Keepers' Diaries, January 2018

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Ithumba is fast drying out having enjoyed a very short green season throughout December. All of the Ex Orphans were around this month which shows us that water sources elsewhere are scarce. We make sure our orphans and the wildlife in this area are kept hydrated with our water bowsers which make daily trips to our borehole and the Tiva River, to fill up both the water troughs and the water hole where the orphans take their daily mud bath, and where wild animals come to drink too. Some of the wild bulls around this month were actually in hot pursuit of Ex Orphan Lenana who was apparently in season. The Keepers would see her run past the compound at pace, followed by three or sometimes four rather large wild bulls, including Half Trunk, all competing to be her suitor.

Ex Orphan Tomboi arrived on the 26th escorted by Yatta’s herd with an arrow wound on his side. The wound was swiftly treated and he is doing very well, thankfully making a full recovery.

All six of the orphans who moved down in December have settled in well. The Keepers refer to Maramoja, Rapa and Pare as the ‘racers’ as they are always running for their milk bottles, eager to be first. Towards the end of the month Rapa developed a bad stomach due to worms but received treatment and appears to have made a full recovery. Sapalan has weaned himself off the milk formula so is the only dependent orphan not drinking at bottle feeding times. Because of this, the Keepers have been wondering how long Sapalan will remain dependent in the stockades or if he will be tempted to join up with one of the independent herds hanging around the vicinity at the moment. It is amusing also to watch Namalok arrive for his milk, the Keepers have to quickly open and pour the contents of two bottles into a bucket, which he runs up to and swiftly dunks his trunk into in order to feed himself. He has had this habit since he arrived at the Nursery and it is not one he is about to give up anytime soon! This makes him very unique in this regard, because while we have had orphans begin their milk routines with a bucket before, they always graduate to a bottle once they are comfortable with their Keepers. Namalok is extremely comfortable with the Keepers, is a real softy in fact, but has not deviated from his bucket passion.

Clever little Laragai, who decided that it was time she and her friends try out a life in the wild by opening their stockade gate every night, is now partially independent. At first she left with Kithaka, Lemoyian, Garzi, and Barsilinga, but soon after the new arrivals came, Boromoko, Sirimon, Sokotei, Enkikwe, Siangiki and Olsekki joined them in the wild too. The new fairly independent team often show up in the morning to share lucerne with the other orphans and spend the day browsing with them, but they choose not to return to the stockades in the afternoon, or if they do, it is only to eat some of the supplements left out for them in their old stockade. The gate is left open and they are allowed to wander back out to the bush again; clever Laragai would only open the gate for herself anyway!

Sirimon and Boromoko, two bulls who joined Laragai’s herd later on, are often found separate to the main group and sometimes in the company of wild bulls. They are certainly learning all there is to know about a life in the wild. Enkikwe and Siangiki, whose friendship has really blossomed since arriving at the Ithumba Unit, remain very close friends despite becoming more and more independent and are constantly together.

Similarly, we noticed how Mutara’s independent group seems to be the only one which remains intact. Olare’s group is always changing, with members moving and swapping between other Ex Orphan groups, but Mutara’s has remained almost the same since they decided to leave the stockades. We think this is because her herd is comprised of females including herself, Suguta, Sities, Turkwel, Kainuk.

Since so many of the older boys in the Ithumba Unit have become increasingly independent, Galla is really trying to assert himself as the dominant bull amongst the dependent babies at Ithumba. Just like Garzi, he loves to learn lessons from those older than him living in the wild, like Boromoko, or those in Narok’s herd who became independent last year (Narok, Orwa, Bomani and Vuria) who also still frequently visit the stockades to share lucerne in the mornings.

January 2018 day to day

01 Jan

The orphans had a quiet morning today. Led by the running team that includes Maramoja, Rapa and Pare, the orphans settled to browse in the Kanziku area. The keepers refer to the new babies as the ‘racers’ as this as they run the fastest wherever they are going! They are always the fastest to run in for their milk. There was tension in the air when Wendi passed nearby with three bulls in hot pursuit of her. It appears that Wendi is in season and ready to have a second baby! Wiva is now two years and two months now. Maramoja raised her trunk in the air and ran towards the keepers as the rest of the group followed her. Later the orphans were joined by Taita who had followed them slowly up to the mud bath. The orphans enjoyed mud bathing in a smaller water hole slightly away from the main one, and after went back to browsing. In the evening, the temperatures were still high and the orphans passed by the mud bath for an evening cool-off. The orphans had a soil dusting exercise before heading back to the stockades.

Orphans at mud bath

Boromoko soil dusting

Kauro soil dusting