Rain showers commenced in the North on the 5th November, and continued intermittently throughout the month, which has brought on a feast of abundant green vegetation which the orphans have thoroughly enjoyed. They have also spent quality time playing with each other, charging around knocking down small shrubs, splashing in the puddles, rolling in the dampened earth, and plastering themselves with the red soil of Tsavo until they look like moving anthills as they browse within the dense green thickets. Natural pools and mudwallows have taken precedence over their artificial one, so it has been a very happy month for all the Ithumba elephants, the only downside of the wet season being the prevalence of tsetse flies, which make life for both the Keepers and the elephants unpleasant, particularly at dawn and dusk when these “guardians of the wilderness” (which keep domestic stock at bay), are most active.
This month, the Ithumba orphans have again had two visits from wild bulls under cover of darkness, the first being early on in the month when two wild bulls came to take a drink from the Stockade water trough and also take a look at the occupants of the Stockade. Again on the 9th a lone bull spent more time near them, resting near the Stockade and exchanging rumbles with the older elephants inside. The next morning, anxious to make contact with him, Yatta led her group following the route taken by the wild bull the previous night, but failed to catch up with him.
Reading the Diary it is good to find that Galana is now happily settled into the group, and in fact the friendships that existed within the Nursery are all still evident, so the younger orphans have formed a very close cohesive unit with Sunyei and Wendi featuring prominently in the Diary, as dominant females amongst the younger set. However, all can count on the protection of the older elephants when needed, namely Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna, who also keep the young bulls in line and insist on polite behaviour. Tomboi and Taita are very competitive, as are all the bulls, and Taita, puffed up by being the usual winner of pushing bouts, has even had the audacity to challenge Napasha, whilst Napasha is still keen to test his strength against Yatta, the Matriarch of the group. She indulges him, but her longer tusks give her the edge! On one occasion Taita chased Madiba around the bushes, wanting to mount him in a show of superiority, but Madiba wisely sought shelter with Nasalot, who protected him and sent Taita packing.
Sunyei enjoyed leading a charge on 2 dikdiks, during which she had the backing of the entire younger group, but the next day she, Wendi and Tomboi were not quite so bold, and took to their heels when confronted by nothing more sinister than another two dikdiks! Encounters with other species have involved the usual rowdy baboons that always cause disruption amongst the ranks, and a male kudu that ran right through the herd of orphans, scaring them all witless! However, Yatta and her favourite, Olmalo saw off another male kudu a few days later, and returned to the Keepers extremely proud of having done so. The younger orphans, led by Madiba and Sunyei have enjoyed chasing a mother warthog and her piglets, which must have brought back fond Nursery memories for them! Two not such pleasurable encounters have been with a jackal, which is always a scarey experience for the elephants following the traumatic rabid dog episode of last year. However, neither contact was close, so they were soon calmed down by their Keepers.
In all it has been a very satisfying month for the Ithumba elephants. Rain has brought on a feast of greens for the taking, allowing plenty of time with full bellies for fun and games. The older elephants have pulled down branches for the youngsters to enjoy, and endless hours have been spent splashing around in the rain puddles, and wallowing in the wet mud.