Keepers' Diaries, March 2022

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Because of the dry conditions, lots of wild visitors have been circling back to Ithumba — including many familiar faces! After a relatively quiet few months, our dependent herd seems happy that Ithumba is a hive of activity again.

Our dependent boys hero-worship the wild bulls who pass through. One day, ex-orphan Rapsu paid us a visit. Wanjala, Rapa, Pare, and Mundusi welcomed the older bull with outstretched trunks. Another day, little Sattao and Karisa teamed up with ex-orphan Tomboi for a drink. They were so excited to be in his presence and copied everything he did. Naboishu had a similarly thrilling experience with a wild bull: He stood very close to the big fellow, as if trying to measure his height against him. However, when the wild bull began moving closer, Naboishu lost his nerve and ran away. 

On 6th March, ex-orphan Wendi appeared back on the scene. Her arrival brings mixed emotions for the Keepers: They are always delighted to see her and her two daughters, but wherever Wendi goes, mischief follows! As if to prove this, Wendi brought chaos to one memorable mud bath. She muscled her way into the milk feeding area, chasing away the orphans. After helping herself to their scattered milk bottles, she poured the rest of the milk on the ground and walked off, stomping on several bottles in the process. Despite the fact that she is nineteen years old and a mother of two, Wendi still can’t resist an opportunity to cause trouble!  

The influx of visitors certainly amps up the action. One evening, a total of 120 elephants were outside the compound. Ithumba used to be waterless during the dry season, but our water sources have unlocked this northern sector of Tsavo East. It makes us so happy to see all manner of creatures drinking from our troughs and water holes — even if the orphans can be a bit territorial! One afternoon, two buffaloes were patiently waiting for a drink, but Sattao and Nabulu were far from welcoming. They blocked the buffalos until Sana Sana led the orphans out to browse, and only then could the thirsty pair access the water.

Because of the dry conditions, our orphans were rather businesslike this month. Most days, they didn’t waste any time messing around as they often do, instead concentrating on browsing in the bush. 

On 8th March, the most wonderful event occured. Under the cover of darkness, Mutara showed up at the stockades with her first baby, a little boy who we have named Mambo! While motherhood hasn’t changed Mutara’s relaxed and gentle manner, her friends Suguta, Sities, Turkwel, Kainuk, and Kalama are extremely vigilant nannies. Poor Esampu, Mteto, Malkia, and Sana Sana were desperate to spend time with Mambo, but the nannies would not permit access! As the month progressed, the Keepers were delighted to see that Mambo is a healthy, active, and friendly little boy. He loves his mother and nannies, and looks completely relaxed in their company.

Yatta and Nasalot’s families spent a lot of time around Ithumba. The ex-orphans’ presence provided wonderful opportunities for the ‘late night gang,’ as the Keepers call the semi-independent orphans, to explore their independence. The ex-orphans often took Olsekki, Siangiki, Oltaiyoni, Tusuja, Naseku, Roi, Mteto, Enkikwe, and Wanjala out for the day, before escorting them back to the stockades around bedtime. One evening, Olsekki and co refused to go into their bedroom and remained with the ex-orphans for the night.

Enkikwe, Sapalan, and Rapa have decided that they are very grown up now, so they often sneak away from the dependent herd and spend the day in an unknown location. They still report back to the stockades in the evening, always with a bit of a swagger, as if proud of their independent adventures. But then, incidents remind us that they still have some growing up to do. One afternoon, Sapalan was desperate to steal an extra bottle of milk and became increasingly frustrated as the Keepers thwarted his attempts. To vent his annoyance, he picked up a log and tried to throw it in the air. Unfortunately, the wood was too heavy for a proper throw, so it just fell with a rather anticlimactic thud. 

For young bulls, strength testing is an important part of growing up. Dololo and Musiara always push one another the moment they meet, almost as if it is a prearranged ritual. Despite the many, many times they have competed, no clear winner has ever emerged. This stalemate is bound to continue until one grows notably stronger than the other — if that ever happens! 

Bulls who lose a strength testing match are subjected to a humiliating defeat. Pare demonstrated this one day, when he beat Jotto in a pushing match. He proceeded to climb atop Jotto’s back, proclaiming to everyone that he was the victor. 

Our ‘good students,’ Larro, Mukkoka, and Naboishu, are doing so well at Ithumba. While Larro and Mukkoka are very attached to each other, Naboishu is more of an extrovert. The Keepers had to laugh at his boldness one day, when a wild baby tried to share his lucerne. Naboishu promptly pushed her away, sending her running back to her mother. Most orphans would not be so brazen as to mess with a wild baby whose mother is nearby!

Our older dependent girls all have their favourites. While Kamok is antagonistic towards most young calves, she absolutely adores Ambo. We hope that when she becomes a mother someday, she treats her baby like Ambo! Maramoja has adopted Musiara, while Malkia, Kuishi, and Sana Sana all look after Larro, Mukkoka, and Naboishu. 

One morning, a big group of ex-orphans and their babies joined the dependent herd for a lucerne breakfast, including Mulika, Mwende, Mkuu, Taita, Chemi Chemi, Naserian, Njema, Mutara, baby Mambo, Sities, Turkwel, Suguta, Chaimu, Galana, Gawa, Yatta, Yoyo, and Yetu. Sattao and Musiara were hoping to play with little Mkuu, but his older sister, Mwende, would not allow it. The two boys waited nearby, keeping an eye on Mwende's movements so they could jump at the opportunity to play with Mkuu when her back was turned. Their plan never materialised, as Mwende had anticipated Musiara and Sattao’s intentions and stuck very close to her little brother!

The month ended with some more funny drama. Ex-orphan Lualeni and her family linked up with the orphans and accompanied them to the mud bath. Acting ever-so-innocent, Lualeni passed through the milk feeding area and grabbed an empty bottle of milk. Whether she hoped to find milk in it, or was just hoping to stir up drama, we will never know. Later, her daughter, Lulu, got on Nabulu’s bad side when she tried to block the orphan from greeting baby Saba. Nabulu knew she couldn’t stand up to Lulu with Lualeni standing nearby, but she still still got the final word: As she walked off, our steely girl smacked Lulu with her trunk!

March 2022 day to day

01 Mar

A wild friend joined the orphans in the morning. The peaceful wild elephant settled to share lucerne with the orphans. Mutara and her herd were also present. Ndiwa and Mundusi, who lately have been engaging one another in pushing games, tackled each other when they came out of their stockade. It's not clear what started this competition, as in the past the two elephants have lived in harmony. More wild bulls arrived to drink water from the stockade water troughs, and left after having their fill. Mapia picked a fight with Jotto, but Jotto surrendered when Mapia started being a bit too tough. Mutara and her team escorted the orphans out to browse. 

Rapa and Sana Sana teamed up, while Kamok settled to browse with Ambo, one of the only youngsters whose company she will tolerate! A male lesser kudu spotted the orphans and decided to take off before the orphans saw him. The lesser kudu understood the behaviour of some of the bulls in the herd, and took off before they could chase him! 

At mud bath time the orphans had their noon milk feed then walked down to have a mud bath. Twenty-two wild bulls were present. It appears that the number of wild elephants coming to drink water is increasing with each passing day. The orphans left immediately after drinking enough water, but some of them decided to cool off at the roadside mud bath, then took a break by relaxing under some trees with good shade. They resumed browsing when it got a bit cooler in the afternoon.

In the evening, Yatta and Nasalot’s families in the company of ten wild bulls showed up for water at the stockade compound.


Rapa and Sana Sana