Keepers' Diaries, June 2019

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Ithumba was a hive of activity this month as there were a huge number of wild bulls in the area who frequented the mud bath almost every day, as well as arriving at the stockades in the morning for water. One day there were at least forty of them at the mud bath, with a number of them new to the area and our orphans too. 

One new teenage bull even tried to charge at the orphans and Keepers as he was not familiar with them and their unusual mixed up group with humans in their midst. It just goes to show the communication between the bulls and the orphans in the area as in no time at all, the wild elephants new to the area come to accept the orphans and their charges, and although they will never be as close to the human Keepers, they accept and understand their presence with our babies.

This was also the first month at Ithumba for Mapia, Kuishi, Mapia, Jotto and Ambo. Jotto and Ambo were moved on the 11th of the month and everything went smoothly. They were very happy to see Kuishi, Mapia, Malima and Malkia who were the first to greet them and are familiar faces from the Nursery. Jotto found their new surroundings a little hot but Ambo took to it immediately and sauntered out of the new stockades the following morning as if he already knew the new routine of Ithumba life! Olare’s group was waiting outside the stockade on the morning of Jotto and Ambo’s first day at Ithumba and the Keepers had their eyes on them convinced they would try their funny kidnapping tricks. They were right to be vigilant, as no sooner as the orphans all walked out to browse, Melia and Olare tried to snatch Ambo and take off with him into the bush. The Keepers intervened and brought Ambo back into the fold, and once realizing that their intentions were now known, the two older girls decided to lie low and wait for the next available chance to play with the new babies.

Just a few days after Mapia, Kuishi and Malima arrived at Ithumba, a great number of ex-orphans including Mulika, Mwende, Lualeni, baby Lulu, Galana, baby Gawa, Teleki, Makireti, Kilabasi, Chaimu, Rapsu, Taita and Loijuk showed up at the stockade in the morning. It was a great relief to see Mulika and her baby Mwende who were last seen in October last year, and Teleki who was last seen last July. Perhaps the excitement of new arrivals to Ithumba drew them closer and they decided to return to say hello. We were very happy to see them all looking so well. 

Ithumba was full of new learning curves for the recent arrivals from the Nairobi Nursery, and was a real ‘graduation’ for them;the first real step towards becoming closer to living in the wild once again one day. The benefit of so many wild bulls being around in this dry season is that our orphans can learn so much from them. We often see the orphan babies imitating their behaviour and actions. One day Malima was surprised however when she approached a water trough to have a drink, and one of the young teenage wild bulls charged at her and chased her away. She thought she would be treated like the baby she is and would be allowed to approach, but she learnt a valuable lesson about respecting her elder’s boundaries. Ambo also got stuck in the mud bath one day as he tried to exit the wrong way, unfamiliar with his surroundings, and the Keepers had to help him out. Jotto was very unnerved one morning as the orphans had listened to the sounds of a leopard hunting all night on the rocks, and he chose to stay very close to his Keepers that day. He has certainly taken a little longer than Ambo to settle into his new surroundings and is still very attached to the Keepers. Malkia has been very sweet and instrumental in helping Jotto and Ambo settle down, always comforting them whenever they appear to be unsettled or unsure about something in their new environment. 

The benefit of our older graduate ex-orphans visiting as well, is that they are ‘family’ in a way, who can teach the younger orphans the ropes. Narok, Mutara and Olare’s ‘junior’ ex orphan herds stayed in the area and interacted with the dependent orphans on an almost daily basis; providing the babies with invaluable experience and knowledge. Kithaka, Barsilinga, Garzi and Lemoyian are really testing the limits of their independence now, and spend the days browsing separately from the dependent orphans, returning to the stockades of their own accord at night. Garzi is even choosing to spend more time with some of the older ex-orphans like Chaimu and Kilaguni as well. Olare and Mutara’s herds are quite vigilant about returning this little ‘rebel’ herd to the stockades at night though. It is interesting to watch these four young bulls test the boundaries of their independence and maturity; we watched Kithaka one morning when 16 year old ex-orphan Taita arrived at the stockades and Kithaka approached as if to initiate a pushing game, but as the big bull drew closer he realized that would be a bad idea and he swiftly retreated, all the while trying to save face!

Amongst the dependent orphan herd, Sapalan is growing in strength and confidence every day which is encouraging to see, and he is developed an interest in playing with Rapa in particular, and sometimes Karisa. Tusuja still enjoys showing off to all the others, and single-handedly tried to chase off a herd of buffalos one morning. When he eventually succeeded, he was very pleased with himself. Unfortunately Olsekki decided to push Wanjala as they were coming down the hill one day, and Wanjala fell and broke one of his tusks, but he was okay otherwise. Enkikwe’s leg continues to be treated every day and heals slowly but surely, but he will now always walk with a permanent limp since his lion attack.

June 2019 day to day

01 Jun

It was their first morning at Ithumba after sleeping in the open stockades for Mapia, Kuishi and Malima. The three followed the other orphans outside and were shown where the lucerne is served. Malima left with a branch in her mouth which she kept herself busy chewing as she waited to be shown the next step. Wanjala played with Rapa as Karisa handled Esampu. Shortly later, the orphans were joined by ex-orphans Meibai, Kilaguni, Bomani, Narok and Orwa. Kilaguni challenged Meibai but was defeated and so invited Orwa for a game. Orwa accepted but when the going got tough for him, he decided to surrender. Olsekki had a brief headstand exercise before following his friends out to browse. 

Later on, Tusuja made time for Kuishi and Mapia and the three interacted nicely for some time. Shortly before mud bath time, the orphans were joined by other ex-orphans Sunyei, baby Siku, Makena and Loijuk. At mud bath time, twenty two bulls were present. Siku had her own game of rolling on the ground as she was surrounded by her mother, Loijuk, Makena, Roi, Malkia and Sana Sana. In the afternoon, the orphans settled to browse in Kone area with Kuishi, Mapia and Malima learning the layout of the area. In the evening, the orphans returned back safely to the stockade only to find that Kithaka, Barsilinga and Garzi had already arrived a little earlier. 

Mapia and Malima after their morning Lucerne pellets.

Sunyei, baby Siku, and Makena browsing.

Tusuja seeing what Kuishi has in her mouth.

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