Keepers' Diaries, February 2009

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

There was concern over what appeared as a growth on Sian’s left hind foot as well as for her teeth, which the Keepers said were worn flat. David Ndeereh, the Vet attached to our Mobile Veterinary Unit, went to Ithumba to immobilize Sian on the 22nd in order to examine both the foot and her teeth. It turned out that the foot problem was not a growth, but a condition known as “hyperkeratosis of the skin of the foot at the junction of the pad, caused by prolonged irritation of the skin that stimulates deposits of extra keratin resulting in thickening”. As cracks were appearing round the thickening, he was optimistic that it would fall away if softened with oil on a daily basis. Sian’s current molars were unusually worn, but since each molar in use is replaced by another moving in from the back 6 times during the life of an elephant, he felt that this disability would be only temporary. In the meantime, all the medication needed for Sian’s foot (T Tree oil mixed with Coconut oil) was hurriedly sent up to Ithumba for Sian, along with horse cubes to supplement her natural diet and assist in maintaining her health and condition until another replacement molar is in position.

01 February 2009

Today it was Loijuk who led the Ithumba Juniors out to feed. At l0 a.m. Zurura challenged Loijuk to a test of strength, but Galana ran to separate the two, and at 11 a.m. led the group to the mudbath. In the evening the Keepers decided on a change of the sleeping arrangements - Galana and 7 of the older elephants were transferred to the Stockade once occupied by Yatta and the Seniors while Lualeni and her 4 colleagues were transferred to that vacated by Galana and her group. Loijuk, Sian, Lenana, Chyulu and Makena were then moved to Lualeni’s former stockade. Yatta’s group has been absent for several days now.

02 February 2009

A light drizzle of rain greeted the morning. Yatta’s group suddenly emerged from the thickets to join the Juniors, and after an exuberant welcome, Loijuk led the column out to feed. The soil was damp and the youngsters performed an orchestrated soil concert utilizing their trunks, all so happy and playful. Loijuk climbed on Makena when she lay down and Lenana played close to Naserian. Shortly before noon Yatta’s group of Seniors split from the Juniors, leaving behind Wendi, Tomboi and Rapsu with the Juniors, but taking Challa off with them. Since it was a cool day, few of the youngsters went into the mudbath, but opted for a soil dusting instead. In the evening Chyulu led the Juniors back to the Stockades.

03 February 2009

It was a cloudy morning as Lenana led the Junior Group out to feed. All browsed calmly throughout the morning until it was time for Loijuk and her milk dependent entourage to head for the mudbath. Afterwards Sidai led the group to feed along the Kanziku area.

04 February 2009

After the usual Stockade games when Loijuk, Sunyei, Zurura, Naserian and Sidai enjoyed bark stripping an Acacia tree, and Ndomot mounted on Kora, the youngsters, led by Galana headed out to browse. After the mudbath the youngsters went to the base of Ithumba Hill to feed for the afternoon, until it was time to return home, Makena the leader back today.

05 February 2009

This morning a wild elephant was at the water trough, patiently waiting for the Keepers to open the Gate Valve and fill it! The youngsters ran to join the wild elephant, but Lenana stumbled and bellowed which scared the wild bull away. At the mudbath, while the youngsters were enjoying themselves, a wild elephant arrived to join them, and was welcomed warmly by Rapsu who remained very close to him throughout the mudbath. Galana then approached him, and escorted him off to the browsing area, along with the orphans, to feed. Half an hour after their arrival, Yatta’s group joined them, and all then returned to the Stockades for a drink, the wild bull included. Having taken water, the wild bull left with Yatta’s group, heading eastwards and the juniors remained to browse close to the Stockades until nightfall.

06 February 2009

Ndomot and Kora opened the morning activities with a pushing match, which prompted Kamboyo and Kora to do the same, but their bout was interrupted by Galana who intervened to separate them. After the mudbath Loijuk led the group to browse for the remainder of the day.

07 February 2009

The morning was spent feeding at a place where Makena and Chyulu found a large rock to rub their bodies against. After mudbath Galana took the group to the Kanziku area, where they spent the remainder of the day.

08 February 2009

The orphans gamboled out of the Stockades in a jovial mood. Loijuk, who resembles Sunyei in character, in that she enjoys playing tricks, knelt down and drove her short tusks deep into the ground, as though angered by something, but when she noticed that the others were leaving, she sprang to her feet and following at a run. With all the natural depressions now drying out, all trails head towards the Stockade water trough! First to turn up today were two wild cow elephants, each with a baby, followed by a group of buffaloes. More elephants then began to trickle in and did their best to scare off the buffaloes, who refused to budge until they had quenched their thirst.

