Keepers' Diaries, August 2018

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Tsavo was lucky enough to have good rainfall this past wet season which has meant that the food has lasted well despite the hot conditions. The waterholes throughout the northern territory have been drying however, so with limited water holes and the Ithumba mud bath still with water, the wild herds are coming into the area in significant numbers. Thankfully this year the Tiva River is still flowing, so our water bowser is working hard ferrying water to fill the troughs and quench the thirst of the many elephants who are staying close as the temperatures rise, with the boreholes at Ithumba unable to come up with enough yield at this dry time of year.

The graduate herds and dependent orphans socialize together often in the mornings as our orphans enjoy the supplements which are dished out in the dry season. The mud bath area is also a time when the wild herds converge for the fresh water and to meet up with the graduate orphans and the dependent babies, and this month hardly a day went by without wild friends joining in these sessions. Our graduate orphans remain close to home with their wild born babies. Little Siku, Sunyei’s young calf, still has a sprain to the knee, but this has improved significantly in the past weeks.

This month some days were so hot, even Kauro opted for a refreshing swim, and water has never been his thing, having boycotted the mud bath completely for most of his young life. Seeing him take to the water is a clear indication of the temperature rise! Kauro, who was removed from Ithumba and brought back to the Nairobi Nursery to convalesce due to ill health, has thrived since his return back which is lovely to see. Despite the dry conditions he looks in fine form, and this is significant because Kauro misses the tip to his trunk which can make the delicate picking of succulent leaves difficult and dry seasons are always tougher in that regard, but this little bull has adapted well.

Naseku loves playing with little tiny babies, and relishes the opportunity of being around the graduate herds as she gets to play with many little ones when the Mum’s allow such encounters. One day she had the opportunity to play with Nusu, Nasalot’s first born, and she took him for a mud bath, something they both savored. Rapa’s interactions with the wild born babies are not quite so cheerful, and he frequently has disagreements with Kinna’s baby Kama. Wiley little Kama knows that she can push Rapa around and get away with it in the presence of her strong willed mother and nannies, much to the infuriation of Rapa!

Despite being a potential naughty boy Rapa has toned-down his ways since being at Ithumba, deferring to the discipline of the older orphans. Oltaiyoni does not tolerate any nonsense however, having been the matriarch back in the Nairobi Nursery, and when Yatta’s second born Yoyo tried to chase her one day, she just pushed him away. Oltaiyoni is a remarkably disciplined elephant, and this is very evident when she walks to the midday mud bath and pauses for her milk bottle to be brought to her by the Keepers rather than careering towards the milk bottles like most! This gentle pause as she waits for her milk to come to her is in stark contrast to the many other greedy babies, Karisa, Roi and Esampu being just a few who easily forget their manners around the milk bottles.

Karisa used to be a very shy orphan, but he is gaining a lot more confidence these days and is even challenging the other bulls his own age like Galla, to ascertain his position in the herd. He has become very curious of those bulls older than him, as we noticed the day graduate orphan bulls Kenze and Taita showed up. Karisa and Wanjala stood in awe of the 13 and 15 year old bulls, seemingly curious as to when they will grow to be that size too. Just like children, they seem to be in a hurry to grow up and always admire those bigger and stronger.

Poor Turkwel’s tail had to be amputated after her recent lion attack, as she vanished after the incident and did not return for treatment. When she finally did the infection was very bad. Dr. Poghon was left with little option but to remove the tail. It was incredibly heartwarming to see how her herd, Mutara’s graduate orphan herd, supported her throughout this process. Whilst she was confined in the stockades, they picked up some piles of lucerne in the morning to carry and eat outside her stockade to be close to her. They kept vigil outside her stockade whilst the vet carried out the operation and were not impressed when they found Turkwel had to stay inside to recuperate for a few days, charging and trumpeting around the compound. It was clear that Kainuk is a very special friend indeed to Turkwel, both coming from the same area, as she stayed and slept outside Turkwel’s stockade, even when the rest of Mutara’s herd left to go in search of browse. Kainuk joined her friend in the morning when she and the other dependent orphans were let out. Bonds like this between orphans who are unrelated, yet have grown up together and become family, are incredibly touching to behold.

