Keepers' Diaries, April 2020

Select your unit:

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Tusuja has caught the attention of the Keepers this month, as a lot of bulls his age tend to do. Now six years old Tusuja is starting to assert himself within the herd and becoming more playful and boisterous as a result. He is particularly playful with Galla and Olsekki, but he is just as happy to play on his own – rolling around on the ground and showing off his different unique poses, while throwing his trunk in the air. Safe to say he has become a real exhibitionist! 

We can’t help but cast our minds back to his rescue in 2015, when at 15 months old he was sighted all alone on the endless plains. Fearing for his safety and with no elephants in the area, he was brought to safety but managed to escape the high-sided trailer he was being held in overnight with Houdini-like prowess, before our team got there. The search had to commence all over again the next morning, but he was eventually spotted in the thick long grass so typical of the Maasai Mara. Having arrived at the scene, showing little hesitation and striding across the plains, our experienced Keepers were able to catch up with him and restrain him, ably assisted by the Maasai Conservancy Scouts who followed close behind. 

Once in the Nursery, his gentle, calm nature and immediate acceptance of the Keepers led us to choose a Maa name for him, Tusuja, which means ‘to follow’. Tusuja these days seems less inclined to follow however, and more likely to act autonomously. Sometimes he likes to initiate movement within the herd and can often be spotted leading or being the first to a milk feed, and often he is the last to leave the mud bath if he is having a good time. Either way, he seems content and very happy to do things his own way. Olsekki seems to value their friendship and isn’t happy when any of the other bulls like Mundusi try to play with Tusuja, and he will walk over and try to push them away.

On the 12th we were happy to see ex-orphan bull Zurura who briefly joined the Ithumba orphans that evening, but on the 15th he came to join the orphans browsing and even escorted them home to the stockades in the evening. We then saw him sporadically for the rest of the month, including with Orwa, Bomani and Chemi Chemi who arrived on the 18th to visit the orphans and the Keepers as well after a long absence.  From that moment onwards we saw Orwa, Bomani and Chemi Chemi every day until the end of the month. They would escort the orphan’s home in the evening after browsing with them for the day, sleep outside of the stockades at night and be there when the dependent orphans came out in the morning! They have even now got a ‘bedroom’ where at night they retire up by the water tanks and sleep the night through each with their own patch where they lie recumbent until morning. 

We considered that they had come to see if Barsilinga was ready to re-join them out in the Park for good, a suspicion that was later confirmed when one day they walked off with him into the bush and didn’t return for the rest of the day. Shortly before midnight that night, Barsilinga in the company of Orwa, Bomani and Chemi Chemi reported back to the stockades however. Although Barsilinga increasingly wishes to spend more time away from the dependent Ithumba orphans as his foot improves and he seeks to browse on his own away from them, he doesn’t seem quite ready to leave the fold and the assistance provided there from the Keepers, who still attend to his foot daily, quite yet. Even if he gives the Keepers the slip and doesn’t accompany the orphans back to the stockades in the early evening, he always comes back of his own accord some time later during the night.  

Another ex-orphan who graced us with his majestic presence this month is Challa, who we last saw back in March when we treated him for a wound. There was still a small area which looked a little sore, so we decided to call him to follow us back to the stockades so we could attend to it, and Challa duly followed! The next time we saw him was a few days later on the 29th. Namalok, who is proving to increasingly brave these days by choosing to interact with much older bulls whenever he can, far superior to him in age and experience, confidently walked over to Challa and exchanged midday greetings before getting into the mud bath for a swim. At the end of the month we witnessed this behavior again with Zurura, when Namalok cheekily challenged Zurura to a pushing game! Zurura was wise however and played safe with Namalok, before walking away. Again at the end of the month the dependent orphans were joined by ex-orphan Kainuk and a friend in the form of ‘junior wild boy.’ Namalok was the first one to challenge the ‘wild boy’ who was in a playful mood. 

Sapalan and Enkikwe remain good friends and spend a lot of time in each other’s company, often browsing together. Roi is still misbehaving at some of the milk feeds and caused a bit of drama one day when she managed to grab a bottle of milk that wasn’t hers and ran away faster than the Keepers could catch her, drinking from the bottle as she ran. The Keepers watched her in disbelief as she hurriedly downed it, just to then nonchalantly discard the milk bottle.

The orphans have been enjoying exploring further afield for their noon milk feed and mud-bathing time, trying out some of the other mud baths, as the main one is full to the brim after all the rain we have had, and sometimes the orphans find it a little too cold. One of the new mud bath areas is the Imenti water hole, and the orphans kept close to the Keepers that first day, weary because it was a new area they weren’t overly familiar with Even Barsilinga, who is expressing his independence at the moment and keeps dodging the Keepers, didn't wander far from them and the juniors on that day. 

One orphan who still does his best to avoid the main mud bath is Ambo. Some time ago he developed a distaste for swimming in the main water hole, and now tries to avoid it, along with the cavorting babies in it, altogether; instead he walks over to his favored usual place, a small water pan to the side with warmer, shallower and muddier water, and without the rambunctious babies in it. One day when he was having one of his mini mud-baths, Malima spotted some guinea fowl birds browsing in the grass nearby and decided to chase them, charging and trumpeting. The charging and trumpeting scared the birds away, but also freaked Ambo out before drawing the attention of Tusuja who joined in without even knowing the reason behind Malima's charging! 

April 2020 day to day

01 Apr

It was a bright morning as the orphans, led out by Sapalan, strolled nonchalantly up to the water trough for a drink. Sapalan made a stop to scratch against the only remaining acacia tree in the stockade compound. After the orphans had some water, Rapa tried to challenge Tusuja to a pushing game. but unfortunately lost the game to the experienced Tusuja. Tusuja moved on to tackle Olsekki and their game ended in a draw. Sapalan played with Galla but their game ended prematurely when they saw Barsilinga approaching. 

Out in the bush, Mundusi enjoyed scratching against some trees while Naseku decided to take a break from feeding to have a game of rolling on the ground. At mud bath time, the orphans had their milk bottles then headed to have a mud bath in the bush. Mapia played on an ant hill briefly before following his friends. Pare came across a pool of water and had fun rolling around in it before heading to catch up with his friends. Barsilinga dodged the Keepers again but was located later after a long search. Sapalan and Enkikwe spent most of the afternoon browsing together.

Sapalan scratching

Rapa strength testing with Tusuja

Naseku playing