Keepers' Diaries, August 2023

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Little Esoit has become known for his morning rituals. When he emerges from his nighttime stockade, the first order of business is a long stretching session. This is usually accompanied by lots of trunk waving, just for dramatic effect. Once he’s thoroughly limbered up, he finds Bondeni for their morning sparring session. It’s all in good fun, as they test each other’s dominance and build strength. 

The Kaluku Trio — Kinyei, Kindani, and Bondeni — remain the best of friends. Early in the month, Kinyei felt unwell for a brief spell. She recovered in her stockade for one day, before re-joining the orphan herd the following morning. Bondeni made a point to be extra gentle when he was playing with her, clearly aware that she had been feeling a bit fragile. 

Another day, Bondeni was making his own fun, rolling around by himself. Kindani immediately noticed her friend lying on the ground, and the sight concerned her. She ran over and knelt beside him, using her front legs to try to lift him up. Bondeni sprung to his feet and all her worries were relieved.

We often see little bulls comparing themselves to big bulls. This was particularly evident one day, when 19-year-old Challa visited the dependent herd. Little Musiara stood next to the big ex-orphan, clearly trying to measure himself up against him. Challa is twice his size — perhaps Musiara was wondering how long it would take for him to reach such an impressive height!

As is typical during the dry season, lots of wild elephants and ex-orphans have been filtering through Ithumba. One morning, Kinna, Kama, Kaia, Mutara, Mambo, Turkwel, Suguta, Siangiki, Mundusi, Kainuk, and Turkwel joined the orphans. Mundusi, who left with Kinna’s herd a few months ago, had a lovely reunion with his old friends Jotto, Musiara, and Sattao. We suspect he was regaling them with tales of the wild.

Perhaps he planted a seed: This month, Ambo and Jotto started reporting back to the stockades on their own schedule, sometimes hours after the other orphans returned home for the night. This is usually a telltale sign that orphans are beginning to explore their independence. 

Ever since Kamok went wild, Ambo has been spending more time on his own. He and Kamok were very close, and we wonder if he is waiting for her to return. However, it has been awhile since Kamok visited the dependent herd. She is clearly enjoying her independence in the wild! We feel sure that Ambo will make a new best friend soon, or perhaps this will expedite his own reintegration journey.

Mambo, Mutara’s wild-born baby, remains a great favourite among the dependent orphans. He is very spoiled, but unlike other wild-born babies, he doesn’t flaunt his superiority. (Many of the other wild-born babies push the envelope with the dependent herd, over-confident in the knowledge that their mothers, siblings, and nannies will always defend them.)  

By contrast, Melia’s baby, Milo, is such a rascal. This month, we saw him tackle Kinyei, Naleku, and Sana Sana. Despite his repeated assaults, the three girls played with him very gently, knowing that he was just trying to show off in front of everyone. Milo is taking after Lapa and Nusu, the original rascals!

But the real original rascal is Wendi. One afternoon, the orphans were joined briefly by wayward ex-orphan Wendi and her children. Roho tried to wrestle with Wimbi, Wendi’s youngest daughter. However, he quickly made himself scarce when he saw Wendi approaching — her unpredictable reputation precedes her!

Speaking of reputations — Narok has become an infamous kidnapper. She has kidnapped Esoit, Neshashi, Naleku, Lodo, and Sagateisa. Although all the youngsters were eventually accounted for, she gave the Keepers a real headache in the process. This month, she was back to her old tricks. 

It happened in the afternoon, while the orphans browsed in the northern Kalovoto area. Kauro, Rapa, Tumaren, and Narok passed by, unbeknownst to the Keepers. They managed to convince six dependent orphans — Esoit, Kuishi Jotto, Sagateisa, Dololo, and Mukkoka — to veer off with them. We are sure that Narok was the mastermind behind the kidnapping.  

Just before dark, the Keepers finally located the group. They weren’t in a hurry at all; in fact, they were nonchalantly moving further and further away, browsing without a care in the world! The Keepers walked the missing six dependent orphans back home, breathing a collective sigh of relief when they were finally secured in their stockades for the night.

Neshashi, who decided to go wild last month, is doing very well. She remains a frequent visitor around the stockades, in the company of her ex-orphan friends Malkia, Sana Sana, Enkikwe, Mapia, Vuria, and Nabulu. She embraced her independence at quite a young age, but we find this is often the case with orphans who were rescued on the older side. 

Roho loves to be the centre of attention, but one day, he got attention for all the wrong reasons. Noticing ex-orphan Mutara resting on the ground, he decided to take advantage of her prone position and climb atop her. Mutara is 14 years old, living wild, a mother, and a matriarch — in other words, she commands respect. Shocked by the young bull’s audacity, she stood up in a fury and chased him away. Roho ran as fast as his little legs could carry him, disappearing out of sight. He learned a valuable lesson about respecting his elders!

As the dry season continues to bite, wild elephants know that we are a source of support. One morning, a wild herd arrived outside the stockades compound before dawn. The water troughs had been emptied in the night, but they knew that the water bowser would be along soon enough to refill them. The wild babies relaxed while their mothers patiently waited. When the dependent orphans emerged from their stockades, Sagateisa, Naleku, Suguroi, and Olorien made a beeline for the little ones.

The month closed with a sight emblematic of our challenging times. As Naleku led the orphan herd into the stockade compound, they came across a big herd of ex-orphans and wild elephants. They were all there for water, each taking turns to approach the trough for a drink, before retreating to make way for the next group to quench their thirst.

August 2023 day to day

01 Aug

Little Esoit felt like stretching his stiff morning limbs this morning, which he did by sitting and stretching out his back legs and throwing his trunk up in the air. Roho passed by and decided to start a pushing game with Esoit while he was sitting down. Mukkoka briefly played with Sattao while Nabulu joined the dependent orphans to feed on some lucerne. Ambo walked over to her Nabulu and seemed to be chatting with her. Perhaps he was asking where she has been these past few days. When the orphans were done with their lucerne breakfast, Kindani led the way out to the bush.

The orphans decided to spend their morning in the Kone area where they browsed peacefully. Esoit and Kindani had a wrestling match, but their tussle ended up too close to where Kuishi was trying to eat. Kuishi walked in between them to end their game and encouraged them to browse with her instead. Naboishu was browsing next to Ambo.

Roho, Sagateisa, Naleku and Kinyei stopped briefly on the way to the mud bath to roll around in some loose soil. Roho and Naleku seemed to be competing who could have the best sitting and stretching exercise between them, but Naleku didn't realise that mischievous Roho had other plans. Roho quickly stood up and climbed on Naleku's back. Naleku tried as much as possible and at last managed to shake Roho off her back. She stood up and walked away as fast as possible before Roho could try climbing on her again.

At mud bath time the orphans had their milk and some fresh water from the trough. Today Naleku was the only one who decided to wallow in the mud bath before following her friends back out the bush.

In the afternoon Esoit engaged Bondeni in a pushing game while Roho, as usual, played with Naboishu. The ever-joyful Suguroi had her own fun rolling on the ground. Just before 5 o’clock, Larro led the way back to the stockades for the night.

Esoit takes a quick nap as Kuishi looks on

Roho riding on Naleku's back

Maramoja walking to get his midday bottle