Keepers' Diaries, January 2008

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Sporadic rain that fell in the middle and towards the end of January brought welcome relief for our Ithumba elephants, cooling temperatures during what is usually a very hot month, bringing on fresh vegetation and filling depressions with rainwater and enabling the wild elephant population to leave their dry season range and forage further afield. Therefore, our orphans have had no wild contact this month that we know of, although the older set habitually remain out in the bush often until long after dark, and are now virtually completely independent of their Keepers.

01 January 2008

On a sultry misty morning, the orphans left the Stockades in a jovial mood. Soon it began to rain, and the elephants left off browsing to roll in the mud, Ndomot the front-runner soon joined by Madiba, Challa, Sunyei, Zurura, Naserian and Ol Malo. There was no need to go to the mudbath venue today. The milk dependent orphans took their bottles by the side of the road that heads towards Kanziko, and all then resumed feeding.

02 January 2008

Having taken water, the orphans left, Yatta remaining behind to ensure that all were present and correct. Once at their destination, the elephants scattered, Mulika, Napasha and the other older orphans splitting from the youngsters. After mudbath, Naserian led the youngsters eastwards where Ol Malo enjoyed a rolling game on her own. The older group reported back to the Stockades at around 8 p.m.

03 January 2008

Yatta, Mulika, Kinna, Napasha, Tomboi, Selengai, Orok, Taita, Nasalot and Wendi, who share the same Stockade left first and hurried off without waiting for the babies. The youngsters then mingled around the Compound waiting for their Keepers to lead them out to browse. Sunyei, who had left with the older group, returned and decided instead to stay with the younger set. Because it was a cool day, none of the orphans felt inclined to wallow.

04 January 2008

It was a pleasant day out in the field – not too hot. Just before the mudbath hour Ol Malo, Loijuk, Zurura and Kamboyo led the others to a pile of loose soil, and all enjoyed rolling around playing in it. At the mudbath Lualeni was the star of the day. She wallowed for about half an hour, all the others watching her antics waiting for her to emerge. All the orphans fed quietly throughout the afternoon.

05 January 2008

Having left the Stockade, Yatta led the older group whilst Naserian and Sunyei led the youngsters out to feed. Yatta’s group opted to go eastwards to the seasonal Kalovoto river while the babies went to Ithumba Hill. Challa and Ndomot enjoyed scratching their ears against a tree. After the mudbath Kora led the babies back to feed. The older group took their mudbath in puddles along the Kalovoto river where they remained for the rest of the afternoon. In the evening, just before heading back home, Loijuk got a scare from a baboon and ran screaming back to the Keepers, as did all the others. The Keepers calmed them down. Both groups arrived back at the Stockades round about the same time, just before dark.

06 January 2008

While Zurura, Rapsu, Kenze, Madiba and Sidai took water, Kamboyo and Loijuk rubbed their bodies against the unloading bay and Challa and Kora engaged each other in a strength testing bout. This was broken up by Galana. Ol Malo was at the end of the column as they left, swinging her trunk from side to side happily. The orphans browsed along the Kone road until mudbath time when Kora and Kamboyo led the youngsters to the milk venue. All enjoyed the wallow because it was a hot day, after which Galana and Lualeni led the group back to browse for the rest of the day.

07 January 2008

Having spent the past few days feeding separately, there was joy when Kenze joined Nasalot and Ol Malo enjoyed the company of Yatta. Today, the older elephants decided to wait for the youngsters at the Stockade compound rather than leave ahead of them. When all were ready, Yatta led the entire herd to the Kalovoto watercourse where they browsed before heading to the mudbath. All enjoyed mudbath today, it being very hot, after which Kora led the herd back to browse. In the evening the Keepers noticed that Tomboi was limping on a hind leg which had probably been pierced by a stick.

08 January 2008

Taita and Rapsu engaged each other in a strength testing exercise which ended in victory for Taita, who is much older than Rapsu. Nasalot and Yatta did the rounds of all the babies, touching them tenderly with their trunks, before leading the group out to the field. At mudbath Sian, Lualeni and Naserian were the stars of the day, remaining in the mud long after the others had left. In the evening Challa wrestled with /Selengai for a few minutes before Madiba intervened to push Challa away. This evening it was Sian who led the youngsters back to the Stockades.

09 January 2008

On a misty morning, the orphans went about their business as usual. Once out in the field Yatta led the older elephants away from the youngsters, but today Tomboi chose to remain with the babies, not wanting to embark on a long trek, still limping. A light shower of rain brought relief and joy, Kamboyo and Ol Malo enjoying a pushing game, Lualeni doing the same with Kenze and Loijuk enjoying a roll in the damp earth. After taking their milk at noon, the orphans rejected the mudbath, and instead headed back out to feed lead by Zurura and Sian.

