Keepers' Diaries, May 2016

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

The first day of the month proved a blessing for our Ithumba residents, human and wild alike, as we received 22mm of rain overnight. Though we were left with wetted appetites and wishing for more, at least it was a start to the rains which have all but eluded us so far. The rain served to settle the dust and cool the temperature, and whilst it rained again on the 5th and we received a drizzle on the 10th, other than that there has been very little rain this month in the Ithumba area.

The first day of the month proved a blessing for our Ithumba residents, human and wild alike, as we received 22mm of rain overnight. Though we were left with wetted appetites and wishing for more, at least it was a start to the rains which have all but eluded us so far. The rain served to settle the dust and cool the temperature, and whilst it rained again on the 5th and we received a drizzle on the 10th, other than that there has been very little rain this month in the Ithumba area.

Our Big Boy Ex Orphan bull Tomboi has been seen regularly throughout the month – sometimes he chooses to socialize with the dependent orphans such as on the 3rd when he took them to a little mud pool, and others he just chooses to walk on by in his own world. On the 6th we were delighted when five wild bulls checked in at the mud bath just before the orphans arrived, and one of them was recognized to be a bull we had treated late last year for a wound caused by an arrow head lodged in his left hind leg. Only a scar remained and we were so happy this was another magnificent bull we saved. Towards the end of the month the Tsavo vet team treated a visiting wild bull with a nasty cable snare wound around its right foreleg, so horrible it could no longer put any weight on it. He had like so many before come for help. For the next few weeks he stayed around the stockade area and water hole recovering, seemingly trusting of the humans he knew had treated his leg. He continues to improve and as we monitor his progress, but we are confident he will make a full recovery. We have noticed each year more wild bulls coming for Veterinary assistance to the Ithumba stockades, and they are arriving with wounds of two to three weeks old, seemingly understanding where they can come for help.

Later the same evening on the 6th, Ex Orphan Lualeni arrived in the stockade compound with who appeared to be a wild bull boyfriend of sorts. They drank water and stayed only for a short while before walking off into the park again. The next day she was in the compound to greet the orphans when they came out of their stockades without her new friend; she stayed to eat some lucerne with the juniors and proceeded to spend most of the day with the orphans and Mutara’s partially independent group who also joined them in the morning. Lualeni led everyone out and later to the mud bath where as usual, only Bongo decided to wallow. In the afternoon she parted ways with the group, leaving Mutara’s herd in charge of the youngsters, only to return to the juniors the next morning again!

Mutara’s herd consisting of herself, Mutara, Suguta, Turkwel, Kainuk, Sities and Kanjoro have been socializing with the orphans almost on a daily basis throughout the month. On the 2nd they arrived in the company of Chaimu and Kilaguni who spent a lot of time interacting with the orphans as well.
Kibo, Murka, Kitirua and Naisula appeared to have seceded from Olare’s group around the beginning of the month as they kept arriving at the stockade and greeting the juniors in their own little herd. On the 11th however Olare, Kandecha, Melia, Tumaren, Chemi Chemi and Kalama appeared; they seemed to be searching for the other half of their group! An hour later they were all reunited and Olare seemed to look confident now that she had all her group together again. Olare’s herd, who are known to wonder off for months at a time after the rainy season, seem to be remaining in the area for awhile whilst they wait for the rain to replenish more of the water sources around the National Park, as they know there is always water to be found close to Ithumba. On the morning of the 21st the stockade was busy with elephants as both Olare and Mutara’s independent groups were waiting for the juniors to come out that morning. A lot of socializing games ensued with everyone trying to figure out the hierarchy and who was in charge, who commands respect and so on. Melia was in charge of Olare’s group that day as Olare had temporarily attached herself to Yatta’s Ex Orphan herd to watch over Wendi’s wild born baby Wiva.

On the 2nd Ex Orphans including Yatta, Yetu, Wendi, Wiva, Nasalot, Chyulu, Lenana, Naserian, Ololoo, Lualeni, Sidai, Ithumbah, Sunyei, Makena and a wild elephant were seen and on the 13th there were masses of elephants around the compound as Yatta, Makireti, Olare and their respective herds reported to the stockade compound early in the morning.
Makireti’s little group consisting of herself, Kasigau and Kilabasi were around only a couple of times this month. Once on the 13th with the huge group of independent and Ex Orphans that arrived and then later on the 22nd when they arrived in the stockade compound in the dead of the night and slept outside waiting for the juniors in the morning.

All the orphans were around however, on the 24th May when our new arrivals from Nairobi, Siangiki, Enkikwe and Olsekki arrived on the transportation lorry after a long but swift journey from the Nairobi Nursery. Yatta and Mulika’s groups arrived early in the morning and they waited around the stockade for almost an hour. It seemed as if they knew the lorry was arriving but after awhile they left. After 10am the lorry carrying the three babies arrived and Kithaka, Lemoyian and Barsilinga were the first ones to greet them. Soon after Mutara, Narok, Suguta and Sities arrived and all surrounded Olsekki and the others. It seemed the entire partially independent and independent groups had got wind of the new arrivals because by evening the Ex Orphans had returned and nearly all our independent orphans plus a few wild bulls were surrounding the stockade compound. It was quite a sight and such a welcoming committee for the 3 new babies from Nairobi. Enkikwe seemed to settle down the fastest with Siangiki still being a little shy and clinging to her keeper, but only after a few days they were happy amongst their new surroundings and used to the new routine. Siangiki seems to like the company of Laragai when she is around, and Olsekki and Enkikwe continue to cause trouble for their new unsuspecting keepers, especially at feedings times! Olsekki often tries to snatch another bottle or two, much to the horror of the Head Keeper who is almost embarrassed at this cheeky behaviour, and sometimes they run to the mud bath still clutching their last bottle refusing to drop it. It seems they have settled down quite nicely and they haven’t changed a bit; let’s see if that remains the case as they are now in the company of some disciplinary matriarchs!

May 2016 day to day

01 May

It was quite a relief in the morning when finally the area received 22mm of rain over night. Though we could have more, it certainly helped to settle the dust away and cool the area down. We now just have to wait and see if we will receive more or if that was the end of it. We face a long dry season ahead if it doesn't rain. The juniors left the stockade in a jovial mood. Lemoyian exchanged morning greetings with Laragai as Barsilinga walked straight to a nearby rock that he used to scratch his belly on. On the way to the browsing field, the orphans met with Tomboi who appears these days to have learnt the art of walking alone. Tomboi just lifted his trunk to say hi to the juniors and walked past them without stopping. Vuria, Teleki, Orwa and Garzi responded by rumbling. The orphans enjoyed browsing throughout the day in more favourable temperatures due to last night’s rainfall. They browsed on rocky terrain north of the stockade and it was a quiet morning without any major observations. At mud bath time, the orphans took their milk and water before proceeding back to the browsing field. Though it wasn't hot, the orphans took a break from feeding and relaxed under a tree for some time. Later, Vuria settled to browse with his friend Garzi while Bongo browsed far away from the rest of the group. In the evening, the juniors were joined by Mutara, Kanjoro, Sities, Kainuk, Turkwel and Suguta.

Bongo feeding

Bomani pushing Garzi in the compound

Orphans feeding on lucerne

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