Keepers' Diaries, December 2019

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Christmas came early at Ithumba when on the 12th December Sidai, with her fellow ex-orphan friends, arrived at the stockade before dawn with a surprise for us, in the form of a baby girl approximately four months old walking beside her! The last time we saw Sidai was way back in June, and since then she must have gone to have her baby with her friend Nasalot alongside her, who we had also not seen for some time either. We called her little one ‘Sita’ meaning six, being the 6th wild born baby born to our graduate orphans this year. 

Wanjala and Mteto followed Sita to try to play with her, but Sita didn't trust them and so declined, keeping up with her mum and hiding under her tummy for safety. It must have been a lot to take in for the little youngster, being her first trip to the stockades and all its unfamiliar surroundings, and human beings too!

Kithaka, Lemoyian, Barsilinga and Garzi continue to do as they wish, becoming more independent by the day, sometimes joining the dependent orphans and browsing with them during the day, to return with them in the evening, and sometimes staying out for the night. Often they will rock up to the stockades a bit later at night after all the other orphans have returned home, and the Keepers will lock them in for safety; they always stay with the dependent orphans and the Keepers when the lions are around. One day Teleki and Vuria, who are with Yatta’s ex-orphan herd at the moment, teamed up to pick on Garzi as if to ask why he hasn’t joined them in the wild full-time yet. These elephants were such good friends when they were in the stockades together, having all been moved from the Nairobi Nursery around the same time in 2014, but all elephants are different and while Vuria and Teleki have stayed together and become more independent, Garzi is biding his time and going about it at a slower pace with Kithaka and Barsilinga’s little group.

Turkwel also does as she pleases sometimes joining Kithaka’s small herd and sometimes staying with the Ithumba dependent orphans. She even teamed up with Nasalot’s ex-orphan herd on the 16th, including Nasalot, her baby Nusu, Loijuk, Lili, Ishanga, Makireti and Kilabasi and sometimes Makena and Kasigau. She stayed with the ex-orphans until the 20th when she linked up with the Ithumba dependent herd again at the mud bath, and returned with them to the stockades that evening. We were sad to notice that when Nasalot’s herd first arrived on the 14th, ten year old Ishanga was missing the tip of her trunk. It's unclear what happened, but fortunately it has healed okay.

Nasalot’s baby Nusu is such a little rascal, nothing has changed there, and he loves playing with the Ithumba babies, especially Mundusi who is always eager to play with anyone, but his favourite sparring partner is usually Tusuja who is the most willing to oblige him; Mundusi still doesn’t have a very good running streak with his games and usually ends up being defeated! One evening he made the mistake of tackling Sapalan who would never let a youngster get away with trying to embarrass him in front of the others and he fought back quite brutishly, eventually driving Mundusi away. Sapalan’s favourite playmate is still his Nursery-friend Namalok (who still insists of drinking his milk out of a bucket instead of a bottle). Mundusi then thought he would try and take on Karisa, a year older than him, perhaps because he has not been well lately and he thought he might be an easier target. Although Karisa had not yet regained his full strength, most bulls are very proud and would never sit back and allow a younger bull to humiliate them in front of other juniors and Karisa defended himself by fighting back. The Keepers then intervened by verbally warning Mundusi to watch out as he isn’t supposed to challenge those who aren’t feeling well.

Karisa’s health is much improved since his incident with the lions and with his bad leg prior to that as well, and he has re-joined the rest of the herd. He was welcomed back by Naseku who was very happy to see him. Esampu settled to browse close to Karisa but then attempted to take some grass from Karisa's mouth. Karisa wasn’t happy and seemingly informed Esampu that although he had been sick for a while, it didn’t mean that anyone could take advantage of him and he pushed her away; Esampu had the smarts to move off pretty quickly rather than upset Karisa further.

Following the plentiful rains we received last month, and throughout December as well, the water pans across the area are full to the brim and the orphans enjoy playing in the muddy puddles found dotted around. Sometimes they prefer these smaller, muddier puddles to the main waterhole which now resembles more of a lake! On very hot days however, the orphans are happy to dive in and have a long swim, splashing and mucking around. Swimming always presents a good time for some of the orphans to take advantage of their buoyancy in water, to try and climb on some of their friends that they normally wouldn’t be able to on land; Tusuja is especially fond of such antics! Some of the ex-orphans can often be found enjoying the main waterhole too – Kinna and her baby Kama especially seem to love swimming.

December 2019 day to day

01 Dec

The orphans left the stockade early as usual and settled for some lucerne pellets. Shortly later, Ambo led one group out to feed on all the fresh vegetation around, instead of the pellets. Later, the rest of the group followed with the exception of Barsilinga and his friend Garzi who lagged behind to pick up the remaining pellets. Turkwel, Kithaka and Lemoyian, who had spent the night out, showed up and teamed up with Barsilinga and Garzi. 

Out in the bush, the orphans took a break from feeding to have fun rolling on the ground. Mundusi had a brief strength testing exercise with Tusuja that ended when Mundusi surrendered. At mud bath time, the orphans decided to wallow in the big mud bath soon after their midday milk feeds. Kithaka and Garzi as usual had fun pushing one another while still in the water. In the afternoon, Namalok had a good time playing with his playmate Sapalan. The rest of the day was quiet as the orphans concentrated mostly on browsing. 

Ambo busy

Barsilinga and Garzi

Mundusi playing with Tusuja