Keepers' Diaries, April 2011

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

The month began with a visit to the Stockades of Yatta’s Senior Group comprised of, (Mulika, Kinna, Selengai, Orok, Buchuma and Taita) as well as their wild recruit “Mgeni”. The Juniors were already ensconced for the night on this occasion but rumbling greetings were exchanged. The heat of Tsavo was relieved by intermittent showers of rain this month, so it has been a happy time for the 7 remaining milk and Keeper elephants based at night within the Ithumba Stockades. Ithumbah, who is an orphan of the area, obviously knows the terrain better than her Junior peers, and has evolved into the Leader, backed up by Suguta, Chaimu and Melia. With girls out-numbering the only two Junior boys, Kilaguni and Sabachi, strength testing male Pushing Matches are often interrupted by the girls, on one occasion by Suguta who took over a shady patch over which the boys were arguing!

01 April 2011

The orphans enjoyed scratching their bodies against rocks before heading out this morning led by Ithumbah. They browsed calmly all morning before attending the mudbath, when temperatures were moderate, so few opted to go in. However, passing the mudbath on their way home in the evening, they cooled themselves down. At around 6 p.m. Yatta and Mulika who had Kinna, Orok, Mgeni, Buchuma, Taita and Selengai in attendance came to drink at the Stockades.

02 April 2011

Again the orphans enjoyed rock scratching before heading out to browse. Temperatures soared later in the morning, but the orphans were able to cool themselves in some stagnant rain pools before heading to the milk and mudbath venue. None opted to go in, but instead enjoyed standing under shade until temperatures dropped, when they resumed browsing until it was time to return in the evening.

03 April 2011

On a clear morning the orphans left the Stockades and en route to the bush enjoyed a rain pool. After the mudbath there was a heavy downpour that left running water everywhere and filled all natural depressions, so the orphans had a marvelous fun time, reveling in it all.

04 April 2011

The orphans enjoyed skidding in the mud and playing in the puddles before heading out today, converging at a pile of red soil where they had a marvelous time rolling in the mud to plaster their bodies. At 4 p.m. in he afternoon Wendi, Galana, Meibai, Naserian, Sunyei, Kamboyo, Lenana, Challa, Tomboi and Madiba returned to the Stockades for a drink and to relax under the nearby Acacia trees. After dark, and having greeted the Juniors on their return in the evening, they left the Stockade compound.

05 April 2011

Wendi and her group were at the Stockades to join the Juniors as soon as they emerged, interacting briefly with the Youngsters before separating and heading off to an undisclosed location. At l0 a.m. however, Wendi and her group (Galana, Meibai, Naserian, Sunyei, Kamboyo, Lenana, Challa, Tomboi and Madiba) returned to the Stockade and relaxed under the nearby trees until they were joined by Yatta, Nasalot, Kinna, Mulika, Orok, Taita, Selengai and two wild bulls.

06 April 2011

Kilaguni, Melia and Suguta enjoyed dusting themselves with drying but moist soil whilst the rest of the Juniors concentrated on browsing. At the milk venue Tumaren and Suguta held their own bottles and fed themselves, returning the empty bottles to a nearby Keeper! The mudbath was brief since the orphans had been wallowing wherever opportunity allowed during the day.

07 April 2011

It was a cool morning. Kilaguni and Sabachi enjoyed some rain water that was lying in a hollow rock, after which Ithumbah led the group to the slopes of Ithumba Hill. Suguta rumbled to convey that it was time to head for the milk and mudbath venue, Melia taking the lead today.

08 April 2011

The morning was warmer. Out in the field Kilaguni, Sabachi and Chaimu decided to split from the rest of the Juniors and browse some way off on their own. At 11 a.m. the Keepers called for Chaimu to bring her group back, which she did within 5 minutes, running with her ears raised, followed by Kilaguni and Sabachi. At the mudbath Chaimu enjoyed lying on top of Kilaguni, something he didn’t object to.

