Keepers' Diaries, October 2018

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

This month with the area around Ithumba base so dry we saw a lot of wild elephants making their way to our water sources with many large elephant bulls frequenting water troughs both at the mud bath area and at the stockades. 

Our own ex-orphan bulls Zurura and Taita showed up as well, amidst their big wild friends. Thankfully due to plentiful rain this year, the area is not nearly as dry as it was at the end of the last dry season, which was actually the tail end of a very long drought which saw the deaths of around 400 elephants in the Southern Tsavo region. It also resulted in quite a few young calf rescues. The elephants obviously relish our watering points and seek to quench their thirst as they pass through the area enjoying the fresh clean water. We were delighted on the 20th to see ‘Dad’ amongst 28 other wild bulls, an old familiar wild bull who has fathered some of the wild born babies to our ex-orphans. Dad then chose to remain in the area and catch up with his offspring for the rest of the month.

It was not just elephants that frequented the watering holes however, and we had buffalo, leopard and even wild dog all come through for a drink of water, sometimes all on the same day!

Our ex-orphan herds including mothers Yatta and Galana, as well as new mum Lualeni, all stayed close to home this month as well and frequented the stockade compound in the morning to share the Lucerne ‘breakfast’ put out by the Keepers every morning, primarily to see the dependent orphans through the day, but also for the benefit of our ex-orphans as well during the dry season. It was quite funny to see how as soon as the rain started to break with scattered showers falling in the north, the wild elephants and even our ex-orphans to an extent dispersed, no longer totally reliant on the water and safe in the knowledge that the vegetation would soon start to grow. Elephants have an incredible memory, and those middle aged and over know the pattern and routine of the weather and can anticipate so as to position themselves well. Whilst others dispersed our dependable ex-orphans Orwa, Narok and Bomani stayed close to home as they always do.

Whilst the ex-orphans were around with all their little babies as well, it is so interesting, and often amusing, to see their interaction with the dependent babies; a group so similar in age and likeness to them, and yet with such different beginnings. Sometimes the dependent orphans can be accommodating and willing to share what they see as ‘their’ breakfast. Esampu is often very happy to share and especially if the youngster in question shows some sign of respect, like little Siku, but Kama was not so lucky with Maramoja who warned her away from her pile of Lucerne pellets. Nasalot’s baby Nusu is a little rascal and often cracks the Keepers up with his funny antics. He knows that he can pretty much do as he likes, such as stealing food from the dependent orphans, and they can do nothing about it, as if they tried to retaliate, the mothers and nannies would soon step in and reprimand them. Pare and Rapa in particular we are sure will have it out with Nusu one day, as soon as his mother isn’t watching!

Despite being the youngest at the Ithumba Unit, Esampu is full of verve. She is nearly two years younger than Ukame but will still try and beat her to the milk bottles in a running race. Her first attempt saw the elder pull the ranking card, and she was forced to abort the race or faced being pushed to the ground, but the very next day she used a different tactic recognizing when the feeding time was about to commence and standing at the head of the herd, so she did not have to encounter the same problem and had a healthy, premeditated, head start! 

We were slightly concerned with Sapalan’s health towards the end of the month as this quiet young bull was lingering behind the rest of the herd and almost keeping pace with Enkikwe who has a nasty limp from a lion injury. One day he failed to get up at all but the swift action from Angela advising the Keeper’s on what to do meant that he was soon treated and back in good health before long. His new friend Enkikwe stayed to keep him company, and watch over him as he received his treatment, and so it is with the wondrous compassionate ways of elephants. We are happy to report that Chemi Chemi is also recovering well from his lion attack, better than anticipated in fact, and we think that he might regain sight in his left eye after all, which is a huge relief.

Towards the end of the month Laragai decided to temporarily abandon her ‘rebel group’ as the Keepers like to refer to them, mostly because they refuse to come back to the stockades some evenings and like to stay out late, consisting of Kithaka, Garzi, Lemoyian and Barsilinga, and accompany the dependent orphans on their walks throughout the day. Perhaps she is looking for the next dependent orphans who seem ready to join her in spending more time out in the wild!

A couple of the bulls which turned up amidst the many wild bulls as the dry season drew to an end were suffering from injuries; one to his leg and the other had a swelling on his side. The DSWT/KWS Tsavo Veterinary team responded quickly to the call from the Ithumba Keepers, and both bulls were successfully treated and sent on their way; neither having to receive a follow-up treatment.

October 2018 day to day

01 Oct

As the day dawned and the orphans settled for their lucerne pellets, Lualeni and Baby Lulu arrived at the stockades escorted by Yatta and Galana’s groups.  

Little playful Kama thought it would be a good idea to share Pare’s pellets, the young boy warned her not to, but Kama did not take the warning too seriously. Pare, angered by Kama’s nonchalance, decided to show the little girl how serious he really was and pushed her away. Kama, a little startled, decided that it was better to go play with Rapa instead. The ex-orphans left a short while after to allow the orphans to start their browsing activities. Maramoja walked off with the ex-orphans not realizing that her group had already gone in a different direction. As soon as she did, she ran back to join her friends. Today the orphans settled to browse in the Kone area and as the temperature started to rise, they decided to take a break from browsing and rest under the shade of a large tree. At the mud bath the orphans enjoyed cooling off in the water and wallowing; they returned to browse soon after.

In the afternoon, Lualeni, Chyulu, Lulu and Lenana, joined the orphans. Ukame took this opportunity to say hello to baby Lulu and got some lessons from Chyulu and Lenana on how to be a good nanny. Chemi Chemi, Kalama, Kandecha and Kibo joined the orphans on their slow walk back to the stockades in the evening.

Lualeni and Lulu

Pare pushing Kama

Chemi Chemi with the juniors