Keepers' Diaries, April 2009

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

The anticipated Easter rains never materialized, so most of the month has been extremely hot and dry, forcing the younger members of the Keeper dependent group to resort to drawing out stomach water to spray behind their ears in order to cool themselves down. Apart from just a few drizzles of rain which served only to settle the dust during the month, there was only one heavy rainstorm that fell during the night of the 26th, which filled natural depressions with water and brought on a late flush of greenery to relieve the drought situation that has bedeviled the entire country this year. Rain always leaves the orphans very happy, enjoying playing in the fresh mud and the puddles and sweet rain water trapped in rocky depressions..

01 April 2009

It was a clear morning as the Juniors left their Night Stockades, joining Yatta’s group who were drinking at the trough. Sian led the entire group out into the bush to browse along the slopes of Ithumba Hill. At noon Kamboyo led the way to the mudbath, which all thoroughly enjoyed because it was a hot day. Later they rested under shade until temperatures fell, when they resumed browsing until it was time to return in the evening.

02 April 2009

Loijuk led the Juniors out to browse at the Kanziku area today. Later Kamboyo challenged Zurura to a test of strength, but Kora intervened to separate the two young bulls.

03 April 2009

A very hot and humid morning forced youngsters such as Chyulu, Makena, Lenana, Loijuk and Sian to draw water from their stomachs to spray behind their ears in order to cool their bodies. At the mudwallow all had a wonderful time, after which the orphans rested under shade. At 2 p.m. there was light rainfall, which made the orphans extremely happy, all enjoying a soil bath, rolling in the damp earth. Two wild bulls came to drink at the Stockades at 6 p.m. and left after spending two hours within the Stockade compound.

04 April 2009

Yatta’s group plus a wild elephant friend came to the Stockade compound early in the morning. As soon as the Juniors were let out of their Night Stockade, there was rumbling and trumpeting as the two groups greeted one another. Later, it was the wild elephant that led the entire herd out to browse at the Kanziku area. Yatta then led her group heading west, leaving Wendi with the Juniors, while the wild elephant headed north. At the mudbath the Juniors were joined by two wild elephants and just before noon Tomboi turned up leading Yatta’s group. Meanwhile the wild elephants had escorted the Juniors back to the Stockades for a long drink of water, joined en route by Tomboi, who suddenly emerged from the undergrowth on his own. After having drunk Sunyei led the Juniors to the Kalovoto area to browse for the afternoon and on their way back in the evening, were joined by Yatta’s group. Sunyei, Ndomot, Galana, Madiba and Rapsu, then opted to join Yatta’s group leaving the Juniors under the leadership of Naserian to return to the Stockade for the night.

05 April 2009

At 7.30 a.m. 4 wild dogs came for a quick drink and wallow at the Stockades, after which they left in a hurry. The same 4 dogs made a brief return in the evening for another drink and then left. As the orphans were heading out to the field to browse, they were joined by Wendi, Sunyei, Ndomot, Galana and Rapsu, who emerged from some nearby thickets to join them. Sian then led the Juniors to Kone to feed. Meanwhile, at l0 a.m. Yatta’s group came to take water at the Stockade, after which they left in the direction taken by the Youngsters, but did not meet up until the evening back at the Stockades. For the second day Ndomot, Sunyei, Madiba, and Galana joined Yatta’s group for a night out.

06 April 2009

Wendi, Sunyei, Madiba, Ndomot, Tomboi, Buchuma and Galana were waiting outside the Junior’s Stockade first thing in the morning. There was great activity as soon as the Youngsters emerged, and following the usual highly charged greetings, there were pushing games between Tomboi and Rapsu and Buchuma and Wendi, while Sidai kicked a fallen log around the compound and Kora engaged Ndomot in a test of strength. They then all headed out to the Kalovoto area, returning to the Stockade in the afternoon for a late mudbath before heading out again. At 5 p.m. when the Juniors returned for the night, they found Yatta already there taking water and waiting for them. Yatta’s group was again joined by Sunyei, Madiba, Galana and Ndomot for another night out while the rest of the Juniors returned as usual to their Night Stockade.

