Keepers' Diaries, April 2007

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Very evident in this months Diary is the very close friendship that has developed between Lualeni and Kora, and the fact that Kora remains averse to water and bathing, which is strange since he comes from a very arid and hot part of the country – Kora National Reserve. He is never anxious to get into the mud wallow, and eager to persuade them to vacate it by pretending that he has seen something alarming, rushing out as though in fear, hoping that the others will follow suit. However, they are getting wise to this tactic, just as they wised up to Sunyei’s mischievous pranks. This month Kora has been dominant in taking the lead to and from the Stockades, or to the milk venue, the Keepers remarking on the fact that he is very “time conscious”.

01 April 2007

After the orphans had taken water from the trough in the morning, Kora and Lualeni remained behind and followed a lot later, but on the way became confused, and took a wrong turning. When they knew they were lost, they bellowed, and were immediately answered by Mulika, Kinna, Nasalot and Yatta who rumbled in low tones to direct them to where the others were. When they finally joined the rest, Mulika welcomed them back into the group warmly whilst Selengai, Taita and Wendi touched their mouths with trunks to comfort them.

02 April 2007

The orphans concentrated on feeding today, seeking out soft browse. After mudbath, they took a rest under shade before Nasalot led them back to the browsing field. In the evening, something unbeknownst to the Keepers startled the orphans, prompting them to scamper back to their Keepers for protection, and for the rest of the day, they remained close to the Keepers.

03 April 2007

Today, Nasalot Orok and Wendi led the orphans 6 kms. from the Stockades, the Keepers following slowly behind. On the way, the orphans came across an area where wild elephants had been browsing the previous night, so the mission changed into a search for their wild peers, but without success. After the mudbath, the orphans compensated for lost time by browsing close to the waterhole.

04 April 2007

Having left the Stockade in a jovial mood, the orphans split into two groups, one led by Nasalot and the other by Yatta. The two groups joined up later. Kora led the way to the milk venue, after which all enjoyed a mudbath. In the afternoon they concentrated on feeding, scattered widely throughout the bush, before regrouping and returning to their Keepers, indicating that it was time to go back for the night.

05 April 2007

The morning was spent browsing peacefully, interrupted only when Ndomot and Naserian engaged each other in a pushing match, and were separated by Yatta. In the afternoon there was a light shower, so the orphans enjoyed playing in the dampened earth for about an hour before resuming their browsing. Kora, who is very time conscious, began the journey back to the Stockades at 5 p.m..

06 April 2007

The orphans woke up to a cloudy morning. Kora and Lualeni led the way to the feeding grounds, where Nasalot and her “son”, Orok, took over. Shortly afterwards Nasalot lay down to allow Orok to climb and relax on her. Orok felt very privileged, and even took a nap lying on Nasalot. After mudbath Tomboi and Kora engaged one another, a contest that Rapsu tried unsuccessfully to interrupt, but in the end Yatta had to step in to break it up.

07 April 2007

It was a cool morning today. The morning was spent browsing peacefully. All enjoyed the mudbath, but Kora, who does not enjoy water much, exited the wallow with a lot of noise, prompting all the others to follow suit, wondering what had disturbed him. However, this is just a ruse that Kora uses to persuade the others to leave, since he does not enjoy water as much as the others.

08 April 2007

Having left the Stockades, there was some confusion amongst the younger set as to who should go with whom and where, since Mulika and Kinna headed eastwards, whilst Yatta went westwards. The youngsters remained around the water trough, waiting for the older orphans to agree on one direction. In the end it was Yatta who changed course and joined the others going Eastwards. It was a very hot day, so the orphans kept under shade as far as possible. Having arrived at the mudbath, they found a troupe of baboons there, but the baboons left when the older elephants charged them, conceding possession.

09 April 2007

The morning was spent feeding. At noon, Yatta escorted her favourite, Olmalo, to take her milk ration. All then enjoyed the wallow, until Lualeni decided she had had enough and came to join the Keepers. Kinna and Mulika then led the way back out to the browsing area, while Yatta remained back to make sure that none of the orphans were left behind.

10 April 2007

Yatta led the orphans out to the sound of morning birdsong. All fed quietly throughout the morning. However, there was drama at the mudbath when some wild ducks wanted to share the waterhole with the elephants, which created tension. Kora was the first out, as Yatta, Kinna, Napasha and Mulika tried to charge the ducks, but they continued swimming away as though unconcerned. Things deteriorated when an eagle flew low over casting a shadow on the water and it was this that un-nerved the elephants who left hurriedly, trumpeting!

