Keepers' Diaries, February 2011
Ithumba Reintegration Unit
February is always an extremely hot month in Tsavo, and the remaining Keeper dependent orphans based at Ithumba (now numbering seven - Suguta, Melia, Chaimu, Ithumbah, Tumaren, Kilaguni and Sabachi) have suffered from the heat this month as a result, often having to browse under shade, cool themselves earlier than usual at the mudbath venue and spend the early afternoon under shade until temperatures begin to fall in later afternoon. A light rainstorm that fell on the l8th brought relief for a day or two, when the Juniors thoroughly enjoyed playing in the puddles and rolling in natural mudbaths out in the bush, but February is always a challenging month for elephants who have to try and regulate their body temperature through access to shade and water since they are unable to perspire.
01 February 2011
Led by Ithumbah, the orphans filed out in the morning, settling down to browse at the Kanziku area. Only Kilaguni and Chaimu took a mudbath at noon, while the others sheltered under shade, and scratched themselves against trees. The orphans browsed along the slopes of Ithumba hill until it was time to return in the evening.
02 February 2011
The orphans browsed calmly during the morning, but on their way to the mudbath were joined by Wendi, Sunyei, Naserian, Galana, Kora, Lualeni and Meibai. All enjoyed a mudbath together, the Juniors copying the Seniors in everything they did. Wendi then led the entire group back to the browsing area, but then separated, taking her group off with her to an undisclosed location.
03 February 2011
Before heading out today, Kilaguni and Sabachi (the only two boys in the group) enjoyed a Pushing Match. Later the Juniors settled down to browse at the Kone area. At the mudwallow, Napasha, Chyulu and Makena showed up, and all enjoyed a wonderful mudbath together, after which the Senior group headed West, leaving the Juniors to return to the Kanziku area for the remainder of the afternoon.
04 February 2011
It was a cloudy morning, which suited the Juniors who joyfully dusted themselves before heading out to browse, and did the same at the mudbath venue, having taken their milk.
05 February 2011
The Keepers steered the Juniors eastwards today to browse along a riverbed where there is plenty of pasture. Kilaguni enjoyed rolling on the ground which attracted Sabachi who joined him. Melia led the Juniors to the mudbath venue today, but only Kilaguni and Ithumbah went into the mud, while the others took a rest under shade.
06 February 2011
The orphans left on a bright day, but later the weather turned cloudy, so the Juniors opted not to take a mudbath. In the evening Lenana, Loijuk, Makena, Kenze, Napasha, Nasalot, Rapsu, Buchuma, Sidai, Wendi, Taita, Zurura and Selengai came to drink at the Stockade water trough, and then headed back from whence they had come.
07 February 2011
Suguta, who has established herself as the Junior Matriarch, led the orphans out to browse. Sabachi, Kilaguni and Chaimu initiated a fun charging game, trumpeting and gamboling in the thickets. The day turned hot, so the orphans headed for the mudbath earlier than usual, encountering a flock of guinea fowl on the way, scattering them. All enjoyed the mudbath and later returned to browse for the rest of the day.
08 February 2011
The day was very hot, so the Juniors browsed under shade during the morning. All took full advantage of the mudbath at noon, resting under shade thereafter until temperatures fell.
09 February 2011
An hour after the Juniors had left in the morning, Mgeni (Yatta’s wild recruit) came to the Stockades for a drink. He was accompanied by Yatta, Mulika, Kinna, Selengai, Buchuma, Taita, Rapsu, Lenana, Makena, Orok and Nasalot. Mgeni had not been amongst the Senior group for the past 2 months having left with Ndomot, who so far has not returned. Having taken water, the Ex Orphans enjoyed a dustbath before heading out again in the direction from whence they had come.
10 February 2011
The Juniors headed out in the morning in a joyful mood, swinging their trunks and deliberately bumping into one another. Once in the field Sabachi and Kilaguni engaged one another in the usual Pushing Match, but Suguta intervened, hoping to take on one of them, but neither of the boys would oblige. All attended the mudbath as usual, and having browsed during the afternoon, headed back to the Stockades.
11 February 2011
On a cloudy morning, the orphans hurried out, led by Tumaren and settled in to browse the Kone area. At l0 a.m. the Juniors were joined by Yatta, Mulika, Kinna, Nasalot, Selengai, Orok, Taita and Buchuma, Nasalot as usual focusing on her favourite, Kilaguni, while Selengai chose Ithumbah. An hour later the Senior Ex Orphans separated, leaving the Juniors with the Keepers, who took them to the milk and mudbath venue.
12 February 2011
Out in the browsing area the Juniors were joined by Mgeni, another young wild bull, Mulika, Nasalot, Kinna, Selengai, Buchuma, Taita, Napasha, Challa, Rapsu, Lualeni and Kora. The entire group fed together for a while before the Seniors headed to the Stockades where they took water and enjoyed a mudbath. Meanwhile the Juniors headed to their usual milk and mudbath venue.
13 February 2011
The day soon turned very hot, sending the Juniors under shade as they browsed, constantly flapping their ears to cool themselves. At 11 a.m. they made their way to the mudbath, but strangely enough did not go into the mud, but instead took a rest under shade while the Keepers took their lunch. Later, the orphans browsed their way to the slopes of Ithumba hill, returning to the Stockades in the evening. At 4 p.m. a family unit consisting of three elephant females, three babies and a bull came to the Stockade for water.
14 February 2011
Another extremely hot day which saw the Juniors feeding under shade and continually flapping their ears. At 11 a.m. Suguta led her group to the mudbath, but only Kilaguni, Ithumbah and Chaimu went into the mud, the rest spectators standing under shade.
