Keepers' Diaries, April 2018

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

This has been a very challenging month for us all with the passing of our founder and mentor Dame Daphne on the evening of the 12th which has been hard for each and every one of us. We do know that Daphne would want us to continue with more passion and vigor than ever before. But we were struck by more terrible news towards the end of the month on the 28th of April when we discovered our little Sokotei had been killed by lions. Given that his group have been more independent recently when the incident happened, whether at night or during the day, we cannot be sure.

Sokotei came to us from Samburu at only 6 months old in 2014 after his mother tragically died due to natural causes, and he thrived at the Nairobi Nursery. He was a delightful little elephant whose friendship with Enkikwe, Sirimon, Olsekki and Siangiki since their Nursery days was a tight bond and stronger than ever at the Ithumba Unit and he has been so happy and comfortable that he and his band of brother and sisters have seeking more and more independence, wandering with their herd further afield, joining ex orphans, and leaving their stockades at night when Laragai opens up the stockade doors. In the wake of this fatal attack our partially dependent orphans have been decidedly fearful have recently chosen to stick close to home with the dependent orphans and their Keepers, which of course we are encouraging by giving them milk bottles once again in an effort to anchor them closer to home. Sensing the danger around, the older Ex Orphans in Mutara’s herd also stayed close, to help calm and protect the younger orphans. It was the lions roaring that also brought Laragai’s group closer again. They were with Enkikwe when he was attacked two months ago. However despite that incident they have still been partial to taking strides to become more independent which we are now discouraging given recent events.

Thankfully lucky Enkikwe is improving every day but is still receiving treatment for his leg injury which was the worst of his maul wounds. He is starting to venture out and browse around the stockade area under the watchful eye of Keepers in the early morning, although he cannot accompany the others out to the bush just yet, and he totally understands this, choosing to remain close. His friends have remained attentive and very sympathetic, resting their trunks on his back in commiseration and gently inspecting his wound with their trunks whenever they visit. Amidst the dependent group Dupotto particularly has taken to checking on Enkikwe on a daily basis, although her interest is not always willingly received by Enkikwe and we assume he is frustrated with his injury. Even ex-orphans like Suguta and those in Wendi’s herd surround Enkikwe’s stockade when they visit, and extend their trunks towards him as a sign of recognition and comfort. Nasalot is a very good mother, and when she visited one morning with her little herd she walked over to meet Enkikwe who was feeding in the stockade area. They seemed to converse and Nasalot was certainly inquiring after Enkikwe inspecting his injury. Enkikwe was very happy and followed her herd as they left, before stopping and walking back to the compound once he realised he could not keep up. All of the ex-orphan herds actually stopped by this month, some more often than others, and this included Galana and Sunyei as well with their babies Gawa and Siku. The rains have been exceptional and Ithumba’s waterholes are brimming full, and food is plentiful so for the elephants this is a joyful time when they tend to wander much further from home for extended periods of time.

Sapalan and Karisa have been acting independently this month. Karisa thinks of himself as a big boy due to the time he spent in the wild when he wandered off with Kelelari and Dupotto. Sapalan was rescued at a much older age and has always been slightly more aloof than his friends. For the most part these two bulls like to browse on their own, wandering together and sticking close. One day Sapalan with Mutara, Laragai and Narok’s groups and spent the night out of the stockades. He was brought back at midnight by those ex-orphan groups, understanding he needed to remain with those closer in age, and he has since chosen to remain the rest of the month with the dependent orphans. It seems he is not quite ready for the independent life quite yet. It is wonderful to witness how caring and thoughtful the ex-orphans are towards those younger members of their extended family, and how they look after and guide them through their transition to a wild life. Enkikwe was saved by ex-orphans, sadly Sokotei was not so lucky which has been a great source of sadness for us all.

Kamok, Roi and Oltaiyoni led the way in the wallowing sessions at the mud bath this month. Despite all the rain on the warm sunny days they bounded into the mud bath to have a proper swim, and on the rainy days they were the first to dig up the soil with their short tusks and have their own soil-dusting gathering. They love throwing the cool soil on their backs, and if it is raining particularly hard they delight in rolling in the soft mud. When the girls were playing their games on the ground, Tusuja always took advantage of the situation and tried to climb on their backs, much to the annoyance of Kamok. She was usually the first to get up and chase him away! One day shortly before mud bath, Karisa sneaked off disappearing without the Keepers knowing. As they gathered the orphans together to take them for their milk and mud bath at noon they realized that he was missing. They immediately conducted their search, but with the bush so thick thanks to the rains this can be a challenge, and Karisa proved to the keepers just how cunning he was by showing up at mud bath while many of the Keepers were still toiling away in the bush looking for him! Karisa drank his milk like nothing was amiss, ignoring their calls, and then walked to join his friends who had already gone back to the bush. The rest of the day was quiet as the Keepers kept a close eye on Karisa and Sapalan to make sure they didn’t outsmart them again!

April 2018 day to day

01 Apr

Kauro settled to share his lucerne pellets with Kamok. Shortly later, Narok and Laragai’s groups arrived. When the lucerne pellets were finished, Karisa led the way to the browsing field. Kamok and Orwa remained behind trying to pick every bit of lucerne pellet left. Later, Kamok rumbled to try and connect with her friends who had already left for browsing. Her friends rumbled and directed her to where they had settled to browse. At around seven thirty in the morning, Yatta and her group showed up briefly at the stockade compound before leaving again. Karisa, who has been shy for a long time and did not interact very much with his friends, found something to keep him busy when he attempted to ride on Maramoja. Maramoja didn't resist or disengage from Karisa but continued to browse as if nothing was happening. Tusuja decided to dust himself whilst lying on the ground. At mud bath time, the sun was really hot prompting all the orphans to go into the water to swim. In the afternoon, Laragai left with her group leaving Narok to take care of the juniors. Narok spend the remaining part of the day browsing with the juniors and later escorted them back to the stockade for the night.

Tusuja playing

Karisa climbing on Maramoja

Oltaiyoni having her milk