Keepers' Diaries, August 2007

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

It has been a very special month for the Ithumba unit – the first time that they have been able to fraternize with wild elephants during the hours of daylight. The first contact took place on the 4th, un-noticed at the time by the Keepers, who were sitting under a tree at a distance, leaving the elephants to wander at will within the thick bush. When it was time to return, the Keepers called the elephants, but only the youngsters appeared, so the Keepers mounted a search for the others and were astonished to come across Yatta’s group surrounding 3 wild elephants. However, as soon as the elephants got wind of the humans, they fled, leaving the orphans looking bewildered! Then on the 6th, as the orphans were returning in the evening, Yatta’s group of older orphans were being trailed by 4 wild bulls. The Keepers hurried on ahead to allow the wild elephants to catch up with the orphans, hoping that they would return to the Stockades with them, but an hour later the orphans turned up without their visitors. On the 22nd, whilst heading towards the Ithumba dam, the orphan encountered a lone wild bull, but again as soon as he detected the presence of the Keepers, he vanished. Then on the 25th three wild cows and a calf came to take water at the Stockade trough late in the evening when the orphans were already in their Stockades. The wild group spent three hours at the Stockades before leaving.

01 August 2007

Challa was leader today when the orphans left their Night Quarters. They fed quietly all morning, and at 11 a.m. headed for the mudbath. Loijuk, Kenze, Sian, Orok and Lualeni rolled in the mud, splashing water over themselves, whilst the others looked on.

02 August 2007

After taking water, and scratching against rocks, or soil bathing in the compound, the orphans filed out, led by Kora and Loijuk. At the noon mudbath Tomboi and Sunyei turned the emptied drums into a foot ball and started kicking them, but the Keepers were quick to warn them against vandalism!

03 August 2007

It was a cold morning, so none of the elephants took water before heading out, led by Nasalot. Once in the field a light shower prompted them all to enjoy dusting themselves with the dampened earth before Kenze and Nasalot prompted all the others to follow suit and resume browsing. Wendi and Buchuma had a prolonged rolling session and then engaged each other in a pushing match which was broken up by Kinna and Selengai.

04 August 2007

Galana, Napasha and Tomboi were first out this morning, followed by Yatta, Kinna and Nasalot, who waited for all the others before escorting them to the water trough. Once in the field, Rapsu, Kora, Madiba and Buchuma took a different direction to the rest, but Napasha was not happy with the younger boys decision, so he hurried ahead to turn them back. It was too cool for a mudbath, so after the youngsters took their milk feed, the elephants headed out to the field again. At 4 p.m. in the evening, without the Keepers’ knowledge, the orphans met and mingled with a group of 3 wild elephants, with whom they spent almost an hour feeding together. The Keepers only realized this when it was time to return and they called their charges, but only the younger set turned up, prompting the Keepers to go in search of the older elephants. To the amazement of the Keepers, three wild elephants were surrounded by Yatta’s group, but as soon as the wild elephants got human scent, a silent word was rapidly passed around and, like lightening, they disappeared, leaving our orphans looking somewhat bewildered!

05 August 2007

Orok, Olmalo and Taita accompanied Yatta to the water trough while Nasalot and Mulika led the way to the field heading for the seasonal Kalovoto river where the group fed throughout the morning. From time to time Challa, Sunyei and Wendi intertwined their trunks in a gesture of friendship. Lualeni, Naserian, Sian, Loijuk and Madiba enjoyed the mudbath whilst the rest had a dustbath and Kora, as usual, waited in the wings for the others to join him.

06 August 2007

Kinna and Nasalot led the way out this morning and were joined later by Yatta and Mulika who took a prolonged drink at the trough. Out in the field the orphans browsed happily until Loijuk, Sian, Naserian and Kora left ahead of the others for the mudbath venue. After mudbath Nasalot led the entire group towards the Kalovoto river where they settled in for the afternoon feeding session. When it was time to return, again without the Keepers’ knowledge (because the bush is very thick), 4 wild bulls were trailing Yatta’s group, keeping at a safe distance. When the Keepers saw the four wild bulls, they hurried ahead in order to allow the wild elephants to catch up with Yatta, and the older elephants,, hoping that the orphans would bring their visitors back to the Stockades. However, an hour later, Yatta, Napasha, Nasalot, Kinna and Mulika arrived back without them.

07 August 2007

Selengai and Tomboi opened up the day’s activities with a pushing game which went on until it was disrupted by Yatta and Nasalot. Kenze and Loijuk were keen spectators. Being too cool for a mudbath, the babies took their share of milk and returned to feed, where Lualeni, Naserian and Sunyei took time out for a soil bath, Naserian kneeling whilst Sunyei stood behind her, and Lualeni at her side. Meanwhile, Napasha had his own soil dusting spot.

