Keepers' Diaries, December 2007

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

For the Ithumba elephants, it has been a wonderful month, with plentiful water and vegetation at every turn following reasonable rains in the North. Each day is greeted with unbridled joy and happiness, and is an adventure that reinforces friendships, and the caring and compassion of the older females who oversee all the youngsters and their Keepers so proficiently. Ithumba is a prime example of human/elephant cooperation. Again illustrated is the fact that the orphans now often choose to split into two separate groups in the evenings, so that the older elephants and those with them can remain independent of the Keepers and return as and when they like long after dark, leaving the Keepers to escort the youngsters back earlier. The older elephants feel that they are more likely to meet their wild friends if their human family is not with them. Naserian seems to be taking charge of the youngest set, and this month Kora and Kamboyo have played leadership roles taking the youngsters to and from the mudbath and milk venues. Kamboyo and Zurura have settled amazingly well, and are very much part of the team now.

01 December 2007

On a lovely early morning Kenze and Orok scratched their bodies at the unloading bay whilst Lualeni and Naserian did the same against the trees. Sunyei rolled happily in some loose soil, and the others began to browse around the Stockade compound. Yatta led the gang out this morning until time for the mudbath when Naserian, Lualeni, Kora and Kamboyo were first at the milk venue. The orphans wallowed for one hour before heading back to feed.

02 December 2007

As the Stockade gates opened the bigger girls rushed towards the babies’ quarters but were met on the way by the little ones. Nasalot, Kinna, and Mulika escorted them to the water after which Napasha and Tomboi initiated a pushing match. Nasalot separated them whilst Loijuk and Zurura joined Selengai and Buchuma at the unloading bay for a scratch. Kora and his room-mate, Kenze played a pushing game. Naserian, Lualeni, Galana and Rapsu fed round about waiting for the others to join them. Mulika gave the departure trumpet and all filed out into the bush to feed. They enjoyed a cooling mudbath, after which Kora led them back to feed. As browsing progressed, the older orphans separated from the others and fed apart, refusing to heed the call of the Keepers to return. The Keepers took the youngsters home, leaving the older elephants feeding. They reported back at 7 p.m.

03 December 2007

The orphans enjoyed the usual morning greetings, quenched their thirst at the Stockade trough, and played in the compound until all were ready to leave. Kamboyo and Kora enjoyed a pushing match, Zurura and Challa scratched themselves against the trees, soon joined by Rapsu, who then took on Taita. Kenze and Orok had a disagreement when Kenze came to nuzzle Nasalot, of whom Orok is very possessive. Nasalot rumbled to the two boys, who desisted immediately. Both then fed close to Nasalot out in the field. At noon, Loijuk led Kamboyo and Zurura to the mudbath venue and milk.

04 December 2007

There was a lot of joyful rumbling and trumpeting when the orphans met in the morning after a good night’s rest. Challa led the others to the water trough, after which Yatta led the herd out. She and Nasalot came across an area with loose soil and performed a soil dusting exercise, utilizing their trunks, which attracted Selengai and Wendi who joined them. Today Naserian led the others to the milk venue and mudbath where Olmalo and Sian enjoyed a playful pushing game. After the mudbath, Sunyei led the herd back to browse for the afternoon.

05 December 2007

Today, after the usual trumpets and rumbled greetings, Loijuk, Kamboyo and Zurura led the herd out to browse, where there were many puddles of water to wallow in, so after taking milk, the orphans were taken by Nasalot back to browse without wallowing at the usual mudbath.

06 December 2007

The orphans left the Stockades in a happy mood, swinging their trunks from side to side. Out at the field Madiba and Ndomot engaged one another in a pushing game that was interrupted by Napasha. At around l0 a.m., all hell broke loose when Rapsu came running fast out of the thickets, prompting the babies to rush for their Keepers. The Keepers went to investigate but only came across two dikdiks running away. Calm soon restored. At noon, the babies took their milk, and enjoyed a mudbath before returning to feed.