07 April 2009

Having taken water, the Juniors, led by Naserian, headed out to browse along the foot of Ithumba Hill, since their usual Junior Matriarch, Galana was now with Ndomot, Sunyei and Madiba in Yatta’s group. At l0 a.m. Yatta’s group joined them, and all then went to the mudbath together before returning to browse together during the afternoon. There was a light shower of rain at 2 p.m., which brought relief from the heat, and left the orphans very happy, although it was only enough to settle the dust!

08 April 2009

Kamboyo and Zurura had a wonderful time charging around and pushing one another playfully within the compound, joined by Kenze. Naserian then took charge and signaled that the time had come to leave. It was an exceedingly hot day, so the orphans greatly enjoyed the mudbath at noon.

09 April 2009

It was interesting to see Nasalot appearing with just some of the orphans, the rest obviously having remained with Yatta somewhere out in the bush. This morning she, Tomboi, Wendi, Galana, Sunyei and Madiba were waiting at the Stockade trough for the Juniors to be let out. Nasalot then led all the orphans to the Kanziku area to browse, and at 11 a.m. escorted them to the mudbath and then back out to browse for the afternoon, accompanying them back to the Stockades in the evening. Once the youngsters had settled for the night in their Stockades, Nasalot led Galana, Tomboi, Wendi, Madiba and Sunyei away for a night out.

10 April 2009

All the orphans, including Yatta’s group, were at the Stockade compound early in the morning, accompanied by a young wild bull, who took control and led the entire herd out once all had taken a drink from the Stockade trough. At 9 a.m. out in the bush, the wild bull peeled away from the orphans, heading eastwards. Chyulu and Makena led the way to the mudbath where Buchuma engaged Ndomot in a test of strength ending in a draw. At 3 p.m. the same young wild bull met up again with them at the Kanziku area and accompanied them all back home in the evening. Once the youngsters were ensconced in their Stockades for the night, all the older orphans, included amongst whom were Sunyei, Madiba, Galana and Ndomot left along with their wild bull friend for another night out.

11 April 2009

Wendi, Galana, Ndomot, Sunyei, Madiba and Tomboi came independent of Yatta’s group early to the Stockades to wait for the Youngsters to come out. Having taken water, they all then headed to the Kalovoto area to browse. It was another hot day, so the orphans enjoyed their mudbath immensely, and took a rest under shade when Ndomot took a soil bath and Loijuk led the others deep into a thicket waiting for temperatures to drop. They then browsed along the slopes of Ithumba Hill until it was time to return in the evening, and once the Juniors were in their Night Stockade, Wendi and her small splinter group left to again spend the night out.

12 April 2009

Wendi and her small group joined the Youngsters at 7 a.m. and at 9 a.m. Yatta and her group met up with the Juniors out in the Kone area. All then concentrated on feeding since the drought continues with no further sign of rain. All attended the mudbath together, and Yatta escorted the Juniors back in the evening, leaving once the Juniors had settled in their Stockades for the night, Wendi and her small group leaving along with Yatta and the others.

13 April 2009

It was another hot day, without a cloud in the sky, but just before the mudbath Kamboyo, Zurura and Kenze spent time playing a game of rushing around the thickets, charging, trumpeting and knocking down small shrubs. All had a wonderful mudbath due to the heat, after which Kora, Rapsu, Ndomot and Kenze competed against one another for the best place to scratch their bodies against a tree. At 4 p.m. Yatta’s group joined the Juniors for the rest of the afternoon, returning with them to the Stockades in the evening and heading out for the night once the youngsters had settled.

