Keepers' Diaries, February 2007

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

An important event involved the Ithumba elephants this month. For the first time they made contact with wild elephants. This took place on the 21st shortly before ll a.m. as the Keepers were resting under shade in thick bush and when they suddenly heard a commotion. Thinking that it was probably just the usual dikdik alarm, they didn’t pay much attention, but when they managed to get a view, were astonished to see a large wild cow and her calf in the midst of our group. Kora, Lualeni, Naserian and Buchuma lost their nerve and began fleeing back to the Keepers, followed by the wild cow and the other elephants. The Keepers took to their heels, and upon reaching a clearing in the bush, looked back to find that the wild cow had peeled off taking with her Kinna, Mulika, Selengai, Yatta, Nasalot, Orok and Buchuma! The Keepers and the youngsters with them proceeded to the mudbath as usual and an hour later Yatta turned up, with the missing group all present and correct! This was a red letter day for the older elephants, who have been very eager to make contact with their wild peers, who remain extremely uneasy about anything involving dreaded humans. This will change with time and so the 21st February was an auspicious day for the older members of the group. The next day Yatta, Olmalo, Buchuma, Mulika and Selengai again followed the footprints of a wild herd, but were unable to catch up with them. Again on the 25th Yatta made another attempt, eager to make friends, but again the wild elephants proved elusive and on the 13th it was Nasalot and Orok who trailed the footprints of a wild herd.

01 February 2007

At 9 a.m. Rapsu attempted to mount onto Naserian causing Naserian to flee towards the Matriarch, Yatta for protection. Rapsu knew that to pursue Naserian further would be inviting trouble for himself, so he proceeded to browse! At the mudbath the youngsters joined the older elephants after they had taken their milk.

02 February 2007

Orok led the group out to the feeding area today where they all browsed happily until Rapsu rumbled that it was time for the youngsters to start heading to the milk venue. Rapsu led the way followed closely by Buchuma, Kora and Madiba. Later the orphans all browsed near the mudbath area where Orok engaged Buchuma in a pushing match, which was very closely monitored by Nasalot, who guards Orok at all times as her special favourite.

03 February 2007

It was a cloudy morning as the orphans headed out today. Sidai, Lualeni and Ndomot came across loose soil around an anthill and initiated a soil dusting display which attracted Rapsu and then the entire herd. After mudbath, the day was uneventful for the orphans who concentrated on browsing until it was time to return for the night.

04 February 2007

Out in the feeding grounds, Ndomot and Buchuma had a pushing game, which was interrupted by Nasalot, which disappointed the two boys. In the evening there was a heavy shower of rain which lasted about half an hour and interrupted the orphans’ feeding.

05 February 2007

Buchuma led the orphans to the Kalovota watercourse today where the elephants split into two groups, one led by Wendi and the other by Tomboi. At l0 a.m. Madiba attempted to mount onto Kora, but Kora fought back. Kinna then intervened and drove both contestants off at high speed!

06 February 2007

The day started normally when the orphans left to feed in the thick bush. Things changed when Wendi, Yatta, Selengai and Tomboi noticed that there was a new face amongst the usual Keepers. Wendi went close to investigate, and turned to hit the newcomer with her tail, whereupon Yatta and Selengai ran towards him, but the other Keepers shielded him. Kinna then came to investigate the newcomer, and left shaking her head in irritation. Yatta seems to be becoming like Emily in Voi, who doesn’t like seeing new faces amongst the Keepers. Selengai and Tomboi seem to have followed her lead.

07 February 2007

Although a strong wind blew from the East, dislodging leaves from the trees, it promised to be a hot day. By l0 a.m., it became scorching, so both the elephants and the Keepers went under shade. All the elephants enjoyed the mudbath, after which they took a rest under shade until the day cooled down a bit.

08 February 2007

Sunyei led the elephants out today. Soon Taita and Tomboi were involved in a pushing match which lasted sometime. Nearer to mudbath time, the older orphans led the way closely followed by all the youngsters, who were anxious for their milk ration. The orphans browsed quietly all afternoon.

09 February 2007

Today Naserian, Wendi and Sunyei led the orphans out, all three ex Mini Matriarchs of the Nursery during their time. Out in the feeding grounds, Sunuyei, Wendi, Naserian and Challa enjoyed a soil dusting session that lasted some time. Just prior to the mudbath hour, the elephants split into two groups, one led by Nasalot and the other by Yatta. All joined up on the way to the mudbath venue. Later, since it was still hot, the orphans spent time resting under trees waiting for the temperature to cool. In the evening Madiba tried to mount onto Kora having seen Napasha doing the same to Rapsu. Yatta, who was nearby, intervened and drove Napasha away, which prompted Madiba to disembark off Kora, not wishing to be at the sharp end of Yatta!

