This month there have been a great number of wild elephants visiting Ithumba whose company the ex-orphans have enjoyed. The month began with truants Bongo and Kanjoro missing from the dependent group when it was time to return home for the evening. Following a long search, the Keepers decided to return to the stockades without them due to the late hour. In the middle of the night both returned escorted back by ex-orphan, big boy Rapsu. At day break there they were, patiently waiting for their morning milk feed.
Our orphans at Ithumba this month are divided into a number of groups with our Keeper dependent unit comprising of Barsilinga, Bomani, Bongo, Garzi, Kainuk, Kanjoro, Kithaka, Laragai, Lemoyian, Mutara, Narok, Orwa, Shukuru, Sities, Teleki, Turkwel and Vuria.
Other more independent satellite groups consist of Kilaguni, Chaimu and Ishanga who had been absent for a good long time, but turned up early in the month all looking in fine fettle. Another young partially independent group consists of Kasigau, Kilabasi, Kitirua and Makireti. Olare’s herd (formally led by Suguta) consists of younger orphans Murka, Kalama, Kibo, Kitirua, Melia, Tumaren, Chemi chemi, Kalama and Naisula, also preferring to travel as an independent group rather than be assimilated into the big ex-orphan group.
Lualeni has developed a new herd and her members this month comprised of the longest serving and loyal Ololoo, as well as Madiba, Kenze and Loijuk. Only time will tell if this group remains intact as Lualeni is unpredictable, enjoying leadership of her own satellite but ever-changing herd and not entirely comfortable being led by the bigger girls Yatta, and Mulika. The ex-orphans herd referred to in this month’s diary consists of the following now fully independent orphans Buchuma, Challa, Chyulu, Galana, Ithumbah, Kamboyo, Kinna, Lenana, Loijuk, Makena, Meibei, Mulika, Mwende, Napasha Nasalot, Naserian, Orok, Rapsu, Sidai, Sunyei, Taita, Tomboi, Wendi, Yatta, Yetu, and Zurura.
The long absence of ex-orphans Chyulu and Lenana found Lemoiyan missing their frequent visits. Thankfully they returned early in the month showering their little favourite dependent calf with love, he savored their company and love and seemed to forgive them instantly!
This month it has not been unusual for twenty five plus wild elephants to be present almost daily enjoying Ithumba’s watering points and their ex-orphan friends. One morning a wild female and her calf shared the Lucerne with the dependent babies who were all enamoured with the tiny infant. Teleki initially tried to block the baby and its mother from accessing the Lucerne handout but one stern look and he changed his mind rapidly.
When the ex-orphans joined our dependent babies at the mud bath on the 10th, Zurura approached the mudwallow from the drying end and his weight broke through the crust so that he found himself completely bogged and unable to get out. Having struggled for a good ten minutes during which time the Keepers had summoned the tractor to help extract him, he managed to get out by himself. That same mid-day a handsome bull wallowed energetically as young dependent Orwa watched on transfixed by such size and strength.
On the 13th of October the Ithumba Unit were treated to the surprise of the year, not altogether unexpected, but it was joy for everyone when Wendi arrived at the midday mud wallow with a new born baby still wobbly on her legs. She arrived under serious escort with 25 wild bulls following her and 38 ex-orphans, all attentive and joyful. Kinna, Sidai and Nasalot were evidently the chosen and very busy nannies to the new baby. Daphne named the newborn female calf Wiva, as with the threatening rain it was on this day too that the weaver birds arrived back at the stockades and began building their nests. While everyone was concentrating on the arrival of a new baby into the Ithumba ex-orphan fold, naughty Lenana and Chyulu spirited away Lemoyian, Barsilinga and Kithaka without the Keepers noticing. However it so happened that the babies decided that they were not yet ready for such adventures and much to the Keepers surprise (who had not noticed their departure) they came hurtling out of the bush back into the fold.
The following day in the morning Wendi came to the stockades with her minute calf at her heels, still chaperoned by 25 wild bulls and the ex-orphans. She walked her baby around the compound sharing in her joy. She even let dependent orphans Kithaka and Sities touch her baby, but they could not contain their excitement and started trumpeting which frightened baby Wiva who cried out, and in no time her Mum whisked her away to a safer distance. Mutara, still a dependent young female, responded to the baby’s distressed cry and ran to comfort her. Kainuk even resorted to offering the baby her teat for comfort but little Wiva turned to her mother.
On one occasion Wendi and baby Wiva along with some forty elephants arrived at the mudbath just as the dependent orphans were about to bathe. Such numbers proved a deterrent to the dependent orphans who decided to vacate the scene and concentrate their efforts on dust bathing from a safe distance. Mutara and Sities tried to access baby Wiva but this was not popular with the attendant nannies who denied them access. However on another day when Wendi her baby and the large escorting entourage were approaching the stockades from the east, Sities and Kilabasi rushed up and on this occasion were granted permission to touch and escort little Wiva to the stockades. This was a very big moment for these two mini Mums who savoured every minute in baby Wiva’s company.
Bomani and Vuria continue to enjoy chasing all things small, such as warthogs, and dikdiks who obligingly run away leaving the elephants with a sense of victory. On one occasion a herd of thirsty buffalo converged on the stockade waterhole hoping for a drink and were undeterred by a couple of wild bulls who did their best to intimidate them with mock charges and ear akimbo. The buffalo held their ground and ignoring the elephant demonstration continued to crowd the waterhole.
On the 26th the Keepers were shocked by what they found in the midday mudbath, a squashed dead baby elephant. Close inspection revealed it was a wild baby bull and not Wiva. His whole body was squashed into the mud, his face completely submerged, just his back was visible. The whole scene was terribly sad and mystifying. The team guessed that he had probably been accidentally squashed by bathing wild elephants. Once he was removed by the Keepers it was clear he had been dead sometime.
Another very special sight late evening towards the end of this month a large group of wild elephants together with our ex-orphans arrived at the stockades and all lay down to sleep. The slumbering herd slept peacefully until just before 6.00am. This is a just another graphic indication of just how safe the wild elephants feel around our ex-orphan’s home, despite the presence of the Keepers.