Ithumba Reintegration Unit
We have recently seen many wild bulls drift in from far and wide to take up residence at Ithumba as the dry season starts to bite. These bulls are very much a part of the Ithumba orphans and ex-orphans circle now, and even the little dependent babies feel very comfortable in their presence. Some are familiar faces to the Keepers too, having passed through over the years, and are happy to join in the mud bath or even a dusting exercise where large piles of loose soil are kept beside the mud bath.
One of the most familiar of these wild bulls goes by the name of ‘Dad’ to the Keepers, as they know he fathered some of the wild born young to our own ex-orphan girls – particularly Yatta’s and Mulika’s calves. Some recent visitors back into the fold were our very own ex-orphans, now living fully wild lives, like 17 year old Tomboi who arrived on the 16th, having not been seen since December. He arrived at the stockade water troughs with two wild friends one evening. Ex-orphan bull Rapsu, as well as 15 year old Challa have been around visiting several times this month, and fraternising with the dependent orphans and other ex-orphans like Mutara and her group, before disappearing again. Challa particularly enjoys the main mud bath, swimming and lolling around without a care in the world. One day he left the water in such an excitable mood that he went charging and trumpeting off into the bush!
Some of our ex-orphan females with their wild born young and nannies chose to visit us this month too. At the beginning of the month ex-orphan Loijuk, her baby Lili, Olare, Kinna, her baby Kama, and Kalama showed up. We last saw them in March and we were delighted to see them again. From the moment they arrived they were rather mischievous with the youngest milk-dependent babies however, as not even two days after they arrived on the scene, Loijuk and Olare managed to steal Dololo away from the Keepers. When the Keepers realised what had happened they had to mount a search to locate them, and their suspicions were correct. They located him with his new-found friends having a riot of a time. Despite Loijuk and Olare’s best intentions, Dololo is still very much milk-dependent and is still too young to live independent of his Keepers and milk just yet. We are sure Olare and Loijuk were perfectly aware of this as well; it was written all over their faces as they sheepishly delivered him home in haste after they were found out!
Towards the middle of the month some of the wild bulls started to follow Loijuk around, and she Olare and baby Lili looked quite tired one afternoon, as they had obviously been forced to keep up the walking pace to avoid the advances of these bulls trailing behind. Evidently Loijuk is in season again, and took the opportunity of staying close to the stockades to rest up from all the attention and Lili chose to have a nap too before the pursuit of her mother continued.
It wasn’t only Loijuk and Olare who took a fancy to our smallest dependent babies either. On the 18th Mutara’s herd arrived in the company of ex-orphans Melia, Tumaren, Chemi Chemi, Kibo and Kandecha. A wild bull, who appeared to be interested in Melia, was also trailing behind them. The following day Melia took it upon herself to steal half of the dependent orphan herd and hide with them around the Ithumba Hill lodge area! Those who took off with Melia and her herd were Sattao, Karisa, Kuishi, Ndiwa, Maramoja, Sapalan, Rapa, Roi, Ukame, Namalok, Olsekki, Siangiki and Galla. The Keepers finally managed to locate them at six o'clock in the evening and brought them back to the safety of the stockades for the night. Barsilinga, who had spent the night out with Garzi, also showed up and was ushered into the stockades. We saw a few other ex-orphans sporadically this month including some of our other ‘mums’ like Sunyei who arrived on the 12th with her baby Siku, Lenana and Ishanga came too. They arrived at the stockade compound in the evening and teamed up with Mutara’s herd.
Little Dololo is a firm favourite with all of the older females, especially Sities in Mutara’s ex-orphan herd, along with Kainuk, Suguta, Kanjoro (who comes and goes), Mutara of course and Turkwel who has re-joined them again as well. Mutara’s herd was very much present this month, waiting for the dependent orphans outside the stockade compound almost every day. Sities would run up in excitement to Dololo, hug her to him with her trunk and escort him out to browse. At noon she would even lead him down for his milk bottles and patiently stand beside him, waiting for him to finish. She is very gentle when they play, careful not to push Dololo too hard and hurt him. Suguta is also showing a strong interest in Dololo as well and sometimes tries to steal him from Sities. We have watched them try to outdo each another while competing over who can look after Dololo Musiara and Sattao best.
Orwa, Bomani, Chemi Chemi, Kilaguni, Kithaka, Lemoyian, Garzi, Kibo and Kandecha like to hang around with Mutara’s herd and were often with the Ithumba dependent orphans this month as well. Barsilinga, who was once with this herd but has been at the Ithumba Stockades for a few months now due to an injured foot, is starting to spend more time with his old buddies and is becoming more independent as his foot heals. He especially likes wandering off with his friend Garzi and will not always return home in the evenings now.
We saw Kitirua as well a couple of times this month, who used to be in Olare’s herd but now tends to wander on her own flitting between ex orphans groups. Meibai also returned this month to spend time closer to home.
Mundusi and Tusuja are firm play-mates, just like Sapalan and Namalok who can be seen playing together on an almost daily basis. Turkwel since she recovered fully from her lion attack a couple of years ago has permanently re-joined her herd and age mates, and Enkikwe, another victim of a lion attack around the same time is also healing very well despite being dealt severe injuries to his rear leg. The Keepers are thrilled to see him looking so much stronger, and he is now able to defend himself in most pushing games despite his compromised leg. One day we watched him enjoy a pushing game with Kamok that ended in a draw, so he really managed to hold his own and prove how much fitter he is becoming.
Maramoja is really developing her nurturing skills; with the arrival of the new babies to the Ithumba Unit in May she is doing her best to look after them with special attention given to Musiara. Whenever one of them rumbles or seems distressed she runs to their side without delay. Siangiki’s favourite little boy is still Ambo and she likes to follow him around all day, and the feeling is mutual with Ambo relishing the attention. Naseku has also developed an interest in Ambo, and sometimes joins Siangiki and Kamok too in escorting Ambo around for the day. The younger, smaller babies are benefitting hugely from being surrounded by all these older nurturing females not only because of the attention showered upon them all day, but for all the practical knowledge they impart as well. Ambo walked over to join Kilaguni to feed on some acacia pods one morning. Since Ambo is much smaller and couldn't reach the pods in the tree, he decided to pick the fallen ones from the ground while Kilaguni enjoyed plucking the fresh ones from the tree above, dropping many for Ambo in the process.