Keepers' Diaries, August 2009

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

The Ithumba orphans remain in three distinct groups. Yatta’s group of Senior orphans, the first to make the transition from the Stockades at Ithumba, are all virtually now perfectly normal wild elephants, but, as anticipated, remain in constant and often mysterious contact with all the other orphans whom they regard as “family”, the family being all important to an elephant who has a far better memory than that of a human, and a brain four times the size! With Yatta’s group is the wild recruit named “Mgeni” (meaning visitor) who seems to have become a permanent fixture. More often than not her group is also accompanied by other wild elephant friends who come and go at will, so she and her group truly are reintegrated back into the wild system. Yatta has always been the main Ithumba Matriarch. She is now l0 years of age, born in Tsavo in September l999 and reared in the Nairobi Nursery from the age of l month.

01 August 2009

Sian led the Keeper Dependent youngsters out to feed, having all enjoyed a drink at the Stockade trough. Soon after they left, happily trumpeting, rumbling and knocking down small shrubs as a sign of excitement, l0 wild dogs came to the Stockade trough to drink. The day turned hot, so the orphans enjoyed a spectacular mudbath, Sidai, Lualeni, Chyulu, Loijuk and Naserian proving the main stars. They were joined later at the mudbath by Wendi and her satellites, and later still by Yatta and the others at the Imenti Area. The entire orphaned herd then headed back to the Stockades, where 4 adult wild elephant cows and two small calves also turned up for a drink.

02 August 2009

Having been let out in the morning Chyulu, Makena, Loijuk and Lenana ran to secure trees against which to scratch their bodies, while Kora and Kenze engaged one another in a tussle of strength which was won by Kora. Sian was again the leader out to browse. The orphans had another spectacular mudbath today, and browsed peacefully for the rest of the day without incident.

03 August 2009

Wendi and her group were waiting outside the stockades early in the morning to greet the youngsters, and after all had taken water, she led the group out to browse, Naserian at the rear making sure that no-one was left behind. All browsed peacefully until Makena decided it was time for the mudbath, it being another very hot day.

04 August 2009

Shortly after the Youngsters had left for the browsing area, Yatta arrived at the Stockade for a drink, with Ol Malo missing from her group. Half an hour later Ol Malo arrived alone, and having taken a drink followed in the direction Yatta had taken earlier. At 9 a.m. Wendi and her group turned up for a drink, and likewise later followed the direction taken by the others. By l0 a.m. all three groups met up at Kone and browsed together as a herd. Yatta led them all to the Stockade mudbath after which the entire herd returned to the Kone area where they browsed for the remainder of the day.

05 August 2009

Lenana and Kamboyo initiated the morning activities, scratching themselves against rocks until Sian was ready to lead them to the browsing area. There Chyulu, Makena, Loijuk and Lenana separated from the main group and took themselves off to feed some distance away, rejoining the others later on during at the mudbath.

06 August 2009

The orphans were in a hurry to leave today without bothering about Stockade games or a drink. En route to the browsing field Loijuk and Makena came across a branch which had been broken by a wild elephant, and enjoyed feeding on this. Today the Youngsters settled down to feed at the Kanziku area where they were joined by 3 wild elephants. They all browsed together until late afternoon when the wild elephants led the Youngsters back to the Stockade compound for a drink. Having all taken water, they returned to Kanziku to browse until dark when the Youngsters brought themselves back home for the night.

07 August 2009

This morning Loijuk, Naserian and Kamboyo took to the trees for a scratch whilst Makena and Kenze had a strength test and the rest gathered at the drinking trough. On the way out to feed the Juniors were joined by Wendi and her group and all settled down to browse along the Kanziku road. It was a hot day, so all participated fully in wallowing where Kamboyo mounted onto Loijuk as she lay in the water. This made her scream which brought Galana to her assistance. She pushed Kamboyo away and helped Loijuk to her feet again. Later the group went to browse along the slopes of Ithumba Hill for the rest of the afternoon.