14 April 2009

Naserian led the Juniors far westward after having taken water at the Stockades. It was a very hot day, so most of the browsing was done under shade until it was time for the mudbath when the milk dependent babies led the way. In the late afternoon Yatta’s group joined the Juniors but only briefly before heading off again, leaving Wendi and Galana back with the Juniors when she left. In the evening Naserian led the Juniors back to the Stockades. At 6 p.m. 3 wild dogs came to the Stockade trough for a drink whilst Wendi and Galana were still within the compound. They charged the dogs, trying to drive them off, but the dogs were thirsty and refused to leave until they had quenched their thirst. Yatta’s group then arrived at the Stockades and took Wendi and Galana off with them.

15 April 2009

The orphans left the compound in a jovial mood, bumping into one another playfully as they made their way out. Once in the browsing area, Zurura, Kenze, Kamboyo, Challa and Rapsu had a happy time soil dusting themselves against an anthill, after which Kenze challenged Sidai to the pushing match, which was interrupted by Rapsu. It was a cooler day so very few of the orphans opted for the mudbath today, enjoying a dustbath instead. At 3 p.m. 2 wild elephants came to the Stockade water trough to drink and remained for about l hour.

16 April 2009

This morning a wild elephant was at the Stockade water trough when the Juniors were let out. The Juniors mingled with the wild elephant for a while until he left when the orphans became involved in their usual Stockade games, Chyulu, Makena and Loijuk scratching themselves against the unloading bay and Kora attempting to mount onto Sidai who disengaged him by running away. Today the orphans browsed in the Kalovoto area until it was time to return in the evening.

17 April 2009

Heavy clouds threatened rain today, so it was cooler, but soon the wind drove the clouds away. The orphans were in no hurry to take a mudbath but instead drank water from the drums, waiting from the milk dependent babies to finish their milk before returning to browse for the rest of the day.

18 April 2009

Having quenched their thirst, the Youngsters were led out to browse by Sian. At 9 a.m. Yatta and her group came to the Stockade water trough for a drink, after which Yatta led her group to join the Juniors at the Kanziku area. The orphans remained together for the rest of the day until it was time to return to the Stockades in the evening. Just as Yatta and her group were about to leave, the babies having settled in for the night, 5 wild elephants turned up which delayed Yatta’s departure. Instead the older group remained fraternizing with the wild visitors until late at night before leaving.

19 April 2009

Two wild elephants were at the Stockade water trough when the Juniors were let out in the morning, but didn’t stay long, leaving the Juniors at the compound playing their usual games. Challa tried to mount onto Makena, but was spotted by Naserian who drove him away. It was Sian who led the group out today and at l0 a.m. they were joined by Yatta’s group at the Kanziku area remaining together until after the mudbath, when Yatta’s group split from the Juniors, heading towards the Imenti waterhole. The Juniors settled to feed along the slopes of Ithumba Hill for the rest of the day. Shortly before 6 p.m. a wild elephant without a tail came to the Stockade trough along with a friend. They were soon joined by other elephants and eventually all left together once they had quenched their thirst.

20 April 2009

Galana, Wendi, Sunyei, Tomboi and Madiba, having spent the previous night out with Yatta’s group, were waiting outside the Stockades first thing in the morning for the Juniors to emerge. It appears that these 5 ex orphans have formed another splinter group that is sufficiently independent and confident to split from Yatta’s herd under the leadership of either Wendi or Tomboi. Wendi led the juniors out after all had had a drink and she and her small group remained with the Youngsters the entire day, escorting them back in the evening. At the Stockades they were met by Yatta’s main group and left with them once the Juniors were settled for the night.

21 April 2009

It was a clear day as the Juniors left their Night Stockades. En route to the feeding area, they were joined by Galana, Tomboi, Wendi, Sunyei and Madiba, who again spent the rest of the day with the Juniors, returning with them in the evening to find Yatta and her group waiting for them at the stockades. Once the Juniors were settled for the night, Yatta’s group, along with Wendi’s small splinter group, left for another night out.

