Keepers' Diaries, April 2008

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.

01 April 2008

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.

02 April 2008

The day began sunny, with the orphans engaging in the usual Compound activities before leaving for the field. Some, like Madiba, Naserian and Lualeni scratched themselves against rocks while other such as Buchuma and Wendi went to inspect the water tanks and Orok and Kenze leaned on the acacia trees waiting for the signal to leave. Once at the Kanziku area, the orphans split into two groups as usual, Yatta taking her group of older elephants and leaving the youngsters with Galana and Sunyei and the Keepers. Yatta’s group settled along the Kalovoto area while Galana and Sunyei took the youngsters in the direction of Kone. The day turned very hot, so the youngsters were forced to seek shade until it was time to go to the milk and mudbath venue and cool their bodies down. However, their mudbath was interrupted by the approach of some baboons, prompting Galana and Sunyei to raise their trunks in the air and Kamboyo, Sian and Loijuk to trigger an exit. All then ran back to their Keepers for safety. Having calmed them down, the Keepers escorted them back to the field to browse for the rest of the day before meeting up with the older group back at the Stockades..

03 April 2008

After a peaceful night, Wendi and Ndomot enjoyed a pushing match with Ndomot emerging as the victor. Today Kora and Rapsu led the entire herd out to the Kalovoto area where they settled down to browse until noon when Sian and Kamboyo led the way to the mudbath. Madiba and Challa enjoyed a prolonged session in the mud, so delayed that they had to catch up with the others who had already left for the field again. In the late afternoon the orphans again split into two groups, only meeting up again in late evening back at the Stockades.

04 April 2008

Kora led the youngsters to the water trough on a cloudy morning before leaving for the field where Rapsu and Madiba found some muddy red soil to roll in. They were joined by Sunyei. After the milk and mudbath, Tomboi and Sunyei led the entire herd to the Kalovoto area where they fed for the remainder of the day.

05 April 2008

The orphans left for the field straight away, not bothering about water, since it is plentiful in the bush just now. Kora engaged the Matriarch, Yatta, in a friendly pushing bout, which attracted Zurura as an interested spectator but it came as no surprise when Yatta won the game. In the afternoon Sunyei led the group to the Kalovoto area where they all had fun wallowing in the numerous waterholes and puddles.

06 April 2008

As soon as the Stockade Gates were opened, Sunyei led the youngsters towards Kone, leaving Yatta and the older elephants behind deciding where to go. After a while, Yatta decided to follow the youngsters, leaving Mulika to lead the rest away. Out in the field, there was chaos amongst Sunyei’s group when speeding warthogs passed by emitting strange sounds, panicking the elephants who all went fleeing in all directions. It took the Keepers and Yatta a full two hours to round them all up, and escort them to the milk venue. The two groups only met up back at the Stockades in the late evening.

07 April 2008

Today, the youngsters were first to be let out in the morning. All but Kenze and and Olmalo hurried to the water trough, but Kenze and Olmalo waited outside the Big Elephants quarters to greet Nasalot and Yatta and be showered in motherly love. When it was time to leave Sunyei and Kora were leaders today, heading eastwards. At l0 a.m. the older elephants split from the youngsters, but for the second day running Yatta opted to remain with the babies rather than go with the older group.

08 April 2008

After taking their morning milk, the youngsters were let out to find their older colleagues already out and waiting for them. There were rumbles of joy as Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna touched each of the babies with their trunks in a gesture of affection. Shortly afterwards Napasha and Selengai led the herd to the Kanziku area where they all settled down to browse. Two hours later, Kinna and Nasalot, taking Orok along with them, headed towards the Kalovoto river where they were later joined by Wendi, Mulika, Napasha, Selengai, Buchuma and Taita. Meanwhile all the others remained where they were. The milk dependent babies took their milk as usual and at 4 p.m. all the orphans met up again and browsed together for the rest of the day.

09 April 2008

After taking a drink, Kora and Ndomot led the group to the Kanziku area, Yatta trailing behind to keep her favourite, Ol Malo company, who is always a slow-coach. At 9 a.m. they all enjoyed a wallow in a natural waterhole out in the bush, Sunyei and Challa remaining behind in the pool after the others had left to feed, so they had to catch up later. At noon the older group today escorted the youngsters to the milk venue, but all had had their fill of wallowing earlier. The afternoon and evening was spent along the Kalovoto river, an area where there is a lot of soft tall grasses that the elephants greatly enjoy.

10 April 2008

After the usual morning compound activities, with Lualeni using the unloading bay as a scratching post whitst Madiba, Zurura, Loijuk and Challa chose the trees, Sunyei and Rapsu led the herd out to feed, this time heading towards Kone where they settled in. However, en route Wendi and others that comprise the more independent older elephants, peeled off, leaving the youngsters with their Keepers. After the milk feed Kinna led the babies to the Kalovoto area where they fed for the remainder of the day.