08 August 2009

Upon leaving their Night Stockade, the Juniors joined 2 wild elephants at the Stockade trough. Playful Loijuk directed a mock charge towards the wild elephants, who just looked at her and were unimpressed! Once out in the field, the Juniors were joined by Wendi and her group, and all browsed calmly throughout the morning. After the mudbath Wendi separated, heading Northwards with her group, leaving the Youngsters under the care of Naserian, their main Matriarch. At 1 p.m. 2 wild elephant bulls turned up for a drink at the Stockade water trough, and were joined by “Rafiki”, the orphans’ first wild adult bull friend. All left together having taken water and in the evening Yatta’s group came to the Stockades for a drink accompanied by 2 other wild elephants.

09 August 2009

As the orphans left their Night Stockades, 4 wild elephants were drinking at the Stockade trough, but the orphans ignored them and headed straight out. At 8 a.m. Wendi’s group came to the Compound for a drink and then joined the Juniors out in the bush for the morning’s browsing session and the mudbath. Shortly before 4 p.m. Yatta’s group, accompanied by two wild elephant friends came to take a mudbath and relaxed there for a long time, as though waiting for someone. Sure enough a while later Wendi’s group plus the Juniors came to join them, evidence that they had been in touch all along. Makena led the entire herd, plus the wild friends back to the Stockades in the evening, where another 30 wild elephants, some with calves were queuing up for water. The Juniors went back into their Stockades, whilst the Keeper Independent orphans joined the wild elephants and left later in amongst them.

10 August 2009

Wendi’s group returned during the night and spent the night just outside the Juniors’ Stockades, but left before the Youngsters were let out in the morning. The Juniors left the compound at 6 a.m. and led by Sian, headed towards Kanziku. At 8 a.m. Yatta with yet another new wild friend came to drink at the Stockades, and then headed Westwards. At the mudbath “Rafiki” joined the orphans and dallied in the water after they had left, but caught up with them again out in the bush for a short while. At 4 p.m. all the ex orphans joined the Juniors near the Imenti waterhole and accompanied them back in the evening where they found many wild elephants drinking at the stockade trough. The Juniors entered their Night Stockades and the ex orphans joined the wild group.

11 August 2009

Due to the current drought, the wild elephants are congregating at the orphans’ mudbath and at the Stockades, attracted by fresh water, the water in the Tiva riverbed being highly saline. Today, the Juniors, in a jovial mood, joined two wild elephants at the Stockade trough first thing in the morning before heading out, and the wild elephants followed them a short time later. At the mudbath the Juniors were joined by both Yatta’s group and that of Wendi, followed by 6 wild elephants. The orphans left their wild friends still bathing and headed west to browse for the remainder of the day. All then escorted the Youngsters and their Keepers back to the stockades in the evening.

12 August 2009

It was a cloudy morning for a change, which was celebrated by the orphans, who spent time playing around the compound before leaving. Kenze and Kamboyo enjoyed their usual pushing game whilst Sian, Chyulu, Makena and Loijuk scratched on the Unloading Bay. Later Sian led the way out and by l0 the day had turned hot again, so all enjoyed the mudbath. In the evening the Juniors were joined by all the Ex Orphans plus 2 wild elephants. All browsed together until it was time to return in the evening.

13 August 2009

Out in the feeding area, somehow Loijuk got left behind in a thicket and began trumpeting loudly. This drew the attention of the entire group, who had moved ahead. Naserian, Sidai and Lualeni rushed towards the sound where they met up with Loijuk who returned with them in an excited charging mood. She was welcomed very warmly by the entire group, each elephant coming to touch her gently with its trunk. At the mudbath, the Ex Orphans all turned up to join the Youngsters, but separated from them out in the browsing area later, leaving Challa behind with the Juniors. At the Stockade Challa remained near the trough while the Youngsters entered their usual Stockades, and shortly before 7 p.m. in the evening Wendi and her group passed by and picked up Challa before heading out again.

