Keepers' Diaries, November 2018

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

The heat was consistently building this month at Ithumba until at last the first rains fell on the evening of the 19th. Up until then the ex-orphans and wild elephants continued to frequent the stockades in the morning to share water and lucerne with the dependent orphan babies. As soon as the rains broke they vanished, and it was as if they had never been around. Not a soul disturbed the orphans during their morning breakfast feeding time, and they enjoyed the peace and quiet without being bossed around by any elders. 

Up until then, the heat had been so intense, that the orphans spent much of the afternoon under the shade of trees, too hot to even browse, and had to stretch high into the tallest branches to find the best leaves. As soon as rain broke, the race was on to find the freshest green shoots that were sprouting everywhere, and this became the activity that consumed the babies days as they browsed. As the first shoots are the sweetest the orphans cannot get enough of them. As the landscape greens up they begin to take the lush conditions for granted, replete then can concentrate more on their games!  

When it isn’t independent Karisa leading the group around during the day, it is the youngest in the dependent orphan herd, Esampu. It is wonderful to see how this naughty young girl has settled into her new surroundings with such ease. Esampu is such a confident little baby, even the older elephants don’t boss her around too much. She also doesn’t take any nonsense from the ex-orphans wild born babies either. One morning Nasalot’s little boy Nusu was at it again, acting like the little rascal that we have come to know, and pushing the orphans away from their piles of lucerne pellets, throwing his weight around, but Esampu couldn’t care less about who he was and whether or not his mother Nasalot might be watching and just knocked him to the ground! Nusu got the fright of his life, not expecting that for a minute.  Esampu had been watching how Nusu misbehaves around the other dependent orphans and vowed not to be pushed around by a one so young! Nusu left a disappointed little boy and walked off to find his mother, but after that all the other wild born babies knew not to mess around with Esampu, giving her the respect that she had now earned.

Karisa was delighted when Mundusi, two years his junior, invited him to a pushing game as he knew he was young and inexperienced. Poor Mundusi only lasted a few minutes before bowing out and going to join Mteto to browse. Karisa is always hyper and looking for the next source of fun! When some buffaloes arrived at the stockades one morning to share water, they were not given a moment’s peace as Karisa charged around them constantly.

Not a day went by when we did not see Olsekki and Siangiki feasting together this month, they are such close friends. Sapalan was happy to be with the herd again having been kept in the compound recently due to ill health, but he is much better now after all his medicating, and was able to join the herd out for the day, keeping pace with new friend Enkikwe who walks slowly due to his injured leg after a lion attack. Just as we thought we had seen the back of the lions who had inflicted this injury, having had peace reign for many months with no sign of them, quite unexpectedly at 3.00pm in the afternoon the Keepers heard an almighty roar which brought all the orphans who were dispersed and browsing running back to their side, only to find to their horror that they had tried to attack Lemoyian. He only received scratches to his leg and head, which were easily treatable but it shook everyone, both Keepers and elephants, to know that these lions were brazen enough to attack in the middle of the day elephants in the company of their Keepers.  They have not been seen nor any sign of them since despite teams searching. 

Nine year old Turkwel, who has been staying with the dependent orphans after her lion attack has made a full recovery, and decided to re-join her original group this month, and headed off as happy as Larry with Mutara’s herd (including Suguta, Kanjoro, Sities, Kainuk and sometimes Kibo) who had been checking in every 5 days or so, and we knew they were waiting to see when Turkwel was ready to rejoin them before heading further afield because of the good rain. 

Once the rains fell the orphans were happy to play in the small puddles of water that collected in the bush, instead of wallowing in the main deep water hole. Whenever they came across these they would have a good splash. That is, all except Kauro who of course abstained from such water based activities – he is so afraid of the water! He is the complete opposite to Naseku. Both were rescued after being stuck in water, but Naseku appears to have forgotten and moved on, as she loves mud baths, while Kauro does everything he can to avoid them.

Other ex-orphan bulls we spotted briefly this month were Zurura, Rapsu and also Buchuma in the company of wild bulls including Dad the handsome wild bull who is the father of Yetu and Mwende, and One Tusk, who we had not seen for a few months.

The Keepers were kept busy on other occasions when one day they called in a wild elephant bull who had an arrow injury who came to drink at the stockades. Our DSWT/KWS Mobile Veterinary team was notified and the bull was swiftly treated with a positive prognosis thanks to their swift action. Another day a wild baby fell in the stockade water trough. She was about very young and unable to climb out. Her mum became panicked and aggressive as the Keepers tried to assist but after using the vehicle to block the mum they were able to get to the baby to extract her quickly and reunite her with a now grateful Mum.  Ex-orphan Suguta came running in when she heard the baby making a lot of noise, and comforted the little one until her mother moved closer and they both walked off to re-join their herd. 

November 2018 day to day

01 Nov

It was lightly drizzling in the morning as the orphans left the stockades to join the ex-orphans that were waiting outside. The noisy weaver birds, who are always indicative the impending rains, perched in the only acacia tree remaining in the stockade compound, constructing their nests. Nasalot’s baby, the rascal Nusu, was at it again, pushing the orphans away from their piles of lucerne pellets. The moment he got to the no-nonsense Esampu however, Nusu was awestruck when Esampu couldn’t care less about who he was and knocked him to the ground. Esampu had been watching how Nusu misbehaves with the other dependent orphans and vowed not to stoop so low as to be pushed around by a one year old baby! Nusu left a disappointed little boy and walked over to his mother.

Half an hour later, the ex-orphans parted ways with the juniors. The orphans settled to browse north east of the stockade and had a quiet morning. 

At mud bath time, the orphans were joined by Chemi Chemi and Kibo. The sun was really hot and the orphans participated fully in the wallowing exercise. Later, the orphans were joined by two wild bulls to drink water. In the afternoon, the orphans walked over to the hill-slope, west of the Ithumba Hill where they settled for the afternoon. In the evening, the temperature was still high and the orphans passed by the mud bath where they cooled off before heading home.

Nusu pushing Tusuja

Wild bull with the orphans

Chemi Chemi