded to spend the night with them, feasting to his heart’s content! He came sauntering out in the morning looking most pleased with himself. Mutara’s herd retrieved their naughty friend later that day and took him deep into the Park with them.
Sana Sana still likes to lead the orphans out to browse in the morning, while Roi, Kamok, and Oltaiyoni uphold matriarchal roles within the dependent herd. Roi is the enforcer, putting misbehaving orphans like Mundusi in their place and providing much-needed discipline. Oltaiyoni is the designated referee, curtailing any games she deems too rough by walking between the opponents. Kamok is the nurturer, with a particular soft spot for little Ambo. While Ambo relishes this special attention, he is also becoming reluctant to head back to the stockades in the evening. Several times this month, he opted to sneak off with older friends like Rapa, Naseku, Siangiki and Enkikwe, savouring extra browsing time. These orphans know that they are not quite ready to fly the coop, and always make their way back to the stockades just before nightfall.