Keepers' Diaries, September 2023

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

We often say that the orphans are dictated by their ‘tummy clock’ — no matter what, they always start making their way to the mud bath, just in time for their midday milk feed. When food is at stake, they are remarkably accurate timekeepers!

Kinyei and Kindani have honed their ‘tummy clocks’ to the minute. They may be two of Ithumba’s newest residents, but they have the routine down pat. Out in the bush, we see them pointedly turning to face in the direction of the mud bath, alerting the herd that it is time for their noon milk feed. Under the direction of the two girls, everyone slowly makes their way to the mud bath.

As the dry season reaches its peak, we have been receiving lots of visitors in Ithumba. This has led to many interesting mornings for the dependent orphans, as they navigate dozens — sometimes well over a hundred — of ex-orphans and wild elephants. On many occasions, most of the ex-orphans and their babies were present, which was a wonderful sight. This included Kinna with Kama and Kaia; Wendi with Wiva, Wema, and Wimbi; Yatta with Yoyo and Yogi, Galana with Gawa; Sunyei with Siku and Saba; Naserian with Njema; Lualeni with Lulu and Lexi; Loijuk with Lili; Lenana with Lapa; and finally Nasalot with Nusu and Noah. All the orphans, wild and dependent, interacted nicely together. 

The wild babies always enjoy sizing up their age-mates in the dependent herd. They tend to push the envelope with the orphans, over-confident in the knowledge that their mothers and nannies will back them up. Milo, Melia’s baby, is perhaps the most brazen in this regard — but one day, he got a taste of his own medicine. The rascal bumped him from behind, expecting no retribution for his rudeness. Much to his surprise, Naboishu turned around and gave him a firm push. Milo scampered away to report Naboishu to his mother, but Melia didn't react, as she knew that her son was the instigator!

Lapa, Lenana’s baby, is another reliable instigator. He has an ongoing feud with Olorien and bothers her at any given opportunity. One day, as per usual, he singled out Olorien and started pushing her. Seeing this unfold, Esoit and Suguroi banded together in defence of Olorien — they know that the orphans need to support each other against these wild rascals!

A burgeoning friendship is developing between Kinyei and Lodo. They never showed much interest in each other at the Nursery, but we have noticed them spending more and more time together at Ithumba. Of course, Kinyei’s best friends remain Kindani and Bondeni, the other two members of the ‘Kaluku Trio.’

It’s lovely to see how elephants look after each other. At the mud bath one afternoon, Lodo and Esoit found themselves in a spot of trouble when they got bogged down in a patch of thick, deep mud. Seeing their friends struggling, Jotto, Dololo, Ambo, and Kuishi thoughtfully circled back to organise a rescue mission. Fortunately, by the time they reached the pair, Lodo and Esoit had already freed themselves.

Of course, for as much as they support each other, they also can be very opportunistic. One day, Roho and Naboishu had a disagreement over a branch. Because they had discovered it at the same time, both boys felt it was their property. This resulted in a fight that went on for quite some time. While the two were battling it out, Lodo picked up the tasty branch for himself. Roho and Naboishu both felt a little foolish when they realised the error of their ways.

Sagateisa continues to impress us with her capable, independent ways. Despite being just four years old, she marches to the beat of her own drum. She is usually the last orphan in the mud bath, undeterred if it’s just her and several enormous, wild bulls left in the water.

Once upon a time, Mutara’s ex-orphan herd was consumed by their obsession with young Dololo. Ever since Murera had her own baby, Mambo, their attentions have shifted — but this month, ‘Dololomania’ made a comeback. Suguta, Sities, Kainuk, and Turkwel lavished Dololo with special attention, just like old times. One afternoon, they even kidnapped Dololo, Sagateisa, Suguroi, Roho, Olorien, and Naboishu. It took the Keepers three hours to locate the kidnapped babies!

Our little wallflower Ambo is starting to become more independent. We wondered if this would happen, since his ‘big sister’ Kamok went wild. One afternoon, Ambo refused to join the dependent herd, instead insisting on remaining with a group of ex-orphans. His wild-living friends escorted him back to the stockades later in the evening.

Everyone loves Esoit. Kuishi takes that love to the next level; in fact, she is loath to share him with anyone else! One day, we saw Larro and Kuishi escorting Esoit through the bush. After a short while, Kuishi pushed Larro aside, as she clearly wanted to have Esoit all to herself.

Wild dogs used to be an incredibly rare sight, but there is now a healthy population of them in northern Tsavo. One afternoon, a pack of 14 passed the dependent herd. Mukkoka, Dololo, Ambo, and Roho started charging and trumpeting in an effort to scare them away. The wild dogs prudently made themselves scarce.

This month, Pare arrived in the company of several wild bulls. It was wonderful to see the seven-year-old so settled and happy in his wild life.

Eight-year-old Sana Sana also recently went wild. One morning, she escorted the orphans out to browse. However, she had a hidden agenda — one that only became clear when it came to fruition. When it was time for the dependent herd to head to the mud bath, the Keepers realised that Naboishu was missing. It dawned on them that Sana Sana had joined the group that morning with the express purpose of kidnapping the young bull! Upon arriving at the mud bath, however, they found Naboishu, happy as could be, in the company of Sana Sana and some other ex-orphans. 

On the other hand, Ndiwa is realising that she’s not quite ready to be a leader. One morning, she wrangled Ambo, Kuishi, Sattao, and Jotto into a mini herd. After a few hours, she escorted them over to the mud bath and informed them that they were free to go and rejoin their friends. Perhaps she found that looking after her own little group was a bit tiresome!

September closed with a comical miscalculation, courtesy of Larro. She is a notorious milk thief, always watching the Keepers’ movements and plotting new ways to pilfer an extra bottle. At the end of the month, however, she accidentally stole a Keeper’s bottle of water instead of a milk bottle! As soon as Larro started to drink, she realised the error of her ways — but she evidently decided that water was better than nothing, and finished every last drop!

September 2023 day to day

01 Sep

Some wild elephants and ex-orphans came to share lucerne with dependent orphans this morning. Ex-orphan Melia and her baby Milo were among them. When the dependent orphans decided it was time to leave for the bush, they left the older elephants behind finishing up the lucerne.

While their friends browsed, Bondeni, Dololo and Sattao grouped together and looked as though they were having their own private conversation, heads bowed towards each other. As the orphans responded to their ‘tummy clock’, they started to browse while making their way slowly towards the mud bath for the midday milk feed. When they arrived they found some wild bulls already wallowing in the mud bath. When he finished his milk bottles, Esoit decided to join the bulls to cool off in the water. After he came out to join his friends who were enjoying a soil dust bath. Mutara and her baby Mambo came to join the babies and joined in the dusting session on the loose soil. Mutara scooped up a huge amount of soil in her big trunk and threw it in the air and on her back, as some of the smaller orphans watched on with admiration.

Back out in the bush, Olorien was being very affectionate with Larro, while Bondeni used his trunk to explore Kinyei's ear which was quite funny to watch. Esoit and Larro then decided to browse together from the same bush quite contentedly. Later, Lodo and Olorien led the group back home to the stockades in the evening.

Melia and Milo

Esoit mud bathing with wild bulls

Bondeni exploring Kinyei's ear