Keepers' Diaries, October 2019

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

This month began with the first hint of the short rains arriving early this year; a huge relief given how dry the conditions were becoming. October the 1st was a chilly morning following the rain that had fallen throughout the night. Orwa and Bomani were there as usual waiting for the orphans to emerge from their night stockades so that they could accompany them to the Lucerne feeding area. Their predictable morning routine finally changed around the 6th of the month, perhaps with the onset of the rain, and Orwa and Bomani didn’t return again until much later in the month, having spent a considerable amount of time in the past weeks around the Ithumba stockade area. 

The early rain meant that many of the wild elephants dispersed further afield, but we did still see some of the ex-orphans sporadically throughout the month. Their herds seemed mixed together, apart from the two best friends Kilaguni and Chaimu who are never separated. We saw Olare, Melia, Tumaren, Kalama, Chemi Chemi, Kitirua, Narok and Naisula a handful of times this month, joining the dependent orphans for Lucerne in the morning. Narok is usually with Bomani and Orwa but she seems to have separated from them for the time being. One morning big boy Zurura arrived at the stockades as well. It was so lovely to see him as it had been a number of months since we last saw him, and believed him to be with Galana’s herd.

In the afternoon of the 7th, the orphans settled in to browse west of Ithumba Hill where they were joined by ex-orphan Meibai who was in the company of a wild friend. Since the sun was hot, Meibai, his wild friend together with the dependent orphans took a break from feeding to relax under a tree. In the evening, Meibai accompanied the orphans back to the stockade. His wild friend didn't trust the Keepers and chose not to join them, and the next day they were gone.

On the 8th, Rapsu, Challa, Kibo, Kandecha, Kasigau and Kanjoro were among fourteen wild bulls that showed up for water in the morning. Kanjoro, who normally belongs to Mutara’s group, appears to have abandoned those girls, perhaps because he was the only boy in that group. The older boys joined the young Ithumba orphans to feed on Lucerne as well. Naughty Kibo felt no mercy towards the injured Enkikwe, and was reprimanded by the Keepers for pushing him and trying to climb on him despite his bad leg. Kibo wasn't happy about being told off and walked away in a huff, and we didn’t see him for the rest of the month! That afternoon, the orphans were joined by Tomboi as well, who will soon turn 17! He joined them for a short time before leaving for the stockades to look for water. 

Ex-orphan Kinna and her herd including her baby Kama showed up only at the end of the month. She was with Naserian, Kenze and a wild elephant and they visited the stockades in the morning. We saw wild bull elephant ‘Limpy’ on the 10th as well, who came to the mud bath with his two friends. Limpy is a wild bull we treated a couple of years ago for a terrible snare injury around his foot. His injury was life threatening and it is so special to be able to see him now doing so well, and reflect on what we were able to do to save him through the prompt actions of our Veterinary teams that we run with the KWS. Our five veterinary units across the country save cases like Limpy constantly and over the years have treated injuries on more than 3,000 elephants alone.  

The ongoing rains meant puddles turned into fun mud bathing pools, and often the orphans would by-pass the main waterhole, now full to the brim and a bit chilly on the overcast days, in favour of the smaller, muddier and warmer puddles. Their constant wallowing continues to expand the puddles into full blown waterholes, a graphic example how important elephants are for all other species ensuring water is caught in well-sealed depressions and held longer for every other animal to benefit from too. The rain is always a cause for excitement among elephants. One day when it started raining in the middle of the day all the orphans stopped browsing and started running around in excitement. Pare and Naseku were rolling on the ground and scooping soil and throwing it in the air. New shoots begin to sprout almost overnight after the first few scattered showers, and these are a firm favourite with the elephants who look everywhere for these tasty and nutritious shoots. The babies also love to drink rainwater directly from the rocks where it gathers into clear puddles. The soil softened with the rains and the orphans were happy as they uprooted shrubs and roots with ease using their tusks, and feasted on them.

One day at the mud bath, Esampu got out from the water and began trumpeting and running around as if she was being followed by something, but she was in fact just pretending. Her actions prompted the other orphans to run too, worried that there was a real cause for concern. The Keepers could almost see the grin across Esampu’s face, successful in scaring her friends for no apparent reason and happy at obtaining the frenzied result she was after.  The Keepers intervened by calling the orphans together and eventually calm was restored. Garzi, Barsilinga, Mundusi, Ambo, Roi, Enkikwe, Jotto and Kauro were some of the other more playful orphans in the Ithumba herd this month. 

The ‘rebel’ herd including Kithaka, Barsilinga Garzi and Lemoyian had up until this month been exploring their independence a bit more, but after two buffaloes were killed near the stockade by lions recently, they have stuck close to the dependent herd and the Keepers. Towards the end of the month they started staying out in the Park until later at night, but usually they had all returned to the stockades by at least 9pm and of their own accord. At mud bath one day there was an unidentified sound from the west which scared the orphans. Enkikwe, who walks with a limp, surprised everyone by running so fast he overtook Karisa, meaning he can really run when there is danger around! He is still escorted everywhere by his good friend Kauro, and is becoming much stronger by the day, and has even been spotted engaging orphans like Tusuja is wrestling games, a great sign that he is recovering well. On another day two ibis birds flew overhead making a lot of noise. The noise freaked the orphans out and they took off towards their Keepers. Only Karisa didn't run and he turned around with a quizzed expression wondering how his friends could scare so easily. Karisa stood his ground and when the tension was over, the orphans began to follow Karisa the brave!

Olsekki seemed a little dull and unwell this month but following quick reporting from the Keepers Angela advised on treatment, after which he improved, and seemed much himself by the end of the month. 

October 2019 day to day

01 Oct

It was a chilly morning following light showers we had overnight. Orwa and Bomani as usual reported early as three wild bulls enjoyed drinking water at the stockade water troughs. The orphans settled for their favourite breakfast of lucerne before leaving for browsing. Challa joined them, and Sapalan had a brief chat with Malima. The Keepers wondered if Sapalan was wondering how old she was, and whether it was appropriate for her to come over and share the lucerne he had decided to carry off and enjoy feeding on privately. Malima didn't respond, but left so as to avoid getting herself in trouble with Sapalan. 

The Ithumba dependent orphans were happy because the overnight showers had made it cool and enjoyable as they went on with their browsing activities. At mud bath time, the orphans were joined by ex-orphans Kibo, Naisula, Kitirua, Kandecha, Kasigau, Melia, Tumaren and a wild female elephant. The weather was cool and the orphans only had their milk and some water before they headed back out to browse. After the orphans left for browsing, five wild bulls showed up for water. In the afternoon, the orphans settled to browse in the upper Kalovoto area. In the evening shortly before going back to the stockades, the weather changed and it started raining lightly again. This prompted Kauro to perform a soil dusting exercise in order to cover his back with nice damp soil.

Challa enjoying lucerne

Sapalan pointing at Malima