It is incredibly dry in the wider Tsavo region at the moment in drought-like status; Ithumba received more rain than most areas and therefore is only just starting to dry out like the rest of the region, nevertheless large numbers of wild elephants and our own Ex Orphan herds too have frequented the watering points at the stockade and mud bath, and indulged in the Lucerne supplements we offer our dependent orphans every morning as well. We saw Galana and her herd including her baby Gawa and Nannies Loijuk, Naserian, Lualeni, Lenana, Kenze Yatta’s main herd usually consisting of the others like her baby Yetu, Mulika and Mwende, Kinna and Kama, Nasalot, Chyulu, Lenana, Wendi and Wiva, Ithumba Meibai, Ololoo, Ishanga and Sidai; sometimes they would all join forces and arrive at a particular place altogether. Their wild born babies, the youngest being Kama (to Kinna), Wiva (to Wendi) and Gawa (to Galana) like playing with the younger dependent orphans. Yatta’s baby Yetu and Mulika’s baby Mwende are slightly older at 5 years old. Little Wiva especially likes to play with Wanjala as one of the smallest in the dependent herd, but he does not often indulge in her games and often pushes her away.
We have watched with joy at how the dependent orphans mingle with the Ex Orphans and wild elephants at mud bath. In the midst of so much dryness we make sure to keep this waterhole and mud bath topped up with fresh water every day from the Tiva River. Nearly one hundred elephants or more make their way to this watering point, and we know from their jubilant behavior how relieved they are to make it. They stand aside for the water bowser to fill up the water trough or drink directly from the spout as the water cascades out. Adult wild bulls play in the water and our orphans look on, learning from their elders and copying their behavior. Karisa seems to have become embolded after his two month hiatus in the bush and will easily approach these wild bulls now and share water with them, probably after sharing their company for so long whilst out in the bush. Dupotto is also doing so well back in the company of her old Nursery friends and new, and aside from Kamok and Oltaiyoni has been browsing a lot with Enkikwe and developing her friendship with him as well. When it did rain one day this month the orphans were clearly delighted, rolling around in the wet soil and Olsekki was throwing chunks of soil and mud in the air and on his back.
Shukuru remains the leader of the dependent herd and is she who rumbles, giving the signal in the morning for their time to head out to browse. Other orphans like Kamok and Ukame can lead the way back in the afternoon but at eight years old it is clear Shukuru is the unspoken leader of the dependent group. Lemoyian can be a mischievous little boy especially at milk feeding time. Sometimes he tries to snatch more than his share from his friends and is disappointed when he is told off by the Keepers for doing so!
There were quite a few shifts and changes amongst the Ex Orphan herds this month but nothing seemed to be permanent. Narok’s recently independent group of herself, Bongo, Orwa, Vuria and Bomani split into the first two and the latter three but it seemed as this were only a tactic to lure more dependent orphans like Barsilinga and Garzi into their herd. Barsilinga is becoming increasingly bullish in behavior, one day pushing poor Karisa for no reason at all, and we have noticed he and Garzi hanging back from the rest of the group to socialize with the Ex Orphans; we are sure their time is approaching, when they too will decide to stay outside of the stockades and become wild again.
Olare’s herd also fragmented into herself, Melia and Tumaren while the rest of her herd was lead by the wild orphan that had adopted her herd. This only lasted a few days though and they day they were reunited altogether near the mud bath there was immense trumpeting and ululating from the whole herd. Mutara’s group consisting of Naisula, Murka, Kitirua, Makireti and Kilabasi also frequented the stockade to see what leftover food supplements like lucerne they could find, and enjoyed browsing with the dependent orphans sometimes too.