Keepers' Diaries, October 2022

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

‘Class One’ may be the youngest orphans at Ithumba, but they are certainly the most vocal! While Larro and Mukkoka mind their own business in the morning, Naboishu and Musiara have a standing feud over who stands where. For some reason, both boys are determined to stand at the far right when they have their milk bottle. Every morning, they get embroiled in a vigorous fight to get this coveted position. Strength-wise, they are evenly matched, but Naboishu has an extra flair for drama. He lets out an ear-splitting bellow, which also serves as an alarm clock to everyone in the compound!

Our mercurial girl, Kamok, began the month with a warning. She does not like babies and makes no effort to hide it — in fact, she broadcasts her aversion by taking every opportunity to push babies. This has earned her a rather unsavoury reputation among the ex-orphan mums and nannies. Kamok discovered this the hard way when she sauntered too close to Ithumbah’s three-month-old baby, Iman. The protective mother snapped into action and whipped Kamok with her trunk, warning her that any funny business wouldn’t be tolerated. 

The month was dominated by Mapia and Jotto’s ongoing quest to establish dominance. At six years old, both boys are becoming very aware of bull hierarchy — and each is eager to claim their place! At the moment, they are evenly matched, but the Keepers bet that Jotto will ultimately emerge as the winner. Mapia has a thick-set body and is stronger, but Jotto is wily and determined. 

It has been nearly two decades since our Ithumba Reintegration Unit was established, and in that time, we have become very familiar with certain wild elephants. One of our favourite families is led by ‘Queen,’ a regal female who is very respected by the ex-orphans. She often visits the stockades with her grown daughter, adolescent son, infant daughter, and granddaughter. One morning, Mteto had the great privilege of spending time with the two babies in Queen’s family.

Poor Kithaka is still recovering from his bad leg injury. We have no idea how he got such a sprain, but the vet suspects he got pushed or took a bad fall. The good news is that he is positively responding to treatment, although he still has a long healing journey ahead of him. However, he is proving to be an excellent patient and seems to be enjoying his sojourn at home. Sometimes, when his friends try to enter his big stockade, he even shuts the gate in their face — no doubt because he doesn’t want to share his hearty stash of lucerne! 

9th October was a very exciting day. Just after the dependent orphans left the compound, Wendi arrived with a tiny baby girl, who we named Wimbi. We can hardly believe that the orphan we rescued 20 years ago is now a mother to three daughters. Wendi has always been a hopeless troublemaker, and motherhood hasn’t exactly cured her of her old ways. Luckily, her eldest child, Wiva, is very diligent. On several occasions, the Keepers witnessed Wiva looking after Wema and Wimbi while Wendi was busy antagonising the other orphans.

Ex-orphans Mutara and Wendi are like oil and water — Mutara is peace-loving and calm, while Wendi delights in chaos. It is very interesting to see how Mutara’s herd gives Wendi a wide berth. When they see her on the horizon, they suddenly make themselves scarce. They clearly know that where Wendi goes, trouble follows.

Five-year-old Nusu, ex-orphan Nasalot’s firstborn, is becoming another controversial figure at Ithumba. He loves to antagonise other elephants and is always at loggerheads with many of the orphans, particularly Enkikwe, Mundusi, and Rapa. His little brother Noah, on the other hand, is so cheerful and friendly to everyone. 

The main event of the month fell on 29th October. The morning began as usual, with some ex-orphans and wild bulls joining the orphans for lucerne and water. All of the sudden, there was a commotion and the wild elephants scattered — giving us a full view of a newborn baby who had just been born to ex-orphan Melia. 

Poor Melia got such a fright when her son dropped to the ground that she ran away. Kitirua, Olare, Kinna, Wiva, Loijuk, and Wild One walked over to see the new baby. Melia just stood there helplessly, not quite sure what to do next, so Loijuk stepped in. She helped the baby to his feet and guided him over to Melia’s side. From there, Olare, Kitirua and Sities took over and stayed with Melia to make sure that the baby was safe. It was wonderful to see how Melia’s friends rallied around her. We named her baby Milo.

As the day wore on, Melia became more comfortable with her new role. The next morning, dependent orphans Malkia, Mteto, Maramoja, and Esampu got to interact with baby Milo. Melia gave them the opportunity as she was busy feeding on the lucerne supplements. Maramoja felt happy when Milo attempted to nurse from her and even propped her leg forward, just as mothers do to lower themselves so their babies can feed. These girls are fast learners and will make excellent mothers in the future.

Unfortunately, the drought continues to hold Tsavo in its grips. As we begin another month, we look hopefully towards the heavens, willing rain to fall.

October 2022 day to day

01 Oct

The ex-orphans arrived early in the morning before the orphans were let out. Orwa and Bomani lined up along the wall with Pare, Mteto, Sapalan, Karisa and Maramoja, thinking perhaps that the Keepers might make a mistake and give them some milk too. The two boys forgot that they are big and have long tusks so it was easy for the Keepers to distinguish them from the others, unfortunately for them! Bomani and Orwa shook their heads in disappointment when the Keepers skipped them. They walked down to the water troughs to console themselves by drinking water. It appears Pare and Sapalan were laughing at them, but they made sure that they were not facing their direction otherwise they would have faced it rough from Bomani and Orwa! Lucerne was distributed and all the orphans shared it equally. Mapia and Jotto briefly engaged in a strength testing exercise but were stopped by Bomani who pushed the two boys away.

Kamok had a tough time when she walked close by Ithumbah’s baby Iman. Ithumbah, apparently aware of Kamok’s reputation of pushing youngsters, thought it best not to let Kamok close to her baby, and whipped Kamok with her trunk to avoid seeing her only baby being knocked down by Kamok.

On their way to browse the orphans came across some guinea fowl. Esampu, Mundusi, Sattao and Dololo decided to chase them out of their way. The birds didn’t hang around to be trampled on by the baby elephants and flew away leaving the orphans charging and trumpeting. Jotto met with a buffalo and tried to charge at it, but the buffalo stood its ground and even threatened to push Jotto. Jotto retreated. Ndiwa saw Jotto and decided to come and help him. When the buffalo saw that Jotto had back up from a friend it immediately changed its mind and decided to run off, knowing it couldn’t stand up to two young elephants!

Orwa and Bomani followed the orphans to the bush and browsed together with them for the better part of the morning. Kuishi and Pare had a brief conversation with Bomani and shortly afterwards resumed browsing. Kauro, Mteto, Malima, Sapalan and Jotto took a break from browsing and had a game of rolling on the ground. Rapa came over and picked Sapalan for a pushing game.

At mud bath time, Kauro came in carrying a bigger stick than usual, as is his habit before having his milk bottles. The weather was chilly and none of the orphans wanted to wallow in the mud bath. In the afternoon Malima settled to browse with Larro while Mteto, Sapalan and Mundusi teamed up together to browse. In the evening, Sattao led the way back to the stockades for the night. 

Ithumbah with Iman and Kamok browsing

Dololo rubbing his bottom on Ndiwa

Mutara watching over little Mambo