Keepers' Diaries, November 2022

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

In Ithumba, the month began on a hopeful note. The stockade compound was deserted and not a single wild elephant or ex-orphan showed up, which told us that nearby parts of the park must have received good rain. Later in the day, we received our own heavy downpour. At last, there were signs that this terrible drought may be ending.  

The month also began with some comic relief. Poor Sapalan unwittingly walked too close to the edge of the mud bath and got the surprise of his life when he slipped and fell into the water! Esampu, Sattao, Musiara, and Dololo all crowded around — we couldn’t help but think they were laughing at their friend’s predicament. Sapalan looked embarrassed as he composed himself and got to his feet. 

Ex-orphan Melia’s newborn, Milo, is a bold little chap. One morning, he decided to trail 14-year-old Kibo. The older bull didn’t know what to make of the baby following him and ran away — only to find Milo in hot pursuit! 

Naboishu is another bold elephant. Eight-year-old Tusuja rolled on the ground one afternoon, trying to entice the younger orphans to play with him, but they were leery of the bigger elephant. Naboishu, however, is never scared to try anything. He trundled over to the bull, who is twice his age, and had a great time climbing on him.

Naboishu’s friend Larro continues to be the queen of milk feedings. She is constantly trying to outwit the Keepers in her quest to steal an extra bottle. After she finished her milk one afternoon, she turned as if she was leaving, then reversed quickly, snatched a bottle, and sprinted off, guzzling it down as fast as she could. The Keepers ran after her, but she only dropped the bottle once she was done! Luckily, the Keepers always carry spares.

It seems that the ‘late night gang’ has gone fully wild. Oltaiyoni, Naseku, Roi, Siangiki, and Galla no longer return to the stockades at night, preferring to remain with the likes of Kilaguni, Tusuja, Olare, Melia, and Namalok out in the wild. At last, their reintegration journey is complete! We are very happy for them.

Malkia, Mteto, Esampu, and Maramoja are obsessed with babies. One day, Maramoja decided to stick with Melia’s small herd, realising she would have the opportunity to look after baby Milo. However, she forgot to take her milk feeds into account! She arrived at the mud bath just as the milk vehicle was driving away, so she proceeded to run after the car with her trunk aloft, as if asking it to stop. Fortunately for her, the Keepers spotted her and stopped for an impromptu milk feeding.

Sometimes, the smallest things can cause the biggest discord. One morning, Sattao, Dololo, and Kuishi left the stockade with branches still in their mouths. As they were walking along, happily munching away, Mundusi and Kauro unceremoniously stole the branches from their mouths. Kuishi, who had suffered a similar altercation with Rapa earlier in the month, saw what was coming and managed to dodge the two boys, but Sattao and Dololo weren’t so lucky.

Kithaka returned earlier this year seeking help for a leg injury. His recovery is going well, although it suffered a minor setback this month after mercurial Kibo pushed him over. His friends have been very supportive — the ‘late night gang’ often stopped by to pick up Kithaka and take him for a walk. After stretching his legs, he and Enkikwe would return to the stockades together. 

On the 8th, Yatta, Yoyo, Yogi, Naserian, Njema, Nasalot, Noah, Sunyei, Siku, Saba, Galana, Gawa, Lenana, Lapa, and a wild elephant showed up at the stockades. Yatta, Gawa, Yogi, Yoyo, Naserian, and Njema have been away for a very long time, so it was wonderful to see their faces. Naserian and Njema were looking a bit gaunt as a result of the drought, but we are confident that they will regain weight now that it’s starting to get green again.  

A few days later, on the 11th, we had the most wonderful surprise: Yatta’s firstborn, Yetu, who was born in 2012, arrived with her very own baby boy in tow! We named him Yebo. Yetu was in the company of ex-orphan Mulika and her kids, Mwende (who is actually Yetu’s half-sister; they share the same father) and Mkuu. Funnily enough, Mteto was also in their group. She somehow clocked the fact that Yetu had a baby and skirted the dependent herd that morning in order to join the welcoming procession. Yatta arrived later, from a different direction, and met her daughter and grandchild.

