Keepers' Diaries, February 2010

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

The month of February dealt us a catastrophic tragedy at Ithumba, leaving us all shocked and distraught - the very sudden and unexpected deaths of both Naimina and Enasoit, within just a day of one another, on the 5th and 6th February respectively. Both elephants were moved to Ithumba from the Nairobi Nursery on the 4th November 2009 (along with Meibai). Naimina came from the boundary between Amboseli and Tanzania, with a spear wound in her chest and Enasoit from Enesoit Ranch in Laikipia district. They arrived in the Nursery as emaciated milk dependent drought victims who had obviously lost their mother and been forced to share pasture and drinking places with diseased and dying domestic livestock belonging to the pastoral tribes of their respective areas. In the Nursery, both recovered rapidly, and were in fine fettle by the time they were transferred to Ithumba to make room for the many others that were coming in on an almost daily basis. There they instantly thrived and could not have been happier. As the youngest members within the Ithumba herd, they were embraced and adored by all the older orphans and they settled instantly, reveling in the fresh lush green growth brought on by December/January rainstorms which filled the natural waterholes with fresh rainwater, created mudbaths at every turn and turned Ithumba into a veritable elephant paradise.

01 February 2010

On a chilly morning the Ithumba Stockade dependent orphans headed out without bothering to take on water from the Stockade trough, and browsed calmly all morning, until Kora led the group to the mudbath. There the milk dependent orphans took their milk ration, while the others drank water from the water bins before heading out to feed again, it being too cold for a wallow. Makena led the group back to the Stockades in the evening.

02 February 2010

The Youngsters were joined by Wendi and her satellites as they made their way to the mudbath and milk venue at 11 a.m. As the day was cool, the orphans just waded in the mud and took a dust-bath instead, when Kora engaged Tomboi, who was lying down, in a pushing game. This went on for sometime until Tomboi decided it was time to end the game by getting up and pushing Kora away. After the soil bath Wendi took her group in the westerly direction whilst Naserian took the Stockade group to the slopes of Ithumba hill. In the evening, after the Youngsters were ensconced in their Stockades, Yatta’s group turned up, accompanied by their wild friend. They drank at the trough and then headed back out into the bush.

03 February 2010

The Youngsters left the Stockades early as usual, and throughout the morning concentrated upon browsing calmly. They did not remain long at the mudbath, but rather soon returned to the bush to browse. Just before 4 p.m., Kora rumbled and suddenly headed eastwards as though he had been called. He was absent all night, probably with Wendi’s group, because Yatta and her group, plus the same wild friend, showed up at the Stockade water trough late in the evening.

04 February 2010

The orphans, led by Naserian, settled down to browse in the Kanziku area today, and after the mudbath, browsed along the western side of Ithumba Hill. Neither Yatta’s group, nor that of Wendi, showed up today.

05 February 2010

This morning Naimina refused to take her milk, and kept lying down and passing stools in which worms were evident. By l0 a.m. she could not stand, but could only crawl on her belly. At 11 a.m. Head Keeper Edwin Lusichi arrived by air armed with medication for Naimina, which he administered. She appeared to rally briefly, but worsened later and died, leaving everyone in profound shock, unable to comprehend what sort of ailment could take the life of a healthy elephant just hours after showing symptoms. The Keeper dependent group returned to the Stockades as usual in the evening, all in perfect condition, but were put in different Stockades in order to spare them knowledge of what had happened.

06 February 2010

At 3 a.m. in the morning, all hell broke loose when Enasoit began showing similar symptoms to Naimina. This worried us immensely, and a call was made to Nairobi. Enasoit had been fine the previous day, not indicating any sign of sickness. We immediately administered medication, but it did not help and during the next few hours Enasoit seemed to loose the will to live. Meanwhile, the entire ex orphaned herd came to the Stockade at 5 a.m. in the morning, some sixth sense obviously alerting them to the disaster that was unfolding. Within less than 4 hours Enasoit was dead, and only then did the other orphans leave to join the Keeper Dependent group and comfort them, paying particular attention to little Meibai, who had immediately been given the De-Worming medicine sent for Naimina. Everyone was at a loss as to what could possibly have gone wrong and we kept our fingers crossed praying that the disease that had cost both Naimina and Enasoit their lives would not affect all the others, and especially Meibai, who had come to Ithumba with them. Galana spent the entire day feeding close to Meibai, and the entire ex orphaned herd remained with the Youngsters all day, escorting them back to the Stockades for the night. That night, for the Keepers, was the longest night ever, all continually doing the rounds to keep a close vigil on all the orphans.

07 February 2010

This morning, again the entire ex orphaned herd joined the Youngsters first thing in the morning at the Stockade compound and spent the entire day with them, escorting them back in the evening to face another night that filled the Keepers with dread, in case another tragedy was to take place.

