“The Crucial Role of Personal Preparedness for Orphans in the Face of Unpredictable Nature”

Larro, Mukkoka, and Naboishu are now officially graduates from the Nairobi Nursery. They said their goodbyes in the wee hours of January 8th and have moved on to our Ithumba Reintegration Unit located in Tsavo East National Park.

The much-awaited moment has finally arrived. The timing of graduations is crucial, and in this case, we had to wait for several factors to align. The personal readiness of an orphan is vital, but we are also dependent on the weather conditions. We initially planned for Larro, Mukkoka, and Naboishu to graduate in 2021, but the extended dry season in Tsavo made it difficult. Thankfully, the rains came in December, turning Ithumba into a lush paradise. However, the roads were inaccessible for a truck carrying the three precious elephants. Fortunately, the conditions improved by early January, allowing our trio to finally make their move.

The graduates of our program had a smooth and comfortable trip to Tsavo, thanks in part to the abundance of delicious green distractions. Larro, Mukkoka, and Naboishu were well-prepared for the journey, having practiced getting into the moving truck many times before. By 3:30 am, all three elephants were safely on board, accompanied by their trusted Keepers Aduba and Peter, who helped ensure a calm and stress-free trip. Although we expected Naboishu to be anxious during the drive, his companions Larro and Mukkoka helped keep him relaxed and at ease. While the other two elephants were initially nervous, the reassuring presence of their Keepers and the gentle swaying of the truck soon put them at ease.

Upon their arrival at Ithumba at 9:00am, the three baby elephants were greeted by a group of their old Nursery friends who had been brought over to welcome them. The newcomers seemed bewildered at first, their trunks outstretched as they took in the beauty of their new home. As they made their way to the water trough with their Nursery Keepers, the welcoming committee of Nabulu, Musiara, Satao, Maramoja, and Malima came running over. We always make sure to bring the orphans’ old friends from the Nursery over first to help them adjust to their new surroundings. It was truly heartwarming to see the graduates being embraced by their friends, receiving trunk hugs and warm rumbles. Soon enough, the rest of the Ithumba herd arrived to introduce themselves. Our orphans are always welcoming to new arrivals, having been through the same journey themselves.

Once the orphans arrived at Ithumba, they were warmly welcomed by both new and familiar faces. They quickly got to know their Keepers, Larro, Mukkoka, and Naboishu, who seemed well-prepared for their arrival. Showing no signs of nervousness, the orphans effortlessly embraced their daily routine, exploring the surrounding bush and eagerly rushing towards their milk bottles during the mud bath session. Nabulu, on the other hand, appeared to be extra cautious, staying close to her new friends and keeping a watchful eye on them.

Nabulu, who is familiar with Mukkoka, Larro, and Naboishu from their time in the Nursery, was particularly watchful over them. The recent rainfall has revitalized Tsavo, providing an ideal environment for these young elephants. Naboishu was ecstatic while browsing, stuffing his mouth with greens at a rapid pace. Although the Ithumba mud bath resembled a swimming pool, the newcomers eagerly jumped in. Malkia and Malima promptly guided them towards shallower waters before leading them to the dust mound.

Although Larro, Mukkoka, and Naboishu were unfazed by the changes in their surroundings, they still found comfort in the presence of their Keepers who wore green clothing. Nabulu and the trio of M girls – Maramoja, Malkia, and Malima – were responsible for keeping an eye on them and making them feel at ease. The trio would occasionally seek reassurance from their Keepers, but their chaperones did an excellent job of calming their nerves.

Three young elephants, Naboishu with his trunk up, Larro in the center, and Mukkoka in the water, joyfully took their first mud bath in Ithumba. The highlight of the day was Mukkoka’s enthusiasm as this graduation marked his return to his place of origin. Back in 2018, our aerial team spotted a calf walking along the Tiva River bank in Tsavo East. That calf was Mukkoka, who was rescued from the northern region near the river. It seems his memories of Tsavo remained intact, making him feel right at home from the beginning of the ceremony.

Throughout the course of the day, the other orphans took on the responsibility of guiding and acquainting the newcomers with the customs and practices of Ithumba. However, for little Larro, the transition was a bit more challenging. She was rescued back in January of 2019 after she strayed onto communal lands in the Masai Mara. Since then, she has made tremendous progress and blossomed into a nurturing leader. Despite being the Nursery’s youngest matriarch this morning, she has now assumed the role of the youngest female at Ithumba. Nonetheless, she has displayed a commendable willingness to learn from her older companions and we’re confident that she will adapt in no time.

Naboishu, who was rescued from the Mara after his mother died naturally, had a carefree attitude. Although he was notorious for being mischievous at the Nursery, he was well-behaved today. However, his main focus seemed to be eating as much as possible, and only time will tell if the abundance of greenery at Ithumba will continue to keep him on his best behavior.

After a day filled with adventures, the trio’s roommates introduced them to their new bedroom. As the clock struck 5:00 pm, it was time for everyone to head back home. We led Larro, Mukkoka, and Naboishu to “Class One,” the special enclosure reserved for the youngest orphans at Ithumba. Nabulu and Musiara, their new companions, guided them towards their sleeping quarters. It was remarkable to see how elephants communicate and bond with each other despite being strangers. The trio didn’t hesitate to enter the communal room and made a beeline towards the milk bar. After quenching their thirst, they munched on freshly cut greens and settled down for a well-deserved rest.

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