Keepers' Diaries, January 2007

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Intermittent heavy rainstorms dominated the beginning of the month, but by month end the country was beginning to dry out again, the vegetation taking on Tsavo autumn tones of yellowing. The orphans have enjoyed another wonderful month with food, water and mudwallows plentiful right up to the end of January, fore-shortening the coming dry season. They have also had their share of excitement as well.

01 January 2007

Shortly after entering the feeding grounds, Sunyei, Tomboi and Wendi ran into the 4 wild dogs, and plucked up enough courage to charge the dogs and see them off. In the evening at 4 p.m. 2 warring lesser kudus ran past the elephants, scaring them. The young ones fled to their Keepers, whilst Mulika and Yatta charged the kudus, trumpeting loudly. Soon life returned to normal, with everyone peacefully feeding until it was time to return for the night.

02 January 2007

Again heavy rain fell throughout the night. Sunyei led the orphans out, but soon the rain began again, which prompted prolonged mud bathing. Napasha decided to try and challenge Yatta to a test of strength, and was surprised when Kinna, Mulika and Nasalot came to support Yatta, and sent Napasha in full retreat!

03 January 2007

Rain fell again soon after l0 a.m., so the orphans quit feeding to engage in prolonged mud bathing. Only when the rain subsided did they continue to feed, enjoying the warmth of the sun, and scratching themselves against rocks to dislodge excess mud.

04 January 2007

It was a long day for both the Keepers and the elephants, since it rained the entire day, making the roads impassable. Nasalot and Orok led the orphans out in the morning to feed along the banks of the flooded Kalovoto River which is normally seasonal. Lions began to roar a few kilometers away, and then all hell broke loose when one roared in response just a stones throw from where we all were, sending shivers down the spines of men and elephants alike! Every Keeper and every elephant fled, running as fast as their legs could carry them, the orphans having split into two groups, one led by Sunyei and Wendi, whilst the other group was led by Orok! Both groups tore through the thickets using different routes to the Stockade. En route, Lualeni, who was in Orok’s group fell and screamed, but was soon up and off again, all the elephants trumpeting, bellowing and rumbling in fear as they headed for the safety of the Stockades. The elephants arrived first, followed by the Keepers with torn raincoats, having charged through the thickets!

05 January 2007

It was a lovely morning, and all the orphans left the Stockade in a jovial mood. However, mindful of the previous day’s events, they didn’t want to go far from the Stockades, and certainly not in the same direction again! Lualeni was limping following her fall the previous day, so she was given a massage. Yatta, Kinna, Mulika and Nasalot surrounded the babies to ensure that they were kept safe, and only Napasha had the courage to venture out a little further to feed. Naserian and Kora kept Lualeni company, comforting her, and by the evening, she was much better. The Keepers gave her another massage before retiring for the night.

06 January 2007

Nasalot and Orok led the way out today. Lualeni still had a slight limp, and was attended by Naserian and Kora throughout the day. Shortly before l0 a.m. Orok came rushing out of the bushes, followed closely by Nasalot and the other babies. The Keepers went to investigate the cause of his fear, but only came across a mother warthog and 6 piglets. They went back to calm their nervous charges.

07 January 2007

It was a clear day. Yatta did a spot of soil bathing, and was joined first by Ol Malo, and then Galana prompting all the others to also take part. It was an uneventful day with no major incidents.

08 January 2007

Before leaving, the orphans quenched their thirst at the Stockade trough. Once out in the feeding grounds, Suneyi and Wendi frightened the entire group by pretending that they had spotted danger, making all the orphans prepare themselves for any eventuality. However, they soon realized that it was just Sunyei up to her usual pranks, this time joined by mischievous Wendi. In the evening Napasha separated Rapsu from the others and tried to mount onto him, but was warned by the Keepers, so he moved away.

09 January 2007

Almost 5 days have past since the last rains, and the vegetation is beginning to turn yellow. Out in the field the orphans split into two groups, one led by Sunyei, Naserian, Lualeni, Kora, Galana, Sidai, Challa and Madiba, whilst Nasalot and Orok led the others. At mudbath the youngsters took their milk, and the older elephants some water, before heading back to feed for the remainder of the day.

10 January 2007

Out in the feeding grounds the orphans formed three groups today. Nasalot, Orok, and Buchuma moved north; Sunyei took with her Kinna, Yatta, Challa, Tomboi, Taita, Rapsu and Sidai, while Wendi remained with the rest. Wendi and Ndomot enjoyed a game of hide and seek, and Challa and Madiba engaged in a pushing game.

11 January 2007

The orphans left the Stockade in a happy mood. Out in the field Sunyei and Taita spent time pushing one another, Taita having the hidden agenda of trying to mount onto Sunyei, but Sunyei read his intentions, so put up fierce resistance until Buchuma came to her rescue. Taita was upset with Buchuma, and gave him a hard shove, but Buchuma looked pleased at having thwarted Taita’s plans!

12 January 2007

At l0 a.m., as Wendi and Challa were leading the orphans out to feed, they encountered a sprinting warthog and four piglets, which scared them. Tension was high as Yatta, Mulika, Kinna and Nasalot mounted a fruitless search for the offending warthog who had long since gone. Soon the tension died down and normal browsing resumed.

13 January 2007

The orphans left the Stockades gamboling happily. Sunyei knelt down and pierced the ground with her short tusks, watched by Challa and the two found themselves left behind the others. They sprinted to catch up. Since it was cool, none of the orphans felt like a mudbath today.

