It rained for the first time at Ithumba on the 4th November, just as Enasoit, Meibai and Naimina were transferred to Ithumba from the Nairobi Nursery. Upon arrival, Meibai, who was in a truck by himself, fled as soon as he was let out, and it took the Keepers a short time to persuade him to return to the other two newcomers who stepped out after him. Shortly afterwards the Junior Orphans who still return to the Stockades each night arrived and gave the newcomers a rapturous and enthusiastic welcome, rumbling, trumpeting and urinating in excitement, each member of what is known as Naserian’s group eager to welcome the three newcomers by gently touching them, crowding around them and competing with one another to be closest, all enormously joyful.. Loijuk, one of the Junior Matriarchs, then led them out once all the excitement had died down a little, where they were joined by all the Senior ex orphans led by Yatta and Wendi, where another enthusiastic welcome was enacted.. Thereafter, all the Ithumba elephants spent the entire day fussing over the new arrivals, escorting them back to the Night Stockades in the evening, and remaining within the Stockade compound all night in order to be at hand to welcome them again in the morning, which they did. This entire month there have only been about 3 or 4 days when the ex orphans have not come to be with the Juniors, meeting up with them either at the Stockade compound first thing in the morning, or as they are on their way out to feed, or at the mudbath. Sometimes not all of the ex orphans come, instead just some who have peeled off specially to be with the newcomers, leaving Wendi and Yatta with the others, who often join up later. The arrival of Meibai, Enasoit and Naimina has definitely been the highlight of the month for the established orphans from all three groups, i.e. the Senior fully independent now “wild” group led by the main Matriarch, Yatta; the Splinter Group from her unit which is led by Wendi, and which sometimes separates to travel independently, yet keeps in very close touch with Yatta,, and the Stockade Dependent Junior group which include orphans that are still milk dependent, and who are led by several Junior Matriarchs, usually Naserian and Loijuk, assisted by Makena and Chyulu.
Meibai, Enasoit and Loijuk could not have enjoyed a warmer welcome than what was extended to them by all the orphans of the Ithumba unit, each competing to be closest to the newcomers. As the smallest Ithumba orphan, Enasoit enjoys the special attention of Loijuk, or adores him, as does Nasalot from Yatta’s Senior Group, but Meibai and Naimina are equally as loved and all three newcomers have settled in amazingly quickly, with no reservations whatsoever, all, of course, remembering their own time as members of a loving wild family. All three are relative newcomers orphaned old enough to be transferred just as soon as they had recovered their strength. It is very heartwarming to see the transformation in them, and to have been able to offer them happiness again in another loving elephant family, assisted by an equally loving human one up at Ithumba.
As usual, missing from the ex orphans for the first half of the month was Ol Malo, who returned on the 21st, looking worn and tired, and with a swelling on her abdomen. The KWS Vet attached to our Mobile Veterinary Unit examined the swelling, and said that it was a hernia, about which nothing could be done, but which might right itself in due course. Ol Malo was taken back into the Night Stockades and since has again become a permanent member of the Junior Stockade Dependent group, enjoying extra supplements to try and get her in better condition. There has, apparently, been some improvement in her condition since, but Ol Malo is certainly a fragile elephant health-wise.
It has been a very joyful month for all the Ithumba orphans, who have enjoyed several heavy rainstorms bringing on a banquet of plentiful food at any turn, mudbaths everywhere, and rain filled depressions of fresh water from which to drink. Rain has released the wild elephants from the dependency of the Stockade water trough, so this month there have been wild visitors at the Stockade on only 3 occasions – on the 12th when a wild bull came to drink on his own and linked up with Yatta’s group who were still within the compound, again on the 16th when 3 bulls turned up, and lastly on the 21st.
It is interesting that now Loijuk knows how to open the fastening of her Stockade Gate and can let herself and those in with her out ahead of the Keepers, which she did on the 22nd. It is also interesting that Naimina is beginning to lead the way to the noon milk venue and mudbath, obviously becoming very familiar with her surroundings. Meibai and Enasoit are happily settled as well, and, closely guarded by Loijuk, Makena and Chyulu, are often heading the column as the Juniors make their way out into the bush, more often than not joined by either Wendi’s or Yatta’s group, at other times just some members from either group, and often by all the ex orphans together, making one very large herd of 33 elephants. November has certainly been a wonderful month for Enasoit, Meibai and Naimina, but also for all the others, who have been overjoyed to embrace them within their orphaned “family”.