10 January 2008

It was another cloudy morning as the orphans headed out to feed, Shortly before 11 a.m. Rapsu and Kora engaged one another in a pushing match which didn’t last long since the time had come to head to the mudbath. Sian and Kamboyo led the way. After the mudbath Yatta led one group and Naserian commandeered the other. Both groups only met up back at the Stockade late in the evening.

11 January 2008

It was the usual routine for the elephants, who browsed calmly until about l0 a.m. when the youngsters came across an anthill where they enjoyed playing, Challa draping himself across the very top. At mudbath Loijuk emerged as the star of the day, enjoying the mud long after the rest had left. It was a cool afternoon, so all enjoyed good browsing until the evening when Sian led the babies back, and Tomboi led the older elephants.

12 January 2008

Again, the weather was cloudy. Yatta took the older orphans to the Kalovoto river area whilst Naserian and Galana took the youngsters to Ithumba Hill. The two groups came together at the mudbath, after which they separated again to feed throughout the afternoon, meeting again back at the Stockades in the evening.

13 January 2008

Different activities began the day; Sian, Lualeni and Loijuk scratching their bodies against trees as others drank at the Stockade trough. Kora was last to leave, catching up with the others. It was a calm and peaceful day and all returned back safely to the Stockades for another night.

14 January 2008

It promised to be a hot day, so the orphans lined up to take on water, Zurura and Sian being the last ones, who caught up with the others who were already heading out, later. Yatta took them to the Kalovoto watercourse area where the vegetation is still lush. Just before heading back she raised her trunk to test the wind and ensure that there was no danger ahead, and shortly after 5 p.m. the orphans began their journey back home.

15 January 2008

Normal early morning activities began the day; Naserian and Challa using trees as a scratching post whilst Zurura and Sian did the same against the unloading bay and Kenze and Kora performed a strength testing exercise that saw Kora as the victor. When it was time to leave Sunyei led the column. At the mudbath Lualeni and Sidai were the stars of the day whilst Galana, Rapsu and Ndomot rubbed their bodies against rocks having emerged from the mud. Madiba led the orphans from the wallow and punctual Kamboyo and Kora took them back home in the evening.

16 January 2008

It was a cloudy morning. Nasalot took the older orphans eastwards whilst the youngsters remained behind, waiting for their Keepers to lead them out. Once out in the feeding grounds, Kora took a break to enjoy a soil bath, Sunyei sharpened her tusks against a bank and Madiba and Ol Malo played their own game. In the afternoon the weather changed and it began to rain, so the orphans enjoyed rolling around in the wet soil and splashing in the puddles. The babies had a wonderful day and returned joyfully to their Stockade. The bigger group arrived long after dark.

17 January 2008

Since every depression still held water after the rain, the orphans didn’t drink before leaving but enjoyed the puddles. Naserian took a soil bath close to the Stockade. Ol Malo and Kamboyo had a disagreement over something not understood by the Keepers, and began pushing one another, but Challa intervened to settle the dispute. Meanwhile the older group had already left and throughout the day the orphans remained in two separate groups, but reunited on the way to the mudbath. After the mudbath the youngsters browsed close by whilst Yatta led the older group to the Kalovoto plains.

18 January 2008

It was a rainy morning, so the orphans played all the way out into the feeding area, Nasalot and Mulika rolling in the middle of the road, while Yatta used her tusks to loosen the soil for the youngsters to play with. Kenze and Ol Malo were happy to spend the day with their respective “mothers’, Kenze with Nasalot and Ol Malo with Yatta for several days had passed without the two groups being united . Buchuma and Ndomot engaged each other in a pushing game which prompted Madiba and Taita to do the same. At mudbath time, Yatta and the older orphans remained behind while the milk dependent babies went ahead. After mudbath, the milk dependent babies found that Yatta had taken the others eastwards, but the two groups joined up at 4 p.m. and returned together to the Stockade.

19 January 2008

Another cold and cloudy morning. Kora and Lualeni initiated a pushing match which Kinna broke up. Kenze and Taita enjoyed scratching themselves against the rocks and Sunyei and Orok chased one another around, charging and trumpeting with joy. Sunyei and Loijuk led the column out. Once in the feeding area, the two groups remained together and fed quietly throughout the day.

20 January 2008

It was a warm morning, with the sky partly covered in cloud. Yatta and Tomboi led the orphans out. At l0 a.m. there was a heavy downpour, so Galana encouraged all the others to play in the mud. Nearby the orphans came across a pool into which went Naserian, Ndomot, Madiba, Galana, Sian and Zurura and there they had a lot of fun before joining the rest. In the evening all the orphans returned to the Stockades as one large herd.

