Keepers' Diaries, April 2010

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Intermittent heavy rain fell throughout the month, providing a great deal of entertaining diversion for all the Ithumba elephants, eight of whom remain Keeper and Night Stockade dependent,, escorted out each morning by their Keepers. These are Loijuk (now the main Matriarch of this group), Makena, Chyulu, Zurura, Loijuk, Kenze, Sian, Lenana and little Meibai. That said Kenze and Lenana were taken by Yatta after the Juniors’ noon mudbath towards the end of the month on a trial run at being “wild” but were returned to the Stockades by Yatta in the evening, obviously having had second thoughts about it all! Meanwhile, it would appear that Lualeni has obviously been detailed by Yatta to spend time chaperoning the Youngsters for much of the month since Wendi has been largely conspicuous by her absence this month and has only put in one appearance this month to collect Lualeni from the Stockade in the evening, and return her to Yatta’s unit, because she arrived the next day in amongst Yatta’s satellites!.

Intermittent heavy rain fell throughout the month, providing a great deal of entertaining diversion for all the Ithumba elephants, eight of whom remain Keeper and Night Stockade dependent,, escorted out each morning by their Keepers. These are Loijuk (now the main Matriarch of this group), Makena, Chyulu, Zurura, Loijuk, Kenze, Sian, Lenana and little Meibai. That said Kenze and Lenana were taken by Yatta after the Juniors’ noon mudbath towards the end of the month on a trial run at being “wild” but were returned to the Stockades by Yatta in the evening, obviously having had second thoughts about it all! Meanwhile, it would appear that Lualeni has obviously been detailed by Yatta to spend time chaperoning the Youngsters for much of the month since Wendi has been largely conspicuous by her absence this month and has only put in one appearance this month to collect Lualeni from the Stockade in the evening, and return her to Yatta’s unit, because she arrived the next day in amongst Yatta’s satellites!.

Yatta remains the main Matriarch of the 23 ex orphans who are now fully rehabilitated and Keeper Independent leading normal wild elephant lives and fraternizing freely with wild companions. Sub Matriarchs within Yatta’s group, mainly Wendi and Naserian, who previously were Leaders of the Junior orphans in their time, often split from Yatta’s main group (probably with Yatta’s approval) to travel independently along with whoever wants to come along as well, keeping in regular touch with the Youngsters. Previously Wendi mainly fulfilled this function but this month has seen a change since Wendi has only made one appearance, obviously enjoying “time off” while Yatta herself has taken on this role during the month, keeping in almost daily contact with the dependent group, and missing only a few days following heavy rain storms.

Meibai, the smallest and youngest Ithumba orphan, basks in the special attention and outpouring of love of all the other Ithumba orphans. Loijuk adores him and keeps very close watch over him, but so do all the others whenever they meet up and spend time together. It is as though all are very aware that they are lucky to have him still alive amongst them, since his two peers, Enasoit and Naimina, who were transferred from the Nursery along with him and were also drought orphans, died suddenly, and unexpectedly probably as a result of the hookworm transmitted by cattle. They died within a day of one another and mysteriously, due to that inexplicable elephant perception, all the ex orphans now living wild turned up at the Stockades as Enasoit was dying, as though alerted as to the tragedy that was unfolding. Thereafter, they spent time with the Youngsters as though to comfort them during a period of deep grief.

Interactions between the Keeper dependent orphans and those now living wild have been frequent this month. Naserian came with Napasha, Lualeni and Kora to join the Youngsters at their noon mudbath on the 5th, leaving Napasha behind to spend the rest of the afternoon with the Juniors and escort them back to their Night Stockades in the evening. The next day (6th) after a week long absence, Yatta made a brief stop at the Stockades accompanied by Mulika, Kinna, Selengai, Taita, Rapsu, Orok, Tomboi, Challa and Buchuma and after greeting the Keepers, proceeded to the mudbath venue, just missing the Juniors who had already left. However, Yatta’s group joined them during the afternoon, when there was a joyful and highly charged reunion ceremony - trumpeting, rumbling and urinating accompanied the loving inter-twining of trunks. Inevitably, Meibai was, as usual, the focus of attention for once the greetings subsided, all the ex orphans homed in on him, which un-nerved Loijuk, who obviously feared that they might take him from her! However, having escorted the Juniors back to the Night Stockades, extending “tight security” top Meibai in their midst, the ex orphans made no attempt to take him and were happy to allow him to follow Loijuk into the Stockade for the night.

