Keepers' Diaries, April 2008

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

As is the usual practice nowadays, the older elephants in the Ithumba Unit have separated from the youngsters on about 15 days of the month, leaving them in the care of their Keepers and the Junior Matriarchs in order to venture further afield. Chief Junior Matriarchs are Sunyei and Galana, backed up by Sidai, on occasions, Sian, Naserian and Lualeni. The rest of the month has been devoted to spending time with the youngsters as one herd, something that the younger elephants always relish, especially the chosen Matriarchal favourites such as Olmalo, Selengai, Kenze and Orok. In fact, Orok was privileged to be taken along with the older group one day, joined later by all the others at the Kalovoto river, which has been a favourite browsing area this month, where the grasses are tall and lush, a treat to enjoy while it lasts and something not easily available during the long dry seasons. On two occasions this month, Yatta has opted to remain behind with the babies, leaving Mulika to take the older elephants on their long distance travels. And on the 22nd when Kora lagged behind the others, his absence immediately detected by Yatta, who returned to round him up and bring him back into line. Yatta has an uncanny way of knowing exactly when an orphan is not where he or she should be, long before the Keepers have even noticed the absence. With 27 sizeable elephants traveling in thick bush, it is no easy task for the Keepers to keep tabs on everyone, but Yatta can always be relied upon to do so, and she does so extremely proficiently. As before, Wendi has been undecided about which group to accompany, going with the older Long Distance Travellers, and then deciding to return and remain with the youngsters.

As is the usual practice nowadays, the older elephants in the Ithumba Unit have separated from the youngsters on about 15 days of the month, leaving them in the care of their Keepers and the Junior Matriarchs in order to venture further afield. Chief Junior Matriarchs are Sunyei and Galana, backed up by Sidai, on occasions, Sian, Naserian and Lualeni. The rest of the month has been devoted to spending time with the youngsters as one herd, something that the younger elephants always relish, especially the chosen Matriarchal favourites such as Olmalo, Selengai, Kenze and Orok. In fact, Orok was privileged to be taken along with the older group one day, joined later by all the others at the Kalovoto river, which has been a favourite browsing area this month, where the grasses are tall and lush, a treat to enjoy while it lasts and something not easily available during the long dry seasons. On two occasions this month, Yatta has opted to remain behind with the babies, leaving Mulika to take the older elephants on their long distance travels. And on the 22nd when Kora lagged behind the others, his absence immediately detected by Yatta, who returned to round him up and bring him back into line. Yatta has an uncanny way of knowing exactly when an orphan is not where he or she should be, long before the Keepers have even noticed the absence. With 27 sizeable elephants traveling in thick bush, it is no easy task for the Keepers to keep tabs on everyone, but Yatta can always be relied upon to do so, and she does so extremely proficiently. As before, Wendi has been undecided about which group to accompany, going with the older Long Distance Travellers, and then deciding to return and remain with the youngsters.

When the youngsters were left on their own on the 6th, a pair of fleeing warthogs panicked the group, sending them fleeing in all directions, and it took the Keepers a good two hours to round them all up again.

This month, the orphans are known to have made contact with a wild bull on two occasions, initially on the 16th after the mudbath, when Yatta and Kinna stepped forward to introduce themselves to the stranger, but he disappeared into the thickets having got a whiff of human scent. Yatta and Kinna followed him, but soon came rushing back at speed, creating tension amongst all the others. Obviously either they encountered something like a lion en route, or else the wild bull was not overly accommodating to them! On the l9th the entire group again came face to face with a large wild bull, which again daunted the younger set sending them fleeing in all directions. On this occasion the wild bull was eager to take a closer look at Yatta and Kinna, who stood their ground, albeit somewhat uneasily as the Keepers left to go in search of the youngsters, only managing to round them all up and return them to the Night Stockades at about 7 p.m. Yatta, Kinna and the older elephants returned much later on at l0 p.m..

As usual, there is always competition about who should lead the group into the field each morning. This month young bulls such as Kora, Rapsu, Kamboyo and Ndomot have had their turns, usually accompanying one of the Junior Matriarchs and even Tomboi and Taita have acted as Leaders. Kamboyo retains his title of “Time Keeper”, diligent about initiating the walk to the milk venue and knowing exactly when it is time to begin the long walk back home in the evening. Kora has been up to his old trick of prompting an exit of the mudbath by rushing out as though fearful of some hidden danger, never having been overly keen on getting his feet wet! As usual, the usual pushing bouts occupy the young boys, who constantly engaged one another in tests of strength, a favourite pastime especially of Challa, Kora Rapsu and Buchuma. Zurura is also no push-over and given his friend Kamboyo a lively match. Kora even had the nerve to challenge the Matriarch, Yatta,in a friendly bout, an event eagerly monitored by Zurura. lIkewise he took on Wendi and got severely trounced, turning his attention to Challa who also gave him a good run for his money! Nursery friendships endure, especially that of Kamboyo and Zurura and the Mini Matriarchs who shared Nursery time together.

On the 26th when the Keepers were busy giving the youngsters their milk ration in the early morning, Yatta and Mulika made it clear that they should have been let out of their Night Stockade first, and rattled the supporting poles of the roof to attract the attention of the Keepers, who ran to save the roof from coming down! There are times when the older set are eager to leave in the mornings, and this was obviously one such occasion.

April 2008 day to day

01 Apr

As soon as the orphans emerged from their Night Stockade in the morning, Challa and Kora welcomed the day by engaging each other in a pushing match, whilst Sian, Kamboyo and Loijuk began browsing near the Stockades. Later, once out in the field, later, Yatta and Mulika split from the youngsters, leaving them in charge of the Keepers and junior Matriarchs Galana, Sidai and Sunyei in the Kanziku area. At noon, after the youngsters had taken their milk, it was Sian’s turn to lead them back into the bush to feed.

Mulika feeding on a stick

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