Keepers' Diaries, December 2017

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Following the November rains which continued into early December, there was plenty of vegetation around for the orphans to relish and the Keepers watched as they ran between one plant and bush to the next, selecting their favorite things to eat, almost overwhelmed by the variety available suddenly. The rain tapered out towards the end of the month but clouds lingered and we were hopeful that we would be blessed with more rain before the end of the year to see us through the next few, customary, dry months ahead, but sadly this didn't happen.

Following the November rains which continued into early December, there was plenty of vegetation around for the orphans to relish and the Keepers watched as they ran between one plant and bush to the next, selecting their favorite things to eat, almost overwhelmed by the variety available suddenly. The rain tapered out towards the end of the month but clouds lingered and we were hopeful that we would be blessed with more rain before the end of the year to see us through the next few, customary, dry months ahead, but sadly this didn't happen.

Nevertheless, with the Ithumba water holes replenished and vegetation abundant across the region, it was high time to relieve the Nairobi Nursery of some of its older orphans, and this green season is the time to make these translocations. On the morning of 7th December, Kauro, Sapalan and Namalok were the first to arrive from the Nairobi Nursery, and were eagerly greeted by Roi, Galla and Dupotto. Roi entwined her trunk with Namalok but later pushed him to show him who was boss. Sapalan was less of a pushover however and turned to defend himself from Roi. Eventually he settled down, and was followed by Oltaiyoni who tried to comfort him by placing her trunk on his back. The young bulls, including Sirimon, greeted the new boys in their bullish way, climbing on them to show who was the most dominant. Despite having been to Ithumba before, Kauro followed his keepers around and stayed close to them throughout the day. This was the second move to Ithumba for Kauro, who returned to the Nursery in May 2017 after his loss of condition became a concern in the months following his first translocation to Ithumba. Now that he is fighting fit once more we reunited him with old friends which he appeared to enjoy enormously, but he has become hooked on his Keepers too!

Just over a week later on December 16th, Pare, Rapa and Maramoja, arrived at the Ithumba stockades early in the morning. Roi, Galla, Kauro and Karisa were the first ones to meet the new arrivals and Kauro welcomed them with low rumbles, while Roi was her usual inquisitive self as she moved around the inspecting the new arrivals, gently touching them with her trunk remembering them from her Nursery days! After quenching their thirst at the water troughs, the new babies were led away to the browsing field. Pare seemed quite at home and immediately started feeding on grass flanked by Ukame, Galla and Naseku. Maramoja and Rapa stuck together and were later greeted by Ex Orphans Mutara, Turkwel and Suguta who checked in and walked straight up to the duo, eager to greet the new babies. At eleven o'clock in morning, the new arrivals were taken for their first mud bath in Ithumba, where they were joined by the senior Ex Orphans led by Yatta as well! Over the following weeks the new arrivals settled in very well, apparently delighted with their new surroundings excited by all the new experiences, comfortable in their larger elephant family.

At midnight on December 16th, the day Pare, Rapa and Maramoja arrived, eight year old Shukuru was loaded onto our translocation lorry and taken back to the Nairobi Nursery. Though she has been at Ithumba for the past four years, she has not been faring well of late and has lost a lot of condition; and Angela felt that the best place to treat and monitor her in a gentler environment was the Nairobi Nursery. This opportunity to transport her back was taken as we want to afford her the best chance of a full recovery. Both Ziwa and Kauro before her went through the same process and thankfully both made a full recovery.

Kithaka, Barsilinga, Garzi, Lemoyian, Siangiki, Enkikwe, Olsekki, Sirimon, Boromoko, Sokotei and their ring leader female Laragai are all no longer milk dependent and they are edging closer towards a more independent life. Its a slow process and they do not venture far, but Laragai religiously undoes the stockade door, carefully working the hinge up and free and then lets her sidekicks out. Under a wonderful full moon early in the month the mischievous group would play with visiting ex orphans, and wild friends, getting the opportunity to play with the wild born babies which is always a treat, but never venturing too far away however, and more often than not they would be found asleep outside their stockades in the mornings.

Sapalan, although recently arrived from the Nairobi Nursery, has decided to wean himself as well and is no longer interested in the milk formula, despite sleeping in a stockade with others that are. Having been rescued at a much older age, he is not in need of the formula and will be sustained by the varied and nutritious browse that Ithumba has to offer. Lemoyian’s tusk, which came loose some months back, also seems as if to be regenerating from the root, giving this young bull something to smile about.

On the 11th Mutara and Narok’s Ex Orphan groups came to visit the stockade compound and we noticed that Bomani too had something to boast; at last his tusks have pushed through after growing through the wrong route pushing against his skin, and he was delighted to take on any pushing game to show off his new features!

On Christmas Day we received a gift in the form of Olare’s herd who had not been seen since the beginning of November! It was lovely to see her as well as Melia, Tumaren, Kandecha, Kibo, Kalama, Chemi Chemi, Murka, Naisula and Kitirua and they stayed for the rest of the month close to home, socializing with the other orphans.

The other Ex Orphans and mothers in Yatta’s herd including Wendi, Nasalot, Kinna, Sunyei, and Galana were seen throughout the month with their babies. Kinna's wild born baby Kama cannot resist to interact with the Keepers shoving and pushing and giving little baby charges, and Kinna seems particularly unperturbed by these interactions, infact she welcomes them.

December 2017 day to day

01 Dec

The orphans left the stockade in a jovial mood and they were swinging their trunks from side to side. Out in the bush Galla dusted himself and scratched his buttocks on a nearby rock. Shortly later, he was joined by Ukame in the scratching exercise as the rest of the herd concentrated on feeding on grass. Following the November rains, the orphans have plenty to feed on and choose from and we watched as Dupotto, Lemoyian, Kithaka and Roi switched from one plant to another, choosing the best leaves they could lay their trunks on. Galana, Gawa, Nasalot, Nusu, Lualeni, Sidai, Challa, Lenana, Ololoo, Meibai Naserian and Loijuk paid a brief visit to the stockade before disappearing out into the Park. Olsekki took a break from feeding to participate in lone game of rolling on the ground. He was later joined by Sirimon. Lemoyian and Kithaka had a competition over who had the longest trunk as they stretched them high in the air to pluck succulent leaves. There was no winner since they both managed to get what they wanted. Later, Kithaka and Garzi, who are no longer on milk, settled for a strength testing exercise that ended in a draw.

Roi happily browsing

Galla and Ukame scratching

Olsekki playing

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