Keepers' Diaries, February 2019

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Encounters with the wild elephants was almost a daily occurrence for our dependent orphans this month up at Ithumba, largely due to the presence of water around the stockade area, given that the natural water holes pretty much dried up elsewhere due to the warm weather. 

Yatta and her ex-orphan herd including Wendi, Kinna, Sunyei and their wild born babies would visit the stockade area and stay for a few days at a time, drinking volumes of water, before disappearing for a few days again. Kithaka, Barsilinga and Garzi are still semi-dependent and would spend some days browsing away from the dependent orphans, before re-joining them in the evening, sometimes in the company of Yatta’s herd. Enkikwe and Lemoyian still like to try and follow this trio as well, and one day on the way to the mud bath they managed to slip past the Keepers and disappear with Barsilinga, Garzi and Kithaka. It took the Keepers nearly two hours to locate them and walk them back to join their friends.

It was lovely to see ex-orphan Lualeni and her five month old baby Lulu a couple of times this month. Lualeni and Lulu arrived in the company of fiercely protective nannies Naserian, Chyulu, Olare, Kitirua and Naisula. Naserian is Lulu’s main gate-keeper, and we watched on as Naseku, Malkia and Sana Sana kept following Lulu should they find the opportunity to play with her, but Naserian managed to block most of their attempts. Malkia didn't lose hope but remained patient waiting for the right time to present itself and at long last, her patience was rewarded when Lulu walked backwards without Naserian’s knowledge and Malkia managed to briefly greet her before giving way to Sana Sana and Mundusi who were dying just to say hallo to Lulu as well. At the end of the month we were happy to see ex-orphan Galana and her baby Gawa too, with two wild elephants. Gawa had a brief interaction with the dependent orphans before leading the way to the mud bath. 

Ukame has been very bad-tempered this month and has been quite mean to some of the other orphans, so the Keepers have kept an eye on her unpredictable bad behaviour. Sana Sana is yearning to be a leader, and enjoys leading the other orphans out in the morning to the bush. Perhaps it is her young age, but the others are not always keen to follow her straight away, and one day she employed the clever trick of acting scared and running out trumpeting, so all the others followed suit behind her. She was very proud of herself and achieving the task of getting all the orphans to leave the stockades when she wanted. 

While Ukame has been hot-tempered, Naseku has been active and playful, especially in the mud hole, as well as Tusuja who seems to have become a water baby, always first in and last to leave the mud bath. In the hot weather the orphans have encountered a lot of wild elephants and some of the ex-orphans at the mud bath, but all the elephants have been very polite and courteous of one another; sharing the mud bath and the big bulls allowing the orphans to drink from the water trough as well. At mud bath time on several days we saw 15 year old ex-orphan Rapsu with his two wild friends who joined the orphans for bathing.

We only saw 16 year old ex-orphan bull Tomboi once this month on the 7th. He was in the stockade compound early in the morning and joined the orphans for lucerne as soon as they came out of their night stockades. One day at the mud bath, twelve wild dogs were relaxing under a tree in the shade. At first, some of the orphans were scared by the presence of the wild dogs and started running towards the Keepers. The Keepers assured them all was well, just as ex-orphans Taita, Zurura and three wild friends emerged from north of the mud bath and drove the wild dogs away. 

Sadly when Mutara’s herd (Mutara, Sities, Kainuk, Suguta, Chaimu, Turkwel and Kilaguni) checked into the compound area on the 9th of the month we noticed that poor Turkwel had suffered scratches from lions, but in this instance her herd most certainly came to her rescue as she had mostly superficial scratches and cuts. Turkwel’s first encounter with these brutish lions was last year in August, after which she sadly lost her tail, but she thankfully was fairly unscathed this time. She was kept back with the dependent orphans just to be safe this month, and her herd continued to visit her throughout the month to check on her progress, and she was happy with this arrangement.

Ex-orphans Tumaren and Narok’s herds also showed up for a bit this month. Tumaren’s, comprised of Murka, Melia, Kandecha, Kalama, Kibo and Chemi Chemi, and Narok’s of Orwa, Bomani, Narok, Kanjoro and sometimes Kasigau and Kenze. Tumaren and company used to be led by Olare, but Olare has moved to join Lualeni and is one of the nannies taking care of Lualeni’s baby Lulu. It is interesting to note the shift in the ex-orphan herds recently. Ishanga, who normally remains group-less, has now teamed up with Naisula, Kitirua and Makireti. Makireti used to head her own group consisting of her, Kilabasi and Kasigau but now she is in this other group whose leader is Naisula. Naisula and Kitirua used to be part of Olare’s herd too. The configurations of their groups is interesting to observe, often dictated to by nanny duties, the tutoring and mentoring for bigger roles to come later, and of course providing necessary responsible leadership, all of which they work out amongst themselves. We their human family stand by and watch with fascination.  

February 2019 day to day

01 Feb

After leaving the stockade, Dupotto was not interested in feeding on lucerne and walked a distance away and settled to browse on the nearby bushes. She soon felt lonely however, and called out to her friends to come and join her. Only Sana Sana and Malkia responded and walked over to join her. The rest of the group followed later, but on the way, a troop of chattering baboons scared them. The orphans all ran south and the Keepers called them in an effort to calm them down and assure them of their safety. The orphans heard the Keepers calls and stopped. Kithaka, Roi, Wanjala and Karisa had their piles of lucerne with them that they had carried from the stockade compound. When the dust settled, the four orphans relaxed to have their lucerne before settling for some grass.

At around nine o'clock in the morning, Yatta and her group reported at the stockade compound and left shortly after drinking water. At mud bath time, the sun was really hot and the orphans had a spectacular wallowing session. After mud bath, Kamok engaged Tusuja in a light pushing game that was brought to an abrupt end by Olsekki, who pushed them both away. Three wild bulls reported at mud bath minutes after the orphans had left for browsing.

In the afternoon, Galla picked up a stick from the ground and used it to scratch in between his front legs. Namalok, who was standing close by, picked up a much bigger stick to scratch himself but it proved to be too heavy and he ended up dropping it. Later, Galla played with Rapa while Tusuja played with Olsekki as Enkikwe stood by pretending to be the referee. Kithaka, Barsilinga and Garzi left the group, only to reappear at the stockade compound later in the evening accompanied by Yatta’s group. 

Tusuja playing wih Kamok

Rapsu with 3 wild bulls

Namalok scratching