Keepers' Diaries, September 2020

Select your unit:

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

With some 34 orphans still milk-dependent at our Ithumba Unit at the moment, the Keepers certainly have their hands full. With many ex – orphans still in the area and literally hundreds of their wild elephant friends passing through for water, the Keepers have been kept on their toes! Recently several wild herds have been rushing into the stockade compound very early in the morning, eager to quench their thirst from the stockade water troughs. Of course being wild, they are also less inclined to listen to the Keepers and wait their turn. They soon became more familiar with proceedings however, and now stand back in the mornings to allow the orphans to drink their fill before heading out to browse for the day, and then they move in to drink their share too. The Ithumba water bowser has certainly been kept busy refilling the water troughs from the boreholes and the Tiva River.

Our newest arrivals at Ithumba, three year old bulls Sattao, Musiara and Dololo, are the youngest and have a lot to learn, but they aren’t intimidated by their new surroundings at all, and have stolen the hearts of many of the ex-orphans and are definitely the attraction to Mutara’s herd sticking close these last few months. These little boys have taken everything at Ithumba in their stride and are loving life. One day Malima was carrying a branch, which she dropped when Dololo pushed her. Malima turned and tackled Dololo but wasn’t too rough with him, as she knows he is younger than her. Sities and Suguta, from Mutara’s independent herd still obsessed with little Dololo particularly and escort him everywhere during the day. When they’re not around, Roi enjoys looking after Dololo too. Sattao is happy to be in the company of bulls as big as Tomboi, who is 17 years old now, and even Musiara is keen to take on the responsibility and role of leading the herd from place to place. He misjudged this one morning however, as the other orphans hadn’t finished feeding on the Lucerne pellets yet, and when he realized he had covered almost a hundred meters without anyone following behind him, he quickly turned around and bellowed loudly as he ran all the way back to his friends. Mutara, who rarely responds to such baby cries, was the first one to react. The Keepers were happy to see her response as they believe she might be expecting her own baby, and she might be a mother herself by late next year. Kainuk, who always responds quickly in such situations, joined Mutara in calming Musiara down reassuring him that they were just finishing up with their feed and would all be following him out for the day in good time!

One day, just as the orphans were about to return home, Rapa, Sapalan and Galla walked away from the group of dependent orphans and joined Mutara's herd, who walked off into the bush. The Keepers returned home with the other orphans, and Mutara's herd came running in 20 minutes later after the babies had been fed their milk bottles, but without Galla, Sapalan and Rapa with them! Keepers were left behind in the bush looking for them, and when they finally located the truants they were led back to the stockades. They seem to be exploring independence as this was actually their third time sneaking away from the group, but at only five years old, it is far too early for that band of orphans to consider becoming independent just yet, as the threat of lions is very real in Tsavo. 

Every day as the orphans approached the mud bath for their noon milk feed, they could expect to see a few wild bulls already wallowing in the mud bath, enjoying a swim and cooling off. Young Tusuja and Namalok enjoy greeting and spending time with any wild bulls whenever they get a chance. Many of these wild boys are frequent visitors, and the orphans’ routine is now familiar to them. We are always happy to see one familiar wild bull by the name of ‘Dad’, again this month, so called because he is the father of a number of our wild born babies to our ex-orphans.  

On the 3rd ex-orphans Melia, Kandecha and Kibo came in the morning; after being away for a good long time it was so lovely to see them again. The eleven and twelve year olds had teamed up with Mutara’s herd in the night and joined the dependent orphans in the morning, and we saw them sporadically throughout the month with Kilaguni, Orwa, and Bomani. Challa, 16 years old now, was spotted on a couple of days this month too, enjoying the mud bath. 

Kinna’s older ex orphan herd including Sunyei and Lenana and all their wild born babies also stayed in the area this month and we saw them often. Loijuk and her baby Lili joined them later in the month too, along with Makena, Chemi Chemi, Kitirua, Tumaren, Olare and Ishanga. These meetings also meant for fun and interesting interactions between the young orphans and their age mates, the wild born babies Kama, Siku and tiny Lapa, who despite only being a month old is already full of energy and pluck. On separate days Malima had a run in with Siku, Maramoja had a disagreement with Kama, and Wanjala had a brief interaction with Lapa before he was warned off by Lenana to keep away from her baby as he is still very little. Kama is particularly playful and is happy to move from one dependent orphan to another, initiating pushing games. One day she started with Roi and then moved to Pare, before winding up with Namalok who pushed her ruthlessly. Being three years old now she is happy to play with any of the dependent babies, safe in the knowledge that she has the security of her mother behind her at all times as well, and it is lovely for both sets of babies to have each other to socialize and play with.

Of course Kithaka, Garzi and Lemoyian are still in the area too, and visit frequently as their friend Barsilinga is still semi dependent while his injured foot is still treated every now and then. Kithaka, who has always been one of our most mischievous and wayward babies, was in a particularly naughty mood this month and the Keepers kept an eye on him to make sure he didn’t pick on any of the youngsters. One evening he returned to the stockades before the Keepers and started trying to scare the casual workers, until the Keepers returned and told him to stop his naughty behaviour!

Barsilinga still has his injured foot seen to, and Enkikwe still has his leg washed and cleaned by the Keepers too, as he still has an injury from his lion attack more than a year ago now. He has come along in leaps and bounds though, and can fully keep up with the herd all day, and even roll around on the ground in playfully. We are very pleased with his progress because his injury was incredibly severe when it happened.  We think even his friends are amazed by his progress - as he rolled around one day playing next to Olsekki - Ndiwa, Kuishi and Jotto just stared at him, watching in amazement. He might always bear a limp, but he is fully capable of a very normal life otherwise. His friends Kauro, Tusuja and Galla have developed a new habit of sneaking away from the herd to run to the mud bath area before the others, and before the vehicle carrying the milk bottles is even there! 

The orphans were blessed with many social interactions this month, so crucial in their journey back into the wilds of Tsavo.

September 2020 day to day

01 Sep

Malima left with a branch in her mouth which she dropped when Dololo pushed her. Malima turned and tackled Dololo but wasn’t too rough, as she knows he is younger than her. After drinking water at the stockade water trough, Mapia engaged Galla in a pushing game that ended when Mapia decided to surrender after the game became too tough for him. Galla moved to play with Wanjala after Mapia surrendered. Mundusi had a brief chat with Roi before turning on Jotto, and they enjoyed a pushing game with for quite some time. Kuishi had her own game of rolling on the ground as Ukame had a private conversation with Esampu, as they engaged each other in a light pushing game. 

At mud bath time, Mapia and namalok joined the wild bulls to wallow in the water hole. In the afternoon, the orphans settled west of Ithumba Hill an area they love to browse in very much. In the evening, the orphans were escorted back to the stockades by Mutara and her herd. 

Malima holidng a branch in her mouth

Mapia playing iwth Galla

Kuishi playing on the ground