Keepers' Diaries, December 2008

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

The vegetation at Ithumba was lush, and the natural waterholes full with water, so the orphans enjoyed playing in the many natural waterholes and the Kalovoto normally dry river running as a small stream for the first half of December. However towards the middle of the month the rains had long gone, the vegetation turning yellow and the smaller natural depressions rapidly drying out again, heralding the onset of the next hot, dry season. January, February and March are the hottest months of the year which are always challenging for elephants, who have no sweat glands and need access to water and shade to keep their temperature stable. . This month has seen a lot of very interesting to-ing and fro-ing between certain members of both the Junior Keeper Dependent group of orphans and the Senior now Keeper independent group of older elephants led by Yatta, (the main Matriarch) as well as Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna, the 4 older orphans brought up from Voi to oversee the youngsters. For the first time, on the 4th, Rapsu opted to join Yatta’s Senior Group while Wendi chose to remain with the Juniors for a few days r and r. Yatta had joined the youngsters at their noon mudbath, spent the afternoon with them, escorted them back to the Stockades in the evening, and taken Rapsu off for his first nocturnal adventure as a Senior, leaving Wendi behind. Wendi then rejoined Yatta’s group when they visited the Stockades next on the 6th, but Rapsu decided to remain as a Big Boy

01 December 2008

After a very wet, rainy night, Sian and Lualeni were first to leave the Night Stockade in the morning. After the usual Stockade Games (Lualeni and Kora scratching themselves against the Unloading Bay, before Kora left to engage Ndomot in a friendly pushing bout), Galana led the group out to browse. However, most of the morning was spent playing in the rain puddles and mud, so there was no desire for the usual official mudbath today. Yatta’s group was absent all day.

02 December 2008

It was a cloudy cool morning as the orphans strolled out to browse after a night in the Stockade. Stragglers included Lualeni and Kora, who remained behind to enjoy a lengthy scratch against the unloading bay, catching up with the others later. At l0 a.m. Chyulu, Lenana, Makena and Loijuk separated themselves from the group to browse further North, but rejoined the group later. Since it was a hot day, all the orphans enjoyed the mudbath, and then rested under shade waiting for the temperature to drop before continuing to feed. Chyulu led the group back in the evening.

03 December 2008

Food and water was plentiful, so the day was spent playing, relaxing, and wallowing in the rain puddles, so there was no desire for the official mudbath venue today.

04 December 2008

Galana led the youngsters out this morning, while playful Loijuk managed to put herself into the water trough in an attempt to show off! At 11 a.m. the orphans headed to the mudbath where they were joined by Yatta’s Senior Group, whom they had not seen for several days. There was a joyful reunion, and a lengthy wallow before Makena exited the mudbath trumpeting which prompted the entire group to leave in order to investigate Makena’s trumpet concern. Yatta’s Senior group escorted the youngsters back in the evening. When it was time for Yatta to leave, Rapsu opted to join the Seniors for a night’s outing, but Wendi chose to join the youngsters in their Stockade.

05 December 2008

It was another cloudy day allowing the orphans to concentrate on browsing. Zurura and Kamboyo spent the morning trying to mount one another in a display of “one-upmanship”. Only the milk dependent youngsters went for their noon milk feed, after which the orphans browsed along the Kalovoto river, which is running as a small stream. Some of the orphans enjoyed playing in the stream, while Lenana, Chyulu and Makena chose to remain close to the Keepers.

06 December 2008

Wendi, who is still with the Junior Group, led the way out this morning and en route came across some soft loose soil, perfect for a dust-bath. At the mudbath Chyulu put on a display by wading through the water, trumpeting. Galana led the afternoon feeding session, and the Youngsters found Yatta’s group back at the Stockades in the evening. Wendi decided to join Yatta’s Senior Group again for the night’s outing, and Rapsu decided to remain a Senior for the night.

07 December 2008

Loijuk was the Leader of the Junior set today, and once at their selected browsing area, the orphans split into small groups. Loijuk teamed up with Makena, Chyulu, Lenana and Zurura while Galana remained with Lualeni, Kora, and Kamboyo and Sunyei formed yet another group. In the evening Yatta brought Rapsu back to the Stockades where he was happy to rejoin his Junior group and rest during the night after walking for more than 24 hours. Having made sure that Rapsu was settled for the night, Yatta’s group left.

08 December 2008

Sunyei led the youngsters out to the Eastern side of Ithumba hill today, after a brief stop at the Stockade water trough. The orphans browsed calmly until time for the noon mudbath where they found Yatta’s group already wallowing. After the mudbath Rapsu opted to rejoin Yatta’s group, while Napasha chose to remain with the Juniors. Both groups fed separately during the afternoon, Yatta’s group returning first to the Stockades. Napasha decided to rejoin the Senior group, taking with him Challa for a night outing.

