Keepers' Diaries, November 2021

Select your unit:

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

It was an action-packed month for our Ithumba herd. The dry season continues to grip Tsavo, which means an influx of wild visitors. This includes lots of familiar faces, as many of our ex-orphans circled back “home” to say hello and avail themselves of the fresh water and lucerne supplements to be found at Ithumba. 

Despite the challenging conditions, it was a month of celebrations for our Ithumba herd. On 4th November, Nasalot strode up to the mud bath with a newborn baby in tow. We have named him Noah. While Nasalot’s firstborn, Nusu, is shaping up to be an excellent big brother, it is Wendi’s daughter, Wiva, who has become head nanny. She is very protective of Noah, just as Nasalot was of her when she was a baby!

Less than a week later, Yatta gave birth to a baby boy, who we have named Yogi. She arrived at the Ithumba stockades at dawn, eager to introduce her third baby to her human family. Yatta’s firstborn, nine-year-old Yetu, is pregnant herself. Next year, she will make her mother a proud grandmother.

The celebrations continued on the 16th, when Sunyei debuted her latest addition at the afternoon mud bath. There was already a rather jovial mood in the air, between all the tiny babies gamboling about and the orphans happily splashing in the water. That ramped up exponentially when Sunyei appeared with her brand new daughter by her side, who we have named Saba.

By the end of the month, nearly all our ex-orphan mums had circled back to Ithumba. In fact, on the morning of 20th November, 17 of the 19 wild babies born to Ithumba ex-orphans were present, along with their mums and an assortment of other elephants. Only Sidai and Chyulu, and their babies, Sita and Cheka, were missing. They appeared just two days later, under the most extraordinary circumstances: At first, the Keepers thought Sidai had returned to show off her newest addition, a little boy. However, they quickly realised that she had come seeking help, for she had been struck by a poisoned arrow. Her brave decision to make the journey “home” with her family saved her life, and the life of her firstborn, Sita, and her newborn, Silas.

Our dependent orphans love having wild visitors about, especially the wild-born babies in their midst. However, these visitors can sometimes be quite taxing — for the orphans and the Keepers! One evening, naughty ex-orphan Wendi caused drama when she invited herself into a stockade and flatly refused to leave. Another day, Kinna’s eldest baby, Kama, tried to block the orphans from having any lucerne. The Keepers intervened, reminding the precocious elephant that bullying the orphans wouldn't be tolerated. Kama calmed down and retreated to team up with her little sister Kaia and her mum. 

And so, the orphans did enjoy the rare days where there were no visitors. One morning, they were luxuriating in a quiet breakfast, as none of the ex-orphans had made an appearance. They were really taking their time with their lucerne, appreciating not having any competition, but Sana Sana was attuned to the rising heat. She rumbled, signaling that it was time to start browsing before it got too hot, and the rest of the herd duly followed her into the bush. At six years old, Sana Sana is really coming into her own.

Of course, our little Nabulu continues to lead the herd most days. One morning, she tried to squeeze herself in between some visiting wild bulls to drink, but one of the bulls was hostile and chased her away. She wasn’t too bothered and simply waited until she found a gap between more amenable visitors.

With all these new babies to focus on, “Dololomania” has died down. Mutara, Sities, Suguta, Kainuk and Turkwel, who once went crazy every time they saw Dololo, appear to have moved on and forgotten about him! Dololo bore their abandonment stoically. It is almost as if he realised that he had a life before these older girls treated him like a prince, and it was time to reclaim that life. However, he still can’t resist the occasional jab directed at his competition, the wild-born babies. One evening, Wendi’s daughter, Wema, was standing in front of his bedroom. While Musiara, Nabulu and Malima briefly stopped to greet her, Dololo unceremoniously pushed her aside so he could pass.

Despite the dry conditions, there was still plenty of time for fun this month. One afternoon, Kauro and Karisa were the last ones to leave the mud bath. This was a huge surprise for us, as Kauro normally doesn’t even like wallowing! All sorts of creatures presented drama for the herd: One day, Jotto, Mundusi, Musiara, Sattao, Ambo and Malima enthusiastically pursued a passing dik dik, but the tiny antelope outwitted them and made itself scarce. Another afternoon, ​​Esampu became very upset when a warthog scampered through the herd’s midst. By the time she had recruited friends to teach it a lesson, however, the warthog was long gone. One morning, a wild elephant herd appeared at the water trough, trailing a pack of wild dogs. The elephants tried to chase them away, but the dogs were adamant and only left after drinking enough water.

While our dependent herd continues to flourish, many of the older orphans in “Class Five” are becoming very independent. Orphans often form little teams to begin spending nights out in Tsavo. This has happened with Kamok and Galla, who must have bonded over their shared desire to broaden their horizons. Now, they rarely sleep in the stockades. Barsilinga, Roi, Oltaiyoni, Tusuja, Naseku, Olsekki and Siangiki also eschew the stockades at night, preferring to link up with the dependent herd at dawn.

At the end of the month, we finally received blessed rainfall. It is incredible how quickly the ex-orphans and wild elephants dispersed, no longer anchored to known water sources and eager to feast on all the fresh greenery. This was a special time for one of our orphans in particular: Little Nabulu, who only graduated to Ithumba in May, was wide-eyed with wonder at the transformed landscape. This is the first time it rained since she came to Tsavo, so everything looked different to her. 

November 2021 day to day

01 Nov

Taita and Kilabasi were outside the stockades when the orphans were let out this morning. Kilabasi, who is heavily pregnant, doesn't walk far these days. The dependent orphans met the two ex-orphans outside. Taita pretended to be supervising Pare, Maramoja, Rapa, Kauro, Sapalan and Enkikwe, who take their milk lining up along the terrace wall, but in truth, Taita was salivating for the milk and hoped to get a bottle! Of course, that wasn’t going to happen. Later, fourteen wild dogs and two wild elephants showed up for water. Galla and Kamok, who had spent the night out, appeared later in the morning. It's not clear where they left the ex-orphans who they had been with the previous day. 

Out in the bush, Sana Sana kneeled on her front legs to reach a favourite shrub. Mundusi engaged Kauro in a pushing game. The game ended when Mundusi surrendered, and just to make sure Mundusi knew who was more superior, Kauro decided to climb on him. Later, Kauro played with Jotto and then with Rapa. 

At mud bath time, Nabulu and Sana Sana competed who could get to the milk feed first. Nabulu, who is younger and lighter, won the contest. In the afternoon, the orphans settled to browse in the upper Kalovoto area. The afternoon was quiet, as the orphans concentrated on browsing without any major distractions. When it was time to return to the stockades, Kamok, Galla and Tusuja couldn't be found, but the three orphans brought themselves back an hour later. 


Sana Sana and Nabulu coming for milk