This month a great number of wild elephants have been visiting Ithumba including Wendi and her sweet baby Wiva and their entourage of escorts. On the 2nd of the month the Keepers woke to find an elephant bonanza in the stockade compound, with over 80 elephants present comprised of both wild and ex-orphans alike. Mulika, Yatta and Wendi with their respective babies, namely Mwende, Yetu and littlest Wiva were among them. The dependent orphans always enjoy their company, intrigued by the youngest babies, and happy to share their delicious lucerne with all present.
Rain fell thick and fast this month, albeit interspersed with hot, clear days. For the orphans and all wild inhabitants of Tsavo East, this brings relief to the normally arid nature of the land during the long dry seasons. Replenished water holes and puddles provide a great source of enjoyment for our young orphans who relish mud wallowing and trunk splashing games. These natural water holes and mud wallows provide a popular alternative to the frequented large one, which can be colder in comparison to the shallower warmer natural ones filled with rainwater. There was a day when thick mud inhibited our water bowzer from filling the water trough by the water hole, but the Keepers managed to connect a pipe to the truck which was on drier ground and replenish the trough for the elephants and other wildlife..
On the 7th of November ex-orphans Tomboi and Buchuma with a wild friend visited the stockades in the morning to check up on the dependent orphans and share water with them. That afternoon a great number of ex-orphans numbering some 30 visited the stockades accompanied by a wild bull, (we believe the father of Wiva), to drink water and socialize. We assumed that we might see these groups less frequently due to the rain and consequently an increase in the number of natural watering points throughout the area since wild herds would become less reliant on the trough at the orphans’ Stockade. However, throughout the month Tomboi continued to visit the Stockades on a fairly regular basis, spending the whole day of the 23rd dust bathing in the morning, then wallowing in a shallow, reddish mud hole at noon in order to be at hand to escort the dependent orphans back home in the evening before wandering off into the night once they were ensconced. On the 24th he and Ex-orphan boys Napasha and Challa, played in small watery wallows that had formed alongside the main pool where the orphans take their milk. All looked in excellent health and happy due to the abundance of food and water around.
Our Keeper dependent unit comprising of Barsilinga, Bomani, Bongo, Garzi, Kainuk, Kanjoro, Kithaka, Laragai, Lemoyian, Mutara, Narok, Orwa, Shukuru, Sities, Teleki, Turkwel and Vuria are all healthy and in good spirits, the boys Vuria, Barsilinga and Orwa forever testing each other’s strength and virility through wrestling games. Only on odd occasions have the keepers had to step in to resolve a match where the combatants have lost their cool! Bull wrestling is an essential learning curve for our young boys who will one day have to assert their authority particularly when it comes to mating competition.
The young partially independent group consisting of Kilaguni, Chaimu, Makireti, Kasigau and Kilabasi have also been visiting the Stockades throughout the month, sharing lucerne with the younger orphans, and browsing alongside them out in the field which offers a good opportunity for young boys to test their strength against those older and more experienced. Barsilinga has been coming into his own of late and often leads the orphans back to the stockades in the evening.
On the 11th of November Wendi’s group with young Wiva in tow joined the orphans at the mud bath giving the Keepers a lovely morning observing all the elephants at play together; Wiva carefully overseen by her diligent security guards, Kinna, Sunyei, Sidai, Lenana, Galana, Chyulu, and Nasalot,all members of the Ex Orphan herd.
Despite rain, wildlife continued to visit the Stockade water toughs, including four wild dogs at the beginning of the month, a number of wild bulls, either alone or in groups, usually in the mornings and late afternoons. On the 14th a few buffalo appeared who managed to startle the orphans and send them into a panic! Peace was only restored once the buffalo had left and the orphans moved out to browse. The birds have been active with the presence of rain and the stockade have been full of Hadada Ibis, Redwing Starlings and of course the chattering Weaver birds after whom little “Wiva” was named. As rain continued to fall throughout the month, the orphans enjoyed browsing on fresh new green shoots on trees and bushes and were always eager to leave their stockades each morning and go in search of these juicy finds, on some days even foregoing a potentially cold mud bath in order to head out. On one day Sities was so eager to not miss out on any of the lush vegetation that she continued to eat whilst scratching her rear end at the same time! On occasions the orphans can be seen taking advantage of conveniently positioned rocks in order to reach some of the juiciest leaves on the newly budding trees.
Sudden downpours can send the elephants into a frenzy of excitement after an ordinary morning of browsing, so much so that the Keepers often have a hard time to round up their charges! One day just as they had done so, the rain began to fall again but the Keepers managed to herd all the orphans in a straight line to the mud bath for their noon milk bottle. However, upon arrival the elephants were excited and restless as it was still drizzling, but they eventually settled down. Laragai then led them back to the stockades safely that evening when the Keepers recorded 65mm of rain having fallen.