14 January 2007

Out in the feeding area, Madiba and Kora engaged one another in a pushing game that lasted for quite some time before Kora surrendered, Madiba being more proficient. Of late Kora has been challenging all the bigger elephants to a test of strength, including Yatta, but to date he has always been the loser! However, he has determination, so one day he may be a champion!

15 January 2007

Out in the feeding grounds, Sunyei, Naserian, Lualeni, Kora and Sidai enjoyed playing in the loose soil at the entrance of an aardvark burrow. Kora enjoyed playfully climbing over Naserian as she relaxed comfortably in the soil.

16 January 2007

There was a shower of rain to start the day, much to the orphans’ delight. Buchuma would have liked to mount Naserian, and chased her around, but she took cover against Nasalot, so Buchuma had to content himself by scratching against a nearby rock, where he was joined by Challa. He and Challa then enjoyed a pushing match.

17 January 2007

Today it was the turn of Buchuma and Ndomot to engage one another in a pushing match, which was interrupted by Napasha as he passed by. After the mudbath the orphans headed to a swampy patch to feed. Mulika and Kinna went right inside. Later Sunyei picked up a stick, and ran it along a rock holding it with her trunk as if to display her skills.

18 January 2007

After a drink at the trough, Sunyei led the way to the browsing fields where she and Wendi fed close to their Keepers, and the rest of the group continued to move deep into the thick bush. As the feeding progressed Madiba and Kora engaged in their usual pushing game as did Buchuma and Tomboi but the others took no notice of the boys, and continued to feed peacefully for the rest of the day. In the evening it was Naserian, Kora and Challa that led the way back home.

19 January 2007

The orphans left the Stockades in a jovial mood, swinging their trunks from side to side as they progressed. On the way out Sunyei and Buchuma had a happy time running within the thickets, charging and knocking down bushes. Madiba and Ndomot joined them. The youngsters joined the older elephants in the mudbath after their milk feed at noon.

20 January 2007

Today, on a misty morning, Nasalot led the way to the Kalovoto river again to browse. However, they were scared when a Dikdik emerged from the thickets, prompting the recollection of the lion incident. In a high state of excitement, Yatta charged, and the entire herd went wild while the unfortunate Dikdik was running away as fast as its legs could carry it! It took the orphans half an hour to settle down and resume feeding after this incident.

21 January 2007

Again Nasalot was the leader and once out in the field, the orphans split into three groups again. Naserian, Kora, Lualeni and Madiba decided to feed close to the Keepers, while Nasalot, Kinna, Yatta, Olmalo and Orok formed their own group, moving northwards and Mulika, Wendi, Sunyei and the rest moved eastwards. The three groups converged shortly before 11 a.m., Rapsu leading the way to the mudbath.

22 January 2007

Sunyei was the leader out today. The day passed smoothly without any major incident.

23 January 2007

Yatta led her herd out today, and all concentrated on feeding. The babies separated from the main group to go for their noon milk feed, but joined the others later.

24 January 2007

It was a beautiful morning. Having quenched their thirst at the water trough, Sunyei, Rapsu, Ndomot and Buchuma spent a fun time chasing one another across a plain. However, the game was spoilt when Rapsu tried his luck mounting onto Sunyei. After mudbath Mulika led the orphans eastwards to an open plain where they spent the rest of the afternoon feeding.

25 January 2007

Yatta led the orphans to the Kalovoto River again, which by now had pools of stagnant water, in which they enjoyed wallowing. After this, they moved to an anthill to rub their bodies, when all of a sudden a mongoose emerged, making a strange noise. The game ended abruptly, and the orphans moved location to feed!

26 January 2007

Wendi led the orphans eastwards today where they enjoyed smearing themselves in mud at a drying waterhole and where Buchuma and Tomboi played a pushing game that lasted for several minutes. Shortly afterwards Wendi lay down to rest next to the mudhole, which drew the attention of Olmalo and some of the other youngsters who came to lie and scratch against her. Since Wendi could not resist the weight of all, she screamed for help, and the Keepers came to the rescue. The youngsters were obedient, and moved away from Wendi, so that she could get up.

27 January 2007

Today, Madiba and Ndomot engaged one another in a pushing match, watched by Yatta. Kora led the way to the mudbath today, followed closely by Challa and Lualeni. In the evening the orphans fed their way calmly back to the Stockades for the night.

28 January 2007

the orphans came across a natural mud-hole out in the feeding area in which they spent time wallowing. In the process Yatta and Napasha engaged on another in a test of strength, as the others watched. Sunyei led the youngsters to their noon bottle feeds whilst Yatta, Kinna and Nasalot just stood by waiting for Orok and Olmalo to finish, and join them on their way out to feed again.

29 January 2007

It was a very hot day, so the orphans sought shade early, where they indulged in soil dusting as they flapped their ears in an attempt to cool their over-heated bodies. At 11 a.m. Buchuma led the way to the mudbath where the younger se, particularly Buchuma, Naserian, Madiba and Sidai,t had a wonderful and prolonged mudbath.

30 January 2007

The day began cool with soft showers of rain, so the orphans had a wonderful time playing in the dampened soil. They decided not to go into the mudbath today, because it was still cool. Later on in the day Buchuma and Rapsu spent a busy time testing their strength against one another, without intervention from any of the others. Rapsu is gradually getting the better of his main rival for rank.

31 January 2007

As Rapsu, Sidaei, Naserian, Orok and Buchuma were investigating the thickets, searching for tasty browse, they encountered a flock of vulturine guineafowl. Without hesitation all the elephants charged the birds, causing them to take to the air. Later Buchuma and Rapsu again engaged one another in a bout that lasted quite sometime because they are pretty evenly matched, although Rapsu has longer tusks.