Keepers' Diaries, April 2022

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

The month began with a miracle in Ithumba. Wild-living orphans Naisula, Kitirua, Olare, Loijuk, and her baby, Lili, arrived at the stockades with a tiny baby in tow.

The calf, who was no more than a week old, looked confused and was crying constantly. He was trying to nurse from every elephant, but he appeared to be slightly more comfortable with Kitirua. However, Kitirua was certainly not his mother: She has not had a baby and is not even showing any signs of being pregnant. The baby was obviously an orphan — and only Kitirua would be able to tell us how she came across him! She clearly knew that he needed help, and knew that he would find it at Ithumba. The baby was rescued and taken to our Kaluku Neonate Nursery at our Field HQ.

We often marvel at Nabulu’s bravery and boldness. One morning, a wild herd with two tiny babies joined the orphans for lucerne. Nabulu quickly befriended one of the wild babies, and they played until the mother rumbled, signalling that it was time to leave. Nabulu waved at the wild baby by lifting her trunk up, perhaps in hope of meeting her again one day. Another morning, Nabulu marched out of the stockades and walked right down to the water trough, where she joined a buffalo and a wild elephant for a drink. She is a fearless girl!

Meanwhile, Sattao is our brave boy. One morning, ex-orphans Kenze and Zurura were among ten wild elephants who joined the orphans. Sattao decided to feed close to 17-year-old Kenze, clearly admiring his stature and wondering how long it would take him to grow to such a size. We could spot Sattao stealing furtive glances up at the big bull by his side.

We were treated to several special visits from wild-living bull orphans this month. Challa, who is always so gentle with the younger orphans, joined Mundusi, Dololo, Sattao, Pare, and Rapa for lucerne. Another day, Tomboi enjoyed a shady rest under a tree with Sattao, Jotto, and Ambo.

When he was just a baby, a predator bit the tip off Kauro’s trunk. Without his ‘fingers,’ he eats more slowly than the rest, but he has tricks to work around this. After observing wild elephants, Kauro taught himself how to carry a full bale of lucerne. He employs this tactic to take a large bale off to a secluded area, where he can eat in peace. We have to admire his clever tactics.

Mutara, baby Mambo, and the rest of her herd remained in the area this month. Malkia was on a mission to win baby Mambo’s heart — which was no small challenge, given how vigilant Mambo’s nannies are! Whenever the ex-orphans arrived, Malkia would walk over to welcome them, and then position herself close to Mambo, so as to familiarise herself to him. One day, Mambo moved over to Malkia and even tried to nurse her. Malkia was thrilled to win Mambo’s trust, and also to finally get through his tight security team. It was a start!

One morning, Chyulu, Cheka, Wendi, Wema, Galana, Lenana, Lapa, Naserian, Njema, Loijuk, Lili, Kitirua, and Naisula arrived before dawn and waited for the orphans to come out so as to share lucerne with them. Galana and Wendi appear to have separated from their first-born daughters Wiva and Gawa, as it has been quite some time since we have seen them. This is not cause for concern; At six and five years old, the girls are quite independent now and must be off with other members of Yatta’s full herd.

Mother Nature has been very harsh this year. We keep looking hopefully at the skies, but rain continues to evade Ithumba. The orphans browse seriously and with intent. They have adjusted to the dry conditions by being less playful. They know they have to focus on browsing in order to get ample food during these dry times. In testament to this priority shift, the orphans even passed up the opportunity to chase a warthog and some wild dogs one day. They knew that such pursuits would only expend valuable time and energy. 

With that said, there were still plenty of hijinks throughout the month. One morning, wily Ambo found the gate of the store open and managed to get inside. The Keepers caught him in the act, but Ambo still left with a triumphant piece of lucerne wrapped in his trunk. 

Another day, naughty Mundusi ran off with his bottle of milk and took it into the mud bath with him! After emptying its contents, Mundusi just dropped the bottle in the water, like a spoiled child. The Keepers had to find a stick to fish out the empty bottle from the water.

Roi, who is no longer milk-dependent but an infamous thief, always looks for her window of opportunity. At mud bath time, she managed to snatch a bottle and ran away with it. This made poor Enkikwe miss his share, since he was the last one to show up. The Keepers had to improvise and fill a bottle with water for Enkikwe. He took it reluctantly and proceeded to complain bitterly for having been shortchanged. 

Larro seems to have picked up a few naughty tricks from Roi. After enjoying her midday milk, she feigned leaving and then, at the last minute, turned around and grabbed an extra bottle. The Keepers only realised her deceit when Larro walked in front of them with the bottle held triumphantly aloft, clearly feeling very pleased with herself! 

Naboishu ran into trouble with Kamok when he stepped on a piece of lucerne that she was planning to eat. Fiery Kamok whipped him with her trunk and warned him that he should not repeat such a mistake. Mukkoka, Sattao, Dololo, Musiara, and Jotto seemed to laugh at Naboishu as he walked sheepishly away from the scene. Sana Sana saw Naboishu’s gloomy face and came to his rescue. She placed her comforting trunk on him and he immediately looked much happier. 

While the birth of Mambo has put ‘Dololomania’ to rest among Mutara’s herd, Dololo is still quite a popular character. One evening, Karisa, Rapa, and little Dololo managed to sneak past the Keepers and disappear. Some of the Keepers went back to search for the missing trio, but they didn't succeed. The next morning, Dololo, Rapa, and Karisa were finally located close to the roadside mud bath. They were browsing away without a care in the world, utterly unperturbed by the anxiety they had caused! 

April 2022 day to day

01 Apr

It was a quiet morning with only few wild bulls showing up. Ex-orphans Tomboi and Zurura briefly joined the orphans before leaving. Mutara and her team were late to arrive for lucerne by about twenty minutes but for them, it was better late than not showing up at all. A wild female whose baby we helped out of a water trough two days ago also came for lucerne. It's not clear where the rest of her herd might have gone since it was only she and her baby who came. The orphans walked out and settled to browse in the Kone area. 

Nabulu and Karisa looked deep in conversation and perhaps they were discussing what's happening with the rains since its getting late and there is still no clear sign if rain is on the way. Eventually they resumed browsing. Sattao ran into trouble with Ambo when he tried to break a branch that Ambo clearly had his eyes on. Even though she was a slight distance away Kamok came quickly and separated the two boys. 

Yatta and her herd joined the orphans at the mud bath and parted ways half an hour later. In the afternoon Roi snatched Dololo and took him off with her to join the late-night gang. When it was time to return home, the Keepers couldn’t find them anywhere, but the late-night gang returned Dololo to the stockade compound later in the evening shortly after midnight. 

A miraculous occurrence happened this afternoon. A young baby, about a week old, arrived at the stockades in the company of the ex-orphans Naisula, Kitirua, Olare, Loijuk and her baby Lili. The baby looked confused and was crying all the time while trying to nurse on every elephant, but it appeared to be closeer and slightly more comfortable with Kitirua. Kitirua, who is Naisula's friend, has not had a baby and is not even showing any signs of being pregnant. The situation became even more complicated when Sities showed up with Mutara’s herd and took the control of the baby.

The baby was obviously an orphan and only Kitirua would be able to tell us how she came across him! She clearly knew that he needed help, being so young, milk-dependent, and obviously an orphan, and knew that he would find it at Ithumba. The baby was rescued and taken to our Kaluku Neonate Nursery at our Field HQ.

Nabulu and Karisa

Ambo and Sattao sparring