21 January 2008

It was still wet following the previous day’s rain, so Kora was the leader of the day, taking the orphans just behind the Stockade hill to feed throughout the morning. Tomboi, who is becoming very independent, went off on his own but was at the mudbath busy chasing off some warthogs when the others arrived to wallow. There followed an enthusiastic welcome after which Tomboi had a brief wallow and then again left alone disappearing into the thicket, none of the others following him. The orphans spent the afternoon along the slopes of Ithumba Hill and returned to the Stockade to find Tomboi already there. He arrived about l0 minutes before all the rest.

22 January 2008

Another cloudy morning. Kora’s jaw opened up two days ago to exude a small amount of pus, but is now sealed again, so he enjoyed a pushing game with Challa, seeing Sian and Madiba doing the same. Out in the field Zurura enjoyed a rolling game in the mud and thereafter a short nap before joining the others.

23 January 2008

The weavers filled the morning with their songs as the orphans indulged in the usual morning activities – Madiba, Ndomot and Sian scratching against rocks, Kora and Zurura choosing the unloading bay as a rubbing spot, and Kamboyo and Sidai engaged in a pushing match whereby Sidai pushed Kamboyo very hard and emerged victorious. Sunyei and Galana led the group out towards Kone where all fed happily, the vegetation fresh after recent rain.

24 January 2008

Galana led the group out today, heading towards Kanziku where the orphans settled into feeding. Kenze and Sian took a break to settle a difference, which Rapsu broke up, pushing both away and thus ending the fight.

25 January 2008

Another chilly morning, Ithumba hill covered in mist. Sian was late in following the group because she was busy scratching her belly against a rock, but she caught up later. The morning was spent browsing, but after the mudbath the orphans headed towards the Imenti waterhole where they settled for the afternoon. Kenze enjoyed a dust bath that attracted Zurura. Soon after 5 p.m., Kamboyo, who is the best time-keeper, decided it was time to head for home, and led the others back.

26 January 2008

Clear skies promised a hot day, so the orphans all took water before leaving and it was not long before they had to browse under the shade of trees to shelter their bodies from the sun. Fortunately, water is still abundant everywhere, so only the milk dependent babies left the group for the milk venue, after which they enjoyed the mudbath before returning to rejoin the others.

27 January 2008

As soon as the Stockade Gates were opened, Ndomot, Challa, Zurura, Sunyei and Rapsu scratched against the unloading bay while Taita, Sunyei and Lualeni chased each other around the compound. Moments before leaving Rapsu and Tomboi fought each other over a branch that Kinna had broken and left behind, so Yatta returned to punish them, driving them out so that neither enjoyed it. She picked up the branch and ate it slowly as she watched the two boys spending time out. At mudbath Kenze and Zurura were the stars showing off different wallowing styles long after the others had left. They then joined the others out in the field.

28 January 2008

As soon as the Gates were opened, Lualeni and Zurura rushed to Yatta for morning greetings while the others went to take water at the trough. Out in the field Madiba and Ndomot engaged each other in a pushing match that didn’t go down well with Kinna who rushed over to separate the boys, pushing them in different directions to end the battle.

29 January 2008

As the orphans headed out for the feeding area, they deliberately bumped against one another, swinging their trunks from side to side, which is a sign of happiness, since all were impressed by the recent unseasonal rain. Kamboyo, Zurura, Madiba, Buchuma, Sunyei, Ndomot and Naserian enjoyed a soil bath against a wet anthill. At l0 a.m. Rapsu and Kora engaged each other in a test of strength, but Kinna, who keeps a watchful eye on unruly boys, was at hand to disband the exercise. Three lesser kudus, running at high speed nearby scared the youngsters, who trumpeted and rumbled bringing Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna from the thickets to see what was amiss. Within a few minutes, the situation returned to normal when the older elephants had ascertained that there was nothing to worry about. At the mudbath not many orphans went in, because the temperature was moderate.

30 January 2008

The day was cool, and with the vegetation fresh and soft, the orphans enjoyed feeding throughout the day, taking their time to meander to the mudbath and milk venue. Kora and Nasalot were quick to lead the group back out to browse after the babies had taken their milk, and one or two had ventured into the mudbath.

31 January 2008

The airstrip dam has very little water left in it now and a herd of zebra spend time there. The wild elephants’ are now mainly concentrated along the Powerline and towards the Entrance Gate. The day’s Greens Cutters, often see large herds during their travels.