10 February 2007

After the elephants had left the Stockade this morning, two of the Keepers delayed a little and began to follow in order to catch up, but were charged by a buffalo on the way! The Keepers hurriedly climbed on a tree to save themselves, after which the buffalo left. Olmalo, who always walks slowly, and is often the last in the group, delayed so much out in the field before leaving for home, so Yatta remained with her, since she is the favourite of Yatta. It was not until 6 p.m. that the two arrived back at the Stockades, greeted by happy rumbles from all their colleagues.

11 February 2007

After the elephants had left this morning, five wild dogs appeared at the Stockade water trough to have a drink. Out in the field, the hot sun, “like a one-eyed monster” beat down on people and animals alike, driving all to shade. Following the mudbath, which was enjoyed by all, the four Big Girls (Mulika, Kinna, Yatta and Nasalot) ganged up on Napasha, who defended himself fiercely. Up until now the Big Girls have taken on Napasha individually and never succeeded in defeating him, so they decided to join forces. However, Napasha displayed his masculine strength and never moved an inch, which shocked the girls even further. They then left him along and moved deeper into the bush, followed in a leisurely fashion by Napasha!

12 February 2007

Sunyei led the group out today. Trees swqyed to a gentle breeze and there were grasshoppers and butterflies everywhere, so the orphans had fun chasing butterflies until the serious feeding took hold. Since it was a cool day, the mudbath was not popular, and having had their milk, the youngsters joined the older elephants in feeding until it was time to return in the evening.

13 February 2007

Nasalot and her “baby” Orok, led the group westwards today, obviously with the aim of meeting up with the wild herds, because there were fresh elephant footprints everywhere. Each elephant tried to follow the scent of a wild one, which became a little confusing, since they were all going in different directions! All enjoyed a wonderful mudbath, because it was hot. Buchuma and Rapsu then engaged each other in the usual test of strength.

14 February 2007

The orphans left to the singing of birds on a hot morning, that sent them early under shade to feed. At the mudbath Madiba was the first in, joined by the others. When Madiba got stuck, Ndomot came to his rescue, helping him back onto his feet, illustrating how elephants support and help one another in times of difficulty. All the orphans spent a long time in the water today, until Selengai signaled that it was time to quit.

15 February 2007

The orphans fed northwards along the valley of the rocky hills. Tomboi fed next to Wendi and even tried to suckle her ear, but was repulsed by Wendi, since he is no longer a baby. He went off complaining by rumbling loudly. The orphans enjoyed a prolonged mudbath, because temperatures were hot and later on Buchuma and Madiba engaged each other in a pushing bout, which Sunyei broke up.

16 February 2007

The orphans left the Stockades on a hot day and strolled off to the feeding fields. Today the Keepers took the orphans to the Imenti Waterhole, it being almost six months since they last visited this large natural pan. On the way, visibility was restricted to just a few metres, since the bush was so dense. When the orphans came into a carpet of white flowers, they tried to back-track, there being some scent that they did not like, so itt took the Keepers about half an hour to persuade them to walk through this flower-filled meadow to the waterhole itself. In the end they acceded, but moved in unison rather than in separate groupings. When they reached the waterhole, which was full, they wallowed for a long time, with Yatta and Mulika raising their trunks periodically just to check that all was well.

17 February 2007

Upon arrival at the feeding grounds, the orphans divided themselves into three groups. Kora led Lualeni, Sidai, Challa and Naserian, Wendi took Sunyei, Buchuma, Madiba, Rapsu and Ndomot to feed separately from the rest whilst Yatta led the rest. The three groups only joined up later when it was time to head for the muchbath. As it was hot, the orphans took a rest under shade until it cooled off, flapping their ears constantly.

18 February 2007

It was a cloudy morning, so the orphans left the Stockades hurriedly, heading for a place with loose soil, hoping for a shower so that they could enjoy a soil dusting session. The showers arrived almost as soon as they left. At the mudbath they all had a prolonged swim, with Yatta checking periodically by raising her trunk to test the scent on the wind.

19 February 2007

The orphans left early, on another hot day that is drying out the vegetation rapidly now. They all browsed happily until 11 a.m. when Sunyei and Madiba led the babies to the mudbath. Madiba was again first in after downing his 3 bottles of milk and again got bogged and unable to get up. Wendi noticed his predicament and came in to help him without success, so Sunyei came in and using her head and hind legs to support him, managed to extract him, enhancing her reputation with the Keepers!. Meanwhile Ndomot and Buchuma engaged each other in a test of strength whilst in the water.

20 February 2007

Kinna led the orphans westwards in search of soft vegetation today, crossing the Kalovoto lugga where they fed until mudbath time. At the mudbath Sunyei and Ndomot played a pushing game which was interrupted by Rapsu who pushed Ndomot away. On the way back in the evening, the elephants came across some stagnant pools, and again cooled themselves off in these.

