Keepers' Diaries, December 2013

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

This year has seen two of our Juniors upgrade themselves to the Senior Ex Orphan herd – namely Kilaguni and Ololoo so at the Ithumba Stockades we ended the year with l0 elephants still milk dependent, 26 still Keeper Dependent (which include Suguta’s group who will undoubtedly soon also make the transition to independence) and the rest (28) now all Ex Orphans and part of Yatta’s extended Ex Orphan family, making 54 of our hand-reared orphans there in all who are usually accompanied by wild friends.. Light showers and drizzling rain greened the vegetation throughout the month, but was insufficient to fill the Ithumba dam, although a lot of the bush waterholes held some water releasing the wild elephants from the Stockade and mudbath water troughs. It has been a happy month for our orphans, particularly the Ex Nursery newcomers, Laragai, Narok and especially Bongo all of whom are now thoroughly settled and enjoying their new home, sometimes even leading the Junior herd out to browse, or to and from the mudbath, and back home in the evenings.

This year has seen two of our Juniors upgrade themselves to the Senior Ex Orphan herd – namely Kilaguni and Ololoo so at the Ithumba Stockades we ended the year with l0 elephants still milk dependent, 26 still Keeper Dependent (which include Suguta’s group who will undoubtedly soon also make the transition to independence) and the rest (28) now all Ex Orphans and part of Yatta’s extended Ex Orphan family, making 54 of our hand-reared orphans there in all who are usually accompanied by wild friends..
Light showers and drizzling rain greened the vegetation throughout the month, but was insufficient to fill the Ithumba dam, although a lot of the bush waterholes held some water releasing the wild elephants from the Stockade and mudbath water troughs. It has been a happy month for our orphans, particularly the Ex Nursery newcomers, Laragai, Narok and especially Bongo all of whom are now thoroughly settled and enjoying their new home, sometimes even leading the Junior herd out to browse, or to and from the mudbath, and back home in the evenings.

Suguta and 12 of the older milk independent Juniors are on the cusp of joining the Senior Ex Orphan group, having taken to separating themselves from the Keeper Dependent unit, either in the mornings at the Stockade, out in the bush, or after the noon mudbath, usually escorted by some of the Ex Orphans, and returning in the evenings, again sometimes escorted by Ex Orphans, but at other times on their own. The 12 comprise of Suguta, (who leads them), Melia, Tumaren, Chaimu, Murka, Kitirua, Naisula, Ishanga, Olare and Kalama and bulls Kilaguni, Sabachi, Kibo and Chemi Chemi, (now known as Suguta’s Group).

On the 3rd Ex Orphans Lualeni, Ololoo, Chyulu, Rapsu, and Tomboi came to the stockades in the morning to escort Suguta’s group out into the bush to browse, leaving only the milk dependent group with their Keepers. That was the one night they did not return in the evening, but they turned up to join the Juniors at the mudbath the next day, peeling off again after the mudbath. They returned that evening escorted by Ex Orphan Lualeni, here favourite, Ololoo, and her best friend Ex Orphan Loijuk. The next day Lualeni Ololoo and Loijuk came with Ex Orphan Bulls Kamboyo, Tomboi, Challa and Buchuma to escort Suguta’s group out, Kamboyo opting to remain with the Junior herd whom he took to browse the Kone area, accompanying them to the mudbath. At the mudbath they were joined by Ex Orphan Wendi who came alone and was very interested in Bongo and Laragai as they merrily wallowed in the mud. She later left along with Kamboyo and went to rejoin Yatta’s main unit wherever they were somewhere out in the bush. Suguta’s group returned along to the Stockades that evening.

The next two days were quiet for the Juniors, Suguta’s group separating from them as usual. The Juniors thoroughly enjoyed browsing the Kone area where they could play in puddles, roll endlessly in the mud and bathe in a small rain-filled dam nearby. Suguta’s group were back at the Stockades by 7 p.m. having also enjoyed their time away. The same routine took place on the 9th, when Suguta’s group did not return until 9 p.m.

During the night of the l0th Lualeni and Ololoo turned up to sleep in the compound in order to be at hand to accompany the Juniors out to Kone to browse, separating there along with Suguta’s group later in the day. That evening Kandecha, Makireti, Kasigau, Kalama and Kibo returned ahead of Suguta and the others, but all ended up present and correct when Suguta and the others followed later.

