In June an orphan well over two years old, rescued from the Masaai Mara came into our care, we named him Ololoo. Although he settled fast he was still mourning the loss of his elephant family, but with the tender loving care showered on him by both his new found Keeper family and other Nursery orphans, he quickly settled. Within a short period of time he became increasingly boisterous during milk feeds as is usual for starvation victims, shoving and pushing and screaming for his share. At nearly 3 years old with short stubby tusks, he was the oldest in the Nursery, and clearly it was in his best interest to move him as quickly as possible to be amongst older elephants who could not only discipline him, but expose him to the wild herds of Ithumba where he would learn the disciplines essential to bull elephants to avoid injury during conflict. It was decided that best friends Kalama and Chemi Chemi would accompany him on the move, as they both were fast outgrowing the nursery too. A week before the scheduled move the 3 orphans received every feed in the back of the trans-location lorry, and much to everyone’s surprise at no stage did any one of them show any signs of reluctance.
On the 6th of August, 3:45 in the morning, the 3 orphans were loaded on to the lorry. All walked aboard as if it was the most normal thing in the world, following their Keepers trustingly who had a milk bottle in hand. The trans-location Lorry was on the road by 4:15am, and was well on its way before the Nairobi traffic. The drive was uneventful, stopping for browse along the way, and the convoy made good time. Kalama was alittle unsettled but with the Keepers close she relaxed totally. Six hours later at about 10a.m they had arrived at Ithumba, still in the cool of morning, greeted as usual by a spectacular gathering of elephants. Over 50 elephants were waiting at the Stockade compound- a mix of our Ex Orphans and wild elephants.
Like so many times before, inexplicably all the ex orphans were present, seemingly aware of their impending arrival. It is not normal for them to be clustered around the stockades mid-morning, instead they are normally deep in the bush browsing or visiting their midday mud bath area. Amongst the herd of elephants s was their special wild friend Rafiki as well as many other handsome wild elephant bulls and a one tusked wild female who not so long ago had tried to abduct Ithumbah form the Keepers care. The wild elephants are fast learning the routines of Ithumba and our orphaned elephants, and await any new arrivals just as eagerly as their Ex Orphan peers.
As soon as the truck pulled in, the ex orphan females crowded close to inspect the new arrivals. Wendi was predictably the first to welcome the bewildered babies as they exited the truck. The Nursery babies were definitely tired from the trip, and Kalama, who has always been clingy towards her Keepers, was more so than usual. Wendi hugged them all and patted them with her truck reassuringly. Amazingly Chemi Chemi was the first to walk straight into the midst of the big wild bulls completely undaunted. They all towered over him as he confidently walked amongst them, clearly impressed by what he saw. Ololoo was in his element, and again mixed confidently with the herd of elephants that greeted him - Ex Orphans and wild alike. As all the ex orphans surrounded the new babies with affectionate greetings he stood amongst them as though he was one of them, relishing the attention. It was the happiest we have ever seen him since he arrived in our care.
The Junior milk and Keeper dependent Youngsters later arrived with their Keepers and they all surrounded the new babies. This was a poignant reunion as Kalama and Chemi Chemi were reunited with their old Nursery friends - Olare, Murka, Suguta, Kibo, Sabachi, etc . It was heartwarming welcome, with all the big Ex Orphans crowding the new babies and the Junior group excitedly greeting their friends and smelling Ololoo whom they had not yet met. Wendi took particular interest in him. This greeting ritual must have lasted about 30 minutes. The wild elephants watched from nearby and later came close once the Keepers had moved further away. Then the entire herd of elephants, both tame and wild, followed the Keepers with the new babies in tow in to the bush to feed for the the rest of the day.
In the evening the Ex Orphans escorted the babies back to the stockades for the night. By this time they were totally settled and although a little hot, they appeared very happy and content. Following his milk feed Ololoo was up to his old tricks again, getting pushy with some of the older orphans. Chaimu instantly gave him some serious disciplining and that was the end of any misbehavior on his part! During the ensuing milk feeds he was as well behaved as the others!
The next morning, it was Lualeni who was waiting for the babies and went out with them for their morning browse. At mud bath time again they were joined by both Ex Orphan groups led by Yatta and Wendie as well as several wild elephant friends.. Again a huge group of elephants took part in the mud bath session, which included the new arrivals. Kalama always loved mud baths and true to form was the most active, rolling around in the mud and playing with the bigger wild elephants, totally at home in her new environment.