Keepers' Diaries, May 2023

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

In Ithumba, May began with Neshashi vying for first place. Olorien led the way out to the bush in the morning, as has become her tradition. Midway through, however, she was usurped by Neshashi, who overtook her with a quick gait and flapping ears. Neshashi never likes to see any of her friends get ahead of her!

We also began the month focused on our search for Lodo, who was kidnapped by the ex-orphans at the end of April. Finally, on the morning of 4th May, we had a breakthrough. The search party was east of the stockades when they spotted Wendi, Lualeni, and their daughters, along with Lodo! Wendi is very wily and rarely cooperates, so the Keepers knew they had to devise a clever plan. They calmly ushered the group towards the stockade compound, doing it in such a subtle way that the ex-orphans didn’t even realise they were being herded.

Predictably, Wendi put up some resistance, but the team had a diversion tactic at the ready. Once at the stockades, they distributed an entire sack of range cubes to the group. This worked a treat: While Wendi was preoccupied with her feast, the Keepers shepherded Lodo away from the scene. Lodo was of two minds; he had clearly become close with lots of the ex-orphans’ babies and was reluctant to leave his new friends. However, his old friends won out. Mukkoka, Esoit, Naleku, Naboishu, Olorien, Roho, and Kuishi all surrounded Lodo, welcoming him back with a tangle of trunk hugs and no doubt lots of questions about his wild excursion. Lodo is still a baby and does still need his milk bottle, particularly when things begin to dry out again.

The Keepers knew they would have to be extra vigilant about the ex-orphans, who were determined to retrieve Lodo or another small orphan. For the following week, a game of cat-and-mouse ensued: Upon spotting the ex-orphans, the Keepers would lead the dependent herd in the opposite direction. However, elephants are very canny. Refusing to be foiled and well aware of all the orphans’ usual haunts, the ex-orphans would lay ambush further along the path. One night, they even spent the night outside the Ithumba compound. It is interesting to note that, while they had custody of Lodo, the ex-orphans didn’t step foot near the stockades. Now that he is back in the fold, they are constantly trying their luck. Their kidnapping attempts aren’t malicious, they just love babies so much!

We had a lovely visit from Kithaka in May. It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a year since his bad leg sprain. Although he still has a limp, he no longer has any trouble getting around. These days, Kithaka is living wild with his best friend Barsilinga, Sana Sana, Kauro, Malkia, and Kamok.

Kithaka was once known as the rogue of Ithumba. Jotto, meanwhile, has always been such a gentle bull. One day, he was rolling around on the ground when Olorien decided to use him as a personal scratching post. Naleku evidently felt this was a great idea, for she came over and took Olorien’s place, also scratching against the big bull. Jotto easily could have thrown his weight around, but he just lay still, allowing the girls to have their fun.

Kuishi appears to be falling in love with little Esoit. She is constantly chaperoning him from activity to activity, be it private mud baths or quiet browsing sessions. Kuishi is seven years old now, which makes her perfect big sister material for the three-year-old bull. 

Aside from Wendi, ex-orphan Narok is one of the worst perpetrators when it comes to abducting the orphans. In fact, it was she who whisked away with Lodo. When she flounced up to the mud bath one afternoon, forcing her way amidst the dependent herd, the Keepers knew they had to prevent a repeat kidnapping. They quickly shepherded the orphans out of the water and took them east, leaving Narok shaking her head in disappointment.  

Nasalot’s boys are such rascals, but the orphans really enjoy their company. One afternoon, the little imp Noah challenged Sagateisa to a pushing match. Naboishu came over to support Sagateisa and pushed Noah away. The ever-playful Suguroi was quick to take their place and challenged Noah to a follow-up match. Meanwhile, Noah’s elder brother Nusu took on both Sattao and Musiara. In the end, Nusu had to surrender, but not for lack of trying.