11 April 2007

Nasalot led the orphans out 9 kms, reaching their intended destination at l0 a.m. It was a hot day, so the orphans enjoyed the mudbath, especially Orok, who ventured into the deepest part of the waterhole. This concerned Nasalot, who went after him and persuaded him to turn back.. It was still hot in the afternoon, so the orphans browsed beneath shade for the remainder of the day.

12 April 2007

The orphans did not travel far today, having left the Stockade in the morning, until it turned cooler. After mudbath, Kora and Lualeni led the others to the base of Ithumba Hill, where they browsed for the rest of the day.

13 April 2007

The orphans left earlier than usual this morning, quenching their thirst at the trough and waiting for the daylight before moving off. Yatta, Nasalot, Mulika and Kinna led the herd towards the Imenti waterhole, where they fed until the vehicle arrived with the milk ration for the youngsters. All enjoyed a wallow, during which Buchuma pushed Orok, who bellowed. Immediately Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna rushed to Orok’s side, and fearing reprisals from the bigger elephants, Buchuma made himself scarce! Later, the orphans came across the fresh dung and urine of a wild elephant, and with raised trunks tested the wind for the scent, but decided against trying to follow, since it was becoming late. Instead they returned to the Stockade.

14 April 2007

It was a chilly morning, with light rain, so the orphans enjoyed playing in the damp earth. As it was still coolish at noon, only Madiba, Orok, Olmalo, Lualeni and Sidai enjoyed the mudbath whilst the rest continued browsing. Late in the evening, Napasha challenged Yatta to a pushing match, but found out that he was still not sufficiently strong to overpower Yatta. All then returned to the Stockades.

15 April 2007

The Keepers steered the orphans westwards to feed along a riverline where there was plenty of pasture. At about l0 a.m. Olmalo had fun rolling on the ground to express her joy, which attracted Selengai, her playmate, and both rolled around together, soon to be joined Orok. He then challenged Selengai to a pushing game which was watched closely by Mulika, Selengai being Mulika’s chosen favourite. Later all the orphans joined in the rolling and soil dusting exercise, so fun was had by all.

16 April 2007

Nasalot and Orok headed out followed by Mulika, Selengai, and Galana, but Yatta had other ideas, and with the others, headed in the opposite direction. Upon seeing that, Nasalot, Orok, Mulika, Selengai and Galana returned to follow Yatta heading towards the Imenti waterhole feeding as the went. All enjoyed wallowing except Kora, who opted out and began to head off. The others joined him later when they had had enough wallowing.

17 April 2007

As the orphans were taking water at the Stockade trough, the Keepers noticed the footprints of a wild cat that had also enjoyed a drink. Out in the field Sidai, Olmalo, Naserian and Lualeni enjoyed a dustbath before concentrating on feeding. In the afternoon there were light showers, which prompted Mulika and Selengai to enjoy a rolling game. In the evening Kora led the group back to the Stockade.

18 April 2007

As the rest of the orphans filed out today, Wendi decided to remain behind with the Keepers, trailing them when they followed the group at leisure. It was a cool morning so the orphans fed peacefully, until Kora decided it was time to head for the milk venue at the mudbath. There Lualeni didn’t see Kora, who was standing some way off. She decided to go and look for him, and when she couldn’t find him, began to bellow. Immediately Kora, who was taking water at the other end, responded, and rushed to Lualeni and calm her down. These two decided to remain with the Keepers for the rest of the day, opting out of a long walk with the others.

19 April 2007

As the orphans were taking water at the Stockade trough, four wild dogs emerged from the thickets, also wanting a drink. Kinna was first to spot them, and she retreated, trumpeting. This drew the attention of the entire group, and Kora and Lualeni rushed back into the Stockade, as the others milled around, searching for the Keepers, who were busy cleaning the Stockades. Kinna then charged towards dogs, but only two ran away while the remaining two stayed put, so Yatta and Mulika arrived to reinforce Kinna. The two remaining defiant dogs, daunted at seeing Yatta, Kinna, Mulika and Selengai charging at a menacing pace, then also left. The youngsters then clustered around the older elephants, as Kinna led the group out to feed, with Yatta acting as rearguard.