08 August 2007

Soon after the orphans left the Stockade, Kinna went to take Kenze and escorted him to the water trough to take water before heading out with all the others. Meanwhile Taita was busy extracting a root, using his foot, but Napasha came and pushed him away commandeering the root. Lualeni and Naserian led the way out when all the orphans had taken their fill of water. Out in the field they split into small groups, Sunyei teaming up with Wendi, Rapsu, Tomboi, Taita and Buchuma, whilst Kenze and Orok joined Kinna, Nasalot while Yatta led the rest leaving Naserian and Lualeni with the milk dependant youngsters.

09 August 2007

At sunrise, Taita and Tomboi enjoyed a pushing match which went on for quite a long time without interruption. At the same time Loijuk was learning pushing skills from Olmalo who was demonstrating gently and tenderly before both joined up with the rest to file out to the feeding grounds. At the mudbath, Yatta wanted to empty the drums in order to play with them, but the Keepers warned her to desist.

10 August 2007

Soon after leaving the Stockade, Kinna and Yatta had a pushing game which attracted a lot of attention. Wendi and Galana then did likewise, as did Tomboi and Rapsu, and Madiba and Kora. Nasalot obviously viewed these games as time-wasting, so decided to head off to the browsing field, all those not involved in pushing games streaming behind her. All fed quietly throughout the morning until Kora and Sian led the first milk dependant group to the mudbath. After a dustbath, the orphans headed back to the feeding area.

11 August 2007

On a cool morning, the orphans enjoyed the usual early morning activities, Naserian lying down to play while Sunyei and Ndomot watched her. At 11 a.m., the orphans split into four groups, each heading towards the mudbath. In the afternoon they fed along the slopes of Ithumba Hill until it was time to return.

12 August 2007

The sky was clear today, promising a hot day. Tomboi and Buchuma enjoyed a pushing game at 10 a.m. but soon temperatures soared, so the orphans retreated to feed under shade. At 11 a.m. the weather changed; clouds gathered bringing down the temperature so that the orphans could resume feeding out in the open.

13 August 2007

The orphans enjoyed a courtesy call from some wild elephants who visited them under cover of darkness. At first light Nasalot hurried off in the direction the wild elephants had taken, the others all streaming behind. Unhappily, the wild herd had gone far, so the orphans gave up the quest and concentrated on feeding. At the mudbath they met up with some warthogs who were charged by Napasha and Yatta, causing them to flee amongst the other orphans, and this caused chaos! The orphans ran away, followed by the warthogs, and as the orphans quickened their pace, so did the pigs! Eventually the Keepers called the elephants back, and they all approached the waterhole cautiously with raised ears!

14 August 2007

Soon after reaching the browsing area, Napasha, Wendi, Taita and Tomboi split from the main group and headed northwards. Being too cold for a mudbath, the orphans opted for a dusting session instead. Soon afterwards Mulika, followed by Selengai led the way back to the feeding grounds where they all browsed happily until it was time to return to the Stockades.

15 August 2007

There was a strong wind blowing from the East as the orphans headed out today. Soon it became too hot, forcing the elephants under shade. At 11 a.m. they headed for the mudbath and had a wonderful cooling session, when Kora surprised the Keepers by taking to the mudwallow, but just for one quick roll, before coming out again! Kora has an aversion to bathing!

16 August 2007

Kora and Yatta led some of the group to the water trough whilst Sunyei, Madiba and Napasha indulged in scratching against rocks. Sian and Loijuk led the way out to the field today, but tension was high since the previous night a lion had come to drink at the Stockade and roared several times before leaving. Because of this, the orphans were nervous, and kept close to their Keepers, but after the mudbath, tension eased and it was business as usual.

17 August 2007

Nasalot led the group to the Kalovoto river again. All was quiet until about 10 a.m. when Sunyei was up to her usual prank again. Having encountered a dikdik she began trumpeting and running at speed past all the others, towards the Keepers as though she had encountered something truly threatening. All the others began bellowing as they raced to the Keepers for safety. The Keepers went to investigate, but knowing Sunyei and her tricks, they were not surprised to find that the cause of all the commotion was simply a little dikdik! The Keepers just laughed and calmed the youngsters down.

18 August 2007

Yatta led the group out towards the Kalovoto river on a chilly morning. Sunyei, Rapsu, Lualeni and Kora fed close to their Keepers whilst the rest moved further afield. Sian and Loijuk led the way to the mudbath, where half the group enjoyed a wallow, since temperatures were again high. During the afternoon the orphans headed eastwards where they fed peacefully for the remainder of the day.