09 February 2009

A cloudy morning excited the Junior orphans. They left the stockades swinging their trunks from side to side in happiness with Kenze and Zurura enjoying a chasing game, running around the thickets and knocking down small bushes, prompting Makena and Chyulu to follow suit! At 3 p.m. Yatta and her group joined the Juniors as they were feeding at the Kanziku area, and remained with them for the rest of the day, returning with them to the stockades in the evening. Once the youngsters were settled, Yatta and her group left.

10 February 2009

Having left the Stockade in the morning Ndomot and Kora engaged one another in the usual pushing game, while Lenana scratched herself against a rock and Loijuk climbed into the water trough, muddying all the water! Lualeni led the group out to feed at the Kone area. After mudbath Galana took the Juniors to the eastern slopes of Ithumba hill where they fed until the evening.

11 February 2009

It was a very hot morning, so the orphan had to seek shade early on in the day, constantly flapping their ears to like fans to cool their hot bodies. All thoroughly enjoyed a very active mudbath today, after which Galana led the group to the Kanziku area where they settled down to browse until it was time to return to the stockades in the evening.

12 February 2009

Sunyei led the youngsters out today and all browsed calmly until 11 a.m. when Chyulu rumbled, summoning the youngsters for their noon milk feed and mudbath and as soon as she made the first move, all followed. Yatta’s group joined the Juniors at the mudbath, and after wallowing enjoyed a dust-bath before leaving again. Just before heading home Zurura and Kamboyo engaged one another in a pushing match, which was watched very closely by Galana.

13 February 2009

After Zurura and Kamboyo had finished their usual pushing match, the youngsters settled down to browse in the Kanziku area where they were joined by Yatta’s group. The entire orphaned herd headed to the mudbath together, after which they all returned to the Kanziku area together. At 4 p.m. they were joined by 2 bulls, who fled as soon as they picked up the human scent of the Keepers. At 7 p.m. another 2 wild bulls came to drink at the Stockade, by which time Yatta and her group had already left.

14 February 2009

The Junior orphans spent the day peacefully feeding, interrupted only by the usual mudbath. At 6 p.m. Yatta and her group turned up at the Stockade water trough for a drink where they were joined by 3 wild bulls. Having taken water, all then left together.

15 February 2009

Led by Galana, the orphans headed to the Kalovoto area to feed today where they split into two groups, one led by Galana and the other by Loijuk. At l0 a.m. the two groups merged again and returned to the stockades for a drink and mudbath, returning afterwards again to the Kalovoto area where they browsed until it was time to return to the Stockades, Loijuk leading them back.

16 February 2009

It was a lovely morning, with trees swaying to a gentle breeze and hosts of white butterflies fluttering around. Lenana led the Junior orphans out, all the elephants streaming behind her and enjoying a game of charging through the bushes, while others ran after the butterflies which were very numerous rising in clouds as the orphans passed by. Since it was a cool day, none of the elephants went into the mud at noon, but rather returned for some serious browsing before nightfall and their return to the Stockades.

17 February 2009

The orphans left the stockade in a hurry amidst a light shower of rain. However, the shower was short-lived and the day turned very hot later, so all enjoyed the mudbath. Galana kept raising her trunk now and then to determine events further afield until it was time to return to browsing again, this afternoon they opted for the western side of Ithumba hill.

18 February 2009

Mist covered Ithumba hill this morning. Rapsu decided to peel bark from a tree and today it was Madiba who led the group out to browse. Makena was the leader to the mudbath, after which the orphans settled down to feed again close to the mudbath until it was time to return in the evening.

19 February 2009

There was a drizzle of rain as the orphans left the Stockades in the morning, which made them in a happy and playful mood. Kamboyo and Zurura were soon embroiled in their favourite pushing pastime while others gamboled around the bushes. It remained cool throughout the day, so the mudbath was not popular. Instead all concentrated on browsing.

20 February 2009

After the usual stockade activities, scratching bodies against trees, pushing matches etc., the orphans went to browse at the Kone area, Sidai leading the column. Since it was a hot day, all participated fully at the mudbath, after which Galana led the group to the shade where they relaxed until temperatures cooled a little when they returned to browsing.