20 April 2007

Soon after leaving the Stockade, Olmalo and Ndomot engaged in a pushing game, which was quickly interrupted by Yatta, who did not want her favourite pushed around by Ndomot. At the mudbath, instead of going to get his milk, Orok accompanied Yatta to the waterhole. However, having noticed that Orok had not had his milk, Nasalot escorted him back to the Keepers to have it before leaving again to go to the water. Kinna, who was a short way away, came to guard Orok as he took his milk, but when he looked around, and found Nasalot not with him, he bellowed. Immediately Nasalot ran to his side, and escorted him to the mudbath. In the evening they all dispersed as they browsed during the evening session.

21 April 2007

Kora and Lualeni delayed to scratch themselves against a large rock as the others headed out. Following later, they took a wrong turn, and Yatta, who knew they had remained back for a scratch, became very disturbed when they failed to turn up. She went back to look for them, and having located them, brought them to join the others.

22 April 2007

Soon after taking a drink at the Stockades, Wendi unwisely decided to challenge Napasha, the oldest boy, to a pushing match, but found herself severely trounced. Kinna, who was watching from a distance, was annoyed by Napasha’s ruthlessness, and ran up to punish him which resulted in a fierce battle. Yatta eventually came to Kinna’s assistance, and together they discipline Napasha by chasing him off and keeping him away for a time. At around l0 a.m., Taita lagged behind as the others were going to the waterhole. Nasalot remained back until Mulika noticed that she was missing, and rumbled to call her, halting the rest of the group, to allow the two caught up. When they did, they were welcomed with great joy, after which the entire group, led by Kora, proceeded to the wallow.

23 April 2007

Having arrived at the browsing area, the orphans split into two groups. Mulika, Kinna, Yatta, Nasalot and a few others formed one group, feeding towards the West, whilst Sunyei, Kora, Lualeni, Naserian, Buchuma and Rapsu formed their own group, and went in the opposite direction. They all met up again at l0 a.m. After the mudbath, Buchuma and Rapsu engaged one another, until Sunyei intervened to push Rapsu away. The rest of the evening passed quietly.

24 April 2007

The orphans, led by Yatta, left at 6 a.m. As they reached the feeding area, Sidai, Kora, Wendi, Buchuma, Naserian and Rapsu charged around the thickets, trumpeting in a joyful and playful manner, rather than because they were fearful. At 11 a.m., on the dot, it was very hot, so Challa, Kora and Lualeni, began the journey to the mudwallow. There they encountered a flock of guineafowl, whom they soon dispatched. Having taken their milk, the youngsters joined the older orphans in the waterhole and later returned to the feeding area before returning back in the evening.

25 April 2007

The morning looked like rain, but a strong wind blew the clouds away, so it never came. Just prior to the mudbath Ndomot and Rapsu challenged one another until Ndomot surrendered. They then all headed for the mudbath, where they found some warthogs. These were soon chased off, so that the orphans could enjoy exclusive wallowing rights at the waterhole!

26 April 2007

The orphans fed westwards on a hot day today. All had a wonderful mudbath, except Kora, who merely watched from a distance. When he got tired of standing alone, he called Lualeni, who along with Challa and Naserian left the water to join him and wait for the others to finish their mudbath.

27 April 2007

Yatta led the group out today after a drink at the Stockade trough. After the mudbath, it was so hot that the elephants rested under shade until it cooled off. In the evening Rapsu engaged Buchuma in a pushing game which had to be aborted when Mulika stepped in.

28 April 2007

At the mudbath Madiba sat on Sunyei, preventing her from rising, so she screamed. Instantly both Mulika and Yatta were at her side, expelling Madiba, and helping Sunyei to her feet.

29 April 2007

Yatta led the way out, all the elephants in a jovial mood. Out in the field Orok found himself next to Galana instead of Nasalot, and rumbled loudly. Both Nasalot and Mulika responded instantly, and thinking that Galana was the problem, pushed her away, and embraced Orok.

30 April 2007

Another hot day, and a long, tedious walk ahead. The orphans enjoyed bathing in the waterhole below the Campsite where they spent 1 ½ hours, and after which they fed close by. The orphans took their time returning in the evening, since it was a very long way to walk, especially for the Keepers!