Keepers' Diaries, July 2019

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

This month was all about browsing for our young Ithumba babies as the area around Ithumba has become desperately dry, which is not unusual for this time of year. As a result, the orphans have spent much of their time feeding so as not to return to their night stockades at the end of the day with empty tummies. We are helping them too, with lucerne in the morning when they leave the stockades, and at times they are joined by older ex orphans who are benefiting from these supplements as well.

Kilaguni and Chaimu, Mutara, Narok and Olare’s herds all visited the stockades at some point during the month, either for water or to partake in some of the lucerne feeding. Sometimes they would accompany the orphans out to browse as well, happy for a short while to be back in the fold of the dependent babies and their human families. 

Ex-orphan Buchuma showed up for just one day to join in the lucerne feeding before saluting the orphans and wandering away, as well as dear Chemi Chemi who we had not seen since last April. He arrived for just one day as well to join in the lucerne feeding with a wild companion. Later in the morning he took Kithaka, Barsilinga, Garzi and Lemoyian with him and they walked off into the bush. Lemoyian, Kithaka, Barsilinga and Garzi still do as they please and either accompany the dependent orphans out to browse or not, but they usually return to the stockades in the evening regardless, as they are still fond of their milk formula. 

Ex-orphan Rapsu was among several wild elephants that reported for water early in the morning one day, and unlike his wild friends who are unfamiliar with the Keepers, orphans or the lucerne for that matter, he marched straight up to join them for breakfast with no qualms. Taita showed up one day as well, with two wild companions, for lucerne and at first his friends were suspicious of this feeding before they joined in, following Taita's lead. When the lucerne grass was distributed, one of the wild bulls made away with a complete bale, while the other took a bit and fed a distance from the orphans. Taita mingled freely with the orphans and after they were done with the lucerne, he led them to the water trough where they settled for water. After drinking enough, Sana Sana led the way out to browse.

One night Malkia, Ndiwa, Kuishi, Mapia, Mundusi and Sana Sana dodged the Keepers and followed Olare’s group out to the bush, but Olare’s herd understand that these babies are still much too young to spend the night out with them, and promptly brought them back to the stockade before five o'clock, the normal time for returning back for the night. 

Ten year old Turkwel is still very much within the fold of the dependent orphan Ithumba family since her lion attack and her best friend Kainuk, from Mutara's herd, also visits often as a result as well. One day she and Kainuk made off with Sapalan for most of the day until 7:30pm when they returned to the stockade. The two naughty girls were obviously playing off the fact that Sapalan has an independent spirit and is so healthy these days as well. Pare and some of the other bulls can now quickly lose a wrestling game to the once slow and inactive Sapalan, as Sapalan is now as lively as ever. Now that he is in fighting health Sapalan loves playing with his best friend Namalok, our little orphan who still insists on having his milk feed from a bucket.

Our recent arrivals from the Nursery this year have settled in so well it is hard to tell the difference between old hands and the babies that arrived in May and June. This is the first dry spell for Kuishi, Malima, Mapia, Jotto and Ambo to encounter, but they are handling it well, and watching the others kick up vegetation to eat and strip bark from trees and branches for nutrition. A lot of wild bulls are frequenting the mud bath at the moment, both for water and the opportunity to swim, and one day one accidentally knocked into little Ambo who stood nonchalantly behind him. This was an important lesson for Ambo in respecting his elder’s space, even if it might not have seemed so at the time.

Oltaiyoni, once the matriarch of the Nursery herd in her day and now a beautiful six year old elephant, is so respectful at feeding times she is unlike any other orphan before her. She usually arrives last to the noon milk feeding, and patiently stands back to wait for her milk bottle to be brought to her by one of the Keepers. Usually, this is how every feeding goes, but one day when she realised that the Keepers were not paying attention, she turned and saw an unguarded bottle of milk which she picked up and started helping herself to. By the time the Keepers noticed what was going on Oltaiyoni had already finished half the contents. When the Keepers called her, Oltaiyoni dropped the bottle and walked away, as if trying to teach the Keepers a lesson to always be on their guard!

July 2019 day to day

01 Jul

Two wild bulls were drinking water at the stockade water troughs when the orphans were let out. Mapia settled for scratching while Esampu walked down to join two wild bulls that were taking water. Shortly later, she was joined by the other orphans. Mundusi had a game of playing with Mteto but was interrupted by Roi who came in and tried to push Mundusi. The bulls left after drinking enough water. Wanjala and Ndiwa tried to follow the wild bulls but the Keepers intervened by calling them to come back. Out in the browsing field, Sapalan briefly engaged Namalok in a pushing game while Enkikwe knelt down to feed on some grass he really liked. At mud bath time, the orphans were joined by Kilaguni and Chaimu. The two ex-orphans accompanied the orphans back to the browsing field and in the evening, they all passed by the mud bath for an evening cooling-off exercise. After the evening mud bath, the orphans did some soil dusting to dry off, before going back to the stockade for the night. 

Esampu drinking with two wild bulls

Mteto, Roi and Mundusi

Sapalan playing with Namalok