Keepers' Diaries, March 2018

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

With such hot and stifling weather in February, we were delighted that the rains came early at the beginning of March. The rain quickly accumulated on the hard sun-parched soil which soon became wet and slippery for the orphans. They had to tread very carefully to avoid slipping but the soft pads on their feet meant they were not always successful. One day, Kamok’s rumbling stomach got the better of her and she bounded in for her midday milk feed in such a hurry she fell down with rather a hard thud! She got up and shook herself off, before stepping more carefully towards her milk bottle.

The plentiful rain means that the Ex Orphans and wild elephants also dispersed. From having up to eighty elephants at one time around the mud bath and stockade compound water troughs, at the first sign of rain, they scattered and we saw no elephants that day, later only seeing them sporadically. The senior Ex Orphan herds led by Yatta and Nasalot only resurfaced at the end of the month and there was much trumpeting and jubilating between the herds as they greeted each other and shared their news. As they have only recently earned their independence from the stockades, Laragai and Narok’s herds chose to stay put in the area, although Laragai’s herd have been boycotting the stockades at night. Tired staying in with the dependent orphans following semi-independent Enkikwe’s nasty brush with a lion, the group have become wise to the Keeper’s tricks of tempting them in with greens and they always choose not to return the next night. The exception to this is Siangiki, who sometimes chooses to accompany the dependent orphans back to the stockades - we are sure this is because she likes to check on her best friend Enkikwe.

Enkikwe is recovering well in the stockades and the injury to his right hind leg is still recovering. He has lost a bit of condition but he is starting to put a little weight on the bad leg and there is fresh skin growing over the wound. He also finds it itchy, which is a good sign of healing. So far we are happy with his progress but continue to monitor this poor little chap. Sirimon, from Laragai’s group, and Barsilinga also choose to accompany the dependent orphans as well sometimes. After watching the orphans struggle with the dry vegetation throughout the dry season, it is lovely to watch them almost spoilt for choice, dashing from one bush to the next to sample everything tempting in sight.

One morning Makena, Loijuk and Naserian also emerged from the Park, having appeared to have separated from the rest of their herd. They chose to hang around for awhile, mostly with Narok’s herd including Orwa and Bomani, and Laragai’s herd too. Boromoko was missing from Laragai’s herd but was seen with the senior Ex Orphans in Yatta’s herd at the beginning of the month. It seems he has chosen to explore the greener pastures that have blossomed across the rest of the Park since the rains began.

Amongst the dependent group, Oltaiyoni and Maramoja, especially, have been demonstrating their leadership qualities. Oltaiyoni was the matriarch at the Nairobi Nursery for a number of years so this comes naturally to her, but this month we watched Maramoja’s desire to direct and lead the dependent orphans grow, particularly in the morning when she rumbles to the herd to make their way to the bush. She is certainly very eager, but unfortunately this caused her to slip and fall one morning as she was in a hurry to lead the others out! Dupotto tried a couple of times to trick the Keepers at feeding time into an extra milk bottle, by joining the second group who had not had theirs yet. She was always disappointed when she reached the feeding area and the Keepers turned her away, often because she had forgotten to wipe her mouth of tell-tale residues of milk! Karisa, who is a quiet and independent elephant like Sapalan, grew slightly more confident with his peers this month and chose to browse alongside them, particularly with Sokotei and it was nice to see him appear more settled. Ukame has always been a slightly hot-tempered elephant, although we never hold that against any of our orphans considering their background, but this character trait seems to have followed her to Tsavo, and the other orphans know not to cross her! If any of them happen to annoy her by mistake, they are sure to be at the receiving end of a hard shove as a reminder!

March 2018 day to day

01 Mar

Only Boromoko and Sirimon reported back late in the evening. The rest of Laragai’s group spent the night out and only showed up in the morning. Shortly later, Maramoja, who likes leading most of the time, led the way to the browsing field. The day was exceptionally hot and the orphans browsed while hiding under trees with good shade. It was a day without much fun. On the way to the mud bath, Pare and Rapa could be seen drawing water from their stomachs and spraying it behind their ears. At mud bath time, due to the prevailing high temperatures, the orphans really enjoyed wallowing in the muddy pool. Later, the orphans were joined by three wild bulls at the mud bath water trough. In the afternoon, the orphans were joined by Mutara’s group that spent the rest of the day browsing together.

Orphans relaxing under a tree

Mutara, Sities and Chaimu

Chaimu and Suguta