Keepers' Diaries, January 2012

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

It was an enormous thrill for us on New Year’s Day when all the Ex Orphans, including Mulika and her baby, “Mwende” (now l month old), came to join the Keeper Dependent Orphans at their noon mudbath, which, thanks to bountiful rains in November and early December, had been transformed into a mini lake in which the elephants could immerse themselves. After the usual warm greetings between those now living wild and the Keeper Dependent Youngsters, they enjoyed a swim, especially Napasha and his wild friend “Mgeni”, their trunks acting as snorkels above the water line. Even little Mwende went in, sandwiched between her mother and closely guarded by Kinna, who is the Principal Nannie, the baby’s tiny trunk just visible every now and then amongst a sea of large legs! According to Head Keeper Benjamin baby Mwende loves Kinna as much as her own mother and Mulika is perfectly happy to entrust the protection and care of her baby to the Nannies. Daphne was especially astonished to see little Mwende actually swimming in deep water out of her depth, especially since we don’t even allow our 1 month old orphaned baby, “Kithaka”. to put even a foot into our mini Nursery mudbath for fear of the dreaded pneumonia, to which elephants are particularly vulnerable! The difference is, of course, that wild-born babies have their mother’s milk, and whilst we can get our newborn orphans through (with difficulty) on the replacement formula, it is not as ideal as Mother’s milk! Evidence of this is in the stools which in the wild baby are formed, while those of our orphan are sloppy like custard.

01 January 2012

Another year began with Chaimu leading the Keeper Dependent Youngsters out, to browse, heading to the Kanziku area which, after rain, was still lush and green. At l0 a.m. all the Ex Orphans, which included the groups of both Yatta and Wendi accompanied by Yatta’s wild recruit “Mgeni” plus two other; young wild bulls, met up with the Juniors and the entire herd moved to the mudbath venue where the Youngsters took their noon milk feed before joining the Ex Orphans in the mudbath, which had been transformed to a sizeable waterhole in which the elephants could swim. Mgeni and Napasha went into the deepest part and had a wonderful time playing together.

02 January 2012

Chaimu, exited the Stockades in a jubilant charging mode with outspread ears, intertwining trunks with Sabachi on the way out, and challenging him to a Pushing Bout going down on her knees!. Kendecha led the group out to browse, where again they were joined by all the Ex Orphans who browsed alongside them until 11 a.m., and joined them at the mudbath. The Juniors left the Ex Orphans at the mudbath having completed their wallowing.

03 January 2012

Soon after coming out in the morning Sabachi and Kandecha engaged one another in a Pushing Match, which Tumaren broke up. At the noon mudbath the Juniors were again joined by all the Ex Orphans, including 6 wild Junior bulls, interacting happily together.

04 January 2012

After the usual Stockade activities, scratching bodies against trees and the Unloading Bay, Kora (who is now recovering from his arrow wounds) led the Junior Group out to browse in the Kone area. The Juniors enjoyed the mudbath, Chaimu running in and out of the water. The Ex Orphans were absent today.

05 January 2012

Ex Orphan Lualeni turned up alone early in the morning to greet her great friend, Kora, before greeting all the Juniors. She led the Juniors to browse the Kalovoto area until it was time for the mudbath. There they were joined by Yatta, Loijuk, Selengai, Nasalot and Wendi. All wallowed together for about l0 minutes before the Juniors left to browse Ithumba Hill and the Ex Orphans headed towards Kanziku.

06 January 2012

At 8 a.m. the Juniors were joined by the groups of both Wendi and Yatta accompanied by Mgeni and the other young wild recruit known as “Kijana”. The entire herd enjoyed the mudbath together, parting afterwards. On the way back, Suguta lagged behind and looked unwell, refusing her milk back at the Stockade and resting her trunk against a rock. She looked unhappy and was clearly not feeling well.

07 January 2012

Suguta was better this morning and took her milk. Once out, Sabachi and Kibo engaged one another in a test of strength, which was won by Sabachi who moved to tackle the next boy in line, who happened to be Kandecha. Kilaguni did not want to be left out, and came in from all sides, pushing both contestants. Since it was a cloudy day, the Juniors took a dustbath instead. In the evening Suguta again seemed unwell, refusing her milk and because her trunk was wet, on instructions from Nairobi injectable Enrofloxacine was administered to counteract possible pneumonia.

08 January 2012

Melia led the Juniors out to browse at Kone. At 11 a.m. they headed for the mudbath where they were joined by Yatta and Taita. Kilaguni was the star of the day, the only one that braved the pool while the rest enjoyed a dustbath, led by Taita and Kora. Eventually the Juniors left, leaving Yatta and Taita relaxing at the mudbath.

09 January 2012

It was a hot day today, so the Juniors wallowed extensively at the mudbath, Tumaren, Kilaguni, Kandecha and Kitirua were reluctant to leave the water.

10 January 2012

Soon after the Juniors had left the Stockade compound, Yatta and her group arrived to drink from the Stockade trough. Out in the field Kandecha, Kibo, Sabachi and Chaimu enjoyed playing in the loose soil of an aardwark burrow, Sabachi seizing an opportunity to mount onto Chaimu as she lay down. Shortly before 6 p.m. 3 wild bulls came to the Stockade water trough to drink.

11 January 2012

Kibo challenged Chaimu to a Pushing Match out in the field which he won. He then went on to challenge Melia, who trounced him, so he targeted Sabachi. However, this match ended prematurely when Kandecha barged in. It was another hot day, so the Juniors enjoyed wallowing.