11 April 2008

Sunyei and Kora were the leaders of the entire group today, heading them all to the Kalovoto area via Kanziku road. Once there Kinna and Mulika split from the group and headed towards Kone, but they had not gone far before Wendi and the other members of the Senior set followed them, leaving the youngsters with their Keepers. Sunyei and Rapsu had a busy time taking the youngsters to all the best vegetation places before it was time for the milk and mudbath. Sian and Kamboyo then led the group and after the mudbath, Naserian and Ndomot escorted them back to the browsing area.

12 April 2008

Mist and clouds marked the beginning of another day, followed by a light shower of rain. The orphans left their Stockades in a very exuberant mood, swinging their trunks from side to side. Today was spent all together, the older elephants waiting a few metres away from the youngsters who took their milk, before Kinna led them back to browse.

13 April 2008

Because it is now very green everywhere, the orphans enjoy tasting many different plants and became so engrossed that they ended up walking way beyond the Kalovoto river area. At l0 a.m. Yatta, Kinna, Mulika and Nasalot together with other members of the Senior set continued on with the journey, whilst Sidai, Galana and Sunyei led the youngsters in another direction. At noon Kamboyo and Sian led the first milk dependent group to the mudbath, followed by the second seen later led by Lualeni. After mudbath, it was Kora who led the way back to the browsing area. The two groups were reunited back at the Stockades in the late evening.

14 April 2008

Yatta, Kinna, Mulika and Nasalot waited at the water trough for the youngsters to be let out in the morning. After the usual joyful morning greetings, Sunyei led the entire herd to the field. The youngsters were delighted to be in the company of their elders who spent the entire day with them, and escorted them to take their milk at noon, and thereafter back to the field to feed.

15 April 2008

The orphans woke up in a jovial mood and converged at the water trough to work out the day’s itinerary. When a decision was made, Naserian led the way to the slopes of Ithumba hill. In the afternoon wild elephants were heard rumbling from a distance, so Yatta, Nasalot, Kinna and Napasha went off to search for their colleagues. Late in the evening they came running back to the Stockade, very excited, and we are sure they met up with the wild herd.

16 April 2008

Mist covered Ithumba hill as the orphans headed out for another day. Kora enjoyed a dustbath on the way out, after which he scratched himself against a tree. At the field Kenze mounted onto Zurura, but was immediately dislodged by Naserian, who was nearby. After the mudbath Mulika led the group in a northerly direction. At 3 p.m. a wild bull appeared. Yatta and Kinna stepped forward with their trunks in the air, Yatta in the lead and Kinna following, but when they were close to the wild bull, the two orphans halted, still with their trunks in the air. The wild bull then got scent of the Keepers and receded into the thicket. Yatta and Kinna followed him and later came back running at speed, which created tension amongst the rest of the herd. The Keepers managed to bring the situation under control, and at 5 p.m., Kamboyo, as usual, signaled that it was time to head back home.

17 April 2008

Rapsu and Challa began the days events with a pushing match while Kenze and Zurura scratched themselves at the unloading bay. Shortly afterwards Tomboi and Taita led the others away from the stockade compound towards the Imenti area. The youngsters remained close to their Keepers following yesterday’s encounter with the wild bull. At l0 a.m. the orphans came across a waterhole, and decided to cool themselves down before continuing to feed. At 11 a.m. the Keepers escorted the orphans to the Imenti waterhole but en route the older group split away and vanished into the thick bush. The youngsters enjoyed the Imenti waterhole, after which the two groups were reunited at 4 the Kanziku area on the way back home.

18 April 2008

The sky was clear when the orphans left their stockades in the morning. Yatta, Mulika, Kinna and Nasalot joined the youngsters who were feeding not far from the compound, and all fed together for almost two hours, before Yatta and her group parted company with the youngsters and headed towards Kone. Naserian and Galana took their young group to Kanziku area where they settled in to browse. At noon Loijuk and Sian led the first group to the mudbath. During the wallowing process, the Keepers wondered what could be approaching when Naserian, Galana and Kora raised their trunks to test the air. The Keepers were relieved to find that it was only the older group who emerged from the surrounding bushes and came to join their colleagues in the mudbath. Afterwards all fed together not far from the mudbath, until Kamboyo signaled that it was time to head for home, and led the first group back.

19 April 2008

Kinna and Sunyei led the entire herd out in the morning. They settled down to browse until noon in the direction of Kone, until Kamboyo and Zurura led the the milk dependent orphans to the milk venue. After the mudbath the orphans headed to the Kalovoto area where they encountered a wild elephant bull. The youngsters fled in all directions, daunted by this huge stranger, who was eager to investigate Yatta and Kinna, but they, too, appeared somewhat reticent. Meanwhile the Keepers set about calling the orphans in an attempt to round them up. They managed to gather all the youngsters together but there was no sign of Yatta and the older group who eventually returned to the stockades only at l0 p.m., but all were present and correct!

20 April 2008

On a clear day, the orphans left the stockade compound as usual. Yatta and the older elephants split from the youngsters, heading back to the Kalovoto area where they had encountered the wild bull yesterday, whilst Sunyei and Galana escorted the youngsters to the Kone area. At noon it was the turn of Kora and Challa to lead the youngsters to the milk and mudbath venue and 30 minutes later the older group turned up, led by Tomboi. Later the entire herd browsed together in the Kanziku area until Kamboyo, as usual, decided it was time to head for home!

