Keepers' Diaries, May 2015

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

This month has seen some heavy rains storms in the Northern Area of Tsavo where our Ithumba rehabilitation Unit is based. Much needed rain has transformed the normally arid region into a paradise with plenty of water and abundant vegetation, now the area appears like a jungle. Because of the water spread throughout the region our ex orphans, semi independent orphans, and their wild friends have been fairly absent in the early part of the month, with more visits towards the end of the month Suguta’s herd comprising of Suguta, Chemi Chemi, Kalama, Kandech, Melia, and Tumaren have not returned this month. Ex orphan big boys Kora and Kamboyo too have not been seen either. This is the season they can venture further a field due to the plentiful water supply.

This month has seen some heavy rains storms in the Northern Area of Tsavo where our Ithumba rehabilitation Unit is based. Much needed rain has transformed the normally arid region into a paradise with plenty of water and abundant vegetation, now the area appears like a jungle. Because of the water spread throughout the region our ex orphans, semi independent orphans, and their wild friends have been fairly absent in the early part of the month, with more visits towards the end of the month Suguta’s herd comprising of Suguta, Chemi Chemi, Kalama, Kandech, Melia, and Tumaren have not returned this month. Ex orphan big boys Kora and Kamboyo too have not been seen either. This is the season they can venture further a field due to the plentiful water supply.


Our dependent orphan’s days begin at dawn when they exit their night time stockades and immediately head for the rocky outcrops that surround our Ithumba facility. Here they spend time rubbing and scratching themselves, a favourite pastime to get rid of parasites and irritating tickles. They sometimes choose to exit with cut grewia still in their mouths from the stockades so that they can in their own time peel the bark from some of their favourite food. The young boys love to play strength testing games, and mornings are often spent pushing and shoving each other, all very important for young physical bull elephants. The females watch and sometimes are reluctant subjects to bull mounting games. After a while and a good long drink they choose their own rhythm and head out in a direction of their choosing for the day. Our dependent orphans presently at Ithumba number fourteen, but that figure changed towards the end of the month when the Ithumba Unit were joined by three naughty bulls fresh from the Nursery, Kithaka, with best friends Lemoyian and Barsilinga. Their move from Nairobi was anticipated by the Ithumba dependent juniors, obviously reading the signs from their Keepers. The morning of the move, before the Nursery trio even arrived the orphans were more exited than usual expecting something different this day. For the three newcomers their transition was smooth, with Kithaka unnerved to begin with but he settled in no time.


Our ex orphans and their wild friends were absent for much of the beginning of the month, but then towards the end they became more frequent visitors to the stockades, checking up on their junior friends. They were extremely interested in the new arrivals Kithaka, Lemoyian and Barsilinga and ex orphans Sidai and Lenana became self appointed nannies, choosing to follow the trio around for days, taking care of their every need, and infact the Keepers had quite a job keeping these two ex orphan big girls out of their stockades at night.


With the rains come scattered water holes throughout the areas visited by the dependent orphans, and spontaneous mud bathing become the order of the day. These muddy puddles provided endless hours of entertainment for the orphans, young and old, and were preferable to the now deep orphans waterhole where mud bathing takes place most days The weather has cooled down considerably and deep mud bathing and swimming was not on the cards for much of the month, even for water baby Bongo.

Bongo and Vuria cannot resist each other and they spend hours gravitating to each other in order to have a tactile time. Shukuru this month gave us a scare going off colour towards the end of the month again necessitating increased supplements and a course of antibiotics. Thankfully by months end she was growing stronger and visibly improving.

There was a day when four wild dog came loping towards the orphans scaring them terribly, fortunately when they saw the Keepers they veered away, but this encounter left the dependent babies shaken for much of the day.

The dynamics between the various individuals can be read throughout the daily Keepers diary entries, written by our Ithumba Keepers as they spend their days out with the elephants in the wilds of Tsavo.

May 2015 day to day

01 May

The orphans headed high up onto Msinga hill under the stewardship of Wasessa, Sinya and Mbirikani. Lesanju kept the youngsters with her taking Wasessa’s “babies” Bada and Mudanda for a dust bathing game in the erosion trench at the base of the hill. Dabassa was a little jealous of the fun Lesanju was having with the youngsters and came to inject himself in the game and take her place. When he was unable to take over he went to Mudanda and tried to mount her digging his tusks into her back. Wasessa saw what was going on and charged down the hill, followed by her group, to discipline Dabassa and take back her babies taking the lead of the group out into the park. Later in the day the orphan group visited the middle water hole where they had a drink but did not have a mudbath as it was too cold. The afternoon was spent browsing close by with Tundani, Nelion and Lentili enjoying a lead of the group back to the stockades in the evening.

Dabassa playing with Taveta

Lesanju at the stockades

Mudanda & Bada embracing Wasessa

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