14 August 2009

The orphans emerged in the morning in a very happy mood, swinging their trunks from side to side as they made a brief stop at the water trough. Today Kamboyo led them out to browse until mudbath time, when Makena took the initiative. Only Lualeni, Loijuk and Sidai had a wallow today, the rest opting for a soil dusting session. They were joined by Wendi and her group who browsed with the Youngsters for the rest of the afternoon. At 6.30 p.m. Yatta and her group came to the Stockade compound and joined some wild elephants who had arrived earlier. Wendi and her group then turned up escorting the youngsters back and having seen the Juniors to bed for the night, Wendi joined Yatta’s group.

15 August 2009

Makena led the Juniors out to feed today, all following in a jovial mood, swinging their trunks from side to side and trumpeting. Shortly before 9.30 a.m. Yatta and her group, including her new recruit called “Mgeni”, came to the Stockades to take water. All the orphans then met up at the Mudbath, and it being a hot day, all thoroughly enjoyed bathing. All 31 then performed a marvelous dusting concert, taking soil into their trunks and throwing it over their bodies as they strolled off into the bush. In the evening Yatta’s group returned earlier, took a drink, and then left, while Wendi’s group and the Juniors came back much later just as darkness was falling.

16 August 2009

Having taken water the Juniors headed to a small hill where hyenas have their burrows and there Kora and Zurura concentrated on digging up roots. The Juniors were joined by the ex orphans at the noon mudbath, who separated afterwards, but turned up at the Stockades in the evening ahead of the Youngsters, who clocked in half an hour later. Ol Malo then came all alone and joined a wild group drinking at the trough soon after the ex orphans had left the compound. Suddenly she bellowed loudly, and 6 minutes later the entire group of ex orphans emerged from the thickets to answer her summons. Yatta comforted Ol Malo, touching her gently with her trunk, and left taking her back into the group.

17 August 2009

Sian led the Youngsters out to browse today, and all left in a jovial mood. Kenze and Kamboyo enjoyed a pushing match which was won by Kenze, while Loijuk took on Chyulu playfully. All enjoyed the mudbath on a very hot day, and unusually spent the entire day without contact with the ex orphans.

18 August 2009

It was a cool morning as Zurura and Kenze stood near the acacia trees waiting to be shown the direction decided by the girls. Sian then led them out. By midday it had turned hot, so all enjoyed the mudbath, except Kora, Lenana and Zurura, who are not water friendly and who opted for a dust-bath instead.

19 August 2009

The orphans entered the feeding area in a happy mood, swinging their trunks and playfully bumping into one another as they made their way out. Lenana, Chyulu and Makena enjoyed a dustbath near an anthill while Kamboyo and Zurura engaged one another in a test of strength. The dual became intense so Naserian moved in to separate the two boys. Again only some of the orphans went into the mud while others enjoyed a dustbath. They were joined by a wild friend, who came in search of water.

20 August 2009

Having quenched their thirst at the Stockade in the morning, the orphans headed out as usual, today led by Kora, which was unusual. At the noon mudbath only Loijuk, Kenze, Makena and Lualeni rolled in the mud and splashed water over themselves while the rest chose to be mere spectators. At 4 p.m. the ex orphans came to the Stockades to drink, but left again having quenched their thirst.

21 August 2009

This morning the ex orphans, accompanied by a wild friend, came to drink water at the Stockades and joined up with the Youngsters as they emerged. The entire herd settled down to browse at the Kanziku area and at 11 a.m. all headed for the mudbath. In the evening a wild group joined them, and all headed towards the airstrip. The Juniors remained out late today, only reporting back to the stockades at midnight, and bringing with them Ol Malo and Challa. The Juniors entered their usual Stockades but Ol Malo and Challa remained outside, but not far away.

22 August 2009

Ol Malo and Challa joined the Juniors as soon as they were let out of their Night Stockade in the morning. Sian led the group out to browse where Ol Malo left them, but Challa remained behind. At 11 a.m. the ex orphans joined the Juniors but separated again soon after having had a mudbath. At 1 p.m. Ol Malo came alone to the Stockades for a drink and headed towards the Kalovoto watercourse. Meanwhile the Youngsters spent the afternoon browsing near the Imenti waterhole, until Makena led them back for the night in the evening.