There was lots of mischief this month. At bedtime one evening, Kauro managed to open the stockade gate, letting everyone out! The Keepers coaxed the orphans back into their bedrooms, but Kamok decided to spend the night out. Bright and early the next morning, she was waiting outside the stockade compound. Before he even had his breakfast milk bottle, Ambo dashed out to find out how his ‘big sister’ managed the whole night outside. Kamok must have communicated that she was just having fun, and after that reassurance, Ambo returned to have his milk.

While we received some good rains, it has not been enough. Although they dispersed after the first storms, several ex-orphans and wild elephants drifted back throughout the month. Conditions in the field are still quite barren, and they know they can find water and supplemental lucerne at Ithumba. We were happy to see Wendi, Wiva, Wema, Wimbi, Makena, Kinna, Kaia, Kama, Ukame, Mutara, Mambo, Sities, Suguta, Kainuk, and others throughout the month.

These visitors didn’t come without their drama. One afternoon, Kama — who is ex-orphan Kinna’s five-year-old daughter — threw a back kick at Kuishi as she passed by. Kuishi was annoyed by such insolence, especially because Kama appeared unremorseful. Kama was eager to take on Kuishi in a fight, as she knew that her mother was nearby and would provide back-up if needed. Kuishi did a quick calculation and realised the same, so put herself in reverse in order to lure Kama away from her mother. Her plan worked, and as soon as Kama walked away from Kinna, Mundusi and Pare helped Kuishi pounce on the young upstart. Kama had no choice but to run for her dear life!

The month ended with great excitement. On 28th November, we received a very special delivery from Nairobi: a moving lorry containing three new Nursery graduates! Neshashi, Oldepe, and Roho arrived shortly before nine o'clock in the morning. After the babies were offloaded and given a welcoming milk bottle, Larro, Naboishu, Mukkoka, and Musiara were called to greet the new arrivals.

The whole herd was very excited to greet the newcomers. Ndiwa, Malkia, Maramoja, Sana Sana, and Larro did everything they could to make the three babies comfortable. That evening, Larro led Neshashi, Oldepe, and Roho to their new night stockade.

November 2022 day to day

01 Nov

This morning the stockade compound looked deserted. Not a single wild elephant showed up, or any ex-orphans. Only Melia, little Milo and Tusuja arrived later to join the orphans for lucerne. Melia came because her baby is so little still and she can’t quite keep up with the rest of the herd as they venture far to find enough vegetation to eat. Elephants are good at reading signs and weather and they knew that it had rained elsewhere in the Park the previous day, so the ex-orphans and other wild elephants had perhaps ventured to those areas it had rained. If they don’t come back for a while, then we will know that those areas have received good rain! And so, the dependent orphans settled for lucerne without any competition today. Malkia interacted with Milo for a while before Ndiwa led the way out for the day.

The weather was funny today. It was cloudy and drizzled a little bit. The orphans enjoyed each moment as this was just the right temperature that they have been longing for for many days. Kamok, Malkia, Kuishi, Mapia, Pare, Jotto and Dololo had so much fun playing in the cool moist soil.

It was still cool when the orphans made their way to the mud bath for their midday feed, and none of the orphans dared to touch the mud bathing water after having their bottles. It was slippery at the mud bath edge too due to the drizzle. Poor Sapalan, unaware, walked too close to the edge and got the surprise of his life when he slipped and fell in the water! Esampu, Sattao, Musiara and Dololo all crowded around and we couldn’t help but think they were laughing at their poor friend. Sapalan looked embarrassed as he composed himself and got back to his feet. He could only hope that not too many of his friends had seen what happened. At the water trough, Nabulu slipped and nearly fell into the big mud bath too! She turned slowly and left to avoid a repeat of what had happened to Sapalan.

In the afternoon the clouds cleared giving way to sunshine. Musiara, Malkia and Maramoja teamed up together to browse while Sattao joined Malima. Later in the evening on the way back to the stockades, the weather changed yet again. Clouds gathered and it started drizzling, followed by a heavy downpour of about 55mm. We couldn’t be more delighted to receive this first rain shower. November has clearly got off to a good start for Ithumba.

Malkia with Milo and Melia