08 February 2010

Today, the ex orphans were nowhere to be seen, possibly witnessing the honeymoon of Mulika and the wild bull who had been mating her. Meanwhile the Youngsters settled to browse within the Kone area, making their way to the mudbath at 11 a.m. At the mudbath, they were joined by the ex orphans, minus Mulika and her boyfriend, who appeared 20 minutes later, side by side, to join the other orphans in the mudbath. Buchuma and Ndomot engaged one another in a strength test. Later Mulika and her boyfriend separated from the rest, and left while the rest of the herd opted to browse near the mudbath. In the evening Mulika came to the Stockade compound still accompanied by the wild bull, whilst Yatta and her group were relaxing a few meters east of the Stockade. Mulika and the wild bull joined Yatta’s group having taken water.

09 February 2010

Today the Stockade group of orphans spent most of the day only in the company of their Keepers, since the ex orphans failed to turn up, although late in the evening, as they were on their way back to the Stockades, Yatta’s group joined them, included amongst which was Mulika, but without the boyfriend. This indicated that Mulika’s honeymoon was probably over. Wendi and her group came later to the Stockades, after Yatta’s group had already left.

10 February 2010

Wendi and her group joined the Youngsters early in the morning, and thereafter settled down to browse along the Kone road. At 8 a.m. however, Wendi and her satellites departed, heading west, taking with them Kora and Lualeni, who are still milk dependent, leaving the remaining youngsters to enjoy their usual mudbath. Later, as the Stockade dependent group were preparing to return to the field, they were joined by Kora and Lualeni who returned on their own, without Wendi. All then browsed the Kanziku area, Meibai feeding in between Naserian and Sidai.

11 February 2010

With only 12 Youngsters left in the Stockade, the Keepers led them to the Kalovoto river area today where they settled down to browse. Makena led the way to the mudbath at 11 a.m. Yatta’s group joined the orphans late in the evening on their way back to their Night Stockades.

12 February 2010

Meibai, sandwiched between Naserian and Sidai was in the lead this morning, with all the other Youngsters streaming behind. The orphans browsed the Kanziku area, keeping under shade, since it turned into a very hot day. At the mudbath both ex wild groups, led by Wendi and Yatta, joined the Youngsters, and all had a wonderful time. Later Yatta and her satellites enjoyed a dustbath whilst Naserian led the Youngsters to the slopes of Ithumba hill where Wendi’s group joined them for the afternoon. Just before 5 p.m. Nasalot turned up to join them and begin the journey back home. When they reached the Stockade Nasalot led Meibai to the Gate of his Stockade, and then remained outside until after dark before leaving.

13 February 2010

Mist covered the brow of Ithumba hill as the Stockade orphans left in the morning Heading for the Kone area, where at 9 a.m. they were joined by all the ex orphans led by Yatta and Wendi. Orok and Sunyei enjoyed a pushing game for a while. Makena, as usual, led the orphaned herd to the mudbath, after which the entire herd returned to browse together for the afternoon until it was time to return to the Stockades in the evening, the Youngsters escorted home by all the ex orphans.

14 February 2010

Wendi’s group joined the Youngsters at l0 a.m. Zurura and Makena enjoyed a pushing game whilst Tomboi took on Kora, quitting a short time later. During the mudbath Meibai was guarded closely by Galana and Sidai, who remained one on each side of him. Later Yatta joined Wendi and the Youngsters’ groups and browsed alongside them, escorting them back to the Stockades in the evening. Ol Malo did not want to go into the Night Stockade as usual, but instead left with the ex orphans.

15 February 2010

At 6 a.m. Wendi and her group were at the Stockade Gates, waiting to escort the Youngsters out for the day. An hour later, Yatta and her group, but without Ol Malo, passed by the Stockade water trough, joining the other orphans in the field, and joining them for the mudbath. There Ndomot engaged Buchuma in a test of strength which went on for some time. It was a very hot afternoon, so the orphans fed close to the mudbath . During the afternoon session, returning regularly to cool themselves down whilst browsing.

16 February 2010

Having left their Night Stockades, the Youngsters were joined by Wendi’s group a few minutes later, Ndomot inviting Naserian to a pushing game, which didn’t last long. Having remained together for the next hour, Wendi’s group then separated, taking Kora and Lualeni with them. Makena led the way to the mudbath where the orphans found Kora and Lualeni awaiting them, Wendi having left them there. Wendi and her group passed by the Stockade in the evening, followed by Yatta’s group, Ol Malo still absent.

17 February 2010

Since we were concerned about Ol Malo, who is not a strong member of the orphaned herd, the Ithumba Warden accompanied by Benjamin took to the air. For the two hours that they were airborne, they saw many herds of wild elephants, some with small babies, and many teenagers, but nowhere did they spot a lone elephant the size of Ol Malo. Hopefully, she had joined a wild herd, or perhaps met up with “Mgeni” and gone on a wild walk-about. In the past, before she returned with a hernia and went back into the Night Stockades with the Youngsters, Ol Malo had been in the habit of disappearing for many days at a time, returning either alone or accompanied by wild bulls, leaving again unaccompanied having taken water. Today the ex orphans came to the mudbath venue ahead of the Youngsters and waited for them to turn up. After mudbath, they all browsed together until the evening.