The following day at 3 p.m. Yatta’s group again joined the Juniors out in the bush and when they decided to depart, left Napasha and Lualeni to chaperone the Juniors and escort them back to the Stockades in the evening. However, at first light the next morning (8th) Lualeni was waiting at the Stockade doors for the Youngsters to emerge, obviously having spent the night nearby and remaining with them all day, moving off only when the Juniors were safely ensconced for the night. Surprisingly, Wendi turned up to collect Lualeni that night, and obviously escorted her back to Yatta, for the next morning Lualeni was again waiting at the Stockade Gates for the Youngsters to emerge. She was with them again all day, and that evening returned with them actually into a Stockade as of old - an unusual treat for the Juniors. Thereafter Lualeni remained a part of Loijuk’s Junior group until the 11th when Yatta’s group joined them briefly, this time accompanied by the young wild bull recruit named “Mgeni” plus two other wild friends. Having greeted the Youngsters Yatta and her entourage, headed westwards, leaving Lualeni and the youngsters moving in an easterly direction for the day, but that evening Yatta returned to the Stockades and took Lualeni off with her!

The next day (12th) Yatta’s group and the wild friends turned up early in the morning and browsed with the Youngsters for two hours before separating. Lualeni was once again left on Junior duty. However, Yatta and her wild friends were back to join the Youngsters at 8 a.m. the next morning and were with the Youngsters throughout the morning and at the noon mudbath, only departing from them later in the afternoon. Yatta’s group again passed by the Stockades briefly the next day after the Juniors had left.

That day there was a heavy rainstorm which provided a great deal of entertainment for the Juniors, who were all soon plastered in red mud, and according to the Keepers, looked like red anthills in amongst the lush vegetation. The ex orphans chose to also enjoy the wet conditions and were absent until the 16th when Mulika, Selengai, Taita and Kinna joined the Juniors at their noon mudbath and enjoyed wallowing with them. However, the Juniors left the mudbath venue leaving their now wild peers the ex behind to savor what had turned into a mini lake.

The 17th was the day that Yatta decided that Lenana and Kenze have some wild initiation and went off with them, having spent an hour feeding amongst the Juniors. Yatta brought them back to join the Juniors at their noon mudbath but then left with them again. However, that evening Kenze and Lenana were returned to the Stockades by Yatta, probably having had second thoughts!

On the 25th the Juniors were joined again by Lualeni who arrived with Naserian, Kora, and a very nervous wild bull, who sheltered behind Kora with his ears standing out indicating mounting unease about the presence of the Keepers! However, he plucked up sufficient courage to tag along on the return journey to the Stockades in the evening, but must have been very relieved when Naserian, Lualeni and Kora left.

Yatta’s group, which included Naserian as well as two wild elephant friends were seen passing by the Stockades at 7.30 a.m. on the 28th and on the 29th Yatta came running past pursued by a randy wild boyfriend. Both disappeared into the thickets beyond, so what happened next was not witnessed by the Keepers and must remain a secret! Yatta was quite obviously not comfortable with this particular bull, so even if she ended up being raped by him, stress would probably inhibit conception. The month of April has certainly been action packed for the Ithumba orphans with a great deal of contact between those now Keeper independent and those that have yet to make the transition.

April 2010 day to day

01 Apr

There was a heavy downpour during the night, so the orphans left their Stockades in a happy mood, slipping and sliding playfully in the mud. They came to the mudbath venue as usual at noon, but having enjoyed a daylong mudbath in the bush, they merely took their milk, and returned to browse during the afternoon. Still no sign of the ex orphans showing up.

Sian playing

Zurura enjoing the mud

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