21 February 2009

Once out in the field, the Youngsters were joined by a wild bull of roughly 15 years of age. Shortly afterwards Yatta and her entourage appeared to join them. At 11 a.m. Galana led the youngsters to the mudbath, but Yatta’s group remained with the wild teenager. After the mudbath, Loijuk led the group back to rejoin Yatta and the wild bull, and the whole herd then began heading back to the Stockades where they took water, , the Keepers keeping a good distance behind the column in order not to disturb the wild stranger. Having taken water, the wild bull left ahead of Yatta and her group, who followed in the direction he had taken later.

22 February 2009

Galana led the Juniors out as usual. Sian, who has a growth on her right back foot was held back in a Stockade, awaiting the arrival of Dr. Ndeereh, the Vet attached to the Trust’s Mobile Veterinary Unit who was coming to check on her foot. He arrived at 9 a.m. and Sian was then immobilized so that he could inspect her foot more closely. He ruled out surgical intervention which would result in bleeding and infection, but recommended that the growth be rubbed with oil on a daily basis, confident that it would detach itself in time, since cracks were already appearing around it. Sian was woken up and joined later by the rest of the group, who gave her a warm welcome upon arrival in the evening. The Vet diagnosed Sian’s foot condition as “hyperkeratosis of the skin of the foot caused by prolonged irritation of the skin stimulating deposits of additional keratin”.

23 February 2009

The morning was cloudy as the Junior group assembled to drink at the Stockade trough, and indulge in their usual stockade games, Ndomot and Kora enjoying their usual pushing match while Sian went to feed within the compound, joined by Zurura and Kamboyo. After the Juniors had left, Yatta and her group turned up to take water, and then headed eastwards, joining the Juniors later at the mudbath. Buchuma and Ndomot engaged one another in a test of strength which resulted in Ndomot emerging the winner. Later, Yatta led her group east from the mudbath, while Galana and the Juniors remained at the Kanziku area where they browsed until it was time to return in the evening.

24 February 2009

Having taken water, the Juniors headed out to feed. Soon Ndomot and Kora were involved in their usual pushing game, which went on for quite some time, and prompted Zurura and Kamboyo to do likewise, a bout that saw Zurura emerge winner. After a brief mudbath, Galana led her group back to browse, and after they had left, 4 wild bulls turned up and splashed water from the drums over themselves. In the evening Yatta and her group joined the Juniors out in the bush, and all then headed back to the Stockades together.

25 February 2009

It was a chilly morning, so the orphans enjoyed soil dusting before heading out and took advantage of the cooler weather to concentrate on feeding. Zurura and Kamboyo interrupted this activity when they began chasing each other around the thickets, a game that was nipped in the bud by Ndomot who came between them and chased each one off in a different direction! At the mudbath the orphans tested water temperature with the tips of their trunks, and decided against going in opting instead for a return to browsing.

26 February 2009

Today Lenana, Makena, Chyulu and Loijuk all vied for leadership of the column from the stockades, which was won by Chyulu who led the orphans out. At 7.30 a.m., soon after the Juniors had left, 5 wild bulls checked in at the stockade water trough to drink. Out at the feeding grounds Kora and Ndomot initiated their usual pushing game which, this time, was interrupted by Rapsu. Lualeni, who has always loved being in the water, was the only one who actually braved the mudbath today, all the others opting for a soil bath instead. At 2 p.m. as the Youngsters were browsing, Yatta and her entourage emerged to join them, and all fed together as one large herd, heading back together to the stockades in the evening. There Yatta and her group relaxed for some time before leaving for the night.

27 February 2009

It was a very hot day, so the Youngsters kept to shade until it was time for the mudbath, when all had a wonderful wallow. Lualeni, Madiba, Loijuk and Sunyei were the mudbath stars of the day, completely plastering their entire bodies in mud. Later Galana took her group to the Kanziku area where they fed until it was time to return to the stockades in the evening.

28 February 2009

Yatta and her group along with a wild friend reported very early to the Stockades where they took water and waited for the Youngsters to emerge. At 6 a.m. the youngsters were let out of their night stockade, and ran to greet Yatta, but the wild friend ran away as soon as he spotted the Keepers. Yatta and her group followed the wild friend, leaving Galana and the Youngsters at the Stockade, who were then led out to feed by Sian and Rapsu, settling down at the Kone area to browse until it was mudbath time. After the mudbath two warthogs emerged hoping also to cool off in the wallow, but were seen off by Loijuk, who enjoyed chasing them. In the evening Galana led her unit back to the Stockades for the night.