Keepers' Diaries, August 2011

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

A highlight of the month was the arrival at Ithumba of Ex Nursery orphans Kalama, Chemi Chemi and Ololoo when, as usual, all the Ex Orphans with wild elephant friends within their herd, mysteriously anticipated this event and were at hand to welcome them. How Elephants are able to predict such events is one of those mysteries that defies human interpretation. The moment the truck drew in, Wendi moved forward to greet the new babies, after which Ololoo and Chemi Chemi immediately went confidently towards the Stockade water trough where all the other Ex Orphans and their wild friends had gathered. Kalama was more hesitant and had to be escorted there by the Keepers, but the assurance and confidence of Ololoo and Chemi Chemi astounded the Keepers. Without a moment’s hesitation they were in amongst the adult herd, dwarfed by them, but welcomed warmly by both the Ex Orphans and also their wild friends, in total about 30 very large elephant strangers! Both calves obviously remember their earlier wild life well - Chemi Chemi being 9 months old and Ololoo over two years when orphaned.

01 August 2011

The Ex Orphans spent the night just outside the Stockades, and were there to greet the Youngsters first thing in the morning. After Lualeni had led the Juniors to the water trough for a drink, the Juniors headed out to browse, while the Ex Orphans remained at the Stockade Compound. Kibo and Kandecha ran around knocking down bushes. The Juniors enjoyed the mudbath, since the weather was hot, Kandecha, Ithumbah, Chaimu, Tumaren, Kilaguni and Murka the most spectacular wallowers. Ithumbah led the Juniors beck in the evening.

02 August 2011

Today the Keepers led the Juniors to the Eastern side of Ithumbah hill to browse. There Sabachi and Kandecha played a pushing match that drew the attention of Kora, who separated them. Kora has remained with the Junior Group ever since being arrowed. En route to the Wallow, Chaimu and Kandecha scared the group which sent them all retreating to their Keepers, wailing! All enjoyed a lengthy mudbath.

03 August 2011

The Keepers led the Juniors Eastwards where there is plenty of browse, Kora bringing up the rear of the column. All browsed until 10 a.m. when Kitirua and Naisula initiated a sliding game down a bank. As it was a cloudy day, the orphans opted for a soil bath instead of the mud.

04 August 2011

Once at the browsing area Kandecha and Kibo engaged one another in the usual Pushing Match, which lasted until Suguta separated them. The weather turned hot by mudbath time, so all enjoyed a lengthy wallow.

05 August 2011

It was a cloudy chilly morning, which prompted the orphans to be more playful and active. Kibo and Kandecha enjoyed their usual Pushing Match while Ithumbah, Sabachi, Kilaguni and Tumaren charged around the Stockade compound bush-bashing and trumpeting. Later the Keepers led the orphans westwards to browse. Since it was too chilly for a mudbath, all enjoyed a soil dusting session instead.

06 August 2011

Today, we expected three new Nursery babies from Nairobi, so the Juniors browsing nearby awaiting the new arrivals. All the Ex Orphans and their wild friends also turned up and browsed nearby, as usual mysteriously anticipating the arrival of new Nursery elephants. The Truck carrying Kalama, Chemi and Ololoo pulled up against the Unloading Bay at 11 a.m. and immediately Ex Orphan Wendi walked up to greet the new babies. The three newcomers then walked to the Stockade water trough where the rest of the Ex Orphans and dozens of wild elephants were taking water. Ololoo instantly integrated into the wild group, leaving the Keepers fearful that they may loose him to the wild elephants, but after being called, he returned to the Junior group. Kalama, Chemi Chemi and Ololoo are the first Ithumba newcomers to be greeted so warmly by completely wild elephants, a scenario never witnessed before which left the Keepers amazed!. Some of the Ex Orphans, namely Wendi, Sunyei, Lualeni, Sidai and Loijuk, (all previous Junior Matriarchs) followed the new babies into the bush to browse, and remained with them for the rest of the day, returning with them to the Stockades in the evening.

07 August 2011

Ithumbah led the Junior group, now numbering 16, to the water trough for a drink before heading out. Tumaren then led the Juniors out to browse, Suguta bringing up the rear of the column to ensure that none of the newcomers got left behind. Out in the bush Kalama browsed close to the Keepers. Olare and Kandecha led the Juniors to the mudbath, and since it was a very hot day, all enjoyed the wallow.

08 August 2011

Ithumbah and Chaimu led the Juniors out today, Kalama waiting behind for the Keepers, but Chemi Chemi and Ololoo were comfortable with the older elephants, and went off swinging their trunks from side to side in happiness. Out in the field the Juniors dispersed to feed, but Kalama remained close to the Keepers. At the mudbath, the Junior group were joined by all the Ex Orphaned herd plus some of their wild friends.

