Keepers' Diaries, October 2020

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

At Ithumba the dry season was punctuated by the first drizzles of rain signalling the onset of the long awaited short rains, but until we have our first deluge of rain showers and the vegetation has time to recover, the Ithumba area remains very much in demand for its life saving water sources and mud baths - and still plays host to numerous wild elephants, and our own ex-orphans as well. We had over 30 ex-orphans around Ithumba permanently this month, including four of the wild born babies as well. 

Kinna and her ex-orphan herd remain very present in the area at the moment and show up at the stockades almost every morning to join the dependent orphans for their Lucerne feed, perhaps grateful for the supplemental food while they remain breastfeeding throughout the dry season. Kinna, baby Kama, Sunyei and her little girl Siku, Lenana and her new born Lapa, plus Loijuk and baby Lili, along with nannies Melia, Ishanga, Makena, and Kilaguni, Chemi Chemi stayed throughout the month, although half way through Loijuk, baby Lili, Melia and Ishanga split from Kinna, Sunyei, Lenana and their babies and chose to rove separately for a while. One day Makena was found in amongst a whole group of about 40 wild bulls accompanying one in particular whom she appeared very enamoured by, so we did we think she might be in season.  

The ex-orphans’ wild born babies make wonderful play mates for our orphaned young ones and we witness marvellous interactions between the two groups of babies who have experienced such different beginnings. Those involving Lapa are quite hilarious because even at two and a half months old, he is bursting with characterful energy. One morning Naseku and Sattao went straight to meet Lapa and the little rascal started fighting them. He was quite hilarious, lifting his two front legs in the air while attempting to jump - push his opponents. When he met Olsekki however it was quite a different story and Olsekki thought that the naughty baby needed a bit of disciplining; he pushed the baby hard and Lapa didn't pester Olsekki again. 

Of course Mutara’s slightly younger ex-orphan herd of mostly females was still around this month too and they sometimes linked up to wander with the older ex-orphan herds, and often spent time with the babies as well. Mutara and the others arrived back into the Ithumba area during the long May rains earlier this year. Mutara was being pursued by various bulls at the time and we hope to see a young baby for Mutara as well in a couple of year’s time. They linked up with Orwa’s herd of Bomani, and Chemi Chemi who are also still present around Ithumba having sat out the dry season close to home. Kainuk was very happy indeed to see Mutara and her other friends back in May. The arrival of Mutara’s herd coincided with the graduation of Dololo, Sattao and Musiara from the Nairobi Nursery to the Ithumba Unit and since then, Sities, Suguta and Kainuk have been besotted with little Dololo, following him everywhere, although of course when little Lapa came along in August they abandoned doting on Dololo one hundred percent of the time and now share their devotion with this new baby for a short while. 

It was back in May that Turkwel, Kainuk, Kithaka, Garzi and Lemoyian arrived back at Ithumba as well, having been away since December the previous year, and they seem to have joined up with Mutara’s herd for the time being. Their old member, Barsilinga, continues to stay with the dependent orphans just while the chronic infection in his foot heals completely. He has occasionally been stealing away with Tusuja and sometimes Kauro too – the mischievous bulls like to dodge the Keepers just before noon to be the first to arrive at the mud bath area!

On the 3rd last month, ex-orphans Melia, Kandecha and Kibo arrived after being away for a good long time and they stuck around for the whole of October as well. Ex-orphans Kandecha, Chemi Chemi, Bomani, Kilaguni, Melia and Kibo never seem to stick to one herd and are fairly transient, but because they are all familiar with each other and were raised the same way, they seem to have an enduring understanding and affection for one another and they don’t mind whose company they keep. Kilaguni chose to spend a bit of time on his own with the dependent babies this month, arriving with the familiar and friendly junior wild bull the Keepers have come to know as ‘Kijana’, opting to escort the dependent babies for the rest of the day. Kijana has become part and parcel of the ex-orphan groups and he behaves exactly like them, popping up whenever he wishes to share some Lucerne in the morning. One day he arrived with ex-orphans Zurura and Bomani and later left, leaving Bomani in charge of the dependent orphans and assigning himself the role of a Head Boy, disciplining the naughty boys whenever they tried to play too close to him. Bomani hates to be without his best friend Orwa and after spending a few days away from him he evidently went looking for him, and triumphantly returned with his best friend by his side a few days later. 

