Keepers' Diaries, June 2016

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

We can’t help but feel a little tired of the incessant rain this past season in Nairobi, but this has not been the case in Ithumba with the April May rains falling short of expectations. This has meant that a lot of wild elephants as well as the Ex Orphans have remained within the orbit of the stockades, sharing the lucerne hand-outs and the water troughs with the milk dependent orphans. It has also been very hot this month and orphans who never normally enjoy wallowing have also been indulging on hot days, namely Orwa, Barsilinga, Kithaka, Lemoyian and Bomani. The 8th of the month proved quite the spectacle with 30 wild elephants and 45 Ex Orphans all together in the stockade compound in the early morning hours just as dawn broke.. One of these bulls, known as “Limpy” has been seen several times coming to drink at mud bath time, the snare wound that was treated a month ago now healing well. However, we continue to keep an eye on it in case it needs further attention, since the wound was deep. We are certain that he is using the safe environment of the stockade area as he recuperates, understanding that it is a safe haven in which to recover. The sheer number of wild elephant visitors has proved somewhat intimidating for the Junior Orphans, who give way to their seniors, as they should, though often not before grabbing a pile of lucerne to carry off and eat at their leisure!

We can’t help but feel a little tired of the incessant rain this past season in Nairobi, but this has not been the case in Ithumba with the April May rains falling short of expectations. This has meant that a lot of wild elephants as well as the Ex Orphans have remained within the orbit of the stockades, sharing the lucerne hand-outs and the water troughs with the milk dependent orphans. It has also been very hot this month and orphans who never normally enjoy wallowing have also been indulging on hot days, namely Orwa, Barsilinga, Kithaka, Lemoyian and Bomani. The 8th of the month proved quite the spectacle with 30 wild elephants and 45 Ex Orphans all together in the stockade compound in the early morning hours just as dawn broke.. One of these bulls, known as “Limpy” has been seen several times coming to drink at mud bath time, the snare wound that was treated a month ago now healing well. However, we continue to keep an eye on it in case it needs further attention, since the wound was deep. We are certain that he is using the safe environment of the stockade area as he recuperates, understanding that it is a safe haven in which to recover. The sheer number of wild elephant visitors has proved somewhat intimidating for the Junior Orphans, who give way to their seniors, as they should, though often not before grabbing a pile of lucerne to carry off and eat at their leisure!

The three new arrivals, Enkikwe, Olsekki and Siangiki, have settled incredibly well into their new environment, although they often stick together throughout the day. Nevertheless., as usual the older orphans have been welcoming to them , especially the females and Matriarchs amongst the groups. Independent orphan Sities, from Mutara’s group, has been very adoring of the new trio and Narok, the older orphan with whom the three share a stockade, was at hand to protect them when a Civet Cat passed by the Stockade and scared them on the 2nd of the month. After Narok charged to scare it away, the newcomers ran up to her and swamped her with affection, grateful that they had an older friend to protect and comfort them. The only individual who has been slightly less welcoming is Lemoyian, who, for a long time has enjoyed the special status of being the privileged “baby” and who often throws his weight around the young trio with unacceptable behaviour such as nicking their food. The awe inspiring company of the many huge bulls that have been visiting the area must be quite a sight for the little newcomers who may not even remember having seen such large elephants before! That said, they have been bravely venturing closer to these mighty giants and on the 5th Enkikwe gathered sufficient courage to manoeuvre himself in amongst 15 wild bulls who had arrived at the mud bath water trough to drink, drinking as much as he could rapidly before retreating to his junior peers. However, the new little boys haven’t altered their behaviour much, so the Head Keeper has decided to still feed them last because of their tendency to be greedy and pushy at milk feeding times, often snatching bottles of milk that are intended for others!

Ex Orphan Tomboi arrived at the Stockade Compound early during the morning of the 6th with a slight limp. A few days later we noticed an abscess forming which later turned into a wound that needed attention. The interaction between the dependent orphans and wild born babies such as Mulika’s baby, “Mwende” who is now 4 years old, has been entertaining this month in competition for each others’ food resulting in a tussle!. At such times Laragai is often at loggerheads with wild born Mwende and also “Yetu”, Yatta’s wild-born calf who is likewise 4 years old. However, this does not apply to baby “Wiva” (Wendi’s w;d-born), who as the smallest is adored by all! Laragai, especially, loves to oversee the baby while Lualeni likes to play with her. Wiva is showered with attention from many of the dependant orphans as well, such as Narok, Bomani, Olsekki, Siangiki and Enkikwe. The baby loves all the attention she gets from the Nannies and older friends alike and is a very playful spoilt “brat” – mock charging and basking in all the attention like a pampered princess!