09 August 2011

The Juniors left their Night Stockades in a jovial mood, swinging their trunks and playfully bumping into each other. At 9 a.m. Sabachi, Kandecha and Kibo enjoyed a game that resembled Hide and Seek accompanied by a lot of trumpeting, running around the bushes and surprising each other by coming face to face. Towards 11 a.m. it turned very hot, prompting Kalama to draw water from her stomach to spray over her ears and body. At the Stockade mudwallow she actually got right into the water trough to cool down, something of which Olare, Sabachi and Tumaren did not approve. They pushed her out, but she had cooled herself down, and then went to take her milk.

10 August 2011

Olare led the group out today, all filing behind her swinging their trunks happily. All browsed calmly until Kandecha led them to the mudbath where they were joined by three wild bulls, who drank alongside them until the orphans left for a soil bath.

11 August 2011

This morning 16 wild elephants turned up to drink at the Stockade water trough just after the Juniors had left, again happily swinging their trunks and bumping into each other. At the browsing area Kitirua, Naisula, Chemi Chemi and Ithumbah enjoyed a dustbath at an anthill that had fresh loose soil. Kandecha and Ololoo engaged one another in a strength testing exercise, which Kandecha won. Since it was a cool day only Chaimu, Olare, Ithumbah and Tumaren wallowed, while the rest opted for a soil bath instead.

12 August 2011

It promised to be a very hot day. At around 10 a.m. Kibo and Kandecha had their usual Pushing Match but soon the orphans had to take to the shade. At 11 a.m. the clouds rolled in and it cooled down, so at the mudbath venue the Juniors opted for a soil bath. In the evening Kalama, Chemi Chemi and Ololoo browsed close to the Keepers as the rest scattered in the thickets. At about 4.30 p.m. the Keepers called the orphans since it was time to head back home, but to their surprise only Kalama, Ololoo and Chemi Chemi responded, the rest having sneaked off and were already on their way back to the Stockades, led by Kandecha. They arrived back five minutes ahead of the Keepers who were with the three newcomers!

13 August 2011

Lualeni had spent the night just outside the Stockades, and was there to greet Kora and the Juniors first thing in the morning. After the morning greetings, she led the group out to browse at the Kanziku area. At 10 a.m. they were joined by Wendi, Galana, Meibai, Sidai, Naserian and Rapsu who were actually just passing by and were joined by Lualeni, who left Kora with the Juniors. At noon the Juniors enjoyed the mudbath as usual, but at 4 p.m., while browsing the Kone area, they were scared by something unknown to the Keepers, and all fled in different directions. The Keepers followed, calling, but an hour later had gathered only 10 orphans, six had not returned. The Keepers continued the search until darkness set in when they had to give up. At 8 p.m. the Keepers drove around Ithumba hill in the Suzuki and found Naisula, Ololoo, Kibo, Murka, Chemi Chemi and Melia trying to find their way back home. Upon seeing the Suzuki all came running, and the Keepers were able to walk them back home. It was a long scary day for Chemi Chemi and Ololoo, given that the two were new to the area.

14 August 2011

Soon after the Juniors had entered the browsing field, Suguta, Sabachi, Ololoo and Tumaren split from the main group and headed northwards, returning later shortly before mudbath time. Since it was a cool day all opted for a soil bath instead. Kora then led the group back to the Stockades after the afternoon browsing session.

15 August 2011

By 10 a.m. today, it had turned so hot that the Juniors had to take to shade. All enjoyed a lengthy wallowing session to cool themselves off.

16 August 2011

The day passed as usual until mudbath time when Kandecha, Kibo, Olare and Murka led the way. After mudbath Ithumbah and Chaimu led the way back to browse until it was time to return in the late evening.

17 August 2011

Kibo and Kandecha started the day with their usual Pushing Bout. Chemi Chemi, Ololoo and Kitirua took water after the others, who headed out a short way before stopping to wait for the late comers. At mudbath a troupe of baboons were enjoying a drink as the Juniors arrived. Kandecha initiated a charge, but when the baboons were reluctant to leave, Chaimu and Sabachi and Kilaguni provided reinforcement to expel the intruders. As the baboons ran off, all the other orphans trumped and charged around excitedly to celebrate victory!

18 August 2011

This morning Kilaguni took on Sabachi while Kibo took on Kandecha and Chaimu scratched her body against the rocks. The orphaned browsed the slopes of Ithumba hill, and concentrated on feeding today.

