Keepers' Diaries, May 2019

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

After we finally received a bit more rain this month, it was decided that while the grass was green and plentiful and the waterpans were full, it was the optimum time to move three of the Nursery babies to our Ithumba unit. This happened on the last day of the month, and Mapia, Malima and Kuishi arrived just before 11am to a welcoming committee of old friends Malkia, Sana Sana and Ndiwa whom they knew from the Nairobi Nursery. 

As the side doors of the lorry were opened the new babies peered out into their new surroundings, before hurrying towards their milk bottles which were very comforting after their long journey and arrival at a new destination of new sights and smells. Mapia recognized Sana Sana and playfully tried to challenge her but Sana Sana would not stand for that so pushed Mapia away. Rapa tried to bully Mapia but was told off by the Keepers. Sana Sana and Malkia spent most of their day feeding with the three new babies. Mapia, Malima and Kuishi have settled in very well indeed, loving the taste of the abundant browse around them, still green from the rains, and it was marvellous to see how they processed and yet strangely recalled their new surroundings, having all been orphaned old enough to have a very clear recollection of Tsavo where they were born. We are sure they will adore their new home in the wild, with new and old friends alike. In Malima and Mapia’s case, being victims of drought and both abandoned and left for dead by their herd it is possible they will come across their families again one day.  

Just as Mapia, Malima and Kuishi arrived at Ithumba, the decision was made to move little Dupotto back to the Nairobi Nursery where she could be closely monitored given her drop in weight recently and her continued poor body condition. From Nairobi we are able to afford her more intensive care with routine follow up blood works while we work hard to get top side of her ailment. She happily boarded the translocation lorry following a milk bottle, and has settled right back into the routines of the Nairobi Nursery which she left over two years ago now, happy in the company of the Nursery babies and strangely comforted in being back in the safety of the cosseted Nursery environment. 

Meanwhile at the stockades this month, ex-orphans Orwa, Bomani and Narok came by on quite a few days to spend time with the dependent orphans. This trio is always on the lookout for any of the others who might be ready to join them in the wild, and although the Keepers are wise to their tricks, they still managed to make off with a vast number of dependent babies one day! They took Lemoyian, Kithaka, Siangiki, Olsekki, Turkwel, Oltaiyoni, Roi, Tusuja, Namalok, Dupotto, Kamok, Galla and Pare, and it took the Keepers quite some time to locate them all and take them back into their custody and then back to the stockades. They really had to be on their toes after that.

Kithaka, Barsilinga and Garzi continue to do their own thing as well and although they spend a majority of their time browsing with the babies and returning to the stockades most nights, they still like to wander off and browse on their own during the day as well. The Keepers love watching the relationship between Barsilinga and Garzi as they seem to be the best sparring partners and not a day goes by where these two don’t engage in some kind of wrestling match for hours. 

On the 14th we were shocked to discover Tomboi had returned with a wound on his side. He arrived at the compound in the morning looking in good condition and went for a drink at the water hole. He then approached the Keepers and turned to the side as if to present his injury for treatment. The Keepers immediately gave him some lucerne to convince him to stick around as they made arrangements to call the SWT/KWS Tsavo Vet. Taru Carr-Hartley flew to Voi to collect Dr Poghon and the SWT de-snaring team also arrived after being alerted by the Keepers, and stayed with Tomboi until the Vet arrived with Taru around noon. Tomboi was treated and an arrow removed from his side; despite the arrow being deep it had missed the stomach wall. He coped well with his operation and when we caught up with him a few days later the wound had healed nicely.

The day before the Nursery babies arrived, ex-orphan Sunyei, her baby Siku, Kibo, Loijuk, Ishanga, Meibai and Makena, who had been away for one month, showed up at the stockade with a wild bull plus Olare, Tumaren, Melia and Kandecha. Makena and the others all stood where the orphans would come out as if welcoming them outside. Kauro and Esampu walked down to the water trough and joined the wild bull to drink water – Esampu remains fearless in the face of wild bulls and bigger older elephants and given her sass they too tend to ignore her and let her proceed, breaking elephant protocol! Roi and Mundusi interacted with baby Siku for a long while before Siku ran to her mum. 

10 year old ex-orphans Naisula, Kitirua and Kilaguni also visited on just a couple of consecutive days this month. They fed on lucerne with the dependent orphans in the stockade compound and stayed with the dependent orphans throughout the afternoon.

Having moved to Ithumba nearly two years ago now, we are enjoying watching Sapalan and Namalok really grow and come into their own. Namalok is showing signs of becoming more independent and for once stood up for himself as well when Rapa tried to steal some of his milk from his milk bucket. Sapalan also used to be very quiet but has been spotted initiating pushing games and even tried to climb on Namalok as well. It was very nice to see him lively and strong considering his bout of ill-health, and now competing with his fellow age-mates.  

May 2019 day to day

01 May

The sky was partly covered by clouds when the orphans left the stockade and settled for the lucerne pellets. Following the little rain received over the past days, the vegetation is now sprouting and making the orphans happy. After feeding on the pellets, the orphans quietly made their way out to the browsing field. Oltaiyoni and Siangiki walked across a rock and found water that had collected in part of it and started drinking it. The drinking sound drew the attention of the rest of the group who also decided to walk up the rock to have fun and drink the rain water. 

The orphans concentrated on browsing up to mud bath time. Wanjala walked off with his last bottle and dropped it down on the way to drink water. Oltaiyoni, who was close by, ran over fast thinking that the bottle had milk in it, but to her disappointment the bottle was empty. Oltaiyoni double checked by lifting it up and putting it in her mouth but nothing came out. She dropped it to the ground and went to drink water. After mud bath, Enkikwe settled to scratch on a nearby tree while Naseku teamed up with Maramoja to browse. Pare decided to have fun by rolling on the ground while Malkia and Rapa competed who amongst them could stretch their trunks the highest to reach the soft leaves. In the late afternoon is was very hot and the orphans, led by Sana Sana headed for an evening cool-off at the mud bath before making their way back to the stockades. 

Siangiki standing on the rocks browsing

Oltaiyoni picking up a dropped bottle

Naseku browsing with Maramoja