09 April 2011

The orphans left after their usual scratching activity. At 9 a.m. an Ex Orphan group comprised of Kinna, Loijuk, Kenze, Makena, Orok, Taita, Mulika and Selengai visited the Stockades for water and having quenched their thirst, again left. Out in the field Sabachi and Kilaguni had a disagreement over the best shade tree, settled by the intervention of Suguta who took over the shade for herself! Since the day turned hot, all enjoyed an active mudbath after which they sheltered under shade before resuming browsing.

10 April 2011

Ithumbah led the Juniors out today. At l0 a.m. they were joined by Lualeni, Madiba, Loijuk, Kora, Lenana and Naserian who browsed with the orphans and then escorted them to the milk and mudbath venue. There all the orphans only took water because it was not sufficiently warm for the mudbath to prove attractive. Later Naserian headed towards the Imenti waterhole while the Juniors moved towards the slopes of Ithumba Hill where they browsed until it was time to return in the evening.

11 April 2011

At noon the orphans had a spectacular mudbath today because it was so hot. Chaimu indicated that time was up, trumpeting and running away followed by the others, with Ithumbah lagging behind reluctant to leave the mudbath!

12 April 2011

The orphans left the Stockades in a jovial mood accompanied to birdsong and swinging their trunks in happiness. They had a happy day but declined a mudbath, having had their fill in the many others provided by the recent rain. At 6 p.m. in the evening two wild bulls came to drink at the Stockades, one of whom was the father of the unborn babies of Yatta and Mulika. They relaxed at the Stockade compound for l5 minutes before departing again.

13 April 2011

The Juniors wandered far and wide today in search of soft new vegetation. Soon after they had left the Stockades Nasalot and Wendi came with Loijuk, Zurura, Lenana, Lualeni, Kamboyo, Taita and Napasha. A few minutes later Galana came with Meibai, Sunyei, Naserian and Sidai and having taken water, all then left. At the mudbath the Youngsters were joined by Yatta, Mgeni, Meibai, Galana, Sunyei, Loijuk and Sidai who spent an hour with the Juniors before peeling off and heading elsewhere to an undisclosed location.

14 April 2011

The orphans had an enjoyable morning browsing and after the mudbath Tumaren, Kilaguni and Chaimu had a wonderful dustbath. Later in the afternoon a rain shower prompted the orphans to enjoy themselves in the moist soil until it was time to head back home.

15 April 2011

Led by Ithumbah, the orphans left the Stockades in a happy mood, settling in to browse along the Kanziku area. Soon after the Juniors had left Yatta, Mulika, Kinna, Selengai, Orok, Nasalot and Buchuma came with two wild elephant friends to drink at the Stockades. After the mudbath, as the Juniors were enjoying playing along muddy road banks they were joined by Nasalot, who placed her trunk lovingly on her favourite, Kilaguni, and then rumbled leading the babies to the slopes of Ithumba hill where they browsed until evening.

16 April 2011

Challa turned up alone to join the Juniors in the morning and escort them to the browsing fields. At one point he attempted to mount onto Suguta, but was cautioned by the Keepers. Having been warned by the Keepers he decided to leave, heading Northwards. At 11 a.m. while the Juniors were at the mudbath, Challa joined them again but this time behaved himself. He remained with the Juniors until 3 p.m. before peeling off. At 2 p.m. Napasha and a wild bull friend came to the Stockade for a drink.

17 April 2011

After the usual rock scratching, again Ithumbah led the way out this morning. The day turned hot, so the orphans browsed under shade until Tumaren led the way to the mudbath. Having taken their milk, the Juniors headed towards the slopes of Ithumba Hill, but the journey was interrupted by mudbathing in some stagnant roadside pools.

18 April 2011

After rock scratching, Ithumbah led the Juniors out settling in to feed around the Kone area. After mudbath browsing was accompanied by rolling in wet soil. At 5 p.m. Kora accompanied by two wild bulls came to the Stockade water trough. Obviously Kora is being tutored about rank within the bull community by his wild male friends.

