The rains had definitely arrived for the orphans this month and it did not take long for the forest to flourish and bloom again. The elephants were delighted when they emerged from their stockades to wet grass in the morning of the 1st, picking up stray branches that had fallen in the storm on which to munch. The mudwallow is always, of course, a great attraction on hot days, when elephant activity unsettles the resident terrapins enormously. The bountiful rains have made it somewhat difficult for the orphans to make their way around the forest on the slippery paths, sometimes slipping and falling to the ground! Lima Lima - a character that relishes teasing other animals has proved a great source of entertainment for the Keepers as she attempts to chase the butterflies which have emerged in abundance since the onset of rain. She often slips and falls over in the process, leaving the butterflies victoriously fluttering around her head and flailing trunk!
This month it has been Sonje rather than Lima Lima who has led the fun Terrapin- teasing games, and one day, when she saw their heads popping above the surface of the water trough, she took to kicking the water in an attempt to dislodge them. However the terrapins are smart enough to understand that they fare better when submerged and try to remain that way until the elephants walk away. Other wildlife encounters include stumbling across a troop of baboons, which is never overly popular as the elephants don’t like baboon loud and disruptive behaviour. Ngasha initially tried to scare them off with outstretched ears in order to appear more intimidating, but ultimately Sonje decided to change direction. A short while later the same day, the orphans encountered a porcupine, an animal that was new to them, despite having experienced many ‘firsts’ as infants in the Nairobi Nursery. Since elephants are essentially timid, often this proves daunting causing them to run around in a panic looking for their Keepers. The next day on the 14th, Sonje raised the alarm for the Keepers when a herd of buffalo were encircling the spot on which they they were standing. The Keepers were very appreciative of her thoughtful forethought!
The two Matriarchs of this little group, Murera and Sonje, continue to be excellent role models and guides to the younger elephants, especially baby Ziwa whom they both adore; always shielding him from the exuberance of older, rougher boys such as Faraja, Ngasha and Jasiri. However, despite this trio growing with age, they are still no match for Sonje in terms of strength and disciplinary ability. On the 5th trumpets from the older girls even managed to alarm a group of rangers on patrol in the forest, who surmised that they were about to walk into a herd of wild elephants. In fact, it was the orphans excitedly chasing a group of bush bucks around!
This month the orphans continued to enjoy chance meetings with wild elephants but their wild friends are not yet fully entrusting of the orphans’ human companions yet. Only time will resolve this and the time will come when all the elephants will intermingle as easily as they do at the Voi and Ithumba Stockades. The orphans happened upon a wild bull on the 7th, who was curious to investigate this strange little herd of young babies. However, he stopped advancing upon seeing them with their Keepers. On the 10th it was the babies who were slightly more nervous upon encountering the same two wild bulls they had met previously, probably daunted by their size!
As the rains continued throughout the month, the grass grew thick and lush with white lilies in abundance, and the babies revelled in collecting both the soft grass they had missed throughout the dry season and their favourite lilies. This was especially exciting for greedy girls such as Lima Lima, who couldn’t feast enough! One day the babies were so eager to continue browsing that they they marched to the waterhole for their noon milk feed before the Keepers had even arrived there! The clever, greedy and most dexterous ones such as Jasiri and Zongoloni decided to pick up their own bottles and feed themselves, whilst the others waited for the Keepers to come and feed them. With the rains comes more insects, and the best deterrent against these is mud, so the orphans spend a great deal of time mud bathing and dusting themselves to deter these scourges. Good scratching posts are also convenient to rid themselves of the ticks.
Fortunately rain has re-charged natural waterholes in which the orphans enjoy playing, usually preferring these new, shallower and thus warmer ones to their usual deep, cooler one. One day the orphans were so caked in mud that the Keepers could hardly tell them apart – able only to distinguish Murera and Sonje from the others by their distinctive size and specific way of walking. On the 22nd Murera was enjoying her mud bath so vigorously that she managed to get herself stuck. Her screaming immediately drew the Keepers to her but by the time they arrived they found that she had managed to extract herself. The biggest downpour was during the night of the 22nd and neither Keepers nor orphans managed to get much sleep sleep due to the crashing of thunder and trees falling in the storm. Throughout the whole of the next day, the babies, especially Ngasha, Faraja, Zongoloni and Ziwa remained apprehensive and glued to the Keepers even whilst browsing. The rains always provide a great source of entertainment, allowing the babies to play on wet grass and muddy soil when not browsing.