It was very dry for the first part of the month, but eventually the rain came, although they have been sporadic and patchy rather than overall. Luckily, however, some of the heaviest downpours fell within the home range of our orphans, and once the green flush appeared, it was party time, with play and fun over-riding the search for food. Most active when it comes to playing is Salama. He, Laikipia, and Lolokwe are best friends and also very competitive, so never a day passes when there is not a tussling match between these young bulls.
The orphans naturally and voluntarily still fall into three categories - Natumi's group comprised of the eight ex Nursery babies who are still milk dependent; Emily's group, comprised of Aitong, Loisaba and Mweiga who joins the youngsters for a 10 a.m. milk feed, and Edo who has stepped into Malaika's shoes, just as she would have wished, and has taken her two little boys, Uaso and Lewa into his care. Roving between them all are the fully independent Big Boys, Dika and Ndume, who are often joined by Lissa and her wild born calf, Lara, and, of course, her Nannie, Mpenzi. Lara often plays with the younger orphans, usually Natumi. Natumi's role as the Leader of the Baby group is reinforced by the next two females in age, namely Ilingwezi and Edie, who usually join her to dispatch intruders in their path such as the "running dikdik". Whenever there is a chase, or the chance of fun, Salama, Laikipia and Lolokwe are never far from the action, and Icholta is also a fun-loving and playful little elephant, especially during the mudbath hour.
Overall, it is Emily who is now the recognised surrogate Matriarch of the younger elephants, with Aitong as an extremely caring and very conscientious No. 2. Aitong is now being entrusted with the care of Emily's group when Emily chooses to take time off amongst the wild herds, as she is beginning to do. It is Aitong who is always at hand to help whenever help is needed, especially during the mudbath, extracting those in trouble from the mud. Her obsession with little Nyiro is un- diminished. From the moment she first saw him, she loved him unreservedly and this has not changed. Whenever the orphans are together, it is Nyiro who basks in most attention from Aitong.
It is gratifying, indeed, to see the little elephants as comfortable with the wild herds as those that are already established and touching too to find that there exists a very strong bond between all the orphaned elephants, irrespective of age and origin. Although from all corners of the country, and all unrelated, they nevertheless regard themselves as part of a special "family" which encompasses their human Keepers. All except Ajok, keep in touch, but Ajok is somewhat different, because he was raised alone in the Nairobi Nursery, and his best friend was not amongst the Orphaned Group, but within a wild herd. He left earlier than any of the others to become a "wild" elephant, but I have no doubt that when he is the same age as the Big Boys, and confident enough to travel alone as do the Bulls when grown, he will be turning up again one of these days! Others that have chosen to become truly wild elephants, severing their human ties, are Eleanor (fearful that we might take her precious calf, having seen us appear with so many!) and Mary and her wild-born young who is fearful that humans might again put her behind bars, as they did for the 10 years before she came to us).