09 December 2008

It was a misty morning, as the Juniors engaged each other in the usual Stockade games before leaving. On the way out, Challa emerged from the thickets to join them, having spent the night with Yatta’s group. He was alone, and was very happy to be back with his friends. Loijuk led the Juniors to the mudbath and milk venue, where they were joined by Yatta’s group. Many of the waterholes are now drying up. Yatta’s group separated from the youngsters after the mudbath but met them back at the Stockades in the evening when Rapsu decided to rejoin his usual Junior set for the night.

10 December 2008

Kamboyo and Zurura enjoyed a pushing match first thing in the morning before leaving for the field. All enjoyed a lengthy mudbath at noon, until Makena led them away again to browse for the rest of the afternoon.

11 December 2008

It was a fun day for the Juniors, spent feeding and gamboling around the thickets, Kamboyo, Zurura and Kenze charging, trumpeting and knocking down small shrubs in a display of strength and attacking techniques. All enjoyed the mudbath, because it was a hot day at noon. The afternoon was spent browsing along the western slopes of Ithumba Hill.

12 December 2008

After the usual morning greetings of trumpets, rumbles and trunk touching, the orphans took a drink at the Stockade trough before heading out for the day, led by Sunyei. Kamboyo came across some soft soil en route, and enjoyed a dust-bath which attracted Zurura who joined him. After the noon mudbath Galana led the Juniors to the Kalovoto river area until evening, when Loijuk led them back to the Stockades.

13 December 2008

Led by Galana, the Juniors headed to the Imenti Waterhole today. On the way, Napasha emerged from the thickets to join the Juniors. The Keepers waited a while to see whether the rest of Yatta’s group would join him, but he was alone and independent. He walked with the youngsters to the Imenti Waterhole, joined them wallowing there and spent the remainder of the day with them, returning with them to the Stockade in the evening. Napasha did not want to go into the Stockade, but instead headed eastwards, probably to join a wild herd. Yatta has not been seen for several days now. Only Napasha turned up alone today.

14 December 2008

Galana led the youngsters to the Kanziku area today to browse. Loijuk then led the milk dependent youngsters to the mudbath ahead of the others, who followed, led by Sunyei. As the youngsters were having fun in the mud, Yatta and her group arrived, and having greeted all the youngsters, also went into the mud to cool themselves down. The youngsters separated from Yatta’s group soon afterwards, leaving them in the mudbath.

15 December 2008

Again Yatta’s group joined the Juniors at the noon mudbath and again the Juniors left the Seniors there when Galana led them to the slopes of Ithumba Hill to feed for the remainder of the day.

16 December 2008

After a peaceful night in the Stockades, the Juniors met outside to welcome another beautiful morning, Kenze, Chyulu and Makena unable to hide their happiness as they ran around the compound trumpeting and rumbling. Having fed for a while, Madiba Ndomot and Sidai began to play on the road until it was time for a mudbath, which all enjoyed. The afternoon was spent feeding until it was time to return to the Stockades for the night.

17 December 2008

The vegetation is beginning to turn yellow now, so the dry season is approaching again. The orphans enjoyed a lengthy mudbath because the day turned very hot, and in the evening, having browsed all afternoon, Sunyei led the Juniors back.

18 December 2008

Yatta’s group met up with the Youngsters at the Kanziku area, and all the orphans browsed together until Makena led the milk dependent babies to the mudbath venue, the others following later. After a prolonged mudbath, Yatta’s group headed westwards while Galana took the youngsters to the slopes of Ithumba hill. There are many signs of the wild elephant community nearby now, although the Junior group has not met up with them. However, Yatta and the Seniors obviously spend a lot of time with the wild herds now.

19 December 2008

There were lengthy Stockade games today. Kora and Lualeni scratched their bodies against the unloading bay, while Sian and Zurura did the same on nearby trees. Sidai enjoyed a dust-bath and was joined by Madiba and Ndomot. Galana then led the group out to browse for the morning. On the way to the mudbath they were joined by Yatta’s group who joined the juniors at the mudbath. The youngsters left first heading for the Kalovoto area, but Yatta’s group remained at the mudbath for 2 hours, in no hurry to leave. In the evening the Juniors returned to the Stockade, but there was no sign of Yatta’s group.

20 December 2008

Yatta and her group were waiting outside the Stockade for the youngsters early this morning. Sidai and Kora enjoyed a pushing game while Zurura and Kenze scratched their bodies against the trees. Once out in the field Yatta’s group separated, but Wendi and Tomboi decided to remain with the Youngsters, returning with them to the Stockades in the evening, and spending the night inside with them.

21 December 2008

Yatta’s group was again at the Stockades first thing in the morning to greet the Juniors as they emerged. Yatta’s group then separated from the Youngsters before 9 a.m. taking Rapsu with them, but Wendi and Tomboi decided to remain with the Juniors for the day. Out in the field Kamboyo and Challa enjoyed scratching themselves against a large boulder. After the mudbath the Juniors came across a drying waterhole, where they had fun playing in the mud before dusting themselves on the road before returning to the Stockades at 5 p.m.