Turkwel’s one eye had clouded over, and drops recommended by the Eye Specialist had to come from Nairobi, after which the colour of the eye changed from cloudy to red, which hopefully was a sign of improvement. For the next two days (11th and 12th) Suguta’s group separated from the Juniors as before, but returned each evening by 7 p.m. and on the 13th Yatta and her entire herd were spotted passing by the Stockades with a hidden mission in mind. But on the 14th Ex Orphan Bull Madiba came to meet the Juniors out at Kone and took Suguta’s group away with him when he parted, returning them that evening. The following day Madiba turned up at 9 a.m. along with Kora, Kamboyo, and Tomboi to mingle with the Keeper Dependent group, and on that occasion Bongo was sorely tempted to join their Bachelor trio, but was dissuaded by the Keepers and his milk! All the Ex Orphans were at the Stockades on the 16th, when Wendi paid special attention to Laragai and Narok before heading out with Suguta’s group. The next day was Ex Orphan females Nasalot and Chyulu who brought Suguta’s group back home in the evening at 8 p.m. and the following day Suguta’s group left along with Kora, Rapsu and Kamboyo who joined the Juniors at the mudbath, returning home by 6 p.m.

Ex Orphan Bulls Kora, Meibai, Taita, Zurura, Napasha and a wild Bull came to the Stockades with Loijuk, Lualeni and Ololoo on the l9th when it was noticed that Napasha had a wound on his face close to the left tusk. The Keepers inspected this closely, suspecting that it might be from a poisoned arrow but could feel no evidence of an arrow head imbedded, so they cleaned and dressed the wound. That evening it was Tomboi and Kamboyo who escorted Suguta’s group back and who remained at the compound until the next morning to escort them out again. Later that day Napasha came with Challa to have his wound cleaned and dressed again.

Suguta’s group split from the Juniors at the usual browsing area the next day. At 9 a.m. Mulika and her baby, Mwende, accompanied by Chyulu, Naserian and a wild Bull passed by the Stockades, following the direction taken by Suguta and the Juniors, undoubtedly aiming to meet up with Suguta’s group somewhere out in the bush. The 22nd and 23rd were quiet days for the Keeper Dependent Juniors with no Ex Orphan contact, Suguta following her usual routine, but on Christmas Eve Lualeni and Ololoo joined the Juniors at the Stockades, and accompanied Suguta’s group when they left. That evening Suguta returned without Lualeni and Ololoo, who, along with Kilaguni, Buchuma and Kamboyo were absent from the ExOrphan herd when they next turned up.

Tomboi, Madiba and Napasha were seen together on the 26th as a Bachelor group and the next day were joined by Buchuma, Taita, Kamboyo and Challa forming a larger Bachelor group. On the 28th Yatta and Yetu (her baby) came with a Splinter Group of Ex Orphans comprised of Lualeni and Ololoo, Ithumbah, Kilaguni, Kora, Meibai, Kamboyo and 2 wild elephants to collect Suguta’s group from the Stockade compound in the morning and that evening it was none other than a wild Bull who brought Suguta’s group back again!

At month end on the 30th the entire Ex Orphan herd passed by, Wendi being courted by 2 wild Bulls, one a very handsome fellow who was bent on keeping his rival at Bay, as well as keeping a close eye on Wendi. No doubt it was the presence of the two Big Boys that had prompted the Ex Orphan Bulls to travel separately as a Bachelor group. On the 31st after Suguta’s group had split from the Juniors again out in the field, Yatta and the other Ex Orphan girls came to the Stockades with Wendi who had 4 wild Suitors in tow, one of whom was in musth breeding condition. Wendi appeared comfortable with this Bull - even coquettish when near him, but he was clearly disapproving of her strange friendship with “the enemy” when she came to greet Dame Daphne and her family lovingly who were at Ithumba for the New Year! That evening Suguta and her group returned to the Stockade as usual late in the evening.

Assuming Wendi conceives, and we believe that she will since she is comfortable with the Musth Bull, she will give birth to her own wild-born baby in the New Year of 2016, so we all look forward to that, since Wendi is an orphan who came to the Nursery still shrouded in foetal material from the remnant population of the Imenti Forest near Meru National Park, herself brand newborn! For us therefore, she is special and since we, her human one, is the only family she knew throughout infancy and childhood, she adores all who come to the Ithumba Stockades to see their orphaned elephants. Although she has been reared by humans from such an early age, she is an extremely successful elephant, one of the very diligent Nannies who has overseen the wild-born babies of both Mulika and Yatta and now probably due to be a mother herself in two years’ time! A fitting end to 2013 indeed!

December 2013 day to day

01 Dec

With the countryside having turned green following light showers of rain, the orphans do not have to walk far to browse. An hour after the Juniors had left the Stockade compound, the Ex Orphans passed by. At the mudbath only Bongo took advantage of the wallow, the rest just resting under shade until the Keepers had finished their lunch and were ready to take them back to browse.

Ex orphans at the stockade

Bongo on the waters edge

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