18 February 2010

On a partially cloudy morning, the Stockade orphans left the compound led by slow walking Sian to the Kanziku area to browse. The ex orphans joined the Youngsters at the mudbath, after which all the orphans browsed together until it was time for the Youngsters to return home in the evening.

19 February 2010

The Youngsters left their night stockades on a beautiful golden morning to the sound of bird-song. The weather turned cloudy at mudbath time, so they just took their milk and water, and returned to browse for the remainder of the day.

20 February 2010

It was a hot day, so the orphans kept to the shade of trees as they browsed far westwards. The ex orphans passed by the Stockade water trough after the Youngsters had left, but did not join them throughout the day. The Youngsters all had an active and wonderful mudbath because it was hot, Meibai, Lualeni, Sidai and Loijuk enjoying a very prolonged session. The ex orphans came to the Stockades late in the evening, after the Youngsters were already in for the night.

21 February 2010

Kinna was at the Stockade compound first thing in the morning, alone. The Youngsters joined her at the water trough, after which she led them out. Kinna spent the entire day concentrating on Meibai, teaching him many things useful to his new life. At the mudbath the two groups led by Yatta and Wendi joined Kinna and the Youngsters when Kenze engaged Tomboi in a pushing match which didn’t last long. Later Kenze tried to challenge Orok in a pushing match which ended in a draw. The care and security of Meibai was demonstrated graphically today when many of the older Youngsters along with some of the ex orphans kept him in their midst as they slowly made their way back home in the evening. It was very touching to witness.

22 February 2010

The ex orphans led by Yatta and Wendi were at the mudbath ahead of the Juniors again today waiting for them to turn up. Meanwhile two wild elephants came to drink at the mudbath bins, one of whom was familiar since he has lost half his trunk. However, they didn’t stay long, but departed, leaving the ex orphans at the mudbath where they were joined by the Youngsters a little later. Kora engaged Buchuma in a pushing game, but when Napasha approached them, they disengaged rapidly! After the mudbath, the Juniors, led by Naserian, went to the slopes of Ithumba hill whilst the ex orphans headed towards the Imenti waterhole area.

23 February 2010

It turned into another very hot day, so much so that Meibai had to draw water from his stomach to blow over his body in order to cool himself down. All loved their mudbath, Meibai scratching his back against Naserian as she lay deep in the pool. The ex orphans were absent today.

24 February 2010

All the ex orphans, having been absent all yesterday, showed up at the mudbath just before 11 a.m. and waited for the Youngsters, who arrived half an hour later. After a dusting of red soil, the orphans split up, the ex orphans leaving Sidai and Kora in the wallow, while the Youngsters headed towards Kanziku to browse. Sidai and Kora did not join the Youngsters either in the afternoon or that night, but remained out for the night, no doubt meeting up with the ex orphans again.

25 February 2010

Today Naserian only had l0 Youngsters to escort out in the morning, in the absence of Sidai and Kora. Sian and Naserian fed close to Meibai during the morning until it was time for Makena to lead the group to the mudbath venue. The ex orphans joined the Juniors as they were on their way back to the Stockades in the evening, Sidai and Kora amongst them. Sidai and Kora had no interest in joining the Juniors in the Stockades for the night, but instead remained out with the older ex orphans, and left with them later.

26 February 2010

The day again turned very hot, driving the Youngsters to feed under shade during the morning flapping their ears to try and cool their bodies. Makena led them to the mudbath at 11 a.m. where they enjoyed a prolonged wallow, tough little boy Meibai reveling in the cool mud along with Loijuk, Chyulu, Makena and Zurura. In the late evening all the ex orphans passed by the Stockades.

27 February 2010

Sian led the Youngsters out to browse this morning, grasshoppers and butterflies rising from the grass as the elephants walked along. The youngsters spent some time browsing along the Kone road, but later changed direction and headed to Kanziku. The day turned too cool to entice the elephants into the mudbath today, so the milk dependent babies took their milk, while the older elephants continued browsing. Yatta and her group passed by the Stockade in the evening, followed by Wendi and her group, who were accompanied by a young wild bull the size of “Mgeni”, who became nervous as soon as he heard the Keepers talking, and decided to retreat into the thickets.

28 February 2010

It has now been 5 days that Kora and Lualeni have remained as part of the ex orphaned herd, so it remains to be seen whether they have upgraded themselves permanently, or are just having a trial outing. The Youngsters settled down to feed at the Kone area, and since the day was cool, they only took their milk and water at the mudbath venue, before returning to browse for the remainder of the day. Sian is still thin, but active. One of her upper molars has fallen out and is slowly being replaced by another.