21 February 2007

The day began like all others, but took a different turn later on in the day. Led by Yatta, the orphans settled at a dense busy area feeding under shade because it was so hot. Shortly before 11 a.m., the Keepers heard the orphans running and breaking vegetation, and thinking that it was probably the usual dikdik scare, did not take a lot of notice. The commotion continued, so the Keepers peered through the undergrowth, and were astounded to see a large wild elephant with a small baby in amongst the orphans. Kora, Lualeni, Naserian, Buchuma and Sidai were all racing towards the Keepers, with the wild elephant following them. The Keepers fled in search of an escape route with the babies hot on their heels, and as the Keepers came to an open area they looked behind to find that the wild elephant had changed route and taken with her some of the orphans, namely Kinna, Mulika, Selengai, Yatta, Nasalot, Orok and Buchuma. The Keepers climbed trees and rocks in an attempt to get a better view, but the bush was so dense that they could not see anything. From there, it was one way to the mudbath minus the orphans who had gone off with the wild cow. An hour later, just as the Keepers were discussing what to do about their missing charges, Yatta appeared with them all intact minus their wild friend. They then all enjoyed the mudbath, although the ones who had fled with the Keepers were too hyped up to go in!

22 February 2007

Taita and Tomboi were the group Leaders on the way out this morning. Once there Yatta, Olmalo, Buchuma and Mulika followed footprints of wild elephants for about a kilometer and then gave up. Nasalot and Kinna fed close to Orok, following his every move, and in the end Kinna won his heart, and he chose to feed close to her until it was time for the mudbath. All enjoyed the mudbath until Kora disrupted events by charging out trumpeting. The rest of the group followed him to assess what was amiss, but found nothing untoward. In the evening the group split into two, one lot led by Yatta, and the other by Sunyei.

23 February 2007

At about l0 a.m. a pair of sprinting dikdiks sped past the orphans, scaring them. Kora and Lualeni led the retreat to the Keepers whilst Yatta and Mulika, who had heard the commotion, came running to see what was amiss. The two big elephants calmed down the babies by touching their mouths and placing trunks on their backs for reassurance. On the return journey to the Stockades, Kora bellowed loudly when he was overtaken by Sidai, so Sidai fell back and allowed him to lead.

24 February 2007

Led by Nasalot, the orphans left the Stockade in a happy mood expressed by the swinging of their trunks from side to side, and deliberately playfully bumping into one another. Out in the feeding area Madiba, Kora, Olmalo, Buchuma, Ndomot and Rapsu were in a very playful mood, running around the bushes and trumpeting with joy. At the mudbath Olmalo refused to join in, but instead waited aside for Yatta to finish. Then Kora and Sunyei charged out of the water, this being Kora’s cunning way of ending the mudbath activity whenever he has had enough!. The two disappeared into thick bush which prompted Yatta to go in search of them, followed by the others, so in this way the mudbath was terminated! In the evening Sunyei, Kora, Lualeni and Ndomot split from the main group and went off on their own. When it was time to return the Keepers called them, but the four did not respond. The rest of the orphans began the journey back without them, leaving two Keepers behind to keep calling. Eventually, the four truants turned up at the Stockades at about 6.30 p.m.

25 February 2007

Yatta and Mulika led the group west at a fast pace following the footprints of a wild herd that had passed through earlier before dawn. However, they were unlucky because the wild group had been traveling fast. At l0 a.m. Sunyei, Ndomot, Buchuma and Madiba had a busy time enjoying soil dusting on an abandoned warthog burrow. Since it was cloudy, the mudbath was not very popular, and instead the orphans returned to feeding and soil dusting instead. As the orphans were leaving for the Stockade in the evening, a heavy thunderstorm began which scared all the elephants, who fled to their Keepers for safety. However, when the rain abated, they thoroughly enjoyed rolling around in the mud and playing in the puddles of water.

26 February 2007

It was another very hot morning, so the orphans fed under the shade of large trees and the hot sun soon dried up the puddles of the previous day. The orphans enjoyed an extensive mudbath because it was so hot, after which they rested in shade until 3 p.m. when they resumed their feeding activity.

27 February 2007

The orphans enjoyed cloudy and cool weather today. The younger group enjoyed a dustbath whilst the older elephants concentrated on feeding. Buchuma and Rapsu enjoyed the usual pushing match, but otherwise the day was uneventful, and all the orphans shunned the mudbath due to the weather conditions.

28 February 2007

Having left the Stockades, the orphans split into two groups, the older group led by Yatta, and the youngsters by Wendi, before joining up again at a natural waterhole where the youngsters enjoyed a wallow. Buchuma and Tomboi engaged one another in a pushing bout which was interrupted by Rapsu. At noon, on the way to the milk venue, Challa began the lead but was overtaken by Buchuma, who, in turn, was overtaken by Ndomot – it clearly being a competition between the 3 boys as to who should enjoy this privilege! The Keepers called them back in order to give Naserian, Lualeni, Kora and Sidai the lead, since they are always first for the milk relay. In the evening Buchuma and Ndomot (old Nursery pushing pals) had a pushing contest that lasted about half an hour, in which Ndomot carried the day.