15 February 2011
Ithumbah led the Juniors out today, all swinging their trunks happily and thereafter browsed quietly. Being the only two boys, Kilaguni and Sabachi are limited in their challenges, because the girls don’t like such rough games that are vexatious to the spirit!
16 February 2011
Melia led the group out today to browse up until 11 a.m. when it was time for the mudbath journey. Suguta rumbled, rounding up her colleagues, and followed by Melia, Tumaren, Chaimu, Kilaguni, Sabachi and Ithumbah, shepherded them to the mudbath. After the mudbath the orphans browsed close by for a time, Kilaguni and Sabachi enjoying a pushing game as Ithumbah watched like a referee!
17 February 2011
Today there was a strong wind blowing from east to west, shaking dry leaves off the trees. The day turned scorchingly hot, so elephants and Keepers kept under shade. All enjoyed a prolonged mudbath and rested under shade afterwards, waiting for temperatures to drop. Meanwhile, at noon a group of Ex Orphans, comprised of Yatta, Mulika, Kinna, Nasalot, Orok, Taita, Kenze, Kamboyo, Lenana, Makena, Madiba and Mgeni showed up at the Stockade water trough for a drink, and then headed westwards.
18 February 2011
There was soft rain during the night, so the orphans woke up to a chilly morning, which they thoroughly enjoyed, dusting themselves with the damp soil. None of them took a mudbath at the usual venue, but did so when they came across a large puddle on their way back in the evening. Kilaguni and Sabachi were able to enjoy a lengthy Pushing Match in the evening without the intervention of any of the girls!
19 February 2011
Chaimu led the Juniors west today to browse. The day turned hot, so the orphans rushed into the mudbath, after which they rested under shade waiting for the temperature to drop before continuing to browse for the remainder of the day.
20 February 2011
It was another hot day as the orphans headed out to birdsong in the morning. Chaimu was first in the mudbath at noon, soon joined by all the others. At one point she got bogged, so Kilaguni helped to push her up until she could get onto her back legs, illustrating how elephants help one another.
21 February 2011
Today the Juniors browsed northwards along the valley of rocky hills. Out in the field Chaimu kept close to Ithumbah while Melia, Suguta and Tumaren fed separately, with the two boys keeping in touch with their Keepers, who were relaxing under shade. All enjoyed a protracted mudbath because the day turned very hot.
22 February 2011
The Juniors left the Stockades in single file on another hot day. At 8 a.m. Mgeni, his wild male friend, Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot, Kinna, Taita, Orok, Selengai, Buchuma, Naserian, Kora, Lualeni, Zurura, Kenze and Kamboyo came to the Stockades for a drink and then left again. Meanwhile at the Juniors’ mudbath only Chaimu, Kilaguni and Ithumbah went into the mud while the rest stood under shade flapping their ears.
23 February 2011
Soon after the Juniors left the Stockades, Ithumbah and Chaimu scratched their bodies against nearby rocks while Kilaguni did the same at the Unloading Bay, the rest browsing nearby. Later Chaimu led the group to the Kone area to browse. The day was not quite so hot, but cloudy which suited the Juniors. In the evening Meibai, Loijuk, Wendi, Chyulu, Galana, Madiba, Naserian, Tomboi, Challa and Rapsu showed up at the Stockade for a drink from the water trough and then headed in a westerly direction.
24 February 2011
The orphans headed out to feed on vegetation that is turning dry now. Having taken milk at noon, Ithumbah was first in the mud, while Melia, Sabachi, Suguta, Tumaren and Kilaguni took water from the trough. Only Chaimu joined Ithumbah in the mudwallow.
25 February 2011
Led by Ithumbah, the Juniors headed west to the Kalovota river bed where the vegetation is still soft. At the mudbath Kilaguni and Sabachi engaged one another in a Pushing Game, but Suguta intervened to push Kilaguni away. In the afternoon the orphans came upon some stagnant ground water, so they all cooled off before returning back home.
26 February 2011
The orphans left the Stockades early passing by the rocks to scratch themselves en route to the browsing area. At l0 a.m. the Juniors were joined by some of the Ex Orphans, and all browsed as one large herd and enjoyed rolling in some stagnant water, drying themselves in the earth piled at the side of the road. At 1 p.m., Yatta, Kinna, Nasalot, Selengai, Orok, Taita, Mulika, Mgeni and a wild bull came to drink at the Stockade. Having taken water, the group relaxed under the nearby acacia tree for sometime before leaving. Later Wendi brought her group for a drink at the stockade water trough. With her were Meibai, Lualeni, Kora, Naserian, Galana, Sidai Loijuk, Makena, Lenana, Chyulu, Kenze, Zurura, Madiba, Buchuma, Kamboyo, Challa, Rapsu and Sunyei.
27 February 2011
Having scratched ticks off against the nearby rocks, the Juniors headed to the Kone area to browse where they found another mudbath which they enjoyed. Later they headed to the milk venue and their usual mud bathing place, and having taken their milk, returned to browse for the rest of the day.
28 February 2011
As the Youngsters went to scratch their bodies against the rocks, Sabachi took a drink at the trough before all headed to the Kone area to browse, led by Melia. At 8 a.m. both Wendi’s group and that of Yatta, accompanied by two wild elephants, came for water at the Stockades. By l0 a.m. it was unbearably hot so the orphans enjoyed some nearby mud to cool down their bodies. At the usual mudbath venue the orphans took their milk and then rested under shade until it turned cooler. They browsed along the slopes of Ithumba hill until it was time to return in the evening.