21 April 2008

After taking a drink at the water trough, the orphans, led by Kinna, left for the browsing area where they fed calmly throughout the morning until it was time for the youngsters to take their noon milk feed and a cooling mudbath. Afterwards Yatta led them all to the Kalovoto area where they browsed for the rest of the day.

22 April 2008

After quenching their thirst, the orphans slowly made their way out to feed. Challa and Rapsu began a pushing match which deteriorated into a tough fight, which brought Yatta and Mulika along to separate them. Yatta and Mulika then led the group out. Kora lagged behind having found a tasty bush, and was soon out of view, but Yatta immediately sensed that one orphan was missing. She returned, and having rumbled to him, he buried to join up with the rest of the group. The sun was obscured by cloud, which made ideal browsing conditions for the herd. At noon the entire herd spent two hours relaxing in the mudbath. The Keepers noticed that Yatta kept raising her trunk to test the wind, and unbeknownst to the Keepers 4 wild bulls were nearby at the Imenti waterhole, and Yatta obviously knew this.

23 April 2008

Shortly after settling in the feeding area, Kora and Sunyei engaged one another in a pushing match. Although Kora thought he had the advantage of longer tusks, Sunyei used all her cunning to outwit him and emerge the winner. After his defeat, Kora went to vent his frustration on Challa, but Challa resisted strongly and the bout ended in a draw! Meanwile, Kamboyo was busy giving Zurura a work-over, but Zurura proved that he was no push-over, and in the end, when both were exhausted, it ended in a draw. Feeling good about himself, Zurura then had a go at Ol Malo, but she resisted angrily, which was a lesson for Zurura. All the orphans except Kora enjoyed the mudbath today. Kora, who does not like water much, waited for them on the sidelines, and then left ahead of them back to the feeding area, where they joined him sometime later.

24 April 2008

The orphans left the stockades in a hurry, obviously intending to go far, the youngsters pausing at the water trough to take on some water. The older group split from the youngsters about 500 metres from the Stockade, leaving the youngsters in the charge of Sunyei and Galana. Wendi, who had gone ahead with the older group, changed her mind and returned to be with the youngsters. Kamboyo and Zurura engaged one another in a pushing match, which was interrupted by Challa. After the mudbath Lualeni and Olmalo led the youngsters back to the Kanziku area to browse for until Kamboyo signaled that the time had come to head for home.

25 April 2008

Out in the field, Kamboyo and Zurura both wanted to scratch their bodies against the same flat rock, which caused a fight. Rapsu intervened, pushing the two younger boys away, and then utilizing the rock himself! At the mudbath only Madiba and Lualeni wallowed, while the others remained on the periphery, feeding.

26 April 2008

Early in the morning, as the Keepers were busy feeding the youngsters their milk, Yatta and Mulika began pushing the metal poles supporting the roof of their Stockade, shaking them so hard that they began to squeak. The Keepers immediately rushed to let them out before they brought the roof down, and instantly they and the older elephants headed off in a hurry towards the Kalovoto area. Meanwhile the youngsters, relaxed around the compound area until Galana led them out to feed at the Kanziku area. At noon the two groups met up at the mudbath, and enjoyed wallowing together, until Kora led them all back to the browsing area..

27 April 2008

The orphans emerged to a golden sunrise, promising a hot day. Kora and Challa had a pushing match before leaving, which saw Kora emerge victorious. As it was a hot day, the youngsters took a mudbath as soon as they had finished their milk, and waited for the older elephants to join them. All then had a wonderful time in the mudbath which went on for quite some time.

28 April 2008

The orphans left in a playful mood, all deliberately bumping into one another in a competition about who should be leader. Kora, Kamboyo, Zurura and Kenze all competed vigorously until Kora emerged winner and led the orphans out to feed. Once out in the field Kora and Challa engaged each other in a shoving match, watched by Kamboyo who was nearby scratching himself against a tree. Taita then arrived to separate the two boys. It was cool at the mudbath hour, so very few elephants decided to go in, the others taking a soil bath instead, before heading back to the feeding grounds.

29 April 2008

On a lovely morning the orphans left in a happy frame of mind. Soon Kamboyo and Zurura were engaged in their usual pushing match which was interrupted by Rapsu who separated the two boys. As it was a hot day, all thoroughly enjoyed the mudwallow until Kora brought the activity to an end by rushing out, triggering an exit. All then settled in to feed for the rest of the day at the Kalovoto area.

30 April 2008

The orphans left early as usual. Once at the field venue, Sidai and Madiba got involved in a dust-bath that ended in a pushing game, which didn’t last long. Zurura and Kamboyo indulged in another pushing bout before Kora and Challa got involved, ending when it was time to head for the mudbath. In the evening Mulika and Nasalot also enjoyed a dust-bath until Kamboyo, Sian, and Loijuk began the trek back home.