19 August 2011

This morning Kibo played with Ololoo as Sabachi took on Tumaren. Ithumbah then led the herd towards Kone to feed. At l0.30 a.m. Kibo and Kandecha took time out to play a Pushing Game in the middle of the road while Ololoo decided to take a nap, and had to be woken up by Olare.

20 August 2011

This morning the Juniors were joined at the water trough by Wendi, Makena, Loijuk, Sidai, Galana, Rapsu, Lenana, Tomboi and Madiba who escorted the Juniors to the browsing fields. They browsed together for an hour before the Ex Orphans separated. At the mudbath the Juniors were joined by Yatta, Mulika, Selengai, Taita, Kinna, Nasalot and Buchuma and a few minutes later by a wild group of elephants. Suguta then led the Juniors back to browse, leaving the Senior Ex Orphans and their wild friends at the mudbath venue.

21 August 2011

Having taken water, the Juniors chose to browse the Kanziku area. At 9 a.m. Loijuk, Chyulu and Lenana passed by to say “Hi” and then continued on their journey. The Juniors enjoyed the mudbath since the day was hot, and later browsed the Kalovoto area until evening.

22 August 2011

At the compound, Suguta and Melia scratched themselves on the nearby rocks while Ololoo and Ithumbah enjoyed a dust bath as the rest relaxed at the water trough. Suguta then led the way out, settling to browse the Kone area. All concentrated on feeding until Kandecha led the way to the mudbath venue.

23 August 2011

Soon after the Juniors left the stockades, they were joined at the water trough by Lualeni, Zurura, Rapsu, Lenana and Loijuk. The Ex Orphans accompanied the Juniors out to the browsing area, and remained with them for one hour before heading off. At 11 a.m. the Juniors enjoyed their milk at the mudbath venue, a wallow and a dustbath before returning to browse for the rest of the day.

24 August 2011

It was a cloudy morning as the orphans left their Night Stockades. The Keepers noticed that Chemi Chemi had a loose stool but otherwise appeared well and happy. At the Stockade water trough 30 wild elephants were waiting to drink, but stepped back to allow the Juniors access. As soon as the Bowser arrived with another tanker load of water, the two wild elephants who are often with the Ex Orphans, and whom the Keepers have named “Kimathena” and “Kijana” came forward and drank as the trough was being filled, standing within touching distance of the Keepers holding the hose. Other wild elephants gathered courage and stepped forward to also drink. It was an amazing experience for the Hose Holder!

25 August 2011

Ithumba went to scratch herself against the unloading bay as soon as the Stockade Gates were opened while the others took water. Sabachi led the group out. Chemi Chemi still had a loose stool, but appeared well and happy, running around enjoying himself with the others.

26 August 2011

Chemi Chemi, Ololoo and Kalama have now settled well into the Ithumba daily routine and are coping very well. In the evening Kaolin was administered to Chemi Chemi due to his loose stool.

27 August 2011

The Juniors were joined at their mudbath first by Wendi’s group of Ex Orphans and later by that of Yatta plus her wild elephant friends. There were so many elephants that they could hardly all fit in and so had to take turns! The total number was about 60 elephants in all, among them Yatta’s wild recruit given the name “Mgeni” whose was back after a very long absence. Later the Juniors separated to return to the browsing area, leaving the Ex Orphans and their wild friends at the mudbath venue.

28 August 2011

On a very hot day the Juniors enjoyed an extended mudbath before returning to browse the slopes of Ithumba Hill before returning to the Stockades in the evening.

29 August 2011

The Juniors were joined by the Ex Orphaned herd at the mudbath, after which the Ex Orphans escorted the Juniors back to the browsing area and remained with them until 3 p.m. Kandecha then led the Juniors back to the Stockades in the evening.

30 August 2011

Chemi Chemi still has a loose stool, but is as active as ever and not showing any other signs of a problem. Kandecha led the group to the mudbath after browsing the Kanziku area. Soon after the Juniors had vacated the mudbath, four wild bulls checked in and went straight to the water trough to drink. Ithumbah went up to them, undaunted. Soon after the Juniors had left, the Ex Orphaned groups of Wendi and Yatta came to the mudbath and joined the wild elephants. All then headed towards the Stockades arriving at 5 p.m. where they were joined by additional wild bulls. The Ex Orphans and some of the wild bulls headed towards the Kalovoto area after taking water, leaving another 8 wild bulls who headed in a westerly direction.

31 August 2011

Like yesterday, the same 4 wild bulls came to the mudbath just before the Juniors and as soon as they spotted the Keepers, they stepped back to make room for the Juniors to drink. After the orphans had taken their fill, the wild elephants returned and continued drinking. They were then joined by all the Ex Orphans and having enjoyed a wallow, all then left together.