Keepers' Diaries, February 2008

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

That the older Ithumba elephants, namely Yatta, Nasalot, Mulika, Kinna, Napasha, Tomboi, Taita, and sometimes Wendi and Buchuma, separate from the youngsters, leaving them in the care of their Human Keepers in order to be able to travel further afield, has become routine, as illustrated in this month’s Diary. Sometimes the older elephants head out into the bush on their own immediately after being let out of their Night Stockades, at other times they wait to escort the youngsters out into the feeding area of choice, and then leave them to move further afield on their own, sometimes meeting up again either to, or from, or at the mudbath, and sometimes returning to the Night Stockades late at night, long after all the youngsters. There are days when the entire herd spends time together as a unit, moments relished by Yatta’s favourite calf, Olmalo, as well as Kenze and Orok who adore Nasalot while Selengai remains glued to Mulika. Wendi sometimes has difficulty deciding which group to be with; whether to go with the older orphans, or remain with the younger set, so she shares time between the two. Kenze and Orok share the coveted position of being Nasalot’s twin “favourites”, but this occasionally breeds jealousy between the two youngsters, as is illustrated in this month’s Diary. However Nasalot immediately takes steps to break up such disagreements, and no doubt has the ability to convince both that they are equally loved.

01 February 2008

Kenze and Ol Malo were first out of the Stockade this morning. Zurura, Lualeni and Kora scratched themselves against the unloading bay while Kamboyo and Sunyei chose a tree and all the others lined up to drink at the Stockade trough. Moments later Yatta and Nasalot led the way heading westwards of the Stockade and having arrived at their chosen destination, separated into several small groups, feeding calmly throughout the morning. At the mudbath only Selengai, Challa and Ndomot wallowed while the rest took water before they all returned to the field to feed for the rest of the day.

02 February 2008

Sian and Loijuk led the group out today, while Kinna, Nasalot and Yatta took their time at the water trough, following later. Once out in the field Orok and Kora engaged one another in a pushing game which was interrupted by Tomboi who suddenly appeared out of the thicket to separate them, having come with Yatta and the older group. Today Lualeni and Challa led the group to the mudbath. It was a hot day so, all the orphans enjoyed the wallow, Kenze, Madiba and Lualeni emerging as the stars who put on a spectacular performance.

03 February 2008

Once the orphans emerged in the morning, having taken a drink Kamboyo, Madiba, Sian, and Ndomot went to the trees for a scratching session, waiting for the others to finish drinking. Challa and Kora began a pushing game but this didn’t last long, because Kora opted out. Once out in the feeding area, Tomboi, Selengai, Sunyei and Buchuma split from the rest of the group to feed apart, but joined the others again at 11 a.m. for the mudbath.

04 February 2008

The orphans welcomed the day in a very jovial mood, trumpeting and chasing each other around the yard. The older group, namely Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot, Kinna, Tomboi, Napasha, Taita, Buchuma and Wendi immediately left the compound, leaving the youngsters in the care of the Keepers until Naserian was ready to lead the youngsters out to feed. Once all had settled down to feed, Rapsu challenged Naserian to a pushing match, with all the others watching until Ndomot came in on the side of Naserian when she looked like losing the contest. At noon there was a very joyful reunion with the older group on the Kanziku road en route to the mudbath, elephant happiness expressed by the touching and intertwining of trunks, and a great deal of rumbling and trumpeting. After the mudbath, Kora led the group back to feed, whilst Yatta took time to ensure that none of the youngsters had been left behind, before she followed the group.

05 February 2008

Yatta’s older orphaned group left first, followed by the youngsters, who took another direction. Yatta’s group headed eastwards and settled by the Kalovoto river, while the younger set, headed by Naserian, went westwards. Both groups met up again at l0 a.m. at the Kanziku road and browsed together for sometimes before moving to the mudbath and milk venue. As it was a very hot day, even Kora, who normally dislikes bathing, went into the mudbath, something that surprised the Keepers. Sunyei then led the group back to the field to browse for the remainder of the day.

06 February 2008

It was a cloudy morning. Naserian and Ndomot chose the un-loading bay as a scratching post before taking a drink while Madiba, Sunyei and Kora went to browse along the roadside nearby. Zurura and Ol Malo were the leaders that took the group out into the bush today. At the mudbath Lualeni and Loijuk were having such a good time that Sunyei, Madiba and Rapsu decided to join them, as the others watched from a distance before moving off. The five bathers followed once they had finished with the mudbath.