07 December 2007

Mulika led the group out to feed today. Again Kenze and Orok had a disagreement, the origin of which the Keepers did not understand. They fought for quite some time until Galana stepped in to separate the warring parties. At noon Kora led the first group to the milk and mudbath, after which all the orphans participated in wallowing, because it was hot. Challa was the evening leader back to the feeding area.

08 December 2007

The usual trumpeting and rumbles greeted the morning, after which Tomboi and Napasha were joined at the unloading bay by Zurura, Kamboyo and Rapsu. Yatta, Orok, Olmalo and Kinna enjoyed a dustbath whilst Challa and Madiba enjoyed a pushing match. Yatta led the herd towards Kone today. Orok and Kora engaged one another in a pushing match which attracted Challa, who took over from Orok. As the day progressed, the orphans found a pool of water, and splashed water behind their ears to cool themselves. They enjoyed feeding until late in the evening, when it was time to return to the Stockades.

09 December 2007

Kamboyo, Zurura and Rapsu were first the trough today whilst the others exchanged morning greetings. Yatta led the group out, and later Loijuk led the first contingent of youngsters to the milk and mudbath venue. Kinna and Mulika taught the youngsters how to wallow properly in order to cover all their bodies. Kenze, Orok and Loijuk had a wonderful mudbath. The orphans spent almost an hour at the mudbath until Kora persuaded them to return to the bush to feed. Mulika and Nasalot broke branches down from tall trees for Zurura, Loijuk, Kenze and Orok could enjoy the soft leaves they couldn’t reach themselves. Yatta, Selengai, Olmalo and Buchuma split from the rest of the herd and found a nice pool to play in, soon joined by the rest. In the evening Kamboyo and Zurura led the group back home.

10 December 2007

Sunyei, Kamboyo and Kora were first at the trough today leaving Kenze and Lualeni enjoying a pushing game, and Selengai and Olmalo scratching themselves against trees. Yatta began rolling near the Stockade waterhole, which attracted Kinna and Orok. When Nasalot and Mulika rumbled that it was time to leave, the game ended. Galana, Orok and Olmalo were the last to leave the mudbath today.

11 December 2007

The orphans greeted the day in a happy mood, Kenze and Orok scratching their ears against a tree whilst Lualeni and Naserian were doing the same at the unloading bay. Having taken water, Sunyei started feeding and sand bathing around the waterhole which attracted Taita and Wendi, who joined her. Yatta rumbled and began heading out, with everyone streaming behind her. At the mudbath only Olmalo, Selengai, Sian and Loijuk took to the mud but were interrupted by a warthog family . Soon, with Yatta leading, all the orphans were in charging mode, so the warthogs took the hint and left. Yatta then led the way back to the feeding area.

12 December 2007

The orphans left as the weavers sang. Out in the field Kora and Orok enjoyed a pushing match until Orok surrendered and went to feed near Nasalot. Sidai and Madiba enjoyed rolling in a heap of soft soil. Kora took his milk, and then headed back to browse, so the others followed him. In the evening Kamboyo led the way back home.

13 December 2007

Kora and Kamboyo began the day with a pushing game, as did Orok and Challa. Lualeni and Taita were at the unloading bay for scratching. Wendi, Nasalot and Sian fed around the compound until it was time to leave, this time led by Selengai, with Yatta bringing up the rear to ensure that no-one was left behind. Naserian and Wendi had a disagreement over a succulent tree with a lot of branches. Wendi was unsuccessful in pushing Naserian away, and went to feed far from Naserian. At noon, Kora, Lualeni, Sian and Kamboyo led the babies to the milk venue and mudbath. In the evening, the orphans split into two groups, the older orphans wanting to be on their own out later at night, returning only when they feel like it.

14 December 2007

The sky was clear promising a hot day ahead. At 11 a.m., it was so hot that Sunyei led the way to the mudbath which all enjoyed before heading out again for the afternoon session.