22 December 2008

Yatta’s group came to the Stockades at 9 a.m. only to find the Juniors already gone. They had a drink because most of the natural waterholes are now dry and water remains only at the Stockade, and at the Lesilau and Imenti waterholes. Yatta returned at noon for another drink at the Stockades, while the Juniors were at the mudbath venue as usual. Wendi and Tomboi are still with the Juniors and spent another night accommodated in the Stockades.

23 December 2008

Yatta and her group were waiting at the Stockades in the morning for the Juniors to be let out. There followed the usual joyous greetings, rumbling and touch each other with their trunks, Makena and Lenana led the way out to the browsing area, where Yatta and her group left the Juniors, heading eastwards. Both Tomboi and Wendi went with the Seniors, but after a while Wendi returned to the Juniors. Rapsu, meanwhile, seems to have made up his mind to remain with the Seniors. Yatta’s group came for a drink at the Stockades at noon before heading east again. The Juniors returned in the evening.

24 December 2008

Having taken water, the feeding began near the Stockades today, while Sidai and Kora challenged each other to a strength test which ended in a draw. In the evening, Yatta’s group met up with the Youngsters at the Stockades. Rapsu decided to rejoin the Juniors for the night.

25 December 2008

The orphans woke up in a jovial mood and headed to the trough for a drink. Galana then led the Youngsters to the eastern side of Ithumba Hill where they spent the morning browsing. Lenana was the mudbath leader. There Loijuk kicked over one of the water drums and pushed it, trumpeting, to the waterhole where she tried to pierce it with her short tusks. The Keepers then raised the alarm and Loijuk ran from the drum, knowing that what she had done was not popular! In the evening the Youngsters met up with Yatta’s group, and once the babies were settled for the night, Yatta headed towards the east.

26 December 2008

As soon as the youngsters had left their Night Stockade, there was a soft drizzling of rain which made the elephants very happy. They rolled in the damp earth to express their joy. At noon it was still cool, so few of them wanted to wallow. There Yatta joined them. In the evening at 5 p.m. as the Keepers were preparing to take the youngsters back to their Stockades, Yatta’s group appeared again, and the Keepers noticed that Napasha had something stuck in his face, which he kept on touching with his trunk. Thinking that it must be either a stick or thorn, the Keepers went to assist him, and were shocked to find that it was an arrow. “Only a heartless beast could do such a heinous act to an orphan like Napasha. May the person who did such an act to Napasha remain cursed for his entire life. We (the Keepers) condemn the act in the strongest possible terms”. Back at the Stockades the Keepers pulled the arrow out with Pliers and cleaned and dressed the wound, moving Napasha into the Stockades so that we could monitor him in case the poison took affect. That night Yatta’s group left the Stockades without Napasha.

27 December 2008

Galana and Naserian made a brief stop at the unloading bay for a scratch while the Keepers monitored Napasha, who seemed to have woken up fine, with no sign of swelling on the wound. He spent the day with the youngsters near the Stockade Compound. His wound was cleaned again at noon and also in the evening. Yatta’s group came to the Stockades in the evening, and having taken water, left heading in the direction of the Imenti waterhole. Napasha spent another night in the Stockade with the Youngsters.

28 December 2008

Yatta’s group did not show up this morning, so Napasha spent the day with the Youngsters again. However, the Seniors arrived at the Stockades in the evening, and because Napasha was eager to join them, he was discharged. Yatta left with Napasha at 6 p.m. with the Keepers hoping that Yatta would bring him back in the morning so that they could monitor his wound.

29 December 2008

This morning Kenze and Zurura engaged one another in a strength test, which Kenze won. Lualeni led the Youngsters out in single file. As it was a very hot day, the Youngsters enjoyed a lengthy mudbath at noon, before returning to feed for the rest of the afternoon. At 7.30 p.m. 8 wild elephants visited the Stockade water trough for a drink, and left again later.

30 December 2008

The day began clear, but by noon was overcast, so the orphans opted to skip a mudbath and continue feeding until it was time to return to the Stockades in the evening.

31 December 2008

Today marked the end of another year and a milestone for us because Yatta and the Senior orphans are now part of the wild community, free to come and go at will wherever and whenever they like. The youngsters left the Stockades in a happy mood with Kamboyo, Zurura and Kenze embarking on warm-up exercises, running through the thickets trumpeting and charging out of sheer pleasure. They were joined by Loijuk, Makena, Chyulu and Lenana until the game ended, and it was time to concentrate on feeding. Yatta and her group showed up at the Stockades, Napasha looking fine. After a few minutes visit, Kinna led the group westwards to pass the New Year in an unknown destination with wild friends.