07 February 2008

Mulika led the group out on a lovely morning, Yatta bringing up the rear as usual. Once at the feeding area, Kenze and Kora initiated the field activities with a pushing match while Kamboyo and Lualeni scratched themselves against a boulder. The entire group escorted the milk dependent orphans to take their noon milk ration, although none of the elephants went into the mudbath, it being a cool day. Nasalot then led them all out back to feed for the rest of the afternoon.

08 February 2008

Today, Yatta led the group to the Kalovoto area, where they separated after feeding together for about an hour. The two groups met up again at the mudbath and all enjoyed a wallow since it had turned hot. Afterwards Sunyei and Ol Malo led the herd back into the bush to feed for the remainder of the day.

09 February 2008

Yatta’s group of older elephants left the Stockades early, leaving the youngsters behind with their Keepers. Kamboyo, Ndomot and Kenze rubbed themselves against the unloading bay while Challa and Kora took a dustbath until Loijuk and Sian decided it was time to leave, and led the way out. As the youngsters were feeding, all hell broke out when two dikdiks ran past, which triggered a mass retreat back to the Keepers, all with ears out and decidedly nervous and Kenze still holding a particularly tasty branch he was loathe to drop. Tension remained high for some time until the Keepers managed to calm the orphans down.

10 February 2008

Sian and Kamboyo were first out of the Stockades heading for the water trough where Yatta and her group were waiting for the youngsters. Later Ol Malo led the entire herd out into the bush, with Buchuma trailing. All had their trunks up, because their visitors of the day were some Samburu Warriors from Laikipia, all clad in their red tribal finery, who had come to see them, having been instrumental in the rescue of some of our Laikipia orphans. They accompanied the orphans out into the bush, Wendi showing great deal of interest in them. Throughout the morning she kept on following them around, sniffing at them, and performing all the usual tricks that she once used to entertain visitors at the Nursery. It was a cool day, so once at the mudbath venue, the elephants were reluctant to actually wallow, instead enjoying the company of the Warriors. Later they spent the afternoon browsing about l km. from the mudbath, the Samburu Warriors still amongst them which made this particular day very special for them.

11 February 2008

The Samburu Warriors were at the Stockades as the orphans emerged in the morning. Wendi, Ol Malo and Sunyei rushed to greet them until it was time to head out to feed when Kamboyo led the group out, all the elephants and the people in a very joyful mood. Kora, Challa and Kenze entertained the visitors by engaging each other in pushing games, which ended when Challa attempted to mount onto Kora which made everyone laugh, but left Kenze wary, thinking that he could be the next target!

12 February 2008

Having all taken water first thing in the morning, Mulika led the orphans towards the Kalovoto area, where they browsed for a while before moving towards Kanziku where they all fed peacefully until it was time for the mudbath It was a hot day, so all enjoyed the wallow, after which they settled to feed along the ridge between the Stockade and the mudbath.

13 February 2008

It was a cloudy morning as the orphans gathered around the trough to take water, Kinna and Selengai moving off to scratch themselves against the unloading bay. Today, the herd split on their way out into the bush, Yatta and the older elephants heading towards the Kalovoto area while the youngsters led by Galana remained to feed on the ridge near the Stockades. There Rapsu found a large rock against which to rub himself, watched by Naserian. On a hot day all enjoyed the wallow, until a frog croaked nearby from a nearby rock and this prompted a mass exodus! All then settled for a dustbath instead until Challa led the group back to the Kanziku road where they browsed for the remainder of the day. The older elephants returned to the stockades long after dark.

14 February 2008

On a cloudy morning Kinna led all the orphans out to feed near the Kalovoto River. At about 8 a.m. it began to drizzle with rain which made the elephants very joyful. They browsed all together throughout the morning, Orok and Kenze sticking close to Nasalot, while Selengai remained glued to her favourite “mother”, Mulika and Ol Malo was never far from Yatta. These youngsters relish time spent with the older elephants who give them preferential treatment. Meanwhile, Kora enjoyed rolling in the dampened earth, soon to be joined by Ol Malo and Sian. When the time drew close for the mudbath and milk hour, Kamboyo went to nudge the Keepers into moving. After the mudbath Kenze and Naserian took the lead back out to the feeding area for the rest of the afternoon.

