One of the major things that have happened while I have been offline, is how well the youngest orphan Mphamvu has been doing. When I last updated he was just starting to socialise with the other orphans free-contact style (with no barriers between) in the outer boma. I have summed up a few of his major developments here:
Walks outside the outer boma with keeper (mid November 2014):
Mphamvu had been enjoying socialising with the other elephants at lunch time and during the evening, but he was not quite strong enough to go out on the long walks with the other orphans. However, it is important that he could have bit of variety in his environment, to graze in different vegetation and to be able to mud wallow in new area. So after the other orphans set out on their morning walk, Keeper Eldridge coaxed him outside the boma using his milk bottle and led him to the Ox-Bow just outside the outer boma. He soon realised this new area was very interesting and enthusiastically began grazing on the soft fresh grass by the water. He then spent a few hours in this area, coming back into the boma peacefully with the other elephants at lunch time. His condition improved further and gaining strength every day.
|Here Mphamvu is being coaxed out of the boma with his milk bottle and enjoying the variety of grazing at the water|
Out on bush walks (end November 2014):
After initially being quite hesitant to join the herd fully, Mphamvu’s confidence clearly grew in as he suddenly showed interest in following the herd out on a walk. (Prior to this he would walk the opposite direction when the other orphans left even with encouragement).Taking this as a clear sign that he was ready, the keepers stepped back and watched him follow the herd out of the gate (top left). Mphamvu and Kavalamanja showed many bonding behaviours towards each other (touching/smelling) and remained in close proximity (right side, middle photo). Older male Tafika was also seen allowing Mphamvu to feed close by him, also touching and smelling him gently. Rufunsa still gave him some problems (pushing etc.) but Mphamvu started to learn to hold his ground.
As the bush walks can be quite long and tiring (thanks Chamilandu and Batoka who move at a reasonable pace!) it was very much Mphamvu’s choice if he wanted to join the morning and afternoon walks. Sometimes the orphans can roam quite far in the morning, tiring him out so he sometimes chose to relax in the outer boma for the afternoon, meeting up with the herd when they came back in the evening. Since going out on some of the walks his condition improved dramatically, this also coincided with the heavy rains in November transforming the bush.
|Mphamvu's first walk out into the bush with the other orphans|
Bush walks – a month on (end December 2014):
After starting off nervously at the back of the group, in late November, a month on he has grown in strength and confidence, especially with the bigger elephants. He feeds and mud bathes amongst the big elephants as if he feels he now belongs. He has even occasionally been seen leading at the front of the herd (top left photo). His bond with Kavalamanja has endured (middle, right photo) and they are often seen moving around together with Maramba in a tight group on the outskirts of the herd - the three newest orphans of the Release Facility. He has also been playing with Mosi and Tafika. Even Rufunsa has stopped chasing him around, and actually socialise with one another. They have even been seen sleeping next to one another in the boma at night (with Chamilandu close by). Mphamvu's health has also improved hugely; he is active and gaining weight and condition every day. He feeds well on walks, and pushes down small trees demonstrating his growing strength.
|Mphamvu gaining strength and confidence on bush walks|
Since being out on walks and to this day is looking so healthy and is truly becoming at home with the orphan herd, and they will be his family for the next five years at least - until he chooses to join the older post release orphans and take his first independent steps back to the wild.