Keepers' Diaries, December 2016

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

The big news this month occurred towards the end when six of the Nursery Orphans joined the herd at the Relocation Stockades at Ithumba. Rain over the past month was sufficient to replenish the vegetation of the dry season so with adequate browse available, it was a good time for the babies to move to Ithumba. Although they will remain milk and Keeper dependent for a long time still – (probably another five years) before gaining the confidence to venture further afield with their Ex Orphan friends. However, interaction with the older elephants and their wild friends, coupled with the fact that Tsavo provides ideal elephant habitat, made this the right transition for the babies from the Nursery. On the 28th Kamok, Roi and Oltaiyoni arrived at the Ithumba Stockades at 10.30 in the morning after a successful trip down in the Relocation truck. By that time the ambient temperature was rising, promising a hot day ahead, presenting quite a shock for the newcomers from the cooler climes of the Nairobi Nursery! They were soon joined by old friends from the Nursery, namely Olsekki, Enkikwe, Siangiki, Boromoko, Sokotei, and Sirimon along with Kithaka, Barsilinga and Lemoiyan. Slowly, in batches of three, all the Ithumba dependent orphans were called in to join them. With ears flapping incessantly it was evident that the warmer temperature at Ithumba was being felt, as the newcomers splashed water between their legs and over their heads to cool their ears. However, it was not long before they began to feast on all the shrubs, bushes, and fresh grass, all of which was abundant at this time of year.

The big news this month occurred towards the end when six of the Nursery Orphans joined the herd at the Relocation Stockades at Ithumba. Rain over the past month was sufficient to replenish the vegetation of the dry season so with adequate browse available, it was a good time for the babies to move to Ithumba. Although they will remain milk and Keeper dependent for a long time still – (probably another five years) before gaining the confidence to venture further afield with their Ex Orphan friends. However, interaction with the older elephants and their wild friends, coupled with the fact that Tsavo provides ideal elephant habitat, made this the right transition for the babies from the Nursery. On the 28th Kamok, Roi and Oltaiyoni arrived at the Ithumba Stockades at 10.30 in the morning after a successful trip down in the Relocation truck. By that time the ambient temperature was rising, promising a hot day ahead, presenting quite a shock for the newcomers from the cooler climes of the Nairobi Nursery! They were soon joined by old friends from the Nursery, namely Olsekki, Enkikwe, Siangiki, Boromoko, Sokotei, and Sirimon along with Kithaka, Barsilinga and Lemoiyan. Slowly, in batches of three, all the Ithumba dependent orphans were called in to join them. With ears flapping incessantly it was evident that the warmer temperature at Ithumba was being felt, as the newcomers splashed water between their legs and over their heads to cool their ears. However, it was not long before they began to feast on all the shrubs, bushes, and fresh grass, all of which was abundant at this time of year.

Just three days later, on the 31st, Tusuja, Kauro and Naseku arrived at the Ithumba Stockades from the Nursery shortly before 10 a.m. to join their three friends. Oltaiyoni exchanged greetings with Kauro but Kamok appeared totally unconcerned! That first day for Naseku, Kauro and Tusuja was spent close to home, without venturing too far as they concentrated on feeding and becoming familiar with their new surroundings. Narok was particularly taken with Naseku and kept on following her as she moved about feeding. In the evening the newcomers shared the electrically fenced Night Stockade with the established orphans, the six Nursery orphans sleeping together. Such Nursery friendships span a lifetime illustrated by the fact that our Ex Orphans now living wild are with the friends they made when babies in the Nursery all those years ago. Today Enkikwe, Olsekki and Siangiki who were moved down together last year, still remain close friends, teaming up together to browse throughout the day. However, the time will come when bulls Enkikwe and Olsekki will start to drift away from Siangiki and the main herd, forging their own more independent path, and perhaps joining some of the older bulls already out in the wild.