23 August 2009

The Youngsters converged at the Stockade trough with Naserian circling them to ensure that all were present and correct! After the usual Stockade activities – Sian, Chyulu and Makena scratching their bodies against rocks while Kamboyo and Kora dusted themselves with soil, the rest waited patiently not far from the compound for the others to join them. All the ex orphans joined the Youngsters at their noon mudbath, and spent the rest of the afternoon browsing with them, escorting them back to the Stockades in the evening.

24 August 2009

Soon after the Juniors had left the Stockade compound, the ex orphans clocked in, accompanied as usual by “Mgeni” (Yatta’s wild recruit) plus 2 other wild elephants, but Ol Malo was missing from the group. The Youngsters enjoyed their usual mudbath at noon and then joined all the ex orphans at the Imenti waterhole area. It was as though the Juniors wanted to show their Keepers that they were capable of taking care of themselves, because they moved deeper and deeper into the bush along with Yatta, not heeding the Keepers’ call to try and bring them back. As darkness was closing in, the Keepers had to leave and wait for their charges at the Stockades. There they found Ol Malo enjoying a drink at the Stockade trough with 3 wild bulls. The Keepers waited all night, but no orphans returned – the first time that the Keeper Dependent Youngsters have chosen to remain out all night.

25 August 2009

The Keepers set off early to search for the Youngsters and did not find them until 1.30 p.m. in the afternoon, the entire orphaned herd together, all looking extremely contented and happy, but minus Ol Malo. The elephants greeted their Keepers warmly and agreed to be taken for a late mudbath and then led them back to the Stockades in the evening. The Youngsters returned to their Stockades and Yatta and the ex orphans then left. Ol Malo and several wild friends then checked in, and having taken a drink, Ol Malo rumbled loudly. This brought Yatta and the rest of the orphans back at the double. They collected her, and all then left together

26 August 2009

It was an uneventful day today, with no unusual incidents. Having left the Stockades in the morning Makena and Loijuk enjoyed a dust-bath when they came across some loose soil while Kora enjoyed digging up tasty roots. The Juniors enjoyed the mudbath alone today, and later returned to the Stockades in the evening.

27 August 2009

The Juniors headed out to browse in the morning as usual. Yatta and her group checked in at the Stockade compound at noon and were joined by 3 wild elephants as they drank from a newly constructed trough. Meanwhile the Juniors were taking their usual mudbath elsewhere. At 3 p.m. Yatta’s group met up with Juniors at the Kanziku area and left a few moments later, taking Kamboyo with them. At 5.30 p.m. Ol Malo showed up at the Stockades, having been separated from her group for an entire day. At 7 p.m., late in the evening, Yatta and the ex orphans brought Kamboyo back to the Stockades, and once he was installed, headed back out.

28 August 2009

After the usual Stockade activities, the Juniors headed out as usual on a cooler morning. At 11 a.m. they split into two groups and separately headed for the mudbath venue, where they met up again. Later they browsed along the slopes of Ithumba Hill until the evening when it was time to return for the night.

29 August 2009

It was a very hot morning driving the orphans under shade to browse. However, at noon clouds obliterated the sun and the temperature dropped again as the orphans headed to the mudbath venue. Having enjoyed a wallow, the Juniors took a dustbath before heading out to feed for the remainder of the day, without contact with the ex group.

30 August 2009

Early in the morning Wendi and her group were waiting at the Stockade trough waiting for the water to be turned on, the trough having been drained by wild herds during the night. There she was joined by the Juniors as soon as they emerged in the morning. Wendi then led the Juniors out to browse, and also accompanied them to the mudbath at noon, returning with them to browse during the afternoon. Meanwhile Ol Malo came to the Stockades at noon to drink, and then left again. In the evening Wendi escorted the Juniors back, and was joined at the Stockades by Ol Malo and her wild friends.

31 August 2009

Soon after the Youngsters had left their Stockades in the morning, both Yatta’s and Wendi’s groups of ex orphans emerged from the west to join them. The entire herd then headed east having taken water and settled down to browse along the Kalovoto river. At 11 a.m. the three groups separated, Makena leading the Juniors to the mudbath while Yatta and Wendi’s groups remained behind in the field. The Juniors returned as usual to their Stockades in the evening.