15 December 2007

The orphans greeted the new day with enthusiasm, rushing out of their Night quarters, trumpeting and rumbling as they headed to the trough for a drink. Wendi and Lualeni led the others out today, with Orok and Kenze remaining close to Nasalot who broke branches down for the two to feed. At one time the two boys were competitive over a branch, and Nasalot separated them, which did not please Orok who then went to feed next to Kinna. After the mudbath, Mulika led the way back to the browsing area.

16 December 2007

Since it was a cloudy morning, the orphans were not thirsty, so headed straight out, led by Rapsu and Ndomot who led the group towards Kone where they fed until it was milk and mudbath time. Afterwards they returned to feed.

17 December 2007

Whilst the rest of the group were taking water, Kora and Orok opened up the day’s activities by pushing one another, which ended when they spotted Tomboi approaching. Mulika blew the leaving whistle, and Sian and Kora led the group out to feed, where no major incidents were observed. All enjoyed the mudbath, since it was very hot, after which the orphans relaxed under shade until the temperature dropped and they were comfortable resuming feeding.

18 December 2007

Soon after arriving out in the field, the orphans split into two groups, Yatta taking Nasalot, Kinna, Mulika, Selengai, Orok, Sunyei, Napasha, Tomboi, Wendi and Taita whilst Naserian led the remainder to feed close to the Keepers. Yatta’s group went far afield, and did not show up for the mudbath. After the mudbath, Naserian’s group remained feeding near the mudbath, perhaps expecting the others to show up, but they did not, returning only to the Stockades at 8 p.m. at night.

19 December 2007

Yatta initiated the morning sport by engaging Mulika in a pushing game while Tomboi and Madiba rolled in loose soil near the water trough and Kenze scratched his tummy against a tree. Lualeni and Loijuk led the herd out today. In the afternoon, the orphans again split into two groups. Yatta led the older group and went past the Kalovoto river whilst Naserian and the young ones browsed along the banks. In the evening Challa and Zurura led the youngsters back. Yatta’s group returned three hours later, shortly before 8 p.m.

20 December 2007

On a cool morning all the orphans congregated under a tree to decide about which direction to take today. After a decision was made, Galana and Rapsu led the way heading towards the slopes of Ithumba hill. Since it was cool, the mudbath was not popular today, so Sunyei led the herd back to browse for the final part of the day.

21 December 2007

The orphans were eager to leave today without taking water, led by Naserian and Loijuk. Just before l0 a.m., Sidai, Naserian and Loijuk enjoyed a wonderful mudbath out in the field, Sidai playing a funny game, putting her head deep into the water, and then spraying water up using her trunk. However, the fun ended when Rapsu arrived to try and mount onto her. In the evening Rapsu and Tomboi had a tough challenge which was settled by the intervention of Mulika.

22 December 2007

As the orphans were heading out, two jackals rushed between them, causing great confusion with trumpeting, bellowing and rumbling. Yatta, Mulika, Napasha and Kinna gathered courage and charged leaving Nasalot to calm down the youngsters. From there, Yatta, took the entire herd to the Kalovota area where they settled in to feed for the remainder of the day.

23 December 2007

Having left the Stockades, the orphans greeted each other at the water trough, touching and rumbling. Orok and Challa had a busy time pushing each other whilst Rapsu chased Kora round the compound. However, the play was short because the Keepers signaled that it was time to leave. At 11 a.m. the orphans split into two groups, Naserian, Kora, Lualeni, Madiba, Kamboyo, Zurura, Loijuk, Challa and Kora feeding together while Yatta took the rest to the Kalovota seasonal river where they enjoyed sliding games on the banks before returning to join the babies. The mudbath was short lived because it was cool enough to resume feeding.

