It is intriguing how the Ithumba elephants always seem to know when to expect others, something illustrated clearly in the Diaries. Kamboyo and Zurura left Nairobi at 5.30 a.m. on the morning of the 8th, and that same morning, as soon as the Ithumba elephants emerged from their Night Stockades, the Big Girls, namely Yatta (the Matriarch), Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna began trumpeting and running hither and thither, clearly excited and behaving uncharacteristically, even though the Keepers had yet to be informed that Kamboyo and Zurura had been loaded successfully and were on their way!. The Keepers only got this news at about 8 a.m. - another indication of the amazing intuition that elephants possess. It can only be telepathic, since the Big Ithumba Girls have never met Kamboyo or Zurura.
That day, the Ithumba orphans were kept nearby, in anticipation of the arrival of newcomers who eventually turned up, after a long, bumpy journey, at about 1 p.m. As soon as they walked down the unloading ramp, there was instant recognition from Sian and Loijuk, with whom they had shared the Nursery, while Wendi and the older group went to inspect the inside of the trucks make sure that there were no more surprises still to come. There is always a joyful reunion and welcome when newcomers arrive at Ithumba, from all members of the herd, and from all the Keepers, whom are known, of course, having done time at all three Centres. The Big Girls spent the afternoon competing for possession of the two newcomers, Mulika paying them particular attention.
The transition into the Ithumba unit of Kamboyo and Zurura has been particularly smooth and easy. They felt at home instantly, sharing the Night Stockade with Sian and Loijuk, seemingly having got a silent message not to touch the electric wire surrounding their quarters. The following day, the rains began in earnest, so the two got there just at the right moment, for the vegetation burst into blossom and lead, puddles filled with rainwater everywhere, dry riverbeds began to flow as streams, and the festive season began – always a particularly happy period for all elephants. Towards the end of the month Kamboyo and Zurura were even leading the others back in the evening from the Kalovota river, having been quick to learn their way around, slotting into the herd as though they had always been a part of it.
A very interesting development in this month’s Diary is the fact that the four Big girls, Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna are beginning to become much more independent, choosing to remain behind in the bush in the evenings when the youngsters return for the night. They are desperate to make contact with their wild kin, and have obviously understood that the presence of the Keepers is a deterrent to accomplishing this as is the presence of the youngsters, who tend to rush to their human family whenever even slightly startled.. On the 16th the four Big Girls deliberately insisted on distancing themselves from both the other orphans and the Keepers, crossing over the Kalovoto river to feed independently and returning on their own long after dark. This has happened several times this month, and when they came across the dung of a wild elephant in the Ithumba forest on the26th, according to the Keepers, they went crazy with excitement, as did all their satellites following suit.
It is heart-warming to see how happy Kenze is at Ithumba, remembering that a year ago he was considered our Christmas miracle, because we never expected him to survive). Now he couldn’t be in better shape, content and happy, and having formed strong friendships, even interacting with bigger boys such as Kora, who in this Diary obligingly makes the odds more even during pushing bouts by sitting down!
In short therefore, it has been a wonderfully happy month for the Ithumba unit, with lush vegetation on hand everywhere (and plenty of it), puddles everywhere, mudbaths everywhere and dry riverbeds flowing as streams. It gives us so much pleasure to interpret the Diary and know that all our orphans are so healthy and so happy, and also that the four Big Girls are growing up, and will undoubtedly soon be mingling with their wild kin.