Turkwel’s amputation means she becomes the fourth tail-less orphan at the Ithumba Stockades, the first being Kilaguni who lost his to a hyena mauling when orphaned, then Kanjoro who suffered the same fate and then Kelelari who joined a wild herd one year ago; he lost his in a lion attack in the Mara too before coming into our care. Turkwel bounced back from the operation very well, and spent the rest of the month quietly browsing with the dependent herd whilst she recovered fully, and choosing to return to the night stockades while she was being treated, learning her lessen from the first time she vanished with such dire consequences. The pampering, along with extra milk bottles once more, has ensured she remained close throughout the month and as a result, has been able to regain condition after her ordeal. Mutara’s herd checks in on her regularly too. Enkikwe is also recovering well from his lion attack, and although he will probably always have a limp, we saw marked improvements to his condition this month, and he even took to fully submerging himself in the mud bath on some days.

The lion saga at Ithumba has been of grave concern for us and we have sought the assistance of the Kenya Wildlife Service to translocate these troublesome lions who have been targeting the orphans. They have proved very unpredictable however leaving for weeks at a time and then suddenly returning when least expected. Unfortunately the respite from the lions was short-lived as on the 18th, Chemi Chemi arrived with fresh lion inflicted wounds to one eye and rear end. His wounds were quickly treated but we fear one eye has been badly damaged. He was not such a willing patient either and kept breaking out of the stockades where the Keepers were trying to treat him, and sometimes the Keepers would bravely follow him out into the bush during the night to make sure he was okay. Chemi Chemi, despite being a large 10 year old independent orphan now, with long tusks, was an unlikely target, and even he had been extremely unsettled by events. Wild bulls began to chaperone him day and night after the incident which was comforting, and then later in the month he was spotted in the company of a wild female who the Keepers know well. Due the quick treatment he received thankfully by the end of the month he had started to improve, and he mostly kept company with Olare’s herd who he browsed quietly with often in the company of the wild female. Immediately after the Chemi Chemi, attack just when everyone was on high alert again, the lions seemed to relocate and have not been seen or heard of since.

In lighter news, the three Nairobi Nursery recent arrivals have settled down so well into their new home. Although the move succeeded in taming the unruly Esampu and Mteto who had become a handful in the Nursery, their naughty character traits apparently still persist. One day after they had both finished their milk bottles, they audaciously wandered over to Namalok’s drinking bucket which his milk is poured into, and started to help themselves to his share too! Despite being a year older than them, Namalok just cried out in protest and the Keepers came running over to move the naughty duo away. It is this bold and confident character trait that has helped them to settle into their new environment however, and we are sure they and Mundusi will only continue to thrive in their new environment. All three of them are so happy and are in incredible condition, fat as ticks. Poor Namalok received yet more grief later in the month however, when he decided to gang up on little girl Naseku. Unbeknownst to him, young girls are inclined to unite and stick up for one another, and no sooner had he advanced towards Naseku when Roi appeared from nowhere and joined her friend to teach Namalok a lesson. Siangiki then came in for reinforcement, and Namalok was left with no choice but to flee the scene!

August 2018 day to day

01 Aug

Olare’s group joined the dependent orphans for lucerne in the morning. After feeding on lucerne, the orphans parted ways with Olare’s group. At the browsing field, the now vibrant Karisa, who at one time disappeared for almost three months with Dupotto and Kelelari, challenged Galla to a pushing game. This is the same Karisa who used to be very shy, especially when he returned from his brief stint away. These days, he is trying to challenge his fellow boys to know his position in the group. Ukame took Mundusi and Mteto aside and demonstrated to them the best way to uproot grass and roots by kicking it with ones feet. Roi settled on a nearby rock for a scratching session. At mud bath time, the sun was really hot. It was so hot even Kauro who hardly ever goes into the water was actually the first one in! For the first time this year, Kauro completely submerged himself in the water. Tusuja rode on Mteto in the water while Galla rode on Roi. Esampu, who is very clever, tried to avoid the boys so that they wouldn’t be able to climb on her. Kauro, Olsekki, Tusuja, Esampu and Dupotto emerged as the stars of the day in both the mud bathing and soil dusting exercises. In the evening, Mutara and her group showed up at the stockade after disappearing for close to four days. The lions appear to have done an irreparable damage to Turkwel's tail, which has got worse since she broke out of the stockades. The infection has spread and it seems broken inside. From the look of it, Turkwel might have to lose the tail and become the fourth in Ithumba to have no tail. The first was Kilaguni, second is Kanjoro and third is Kelelari who joined a wild herd one year ago.

Galla playing with Karisa

Mundusi, Ukame and Mtito

Kauro by the mudbath