Apart from Zurura a number of our older ex-orphan bulls were around this month too. Tomboi was evidently enjoying the company of the wild bull known as ‘Dad’ as well as other wild bulls, showing up at the various water points for water throughout the month. We saw 16 year old ex-orphan Challa only once this month on the 29th when he visited the stockades with a wild friend for some water. Familiar with the routine he happily joined the dependent orphans for some supplement Lucerne as well, while his wild friend remained a little more cautious. 17 year old Rapsu was also spotted this month, sometimes with the ex-orphans and sometimes coming to the stockades on his own to share Lucerne with the babies. 

There have been a few tussles amongst the young dependent bulls this month. Tusuja and Wanjala can hardly get through a day without engaging each other in some form of pushing game to establish their dominance. As usual however, their games end in a draw. Jotto seems out to prove that his gentleness should not be mistaken for weakness and that he can stand up for himself if he wants to, and Enkikwe is out to prove that his bad leg doesn’t mean that other bulls like Pare or Namalok can push him around either. Despite his compromised leg he often wins the fights he sets his mind to! Dololo, despite being a cosseted baby, is slowly trying to establish himself among the big boys, and sometimes likes to challenge Rapa, Karisa and Mapia too. Kauro has been a bit grumpy this month and not his usual-self, pushing some of his friends like Malima and Karisa and even young Ambo too, but Siangiki and Kamok are never far away and are always ready to comfort little Ambo. He is starting to act a little more independently from the rest of the herd, breaking away for his own little missions every now and then. Kamok and Olsekki are always at logger heads for one reason or another and can often be spotted facing off against each other to resolve some new disagreement! The same goes for Kuishi and Mapia – for some reason Kuishi always pushes Mapia when he passes close to her and you could almost see the glee on his face one day when Kuishi stood on a thorn and was walking a little slower, as he knew he wasn’t going to have to defend himself that day! 

For the older girls in the dependent herd everything seems to pivot around Ambo at the moment. With Mutara’s herds’ attention focused on Dololo, Siangiki, Roi and Kamok’s attention seems to be focused on Ambo most of the time. He doesn’t like to hang around for the morning feeding on Lucerne and more often than not can be heard rumbling his intentions to his big sisters to leave for the day, and one of the older girls like Kamok will hurry to his side to walk out with him together. One day a group of orphans including Ambo got a fright from two warthogs, and they ran back to the safety of their Keepers. On the way Ambo tripped and fell, but Sana Sana and Maramoja turned back quickly to assist Ambo back to his feet. The two girls rumbled and comforted Ambo, feeling sorry for him, until Siangiki took Ambo into her care to shower affection over him for the rest of the day. Malkia, the Keepers have noticed, is leading a rather quiet and private life these days, but enjoys leading the others through the bush in search of the best vegetation.

Olsekki and Siangiki are slowly weaning themselves off from drinking their milk bottles, and sometimes walk straight into their stockade at night without wanting a bottle. Like Kauro, this means they are becoming more independent and the time soon approaches when they will build the confidence to leave the stockades. Sapalan and Enkikwe are keeping the Keepers on their toes as well. As it stands they are always forced to come last for the milk feed at noon as they pester the Keepers for extra milk, but one day they too decided to leave the herd just before it was time to return home for the night. Together with Rapa they hatched a plan to dodge the Keepers and their friends. It took the Keepers about an hour to find them and when they did, the three bulls seemed totally unfazed as they were found still browsing heading in a northerly direction. This is how it begins when the bulls start to want to detach themselves from the Keepers and stockades but time will tell when they are ready; at only five and six years old they still have a little while before they will become totally independent. 

October 2020 day to day

01 Oct

Ex-orphans Kibo, Kilaguni, Melia, Chemi Chemi, Kandecha, Rapsu, Tumaren and Mutara’s herd as well, joined the dependent orphans in the morning to feed on Lucerne. Shortly later, Rapsu walked down to the water trough where he was joined by Namalok to have some water. The rest of the orphans joined moments later. After drinking enough water, the orphans headed east while the ex-orphans headed west. Barsilinga and Musiara found some suitable rocks that they used to scratch on. Wanjala engaged Karisa in a pushing game that didn't last for long as Karisa quit and went to challenge Galla. 

At mud bath time, the orphans were joined by ex-orphans Lenana, baby Lapa, Kinna, baby Kama, baby siku, Sunyei, Makena and twenty five wild bulls. Maramoja, Roi, Dololo and Sattao took some time to play with Lapa and socialize with him for a bit, before heading back out to browse. In the afternoon the sun was really hot and the orphans took a break from feeding to hide from the scorching sun. They later resumed browsing when the temperature dropped.

Rapsu with the dependent orphans

Musiara scratching

Lenana, her baby Lapa and the other ex-orphans