Some ex-orphans, like Yatta and Wendi and Mutara, have always had a herd around them. Others drift between groups. Such has been the case with Naisula, but that might be changing. At 14 years old, she seems to have some leadership aspirations. Her daughter, Nyx, is a great favourite of all the dependent girls. As such, Naisula has formed a ‘nanny herd’ consisting of Esampu, Mteto, Maramoja, Ndiwa, Malima, and most recently, Nabulu. Kamok similarly seems to be recruiting friends to join her mini herd, but doesn’t have an established group yet. 

The ex-orphans’ babies are very ‘streetsmart.’ We were reminded of this one morning, when Barsilinga, Enkikwe, Chyulu, and her baby Cheka joined the orphans. Roho sidled over and tried to entice Cheka to a pushing game. However, Cheka saw right through his motives: The moment he fell into Roho’s trick, the other boys would have teamed up to wrestle him. To avoid all this drama, Cheka decided not to play at all and instead stuck close to his mother.

25th May was a big day for our Ithumba family, as we awoke eager to welcome the three newest graduates from Nairobi. There was an excited mood amongst the team — clearly, word was out that a momentous event was about to happen. The truck carrying Kinyei, Kindani, and Bondeni from the Nursery arrived shortly before eight thirty in the morning. 

Olorien, Esoit, and Lodo arrived first to welcome their friends from Nairobi. The air was filled with bellows of excitement as the two groups met and mingled. Then, the rest of the group arrived and familiarised themselves with the new arrivals. As per usual, lots of ex-orphans showed up to greet the newcomers. Even Mutara’s group, who had been away for five months, reappeared on this auspicious day.

After a fun-filled first day in Ithumba, Kinyei, Kindani, and Bondeni were shown to their new quarters. The graduates were allocated a bedroom with Suguroi, Naleku, Sagateisa, and Roho on one side and Esoit, Olorien, and Lodo on the other. They had a very calm night, because every way they turned, they could see their familiar faces from their Nursery days. Read the full graduation story here.

The following morning, Olorien, Esoit, and Lodo guided the newcomers out of their bedroom. Tomboi emerged from the western side of the stockades and joined the orphans for their morning lucerne. Kindani, Kinyei, and Bondeni had the opportunity to meet the big bull, who touched their backs with his trunk. At 20 years old, he must have seemed very impressive to the young babies.

As we began the month with a Neshashi anecdote, it feels only fitting to close it with another one. On the last day of May, Suguroi was enjoying a great game with Kinyei, clearly delighted to be reunited with her old Nursery friend. However, all this attention made Neshashi jealous, and she knocked Kinyei to the ground. Kuishi, Suguroi, and Larro quickly came over to comfort the new girl, putting their trunks over her back, while Neshashi considered her actions. She certainly is a firecracker!

May 2023 day to day

01 May

The orphans left the stockade early as usual and settled for some lucerne. Shortly later Olorien led the way out to the bush, but midway she was overtaken by Neshashi. Neshashi never likes to see any of her friends getting ahead of her, so she raced to be in front of Olorien. The orphans chose to browse in the Kanziku area, while keeping their eyes peeled for the ex-orphans too. The Keepers have come to realise the ex-orphans will look for any opportunity to take some of the youngsters with them! They have already managed to steal Esoit, and after we managed to retrieve Esoit, they then kidnapped Lodo.

The orphans browsed calmly as they slowly headed towards the mud bath. Jotto led the first group for the noon milk feed and Kuishi led the second group. Just as the last orphans were finishing their bottles, the heavens opened and it started pouring with rain. As usual, this initiated a playful mood amongst the orphans who started running around chasing each other and rolling on the ground. It rained hard, but not for long. The orphans continued rolling on the wet soil even when the rain came to and end, and when they had enough, Mukkoka led the way for everyone to continue browsing, which they did quietly for the rest of the day.


Mukkoka and Sattao

Kuishi, Sagateisa and Roho