Keepers' Diaries, August 2021

Select your unit:

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

It is getting dryer and hotter with each passing day. During greener times, the orphans dash about quickly and choose only the best vegetation. Now, however, they are far more calculated in their movements, careful to stock up on ample vegetation before the day ends. Instead of playing, they conserve their energy to concentrate on browsing. 

On particularly hot days, the orphans head straight for the mud bath. One day, Sattao, who always likes to forge his own path, opted to squeeze between some visiting wild bulls who were having a drink. The bulls did not appreciate his rapid approach, however, and one of them kicked Sattao from the side. Our little boy learned a valuable lesson that day about waiting and respecting his elders. 

Our dependent boys tend to hero worship older bulls, particularly ex orphans. When 18-year-old Rapsu and a wild friend showed up at Ithumba at the beginning of the month, little Mundusi relished the opportunity to drink alongside the older gentlemen. They soon walked off into the bush, leaving Mundusi to bask in the glow of this successful interaction. He decided to celebrate by picking a fight with Mapia, clearly inspired by Rapsu and eager to show off his own dominance. 

The month began on a somber note. On the morning of 2nd August, Galana introduced the Keepers to her newborn baby. Our jubilation soon changed to concern, as the calf was clearly premature and very feeble. Galana and her nannies seemed to know there was a problem from the outset. They calmly shadowed the sleeping baby throughout the night, waiting for the inevitable. The next morning, the Keepers stepped in and put the calf on the drip, which Galana allowed without objection. Tragically, the baby was too frail to survive and slipped away. Afterwards, Galana and her friends quietly walked off into the bush, with the stoic grace so distinctive of elephants. The wild can be a very harsh place, as these moments remind us.

Wild visitors and ex orphans filtered in throughout the month. We can always rely on Mutara, Suguta, Sities, Turkwel, Kithaka, Lemoyian, Orwa, Garzi, and Bomani to visit, although they don’t show up every morning. Dololo is always happy to have his older sisters in the fold. It seems that Suguta has established herself as his primary keeper, although Sities, Turkwel, and Mutara are equally enamoured with him. They even tried to kidnap Dololo a few times, although the Keepers are always quick to retrieve him. 

Our little Nabulu is doing so well. She was treated to an extraordinarily special incident in August. On the way back to the stockades on evening, the dependent orphans encountered a wild herd who had a four-month-old baby in tow. While the elephants drank, Nabulu and Esampu had the opportunity to play with the baby. Esampu probably inserted herself into the situation through sheer brashness, as she is notoriously strong-willed and mischievous, but this also remind us how self-assured Nabulu is. As if we needed further proof, another moment stood out this month: Seeing half a dozen bulls converged at the water trough, Nabulu abandoned what she was doing and joined them for a drink. While the orphans don’t always receive such a warm welcome, the bulls seemed very happy to have Nabulu in their midst and allowed her to share water with them.

Despite their formidable size, elephants can be quite cowardly about the silliest things. One morning, a hamerkop bird created a lot of drama when it landed on the edge of the water trough. Naseku, who was walking down to drink, raised her ears and immediately retreated. Mundusi, Rapa, Sapalan, Sattao ,and Musiara lifted their trunks to investigate the situation, but as soon as they realised it was just a bird, no one wanted to be the first to confront it. Barsilinga came to their aid and forced the intruder to fly away. 

August 2021 day to day

01 Aug

Ex-orphan Rapsu and a wild friend were the only guests of honour this morning. Soon after drinking water, the two gentlemen joined the dependent Ithumba orphans to feed on lucerne. Later, Mundusi walked with the two grown boys to drink water with them from one of the water troughs, before Rapsu the bulls left and walked off into the bush. Mundusi, feeling elated and properly grown up after the honour of sharing water with Rapsu and a wild friend, decided to show off by attacking Mapia. Mapia decided to let Mundusi win however, to avoid any further trouble. 

Maramoja and Musiara led the way out to browse, where Dololo settled down to enjoy feeding alongside Mteto. The boys Kauro, Wanjala, Galla and Rapa teamed up and lagged behind the rest of the herd, only to arrive later at the mud bath area about thirty minutes after their friends. Today there were only three wild bulls at the mud bath with the orphans. Ndiwa was the only one who stepped into the mud bath water to test the temperature. She found that it was too cold however and quickly stepped out. From this all her friends understood that the water was too cold, so they all decided to go and dust themselves instead. Mapia had a strength testing exercise with Ambo, but Ambo soon decided to surrender for the sake of peace. 

The orphans settled to browse north of the mud bath for the rest of the afternoon. Later, when they returned to the stockades for the night, Makena was at stockade compound in the company of some wild bulls to welcome them home. Malima is the only one who acknowledged Makena's greetings however as the rest were in a hurry for their milk bottles and barely noticed her! 

Malima in the lead

Ambo and Mapia strength testing

Rapsu and a wild friend