Keepers' Diaries, October 2021

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Across Tsavo, wildlife are feeling the effects of the dry season. The surge of visitors to Ithumba is a reminder of this: While we always have a steady stream of visitors, there have been far more than usual. 

On the first dawn of the month, our Keepers found a wild elephant and buffalo waiting outside the compound. They had come for a drink and, finding the trough empty, took a nap nearby until the ever-busy bowser arrived and replenished the water. Between all the troughs at Ithumba, we often supply 140,000 litres of water for wildlife in a single day. This trend will probably continue until the rains finally arrive, but due to climate change and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns, no one knows exactly when this will happen.

While it is a bleak time for wildlife, there were also plenty of happy moments throughout the month. One day, a wild family unit arrived at the stockade compound, consisting of a mother elephant and her three calves. Her eldest daughter had just given birth a week ago, and the older mother seemed very proud to have become a grandmother.

In fact, we celebrated two births of our own this month! On the evening of the 18th, Kinna introduced us to her newborn daughter, who we have named Kaia. Kinna’s firstborn, Kama, is being an excellent nanny to her little sister. Ten days later, after an absence of six months, Naserian arrived at the stockades with a healthy infant tucked by her side. We have named her little girl Njema, which means 'good' in Swahili. Fittingly, Wendi’s oldest daughter, Wiva, appears to have appointed herself head nanny. Wendi was a rather wayward mother the first time around, and as her best friend, Naserian was absolutely instrumental in raising Wiva. Now that Wiva is six years old, she is choosing to play a supportive role in Njema’s upbringing.

Despite the heat, the orphans had a very active month and kept themselves entertained with all sorts of creative games. The youngsters love to playfight, but some days, they take a different approach. It was sweet to watch Malkia, Musiara, and Dololo being very affectionate one afternoon, patting each other with their trunks. Another morning, Mapia woke up on the wrong side of the stockade. He pushed his friend Jotto out of the way, roughly and without any apparent reason. At the time, Jotto cried out and just moved away from Mapia. However, he clearly had revenge on his mind. When he later gathered the courage to retaliate, Kamok intervened and separated the two boys.

The older orphans in “Class Five,” who sleep in the furthest stockade, continue to experiment with their independence. In the morning, they part ways with the dependent herd and spend the day exploring Tsavo unchaperoned. Despite his age, Enkikwe remains dependent, because his 2018 lion attack held him back a few years. However, he remains very good friends with Siakgiki and Olsekki in Class Five, so he often goes on excursions with them. Barsilinga, who had a similar setback because of a foot injury, is now ready to resume his reintegration journey. However, he and most of Class Five continue to return to their stockades for bedtime. Kamok and Galla are a little more advanced in their reintegration journeys, and have started to spend nights out with the older ex orphans.

Mutara and her ex orphan herd remain in the area. While they have several reasons for anchoring themselves around Ithumba, Dololo is certainly a contributing factor: Ex orphans Suguta and Sities remain absolutely obsessed with him and wait outside his stockade most mornings. Roi is also very fond of the young bull, and whenever Suguta and Sities are absent, she takes the opportunity to look after him. One afternoon, Dololo dodged the Keepers and couldn't be found anywhere, right up to when it was time to return home. The Keepers hoped he had run away to be with his older sisters, but to their surprise, Mutara’s herd was waiting at the stockades without him. At around 8.30pm, to our immense relief, Dololo arrived with Roi and the other Class Five members. Ambo, Jotto, and Sattao were very happy to have their roommate back.

Esampu seems to have appointed herself head of security. This is no doubt an outlet for her mischievous nature, as she loves any opportunity to chase something. One day, she targeted a bird that persistently hovered above her. Another day, she became annoyed by some chattering baboons that were passing close by. Backed up by Wanjala, Rapa, Galla, and Ndiwa, she charged at them with her ears held high. The baboons prudently made themselves scarce in the nearest trees.

Towards the end of the month, 18-year-old Buchuma emerged from the east of the stockades. He had been missing in action for quite some time, so we were pleased to see him looking so large and healthy. Little Nabulu, who hadn’t set eyes on Buchuma since she graduated to Ithumba, looked at him with such admiration. Perhaps she was marveling at his size, or wondering where he had been all this time!

October 2021 day to day

01 Oct

A wild elephant and buffalo arrived at dawn and found that all the water in the troughs was finished. They took a nap nearby until the ever-busy water bowser arrived and replenished the troughs. The elephants and buffalo were happy to drink their fill. 

The dependent orphans were let out of their night stockades soon after finishing their morning milk bottles. Nabulu walked down to the water trough and stretched her trunk to sniff at the buffalo. She prudently didn't want to run into trouble with the buffalo, however, so she walked back to enjoy her lucerne. 

Ex orphans Rapsu and Galla were the guests of honour at lucerne feeding time. Kauro and Mundusi decided to have a warmup strength-testing exercise, in which Kauro emerged the winner. 

Later, when the orphans were busy browsing, Enkikwe decided to take a break and engage Mundusi in a pushing game. Roi took this opportunity to replace Suguta and Sities as Dololo’s caretaker. It was quiet when the orphans made their way to the mud bath, as only six wild bulls showed up. The orphans enjoyed themselves in the water before going to dust themselves and dry off at the pile of loose soil. Just as the dependent orphans were preparing to leave, Yatta and her herd arrived at the mud bath accompanied by a wild herd. This didn’t change anything for the younger orphans, however, and they proceeded with their plan to go browse. Esampu was in a playful mood and kept trying to chase a bird that persistently hovered above her. 

Rapsu and Challa visiting

Nabulu watching a buffalo