Keepers' Diaries, January 2024

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

In Ithumba, the new year began in a lively fashion. Ex-orphans Galana, Gawa, Naserian, Njema, Teleki, Ithumbah, Iman, and Makena showed up with two wild bulls in tow.

Everyone was having a very peaceful, enjoyable time, until Roho attempted to climb on Gawa. This was a bold move on his part — Gawa is the wild-born baby of an ex-orphan, and as such, enjoys protected status, and she is three years older than Roho besides! Predictably, a tussle ensued, until reliable Teleki stepped in to restore the peace.

Jotto, Mukkoka, and Dololo have started spending nights away from the stockades, although they continue to link up with the dependent herd most days. Throughout the month, we witnessed them clustered off with Naboishu, Musiara, and Sattao, who are still dependent — no doubt trying to recruit them to join their junior wild herd! The boys must be having some fabulous nocturnal adventures: One morning, Jotto, Musiara, and Dololo joined the group fresh from their night out, and Jotto promptly lay down to take a nap amongst his friends!

At the Nursery, Naleku and Roho behaved like two quarrelsome siblings. Well, some things never change! One morning, the bickering pair were up to their old tricks: Naleku woke up in a grumpy mood and pushed Roho aside. Roho took great offence and retaliated by biting Naleku’s tail, then running away! 

Nasalot’s son, Nusu, remains the master of mischief. As one day drew to a close, the orphans encountered ex-orphan Nasalot and her kids, Noah and Nusu, as they walked into the stockade compound. Mischievous Nusu tried to block the dependent orphans from passing, but a finger wave from the Keepers reminded him of his manners.

In fact, blocking the path is a favourite tactic of all elephants. Roho recently graduated up a class, joining the older group’s nighttime stockade. His roommate, Naboishu, decided to test their new relationship with a pushing challenge. He blocked Roho’s path at the gate, so he would be forced to engage with him. We marvelled at Roho’s ingenuity in avoiding this conflict: He slowly moved backwards, pretending he didn’t want to leave his room, until Naboishu got bored and was forced to change tactics. He lay down on the ground, enticing Roho to play on him. Again, Roho outwitted him and charged out, pinning Naboishu before dashing off. Later, Naboishu tried his luck with Olorien, but she managed to wriggle free and run away from the boisterous bull.

Larro is a notorious milk thief — and she has recently upgraded her tactics! She knows that Bondeni is a slow drinker and doesn’t finish his milk as quickly as the others, so that makes him a perfect target. While he is busy drinking his first bottle, she honest in on his second bottle. When the Keepers intervene, she stomps off to the water trough, sulking at being denied another milk bottle! 

Suguroi loves to cause drama. One day, she was up to her old tricks and started charging and trumpeting at empty bushes, trying to get the rest of the herd worked up. Unfortunately, her friends are used to her causing a commotion over nothing. Suguroi soon tired herself out and got bored when she realised that her friends were simply ignoring her.

Esoit is a very easy-going young bull, but he has gotten a bit spoiled by all the undivided attention older girl Kuishi lavishes on him. One day, Kuishi escorted Bondeni to the water trough for a drink. As soon as Esoit got wind of this, jealousy set in. He rushed over and managed to squeeze himself between Kuishi and Bondeni. Bondeni, who enjoys constant spoiling from his ‘big sisters,’ Kindani and Kinyei, wasn’t bothered. He walked off, leaving Esoit and Kuishi to enjoy themselves.

Last year saw the transition of many dependent orphans to wild-living elephants. Neshashi and Sana Sana are thriving in their new life, but they sometimes get a bit nostalgic! One morning, the girls attempted to join the dependent herd’s 6 AM milk feed. They lined up alongside Roho, Larro, and Naboishu to see if they would be offered a bottle.  

On 25th January, Sagateisa and Naboishu came across ex-orphan Karisa in the bush. Naboishu started playing with Karisa and then decided to follow him. Sagateisa, who has always been a very independent girl, couldn’t resist the opportunity to go on an excursion. She followed the boys with a trumpet and the trio didn’t return all evening. The Keepers tried to follow them, but the thick bush once again hampered their efforts. Northern Tsavo East is exceptionally green right now, which is wonderful for elephants — but not so good for search missions! As with our wayward six graduates, Ahmed, Elerai, Tingai, Taabu, Rafiki, and Kitiak, who disappeared last month, we feel certain that we will see Sagateisa and Naboishu again. At nine years old, Karisa will be an excellent bull mentor for Naboishu. 

A few days later, we spotted a big group of ex-orphans heading towards the new Kalovoto dam. Suspecting the youngsters might be among them, we followed their path — and sure enough, there was Sagateisa! She was with Kinna and Olare's herd, dutifully taking care of Olare’s little baby, Ola. We tried our best to direct the herd back towards the Ithumba compound, but they were very reluctant to go. In the end, we decided to leave Sagateisa with Olare’s herd, happy in the knowledge that she has a family and a strong purpose in looking after Ola. 

January 2024 day to day

01 Jan

The day started with a lively visit at the stockade compound from ex-orphans Galana, Gawa, Naserian, Njema, Teleki, Ithumbah, Iman, Makena, and two wild bulls – a happy start for the first day of the year! The ex-orphans mingled with the orphans during the lucerne feeding for a while. However, the tranquillity was briefly disrupted when Roho, in a playful mood, attempted to climb on Gawa, leading to a small tussle between the two. Fortunately, Teleki stepped in just in time to prevent the situation from escalating further. Shortly after this encounter the dependent orphans, led by Olorien, headed out to the browsing fields to begin their day, and the ex-orphans went their own way.

Soon Lodo engaged Suguroi in a pushing game, while Larro teamed up with Esoit and Dololo to browse. Jotto browsed with his old friend Musiara. Mukkoka and Sagateisa moved away to browse separately on their own for a while. Kuishi and Sattao came across a small muddy puddle from which they enjoyed splashing behind their ears.

When it was time, Kindani led the first group for the noon milk feed while Naleku led the second one. After the orphans had their milk, Naboishu led the herd into the water to cool off. It was a very hot afternoon, and the orphans took a break from browsing to relax under some trees until it was cooler. Naboishu engaged Mukkoka in a brief strength testing match before the day ended with a peaceful amble back to the stockades, guided by Esoit.

Ex-orphans visiting in the morning


Dololo enjoying Lucerne