Orwa enjoys sparring with his seniors and will take advantage of any occasion to take on those old enough in a play fight in order to hone his skills in this respect. Such bravado, however, does not always end well though for the young bull, especially when he is faced by some of the older females!. On one occasion he was sent packing when Murka, his senior by 2 years, proved a tougher opponent!

On a few nights this month, Mutara and her herd, comprised of Sities, Turkwel, Kainuk, Suguta and Kanjoro, arrived to spend the night outside the Stockades in the compound in order to join in the morning lucerne hand-out . On the 17th Olare and Chaimu’s groups reported to the Stockade in the dead of the night and by morning were all sleeping soundly together just outside, waking up to feed with the juniors on the delicious lucerne dry weather supplement..

Mulika’s Ex Orphan herd still fluctuates in terms of membership – normally she is with her calf Mwende and Zurura and sometimes with Nasalot, Makena, Ishanga, Kilaguni, Chaimu, Makireti, Kasigau and Kilabasi. There was a lot of activity towards the end of the month which kept our Keepers and our Anti-poaching teams on their toes. On the 23rd we were alarmed to hear of an elephant carcass found not far away and rushed to the scene to confirm that it was not one of the Ex Orphans, discovering that it was a wild bull aged approximately 20 years, who had succumbed from poisoned arrow wounds but who still had his ivory intact - a tragic loss. The ivory was removed and handed over to the KWS Rangers who was present. The next day we were again alarmed when our Ex Orphan Suguta arrived at the mud bath with her herd of 6 (herself, Mutara, Sities, Turkwel, Kainuk and Kanjoro) and with wire around her foot! The Keepers immediately rushed to remove it and thankfully it was not on long enough or taught enough to cause her any injury. Anti poaching efforts in the northern area have been intensified as a result with an third team have deployed to this area given how many elephants are congregating in the northern Tsavo this dry season. On the 27th we were delighted when Ex Orphan Rapsu turned up at the stockade, having not been seen for some weeks. He partook of the lucerne in amongst both the dependent and visiting Ex Orphans who were present that morning.

June 2016 day to day

01 Jun

The Ex Orphans were at the stockade compound early in the morning. Soon after the gates opened for the juniors to come out, Lenana walked in to welcome them. She met with Narok and they entwined their trunks in morning greetings. Olsekki, Siangiki and Enkikwe walked down to the water trough where three wild bulls were drinking water. The three new babies raised their trunks to sniff the wild bulls then turned and left. Orwa engaged Makena in a pushing game as Lualeni lay down to allow Wiva to climb on her. Wiva was playful this morning and soon after playing with Lualeni, she walked down and joined the orphans to feed on lucerne. From time to time she mock-charged and threatened the orphans with her ears raised. She played this way with Olsekki, Laragai and Bomani. She later moved to watch a pushing game between Lenana and Narok. Wiva tried to stretch her trunk up to communicate with Lenana but she couldn't reach Lenana's mouth, so she gave up and followed Enkikwe to the water trough. At the browsing field Enkikwe went down on his knees to uproot a shrub with his mouth since he tried with his trunk but he couldn't manage. The orphans had a quiet morning and concentrated only on browsing. At mud bath time, the orphans were joined by twenty wild bulls and the Ex Orphans. Teleki engaged Makena in strength testing exercise, Vuria tried to intervene but Makena resisted and pushed him away leaving Teleki to enjoy playing with her. Bomani tried to invite Kithaka to a pushing game by holding his trunk but Kithaka didn't respond. He disengaged himself from Bomani and walked away. Bomani walked towards Chaimu where they both engaged in a pushing game; unfortunately Bomani bowed out after he was hit hard by the no nonsense Chaimu. Shortly before leaving, Teleki learned a few pushing techniques by engaging Kenze in a pushing game. Laragai lagged behind playing with Wiva when the orphans returned back to browse. The keepers had to intervene by calling Laragai to make sure she didn’t disappear with the Ex Orphans. Laragai heeded the keepers call and ran to join her friends. In the afternoon, Olsekki settled to browse with Vuria and in the evening, Orwa, Narok and Teleki took a break from feeding to participate in a soil dusting exercise.

Makena plays with Teleki

Wiva and laragai

Enkikwe uprooting a shrub

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