Keepers' Diaries, November 2019

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

The arrival of the weaver birds shrieking and busily making their nests is always a good barometer that the rains are on their way – they have never failed being nature’s reliable messenger in this regard and sure enough the short rains arrived early in October and continued throughout November too. Soon the main mud bath area where the orphans have their noon milk feed was overflowing with crystal water, a change from the heavily mudded soup of the dry season. On very hot days, in between the showers when the skys were clear, this huge dam has made for the perfect swimming pool for the Ithumba dependent orphans who relished a proper ‘swim’ submerged with just their trunks as snorkels, playing, slapping and rolling around in the water whilst also trying to climb on one another, using the advantage of their friends floating along in the water to do so.  

Never have we seen more water in Ithumba. Every waterhole, dam and water course is brimming full, and of course this is very good for the land. It has meant for some wet sodden days however for our team, both two legged and four.

We are sure you will know by now that the biggest news at Ithumba this month came in tiny form, when on the 19th November Wendi brought her new-born baby girl Wema to the stockades to meet the Keepers. She was with her now 4 year old calf, Wiva, and accompanied by other ex-orphans Kinna and Yatta with their babies Kama, Yoyo and Yetu, Lenana, Naserian, Vuria, Challa, Makena and ex-orphan bull Zurura was with them too. They only stayed at the stockades for a short few days before leaving, which proved to our Keepers the importance our adult orphans place in introducing their new-borns to the other half of their family, their human half, and they see it as almost a duty to perform after each birth.

Wendi was found alone in September 2002, still pink behind the ears, but her diminutive size and age did not stop her from growing into one of the biggest characters we have ever had through our Nursery doors, and even now after transitioning to a fully wild life, she continues to entertain us all with her wayward ways. Wema means ‘goodness’ in Swahili, an ironic name given her mother’s naughty character, but she is perfect. They stayed in the area for a number of days and we were lucky to see Wendi and her nannies during that time, but the presence of lions perhaps drove them away towards the end of the month as we have not seen them again recently.

It was on the 23rd we realized the dreaded lions were back when they attempted an attack on Karisa while he was dawdling outside the stockades that night, reluctant to come inside. Karisa has been off colour and had been treated with antibiotics and, as a result, was reluctant to come into the stockade for fear of another injection. It was after nine at night when lions attempted to ambush him but thankfully the Keepers heard his scream and came to the rescue. They rushed to the scene to find three lions, one attacking Karisa, but they managed to scare them off by shining sharp torches and shouting, and quickly escorted Karisa back to the stockades to lock him inside which he was very happy to do this time, now aware of the consequences. Poor Karisa suffered a small injury to his neck and left ear but when the Vet came the next day to treat him he found they were largely superficial and that he would be fine, thanks to the brave Keepers and their quick reactions. 

Although Karisa was okay the next day and drank his milk bottle without any issues, the rest of the herd were very nervous and chose not to stray far from their Keepers at all. They were understandably skittish, and the Keepers called on the assistance of two of our anti-poaching teams until the orphans eventually calmed down.  After a few days the orphans settled and were happy to return to their routine of browsing out in the Park and milk feeding. Kithaka and his ‘rebel’ herd including Garzi, Lemoyian, Turkwel and Garzi decided to stick close to the dependent orphans and the Keepers for the rest of the month, and returned home every night like clockwork.

Apart from this incident the orphans had a very joyful month celebrating the rains and enjoying all the fresh green vegetation shooting everywhere. Often some of the smaller ones like Namalok and Esampu could be spotted climbing on rocks to make themselves taller in order to reach the highest soft leaves on the tall trees. Whenever it rained the orphans took great delight in rolling on the damp soil, throwing it in the air and on their backs to cool down as well. 

On the 8th it was fabulous to see Galana, Gawa, Loijuk, baby Lili, Lenana, Makireti, Kilabasi, Teleki, Makena, Sunyei and Siku and Ithumbah who showed up late in the evening to the stockades after all the babies had gone in for the night. We had not seen them for some months so it was great to see them all healthy and well. We saw 14 year old Zurura a handful of times throughout the month, sometimes with Yatta and Wendi’s herd, although Kinna got angry with him at the mud bath one day and chased him away. We also saw 16 year old Tomboi once on the 6th as well.

Olsekki and his friend Siangiki remain the two greatest friends and never seem to leave each other’s side no matter what; it is a very nice friendship indeed. Mundusi still loves initiating pushing games, he is the most playful little boy, but unfortunately he is not the best wrestler and despite starting these games, he often loses. He often chooses opponents older than him and this might be one reason behind his failings, but perhaps he is trying to get stronger and better at the same time! He will play with anyone. Even when his friends had walked off far into the bush one day, he stayed behind to bravely take on little Yoyo, Yatta’s youngest calf, who was happy to play-fight with Mundusi but comfortable in the knowledge his mother was close by and by hiding under her belly most of the time! One day Mundusi’s playful character got him into trouble as well, when he emerged from nowhere and tried to push Naseku away from where she had been playing. Naseku took this as an act of disrespect from a young boy like Mundusi. Mundusi was ready to tackle Naseku but as the going got tough, he had no other option but to surrender and run away from the charging Naseku!

Barsilinga was found limping again this month having some time back stepped on a stick that pierced his front right foot. It healed, but when we looked at the spot underneath his foot some pus came out. We cleaned the area and applied green clay and the Vet came to treat it the next day and he is now much better. 

Esampu is still a very bold girl too, and she and Sana Sana like to lead the way out to the bush in the morning. Esampu and Roi will often try to sneak another bottle of milk whenever they can as well! This month Esampu gave herself away though by standing next to the milk crate for too long so the Keepers knew exactly what she was up to; they swiftly reminded her that she had already had her share and what remained in the crate was meant for her friends who had not arrived yet. Another day Roi did manage to pick up a full bottle of milk however and run off with it. By the time the Keepers realized, Roi had almost finished all the milk. Luckily there was extra bottle at hand so no one missed out on his or her share, which would have been a headache for the Keepers to try and explain to that unfortunate elephant! 

November 2019 day to day

01 Nov

Soon after leaving the stockade, the orphans briefly settled for some Lucerne pellets before being led away out to browse by Karisa. Mid-way, an unidentified sound scared the orphans. They all turned back to their Keepers but Karisa remained undeterred and continued with his journey. The Keepers assured the orphans all was well and turned back again to follow the street wise boy Karisa. Kauro lagged behind scratching and later followed his friends. Mteto took a break from browsing to have fun rolling on the ground. Her game attracted Roi, Namalok, Tusuja, Sapalan and Mundusi. 

At mud bath time, Naseku led the first group while Ukame led the second one. The sun was hot and as soon as the orphans had their milk and some water too, it was their time to enjoy a cooling-off exercise by jumping into the now full to the brim mud-bath, thanks to all the good rain we have received over the last few days that has filled up the mud bath. In the afternoon, Maramoja took a break from feeding to relax under a tree and at the same time, decided to scratch against it. Siangiki teamed up with Oltaiyoni to browse as Enkikwe settled to browse with Kamok. In the evening, the orphans returned back safely to the stockades with Barsilinga and Garzi showing up an hour after their friends had returned home. 

Kauro scratching

Mteto playing

Siangiki and Oltaiyoni browsing

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