The characteristic hot and dry weather of the dry season of Tsavo continued into the month, but as the month wore on, humidity built up, promising the onset of rain at last. At the beginning of the month the orphans felt the heat during the day, so even those such as Kithaka and Orwa, who don’t normally like the water, were going into the mud bath to cool down. The wild flowers began to bloom, which is one of the first indicators that rain was imminent. The first drizzle arrived on the 5th of the month; delighting little Boromoko who sipped the fresh rainwater from the rocks. The build up of rain clouds continued and it rained again on the 13th and by the 15th the meaningful showers arrived, bringing relief and happiness to the orphans who relished the soft, wet earth and new puddles in which to play. From that moment on the orphans preferred to play and wet themselves in the large rain puddle close to the water hole, instead of bathing in the larger and colder main mud wallow. Whenever it rained, the orphans, and especially Orwa, Bomani, and Bongo, and even Shukuru as well, relished playing in the mud. On the last day of the month it rained heavily accompanied by thunder and lightning which caused some confusion among the orphans, so the Keepers had to round up all their charges again and walk them slowly back to the stockades for their afternoon milk. That day 42mm of rain was recorded.
The Ex Orphans continued to visit the stockades for water frequently at the beginning of the month, but as the rains broke, groups such as that of Olare, Mutara as well as Wendi’s Ex Orphan herd, along with some of the bulls such as Tomboi and Rapsu visited the stockades less often, being less reliant on the water from the trough and excited to be able to venture further afield after such a long period. This applied to the wild elephants as well who came less regularly as the month wore on. Before the rains when competition for the supplements was still high, clever ones like Laragai and Kithaka often picked up as much as they could carry between their tusks and trunk, and walk off to enjoy it without competition in peace. Towards the end of the month Yatta’s group of Ex Orphans that included Kinna, Mulika and her calf Mwende, Ithumba, Meibai, Makena and some others came back to the stockade for a couple of days to drink and communicate with the orphans, before going off back deep into the Park.
Since the rains broke and whilst the vegetation recovered from the dry season, the orphans can often be seen stretching high into the trees to reach the most succulent and leaves still on the trees, and later for the succulent fresh green shoots that emerge following rain. Orwa and Shukuru have the advantage of their height to be able to reach but little ones such as Olsekki and Sokotei dig up roots to chew on whenever they can, for extra nutrition. Sokotei is still naughty at the noon feeding time and is prone to snatching bottles of milk when the Keepers aren’t watching, running off with them to rapidly down the contents before the Keepers can catch him! Olsekki is a clever little boy who enjoys showing off how he can pick up a milk bottle by himself and drain it before throwing it down again. Orwa loves his Keepers and enjoys playing and spending time with them and he and Boromoko like to browse close to the Keepers for company during the day.
Wiva, Wendi’s now one year old wild-born calf, is very active, always playing with one of her Nannies or the dependent orphans as well. Little 2 month old Gawa, Galana’s baby, is much more dependent on her mother and tends to remain close to her even when playing with others. Wiva is much more independent and is constantly in the company of the other elephant nannies. On the 14th we were worried when Wendi arrived at the stockades without little Wiva. We checked the whole group but could not see her, when all of a sudden nannies Kinna, Lenana and Naserian arrived with Wiva in tow! Galana’s baby, Gawa, is also active; so Nannies Sidai, Loijuk and dependent orphan Narok have to keep a close watch over her.
Before the rains broke, the groups of Mutara and Suguta used to join the dependent orphans in the mornings to share lucerne with them, Suguta often seeking out Narok for long conversations. We wondered whether Suguta was trying to persuade her to join them in the wild! The Ex Orphan trio, namely Kilaguni, Chaimu and Ishanga, continued to stick together this month, sometimes joining up with Mutara’s herd, and visiting the stockades in the morning to share lucerne. However, following the onset of the rain, they disappeared for the rest of the month. Ex Orphans Makireti, Kasigau and Kilibasi pitched up in the middle of the month and hung around for a couple of days, but with the onset of rain they too vanished.