15 February 2008

Yatta’s group left the Stockade compound immediately their Stockade was opened while Loijuk led the youngsters to take water at the Stockade trough. Later Kora and Lualeni led the group following the direction the older elephants had taken, but changed direction on the way and instead headed towards Ithumba Hill. At about l0 a.m. two warthogs rushed past the orphans as they fed, scaring them so that they rushed back to their Keepers, who had to calm them down before they resumed feeding. The older orphans met up with the youngsters on the way to the mudbath, where all enjoyed a wallow, since it was a hot day.. Later all the elephants relaxed under shade until the temperatures dropped sufficiently to permit more browsing. In the evening, as usual, Kamboyo was the one that indicated that it was time to return to the Stockades and initiated the journey back home.

16 February 2008

It was a cloudy morning as Mulika, Kinna and Napasha hurried to the water trough to quench their thirst and Yatta went to greet the youngsters as they emerged from their Stockade. Later Mulika led the entire herd out, but then separated from the youngsters leading the older orphans towards the Kalovoto area while Sunyei took charge of the youngsters and went in the direction of Kone. After the youngsters had taken their milk and a mudbath at noon, they headed towards the Kalovoto area where they fed until around 5 p.m. but without making contact with the others. When the time came to start the journey back home, the elephants gathered around their Keepers, indicating that they now wanted to return. The older group only clocked in much later.

17 February 2008

As soon as the Stockade Gates were opened, the older group, led by Kinna, left the compound and immediately headed off into the bush leaving the youngsters, who were in no hurry to follow. Sian, Loijuk and Zurura enjoyed a scratch against the unloading bay, while others lingered around having had their fill of water, waiting for the three to finish their scratching. However, Rapsu, Kora and Kamboyo decided to initiate a chasing game around the compound, which ended when Galana, Ol Malo and Sidai began to move off into the bush. All then streamed behind them as they headed towards Kone where they settled in to feed. At noon Sian and Kamboyo led the youngsters to the mudbath venue, and after the mudbath it was Naserian and Challa who led the group back to browse until the evening and Kamboyo signaled that it was time to return. The older elephants only returned long after the youngsters had settled down for the night in their Stockade.

18 February 2008

The orphans left in a very happy mood today, Mulika taking the older group eastwards of the Stockade while Sian led the youngsters west. It was a cloudy day conducive to feeding throughout the morning. The two groups met up at the mudbath venue, but opted out of a wallow, it being too cold. Both groups browsed together in the Kanziku area until it was time to return in the evening, all safely ensconced back in their respective Stockades by 6 p.m so it was an early night for all today!

19 February 2008

Loijuk led the youngsters straight to the water trough, while Naserian ran to an acacia tree to scratch herself, Lualeni and Zurura doing the same at the unloading bay. Meanwhile Yatta and Wendi went to inspect the trailer and when all were ready to leave, Mulika led the way out, separating from the youngsters and leaving them in the care of their Keepers. As usual Kamboyo led the first group of milk dependent youngsters to the mudbath whilst Loijuk led the second group. Because it was a hot day, all thoroughly enjoyed the wallow.

20 February 2008

All the elephants gathered at the Stockade trough to decide which direction to take today. Yatta and her group headed towards Kanziku whilst the young ones, led by Galana and Naserian went towards the Kone road, where Kora and Zurura found a nice red soil dustbath which they enjoyed. Having taken their milk at noon, the youngsters all enjoyed the mudbath, with the exception of Kora, who is never eager to go into the water. Later Sian led the youngsters back into the bush to feed. Yatta’s group spent the night out today.

21 February 2008

Today, after Kamboyo had completed his scratching against a tree, Sian led the youngsters out followed by Naserian, who had dallied at the trough. Kenze found a large rock to rub against once out in the field, and Galana and Sidai enjoyed a dustbath nearby. Sunyei was the group leader of the day, and led the way to the mudbath, which was enjoyed by all except Kora. At 4 p.m., the youngsters were joined by Yatta’s group, who had spent over l0 hours away, so the reunion was highly charged and a very happy occasion. Later the entire herd returned together to the Night Stockades.