22 April 2009

On a moderately cooler day with the sky obscured by light clouds, the Juniors set out as usual. At l0 a.m. Zurura and Kamboyo engaged one another in their usual test of strength which was disrupted by the arrival of Rapsu who separated the two friends. After the mudbath, at 3 p.m., the Juniors were joined by Yatta’s group who spent the rest of the day with them, escorting them back to the Stockades in the evening. Yatta’s group then left, heading eastwards.

23 April 2009

This morning mist obscured Ithumba Hill, and temperatures had dropped, so the orphans remained within the precincts of the Stockade to browse. By l0 a.m. heavy clouds gathered promising some rain, but strong winds dispersed the clouds, shattering any chance of a shower.

24 April 2009

Yatta’s group came to the Stockades early today at around 4 p.m., but without Ol Malo, Yatta’s favourite who is seldom apart from her. Yatta remained behind at the Stockade compound when the rest of her group left, obviously anticipating the return of Ol Malo, but eventually got tired of waiting and went to join the others. Half an hour later Ol Malo arrived accompanied by a wild bull – thought to be the same bull that brought her back last year when she went missing for 24 hours. Having had a drink, the wild bull left, leaving Ol Malo behind at the Stockade compound. Yatta’s group returned at 7 p.m. to a joyful reunion with Ol Malo. They then all left together.

25 April 2009

Today was uneventful for the Juniors, Lualeni, Loijuk, Makena and Sian having spent some time scratching themselves on the nearby rocks, and Kamboyo and Zurura engaged in their usual pushing match. Out in the field the orphans fed calmly throughout the day, without any unusual incidents.

26 April 2009

Shortly before 9 a.m. 3 wild dogs came to the Stockade trough to drink and gave chase to a dikdik they spotted, disappearing in a cloud of dust, bent on having the dikdik for a meal. Meanwhile, out in the bush at 9 a.m. the Juniors were joined by Yatta’s group, amongst whom was the small splinter group sometimes led by Wendi. All the orphans enjoyed time together until Yatta’s group separated again at 3 p.m.

27 April 2009

After many months of waiting, finally a heavy downpour fell during the night, so the orphans emerged in a very jovial mood, and had a wonderful time playing in the mud and puddles and drinking fresh rain water trapped in hollow rocks. Yatta turned up at 11 a.m. to join the Junior Group and took the youngsters away from their Keepers, who tried to call them back, but to no avail! Only Loijuk, Kora, Lualeni, Kenze and Naserian remained with the Keepers. At 5 p.m. the Keepers returned to the Stockades with the orphans that had remained with them and at 7 p.m. Sian brought back home the rest of the Stockade dependent group.

28 April 2009

Wendi and her small group were waiting outside the Stockades this morning waiting for the Juniors to emerge, this time having recruited Napasha and Taita into the group. When the Youngsters were let out, and after the usual rapturous welcome, Rapsu decided to test his strength against Napasha whilst Kora took on Ndomot. Later Wendi led the orphans out to browse, and her splinter group remained with the Juniors until after the mudbath, separating from them at 3 p.m. heading westwards. Naserian led the babies back as usual to the Stockades at 5 p.m.

29 April 2009

The orphans again enjoyed the wet conditions, enjoying fresh water from hollowed rocks. They fed throughout the morning along the slopes of Ithumba Hill, had a wonderful mudbath at noon and returned to the Stockades as usual at 5 p.m., without any contact from either Yatta’s Group or the small splinter group of Wendi today.

30 April 2009

Naserian immediately led her group to the field as soon as the Stockade Gates were opened, since water is plentiful out in the field. It was the 3rd day that Yatta’s group had not made contact with the Juniors, and the 2nd day without meeting up with Wendi’s Splinter Group. With water now plentiful in the natural depressions out in the bush, it was a quiet and uneventful day at the Stockades as well, since there is no need for wild elephants to rely on the Stockade supply.