19 April 2011

Again Ithumba led the Juniors out accompanied by early morning bird song. The orphans had a lovely day because temperatures were conducive to activity. At 4 p.m. the Ex Orphans began streaming into the Stockade compound. First it was Wendi’s group followed by that of Yatta which included Mgeni. Soon after the Ex Orphans had left 3 wild bulls arrived for a drink.

20 April 2011

Ithumbah and Chaimu led the way out, heading Eastwards and leaving the rest of the Juniors taking a drink at the Stockade trough. They then began to head in the opposite direction, so the Keepers called Ithumbah and Chaimu to return and join the majority. All then settled down to browse along the Kanziku area. At the mudbath they were joined by Wendi, Meibai, Galana, Naserian, Nasalot, Sidai, Sunyei and Loijuk who remained with them until 5 p.m. before heading north of the slopes of Ithumba hill, leaving the Juniors to return with their Keepers.

21 April 2011

Today the orphans decided to feed close to the Stockades before moving further afield. The day remained cool so having taken milk Ithumbah led her Junior group to the slopes of Ithumba hill for the remainder of the day. Shortly after 5 p.m. a wild female unit came to the Stockades for a drink, comprised of two females, two calves and two sub-adults.

22 April 2011

The orphans enjoyed a quiet day, playing and feeding. Only Ithumbah and Kilaguni took a mudbath after which the group returned to the browsing fields. In the evening Ithumbah led the group back.

23 April 2011

Today the Keepers took the Juniors west to browse along a river line where pasture was plenty. Suguta, Kilaguni and Sabachi played a rolling game to express their joy and later Kilaguni and Sabachi enjoyed a pushing match which saw Kilaguni surrender. At mudbath only Ithumbah and Chaimu went in while the rest enjoyed scratching themselves against trees. Later Ithumbah, who knows the area well, led the group to the Kanziku area to feed for the remainder of the day.

24 April 2011

Thick cloud cover threatened rain, but strong wind dispersed the clouds. Kilaguni and Sabachi again challenged one another to a Pushing Match. Ithumbah led the Juniors to the milk and mudbath venue, and later back to browse until it was time for the return.

25 April 2011

On a clear hot day as the orphans headed westwards to browse under the shade of bushes and trees. All but Suguta wallowed as she watched from a distance scratching her body against a tree, but joining them later. Ithumbah led the group to browse in the afternoon and back to the Stockades in the evening.

26 April 2011

As the orphans left the Stockades in the morning, the Keepers noticed the spoor of a wild cat who had visited the compound during the night. Out in the field Ithumbah, Chaimu and Kilaguni enjoyed a soil bath before concentrating on browsing. Ithumbah again led the group home in the evening.

27 April 2011

Ithumba again led the Juniors out after all had finished rock scratching and Kilaguni and Sabachi had ended a Pushing Game. At the mudbath venue the Juniors were joined by the entire Ex Orphan Herd who were accompanied by two wild bulls. Missing from the group were Mgeni and Ndomot. Mgeni seems to have absented himself again from Yatta’s Unit since the two wild bulls joined the group. Nasalot, as usual, remained very close to Kilaguni. Later the Ex Orphan group left the Juniors and headed towards the Kanziku area.

28 April 2011

At 11 a.m. Nasalot, Galana, Meibai, Kenze, Tomboi, Challa joined the orphans at the mudwallow when Wendi and Tomboi opted for a soil bath and the rest of the group browsed nearby waiting for Wendi and Tomboi to join them. In the evening Yatta and Mulika came to the stockades to drink along with Lenana, Loijuk, Madiba, Lualeni, Selengai, Orok, Taita, Buchuma and the two wild bulls.

29 April 2011

Soon after the Juniors had left the Stockades in the morning the entire Ex Orphaned herd and their 2 wild bull friends turned up to drink. Absent were Mgeni and Ndomot, Ndomot having been missing for several months having accompanied Mgeni on one of his excursions and not returned along with him.

30 April 2011

Clear early morning skies promised a very hot day. Ithumbah stood leaning against a tree waiting for the others to complete their stockade activities before leading them out. Once at the field it was so hot that the Juniors had to browse under shade as far as possible, until it was time for the noon mudbath and they could cool themselves down.