24 December 2007

Today, Yatta and half the group headed South while Naserian and the youngsters headed West. The two groups browsed apart throughout the entire day. Towards 11 a.m., Sidai, Kinna, Kora, Tomboi, Wendi, Buchuma, Ndomot and Selengai had a busy moment soil bathing on an aardvark burrow whilst the babies were preparing to head for their noon milk. After mudbath, the babies browsed calmly close to their Keepers, whilst the older group walked many miles searching for their wild colleagues, who have not showed up for a long time due to the fact that there is water and pasture everywhere. The older group reported back at 6.30 p.m. in the evening.

25 December 2007

Mist covered Ithumba Hill this morning. As on the previous day, the orphans split into two groups, the older elephants traveling long distances, whilst the babies chose to browse near the western side of the Stockade. Mulika steered the older elephants towards the slopes of Ithumba Hill where they settled into feeding. The two groups met at the mudbath, where they enjoyed sharing experiences. From the mudbath, the older group left first leaving the babies, who remained calm, happy to remain close to their Keepers. The older orphans wandered the plains of Ithumba until 7 p.m. when they reported back to the Stockades.

26 December 2007

The orphans browsed westwards today. Challa and Kora engaged one another in a pushing bout, but Challa had shorter tusks, so was at a disadvantage. Both boys returned to browsing. Later Kenze and Kora engaged one another, and Kenze had to give up, with Kora again emerging the winner. The orphans had a wonderful mudbath today at the usual venue, which was full of water.

27 December 2007

Once out in the browsing field, Zurura, Kamboyo, Loijuk and Kenze welcomed the new day by charging into the thickets, but this didn’t go on long. After the mudbath, the herd split into two groups, Yatta leading one group whilst Nasalot gathered up the youngsters. In the evening, the two groups merged before heading back to the Night Stockades.

28 December 2007

Nasalot enjoyed a roll in the dust this morning, watched by her two boys, Kenze and Orok. Madiba and Buchuma were also busy challenging each other as Mulika and Selengai watched them. At l0 a.m., out in the field, Buchuma and Challa had a tough pushing match, which ended with Buchuma being the winner. The orphans had a wonderful time feeding on all the green creepers.

29 December 2007

Out in the field, the orphans found a natural mud wallow which they enjoyed very much, so were reluctant to leave for the usual one, but for the milk dependent youngsters. In the evening, Yatta, Nasalot, Kinna, Napasha, Taita, Mulika, Selengai, Buchuma, Wendi, Orok, Tomboi, Kenze and Sunyei split from the others and headed towards Kone. Yatta was reluctant to return with the babies, so the Keepers respected her wish. She brought her group back around 7 p.m.

30 December 2007

The orphans left happily, swinging their trunks from side to side. Out in the bush, they split into two groups, one led by Yatta and the second led by Naserian. In the evening, the young ones were scared by something unknown to the Keepers. Olmalo and Rapsu ran towards the direction of the Kalovoto river and the rest ran to the Keepers. The Keepers then had a hectic time searching for the two missing babies and as darkness set in around 7 p.m. they had to give up the search and return back to the Stockades, by which time Yatta and the older group had already checked in, but without Sunyei. By 7.30 p.m. Olmalo, Sunyei and Rapsu had not yet returned, so the Keepers opened up Yatta’s Stockade for her to go in search of the missing group. She left with Buchuma and Nasalot and 30 minutes later returned but without Buchuma! At 8.30 p.m. Buchuma had found the three missing babies and came back to the Stockade with them amidst the applause of the Keepers and their elephant colleagues. Yatta, Nasalot and Kinna made a big fuss of Buchuma, congratulating him for bringing back the missing orphans so all ended well on what had been a worrying day!

31 December 2007

On this, the last day of the month, and the last day of 2007, the orphans left the Stockades and browsed calmly out in the field. The weather was cloudy, so the orphans enjoyed every moment. Shortly after noon, the weather changed and it began to drizzle, which enhanced the joy of the elephants. Kora, Naserian, Loijuk, Zurura and Kamboyo enjoyed sliding and rolling in the wet soil while the others sprayed themselves with water accumulated in potholes. In the evening all the elephants returned back to the Stockade early before dark.