Keepers' Diaries, January 2009

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

With the beginning of another very hot dry season, more wild elephants have been visiting the waterhole at the stockades and as the natural waterpans out in the bush dry out, the Stockade water supply will obviously become even more popular with the wild community.

With the beginning of another very hot dry season, more wild elephants have been visiting the waterhole at the stockades and as the natural waterpans out in the bush dry out, the Stockade water supply will obviously become even more popular with the wild community.

Yatta’s Senior Keeper Independent group has interacted with the Keeper Dependent Junior group on most days this month, either meeting them first thing in the morning to escort them out, before separating to feed further afield, or turning up to join the youngsters at the noon mudbath, sometimes spending the afternoon with them feeding as one herd and then escorting the youngsters back to their Night Stockades in the evening before departing for the night.

This month Challa has joined his friend Rapsu in upgrading himself from the Junior set to spend time as part of Yatta’s Senior group, but obviously is not too comfortable yet spending too many nights out because on the 10th he returned alone to rejoin the youngsters in their Night Stockade. On the 16th Challa left the youngsters early in the morning to head out alone, which surprised his Keepers. He obviously knew where to find Yatta’s group, for he was with them when they returned to join the youngsters at the Stockade compound in the evening. Once again, it is interesting to witness infrasound elephant communication obviously at work, otherwise how would he know where to find them in the vastness of the Northern Area of Tsavo! It was also interesting to see that on the 12th Yatta came alone without the rest of her group in order to escort the youngsters out to the Kanziku area before leaving them there under the leadership of the Junior Matriarchs to go and connect up with her group who were obviously feeding further away. She and her group then rejoined the youngsters at the noon mudbath and there the orphans were joined by a friendly wild bull who was obviously familiar to them all, for they all surrounded him to greet him. After the mudbath he then sent several hours feeding in amongst them before separating to go on his way. On the 14th 3 wild bulls checked in to the mudbath at 9 a.m. to take water there, rather than at the Stockade trough.

Another very interesting event took place on the 20th when Galana, Ndomot, Challa and Naserian decided to leave their usual Junior group and travel with Yatta’s Senior group instead, leaving Sunyei in charge of the Keeper Dependent babies. That evening, the four returned on their own to the Stockades to rejoin their group for the night. Then on the 21st Rapsu and Challa, who had been with Yatta’s Senior Group also returned to the Stockades alone in the evening to rejoin the youngsters for the night rather than remain with the older group for a night out. On the 23rd Challa again attached himself to the Seniors when the two groups met up out in the bush. That day they were reunited at the noon mudbath, but again that evening Challa returned alone to the Stockades for the night.. Towards the end of the month it was Wendi and Tomboi who opted out of the Senior Walkabout group, and opted for a quieter time with the Juniors for a few days, but on the 31st headed out alone, obviously to meet up with Yatta’s group again, who had been absent for the previous few days.

Sunyei and Galana are the main Junior Matriarchs who take charge of the orphans in the absence of Yatta and the Seniors but sometimes Chyulu and Lenana take on a leadership role. That some members of the Young Group are becoming more adventurous is clearly demonstrated in this month’s Diary, Challa’s outings as a Senior being a case in point, as is the fact that Galana, Ndomot, and Naserian joined him to also experience life as a Senior, but returned on their own in the evening to the security of the Stockades for the night and to rejoin their Junior group. It is obvious that all the Ithumba orphans are, in fact, one affiliated family who are in regular touch with one another, with exchanges taking place at will between the two groups. Those who decide to have a quieter few days rejoin the Keeper Dependent group, and those who are beginning to make the transition to the Senior Group spending time with both, but preferring the security of the Stockades at night.

As usual, the young bulls (Ndomot, Kora, Zurura, and Kamboyo) are those most involved in tests of strength through pushing games on a daily basis, Ndomot, who was always a very pushy Nursery member, again boisterously chasing his friend Zurura around in order to demonstrate that he is “top dog” by mounting! However, just tone of voice and the wagging of a finger from his human family is sufficient to bring him back into line!

On January 3rd 3 wild bulls passed by the Stockades whilst the orphans were away and on the 5th 2 large bulls were seen together with Yatta’s group. The friendly wild bull turned up at the mudbath on the 10th and on the 12th another familiar wild bull, who is obviously a frequent visitor to the stockade trough, came again to drink.

Overall the month went by smoothly, the orphans in high spirits especially when there was the odd shower of rain, and a heavier downpour towards the end of the month, which is unusual for January.

January 2009 day to day

01 Jan

The New Year began with a great start as the Junior group left the stockades at dawn. As usual the orphans headed straight to the water trough for a morning drink when the ever playful Loijuk decided to try climb into the water trough with all 4 feet! The playful mood of the orphans rubbed off on one another leading to a lot of mischievous behaviour! Kora & Ndomot had a little wrestling game which was won by Ndomot. Later Galana led the group towards Kone were they all settled to feed along the slopes of Ithumba Hill until noon when the young group headed to the mudbath. The orphans had a spectacular time playing in the mudbath after which Sian led the way out of the mudbath to Kalovoto were the orphans fed for the rest of the day.

Galana leading the group