19 August 2007

Showers opened the day, which was pleasurable for the orphans. Led by Napasha, they indulged in a soil bathing which lasted for half an hour before Nasalot led the group out to feed, leaving Mulika and Napasha engaged in a pushing game. Seeing the others leave, they then hurried to join them. In the evening, when it was time to return, Yatta realized that Olmalo was missing. She trumpeted and rumbled and immediately a search was mounted. A short while later Olmalo, who was found browsing quietly on her own in a nearby thicket. Yatta rounded her up, and they all then made their way back home.

20 August 2007

The morning began cool, and once out in the feeding area, a shower of rain triggered soil bathing activities. All was quiet until Kora tried to engage Olmalo in a pushing match which didn’t go down well with Yatta, who quickly intervened. After the mudbath, Galana and Napasha led the others back to browse.

21 August 2007

The orphans left for the feeding grounds without taking water, since it was a cold morning. At around l0 a.m. Taita engaged Galana in a pushing bout, Sunyei coming in on the side of Galana but then Napasha sided with Taita, driving the two girls away in what had turned into a girls versus boys contest! After the mudbath, Kora did the honours, leading the group back to feed.

22 August 2007

On a cloudy early morning Kenze, Sian and Loijuk joined Yatta and Nasalot at the water trough, after which the orphans gathered together for a discussion about which direction to take. Yatta decided on a route but the Keepers had other plans for them, and called them all back again, it having been decided to take them to the airstrip dam. They passed the dry Imenti Waterhole, after which the orphans overtook the Keepers to take the lead. In between the Imenti Waterhole and the dam, they encountered l wild elephant, who fled as soon as he got wind of the humans. All enjoyed a swim in the dam, before embarking on the long return journey, both elephants and Keepers arriving back home tired.

23 August 2007

There was little activity other than feeding today until it was time for the mudbath, Kora, Lualeni, Loijuk and Naserian being in the first group to head off for milk. Later Kinna and Galana led the group back to feed.

24 August 2007

Olmalo and Orok welcomed the day in style, engaging one another in a pushing bout, watched closely by Yatta while the rest took their fill of water from the trough. Yatta, Orok and Olmalo were delayed, so the rest of the group, who had walked for a short distance, stopped to wait for them. As soon as Yatta joined up with them, the entire group headed out again. At the mudbath a group of baboons were busy drinking, and were reluctant to leave when charged by Sunyei so Yatta, Kinna, Mulika, Nasalot and Napasha took over to drive the baboons away.

25 August 2007

Another cool morning, so the orphans headed straight out, followed by Yatta and Olmalo, who had dallied scratching themselves against the rocks. At around l0 a.m., Sidai pushed Olmalo against a tree, prompting Olmalo to bellow for help. Yatta, Kinna and Mulika were at her side immediately. Olmalo then pointed her trunk towards Sidai who was instantly disciplined by Yatta, narrowly escaping Kinna who tried to bite her tail as she was driven out of the herd, forced to spend time apart and on her own as punishment. Late in the evening, after the orphans had checked into their Night Stockades, at around 8 p.m., three wild elephants with a baby came to the Water Trough to drink. The wild group remained for quite some time (almost three hours) before finally disappearing.

26 August 2007

On another cool morning, the orphans left in a jovial mood, swinging their trunks probably hoping to catch up with their nocturnal visitors. At the water trough they investigated the dung of the wild elephants, something that caused a good deal of excitement, with the older elephants trumpeting and bellowing, something that prompted Kenze to seek security from Nasalot. He seemed confused as to what could cause so much commotion! After the Keepers called for order, the elephants followed the direction taken by the wild ones, but failed to catch up with them. Rapsu and Kora engaged one another in a pushing game, which was broken up by Kinna.

27 August 2007

Rapsu and Buchuma were in high spirits when they emerged in the morning, charging and pushing each other, an exciting game that attracted Ndomot who enjoyed coming in to push Rapsu. The game ended when Yatta signaled that it was time to leave. The orphans enjoyed an active mudbath today, since it had turned hot by noon.

28 August 2007

Yatta led her herd westwards, once they had taken water. Soon temperatures soared so the orphans had to retreat into shade and continue browsing in the dense thickets. Shortly after l0 a.m., Olmalo bellowed from some distance away, which attracted the attention of the entire herd. Led by Yatta, they went to see what was amiss and having reached Olmalo found that she was feeding with Orok, Sidai, Selengai and Tomboi. The Keepers guessed that Olmalo had probably been given a quick shove by Sidai as reprisal from the events of a few days ago. After the mudbath, Nasalot led the orphans back to the feeding area.