In 2006 Ithumba was in chaos. All orphans were behaving like a chaotic, naughty kindergarten-class and did everything what was not allowed or handy. All orphans were testing the boundaries, exploring their home and habitat, and too their testing skills. The 4 older orphans Nasalot, Kinna, Yatta and Mulika, being only 6 year in age, had a heavy duty to lead this chaotic herd in decent proportions. There were a lot of scrofulous little boys who had to be kept in line. Kinna turned out to be the most strict lady. She was the one with the best skills to keep the naughty boys in line and under control.
Madiba, Ndomot, Sunyei and Galana had shortly arrived in the Ithumba stockades. Galana was familiar with this environment, as she was founds not far from the Ithumba stockades. Galana lost her mother and herd due to an accident as the herd crossed the Galana river. The strong current was that strong due to the heavy rains, that Galana was swept away for miles downstream. Her mother and herd had no chance at all to save her. During game-driving some tourists saw a little foot sticking out the tight bushes on the riverbank. That is how the exhausted and skinny baby Galana was found and a while later was rescued. She was lucky to be found as there were many lions in the environment, not far from were she was found. As soon as they would start to hunt, it would have been just a matter of time before they had found the orphaned baby elephant. Galana’s herd was nowhere to be seen, so she was brought to the orphanage. She and very shy Ol Malo became good friends in the nursery.
On the day Galana, Ndomot, Madiba and Sunyei arrived in Ithumba they were loudly and warm welcomed by the older orphans. Wendi immediately claimed Ndomot as ‘her’ baby and ignored Madiba as she didn’t recognize him at first. In Wendi’s memory Madiba was a hairy fluffy baby like a woolly mammoth and this elephant wasn’t hairy at all. Madiba had to convince her that it was … definitely him. Wendi needed a little extra time before she realized that this Madiba was indeed the same boy as the woolly mammoth she remembered.
Tomboi, Napasha and Taita immediately started testing their strength by climbing on Ndomot and Madiba to control them. This is typical macho behavior by young bulls to decide their ranking in the male hierarchy. Napasha made sure that everyone knew he was the oldest and that he had absolute power. Don’t mess with him. Matriarch Yatta put him on his place straight away as soon as she saw that Napasha was bullying the little ones that much. Taita and Tomboi were best friends and also the best sparring partners. The younger Ndomot and Madiba were real copy cats, first they observed the older boys and then they started their own sparring sessions. Madiba had also a very soft side as he was very thoughtful and caring to the younger orphans. He reminded the keepers in some ways to Imenti.
All young elephants don’t realize at first that they are elephants and every other species like dik-diks or birds are scared for them As every other specie thinks twice before charging an elephant, even if it is a little one. All elephants may look like elephants but they have the heart of a mouse as the whole world is scary at first. So all the young orphans feel very brave when they have the courage to chase away dik diks or birds or warthogs. Tomboi was upset when Taita took a branch from him. Later he took revenge by doing the same thing back at him. Then he searched cover by Nasalot who was unaware of what just happened, so Tomboi didn’t find the protection he was hoping for. The dominant Napasha was the rebel of the group orphans. He made himself to the leader of the male department. Every there was an incident with Napasha involved as he tried to show all younger boy how to behave like a real bull. Finally the ladies stepped in to teach Napasha some manners. Every time when he was naughty he was sent by Kinna behind the group and ignored by all others for some time, to teach him a lesson.
And then there was little spirited Sunyei with her joyful tricks. With so many wanton little boys around her she had copied some of their tricks as well. She behaved sometimes very naughty and had a lot of fun by scaring of all other orphans to jump unexpectedly from out the bushes. She behaves like there is danger and when everyone was panicking she had so much fun while the matriarchs tried to convince the youngest ones that there was no danger at all. After a while Sunyei and her tricks were known and had no effect anymore.
Besides being a naughty girl, Sunyei was also together with Wendi in trainingship by Yatta to develop their matriarch-skills. Three year old Sunyei had created in the nursery her own personal group with orphans to lead. Here in Ithumba she had still the same group under her care and was a leader of a group within the whole herd. Her little group still kept listening to her orders. Yatta learned Wendi with Ol Malo to lead the group daily. Mostly all went well only at some point Yatta had to step in immediately as she noticed an angry puff adder in front of them on the road. Although Yatta was far behind she started running to the front of the herd to block everyone from walking. Because Yatta’s skills and being so alert a drama was provided. The matriarchs in traineeship; Sunyei, Wendi and Ol Malo hadn’t noticed the puff adder at all. Only remained question was; How could Yatta have noticed the puff adder as she was walking behind the herd. Only thing possible is that she had smelt him.
Sunyei proved her skills as matriarch as she had a very good sense of locality which is very important for a matriarch who leads a whole herd. In the spring of 2006 there were heavy rains in Ithumba. There was mud and water everywhere and also a lot of green vegetation. In this season Ithumba is coloring very beautiful and fertile, almost like a paradise. At some day Yatta’s group didn’t appear at the mudpool which was strange.
Everyone was worried that something happened. Yatta, Kinna, Mulika, Nasalot, Selengai, Buchuma and Ol Malo were nowhere. Remarkable was the fact that Yatta seemed to feel confident enough to take part of the group further away in the wilderness. The rain had wiped out their, so that made the keepers very worried. What now, how to find them back? The keepers were hoping that Wendi was clever enough to find them back. Wendi however had no clue at all. And there came Sunyei who tried to draw everyones attention to follow her. All orphans and the keepers followed her with hoping that this was not one of her naughty tricks. Sunyei raised her trunk in the air catched a smell and started walking in a certain direction. After more than an hour they found the lost orphans in the middle of tight bushes. All were enjoying the fresh green. Their attitude was like ; ‘so are you finally here too, what took you so long’. No panic, no worries everything was under control at Yatta’s group. Without her confidence in the skills of her trainee Sunyei, Yatta would never have gone that far with her group. Sunyei had brought the group and the keepers straight to Yatta’s group. Most likely is that Yatta and Sunyei all the time had kept contact and had communicated with their infrasound noises. How else could Sunyei know where everyone was. This situation proved the intelligence of elephant, young elephants, and that the young matriarchs like Sunyei have, and need, a very good sense of locality. Although being a naughty three-year old this little matriarch was promising for the future as at the most critical point she as the one taking the lead and reunited the herd. Even Wendi who can be very bossy and is 1 year older didn’t had the skills Sunyei had. So Wendi too learnt a lot this day. Yatta had trusted Sunyei by putting their faith in her and with reason.
In 2008 Wendi decided herself that she passed her examines as trainee and was now a real matriarch. From that point she shared the leadership of the orphan herd with Yatta and they became fully independent. Sunyei and Naserian became their assistants. Time after time all proved to have a good quality in leadership as they fully lead the group orphans from that moment and they still do today.