Narok persists in lavishing loving on all babies, as does her friend and Matriarch of this dependent herd, Laragai. When meeting up with the Ex Orphans on the occasional basis, they both make a beeline for little wild-born Wiva and Gawa in order to baby-sit them, but Nannies such as Meibai, Loijuk, Sidai, Naserian, Lenana and Chyulu always intervene to push them away! They must have been delighted at the end of the month when they had their own new babies from the Nairobi Nursery upon which to lavish their attention!

Mutara’s herd of six which includes Suguta, Turkwel, Kainuk, Sities and Kanjoro who had been missing since the beginning of the month, arrived to say hello on the 9th and thereafter were seen almost every other day until the 19th when they disappeared, reappearing on the morning of the 28th which happened to be the same day the new arrivals from the Nairobi Nursery arrived, confirming yet again our belief in the telepathic capabilities of Elephants since they invariably accurately predict the arrival of new Ex Nursery orphans. The Ex Orphans of Yatta’s herd had been seen only occasionally prior to the arrival of the Nursery newcomers yet the very next day after the arrival of Oltaiyoni, Kamok and Roi they turned up at the mud bath. Nasalot walked over to Kamok and tried to sniff her but Kamok was fearful and moved away. However all browsed together briefly before parting, but Chyulu and Lenana remained close to Roi and Oltaiyoni for sometime before following their friends.

Although there wasn’t an abundance of rain, the weather remained cloudy and windy on most days so the orphans favoured the smaller roadside rain puddles, splashing water behind their ears and coating themselves with a thin layer of mud to shield their skin from the sun. Whenever there was a light shower, the orphans took a browsing break to roll in the wet, red soil, which made the keepers remark that they all resembled giant red anthills! However, as the month wore on, the landscape dried out. One day, after having his milk near the main mud bath, Kithaka made the mistake of standing too close to the edge of the water hole where the soil beneath was loose so the bank collapsed and Kithaka landed in the mud, prompting him to enjoy another unexpected mudbath! Narok and Kasigau went to console him since it is well known that Kithaka is not overly fond of the mudbath.

The Ex Orphan trio of Makireti, Kasigau and Kilabasi, escorted the dependent orphans around a few times this month so were seen often, such interaction usually a recipe for incessant strength testing exercises amongst the young bulls. Ex Orphan bull, Zurura, was seen a couple of times this month, once in the company of the other Ex Orphans in Yatta’s herd while Taita and Tomboi were with a small group of Ex Orphans from Yatta’s herd with Galana and baby Gawa at the beginning of the month, and then right at the end on the 26th when Rapsu, Tomboi, Buchuma and Taita as well as Orok, Ololoo, Kilaguni, Makireti, Kilabasi and Kasigau arrived at mud bath.
The Ex Orphans have had a couple of wild bulls as company with Kasigau and a very special friend. The two of them have been hanging out together to the point that when the visit the stockades the wild bull is extremely trusting so it is very difficult to tell him apart from our hand raised orphans.

The elephants have been doing what they do best - opening up the thickets and knocking down a few trees in order to feast on delicious leaves at the top! One day Teleki managed to push down a small tree that was about to break anyway, and appeared very pleased with himself when it fell with a crash and he alone got to feast on his prize! Later in the month he tried to repeat the process but much to his disappointment, did not succeed!

December 2016 day to day

01 Dec

It was wet in the morning following a heavy downpour we received overnight. As usual the orphans briefly settled for lucerne before Laragai led the way to the browsing field. Sokotei settled to browse with Bongo while Bomani settled to feed with Laragai. The rest of the morning was quiet as the orphans browsed calmly without any major disturbances. At mud bath time, the orphans were joined by Yatta and Mulika’s groups. Lualeni tried to snatch a bottle of milk but was stopped by the keepers. Yatta extended her trunk and greeted Garzi, Bomani, Boromoko and Orwa. Soon after drinking their milk, Narok and Laragai went to babysit Gawa but gave up when Meibai and Yetu came over and tried to push them away. Half an hour later, the Ex Orphans parted ways with the juniors. In the afternoon, the orphans settled to feed in the Kanziku area where from time to time the group participated in mud wallowing in small water holes.

Sokotei feeding with Bongo

Bomani and Laragai

Kenze and Sunyei relaxing

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