22 February 2008

Soon after leaving the Stockades, the two groups again separated, Mulika leading the older group towards the Kanziku road where Kinna and Napasha found a large rock against which to scratch themselves. Meanwhile, the youngsters having been led by Sian and Kamboyo had headed towards Kone. There Kamboyo and Sian got involved in a shoving match which was broken up by Galana. Thereafter all the youngsters fed quietly until it was time to return in the evening. The older group returned to the stockades late at night.

23 February 2008

Today, the older elephants decided to wait for the youngsters to join them, so that Ol Malo could spend time with Yatta, Selengai be with Mulika and Kenze and Orok share Nasalot, all the youngsters greeted very warmly by the older elephants. The whole unit l left together heading for the Kalovoto area where they spent the morning browsing as a herd. Just before the mudbath Galana, Challa and Lualeni enjoyed a chasing game while Rapsu and Naserian engaged one another in a test of strength which lasted until Kamboyo gave the signal that it was time to leave for the mudbath and the milk! Afterwards Galana led the herd back to feed. It was a very happy day for all the orphans because they spent the entire day together.

24 February 2008

The orphans emerged to the song of the weavers, signaling the dawn of another day. Having taken water from the Stockade trough, Kinna and Mulika led the way out into the bush to browse and there the elephants again split into two groups as usual, Yatta taking the older group while Galana remained in charge of the youngsters. Wendi, who sometimes has difficulty deciding which group to accompany, decided today to remain with the youngsters. At 11 a.m. it turned hot, so Sian and Kamboyo led the youngsters to the mudbath, which was enjoyed by all except Kora, who led them back into the bush to browse when all of them emerged.

25 February 2008

Ndomot was Leader today. Sunyei found a nice green bush to feed on, which she shared with Galana and Sidai. Meanwhile Challa and Kenze were busy in a pushing match, and Kora occupied himself in a dustbath having located a pile of red soil. Most of the elephants enjoyed the mudbath, Rapsu being the leader for the afternoon feeding session. The older group had separated from the youngsters during the morning and joined up with them again back at the Stockade in the evening.

26 February 2008

Mulika took the older group towards Ithumba Hill, while the youngsters led by Sian, Sunyei and Loijuk headed towards the Kone road to feed during the morning. At noon the Keepers escorted the youngsters to the mudbath. At 3 p.m. as the youngsters were heading back into the bush after their mudbath, they met up with Yatta’s group, who were on their way to the mudbath, so the youngsters all did an about turn and accompanied the older group back to the mudbath where they watched them bathe. Later, they all red together as a herd before returning for the night.

27 February 2008

Ol Malo and Kenze were very happy to meet up with Yatta and Nasalot outside their Stockade this morning and get escorted to the water trough by their surrogate “mothers”. However, seeing Kenze with Nasalot, Orok became jealous and began to fight him, but Nasalot would have none of that and rapidly moved in to stop the dispute. Once out in the field, the two groups browsed together for about 2 hours until the older orphans decided to split from the youngsters heading in an easterly direction, the youngsters remaining under the supervision of their Keepers. They enjoyed the mudbath today, because it was very hot. Later, shortly before beginning the journey back home, the older elephants appeared out of the thicket to meet up with the youngsters, a reunion that was extremely joyous, trumpets and rumbles filling the air as they all charged about. After an hour of feeding together, they walked back to the stockades together, arriving just past 6 p.m. in the evening.

28 February 2008

Today, the entire herd browsed peacefully together until about 11a.m., when Yatta dodged the Keepers and took the older orphans off. However, they again met up with the youngsters at the mudbath. Half the group enjoyed the mud while the other half opted for a dustbath instead. All then browsed together in the afternoon in the Kanziku area until it was time to return in the evening.

29 February 2008

At the mudbath Lualeni and Loijuk had a difficult time trying to extract a turtle from the wallow, using their hind legs to try and kick it out. This proved unsuccessful, so in the end they gave up and decided to take a soil bath instead. Shortly afterwards a baboon barked, scaring all the babies, who rushed to their Keepers for protection, but Tomboi and Rapsu proved their mettle by charging off in the direction of the bark to see off the intruder. They were soon heard trumpeting loudly and breaking down bushes in a display of elephant aggression which immediately brought a rapid response from , Kinna, Mulika and Nasalot, who rushed off to help the boys expel the intruder. However, by the time they arrived, the baboon had long gone!