12 January 2012

Today the Juniors headed eastwards to an area with plenty of pasture. With full bellies boys Kibo, Sabachi, Kandecha and Chemi Chemi took to bush-bashing, running around the thickets downing small bushes, trumpeting and expressing their strength. All enjoyed a prolonged mudbath since temperatures were high.

13 January 2012

The Juniors browsed the slopes of Ithumba hill this morning where Kilaguni and Sabachi had a happy moment pushing each other and entwining trunks in a gesture of friendship. At the mudbath, it was too cool for the elephants to go in, so they enjoyed their milk and a dustbath, and returned to browse.

14 January 2012

Soon after the Juniors had left the Stockade compound, Yatta’s group turned up, comprised of Mulika and her baby Mwende, Kinna, Nasalot, Taita, Ithumbah, Makena, Selengai, Buchuma and Orok accompanied by the wild recruits, Kijana and Mgeni. All drank from the Stockade trough before moving off again. It was a very hot morning so the Juniors browsed under trees before taking a lengthy wallow.

15 January 2012

The Juniors browsed northwards today near some rocky hills where the browse was greener. It was another hot day so the orphans enjoyed a long mudwallow, and again browsed under shade in the afternoon until the temperature dropped.

16 January 2012

Suguta led the Juniors far east from the Stockade compound in the morning. En route, Chemi Chemi found himself left behind out of sight of the others and bellowed loudly. Immediately Olare, Suguta, Melia and Tumaren rushed back to fetch him, trumpeting as they went, and soon all were reunited again. It was another hot day, so the Juniors enjoyed a spectacular mudbath, Ololoo and Chemi Chemi rubbing themselves against the backs of Tumaren and Melia.

17 January 2012

The Juniors browsed the Kone area today. At the mudbath they were joined by Wendi, Tomboi, Rapsu, Orok, Mgeni and Napasha. The Juniors did not wallow long, eager to return to feed, so the Ex Orphans were left at the mudbath venue.

18 January 2012

For the Juniors it was an uneventful day, but at 7 a.m. the entire Ex Orphan herd, accompanied by Mgeni, Kijana and another wild friend, came to the Stockade where they spent almost 2 hours relaxing and playing within the compound. Before leaving Mulika’s baby enjoyed a gentle pushing game with Loijuk.

19 January 2012

Mist covered Ithumba Hill this morning. As the Juniors were about to head out the Ex Orphans arrived, and strangely enough, unusually were not interested in the Youngsters. Missing from the group were Yatta, Kinna Mulika and her baby, Makena and Selengai. Shortly afterwards the missing members arrived minus only Yatta and Kinna. Two hours later all the Ex Orphans left, probably to go and join Yatta who could have been in labour since it was very unusual for her to be missing from the herd.

20 January 2012

At around 5.30 a.m. the Ex Orphans began trickling into the Stockade compound, but since it was dark, the Keepers were unable to identify the orphans. It was a surprise and a great joy when dawn broke and we saw two babies with the Ex Orphans and without doubt one belonged to Yatta. After a gestation period of 23 months, finally Yatta had given birth to a healthy baby girl, larger than that of Mulika when she brought her baby back for the Keepers to see. Now all attention focused on Yatta’s baby, the Juniors all eager to meet the new baby as soon as they left their Night Stockade. Later the entire group headed out to browse the Kanziku area where they were joined by Mgeni, Kijana and their two wild male friends. Napasha, Loijuk, Madiba, Chyulu, Lualeni and Lenana were missing in the Ex Orphan herd, but at 11 a.m. they came to the Stockade for a drink. It was an amazing mudbath, with all the Ex Orphans, their wild friends, and Keeper Dependent Orphans enjoyed a wonderful mudbath, Yatta, her baby, Kinna and Nasalot spending their time in the red soil dusting place. The baby took a nap, diligently watched over by her mother, Yatta as well as Kinna and Nasalot. Later the Juniors headed to the slopes of Mazinga Hill to browse before returning to the Stockades in the evening, and the Ex Orphans headed towards Kanziku area.

21 January 2012

It was a quiet day. Yatta and her group had taken the new baby on a tour, and were not seen all day, while the Juniors went about their usual routine.

22 January 2012

Shortly after midday the Ex Orphans, accompanied by Kijana, Mgeni and another wild bull, came to the Stockade for water. Missing in the group was Yatta, her baby, Kinna and Wendi, which was a concern. At the stockade Mulika’s baby, Mwende, was very playful, leaving her mother to join the other Ex Orphans who were enjoying a wallow at the Stockade waterhole. Having had enough fun, they then left, but 30 minutes later Yatta, her baby, Kinna and Wendi showed up at the stockade, Yatta’s baby following and trying to suckle Kinna instead of her mother. Prior to the arrival of Yatta’s baby, Kinna was the Nannie to Mulika’s little one, but has shifted her attention to the new baby. Yatta’s baby, named “Yetu” (meaning ‘Ours’ seems to have two Nannies, Wendi and Kinna. In the evening a family of 6 wild elephants came to drink at the Stockades

23 January 2012

Yatta, her baby, Kinna and Wendi and Taita passed by the Stockades soon after the Youngsters had left. They spent half an hour at the Compound before leaving. Out in the field Kibo and Kilaguni had the usual Pushing Match, Kilaguni surrendering to Kibo.

24 January 2012

As the Juniors were leaving in the morning, the Ex Orphans checked in, the two babies looking well. Lualeni peeled off from the Ex Orphan group to be with her friend, Kora. In the evening, as the Keepers were preparing to return, Lualeni and Ololoo could not be traced, indicating that Lualeni had snatched Ololoo and taken him off. At 11 p.m. that night the Keepers were awoken by the cry of an elephant, and sure enough, there was Ololoo accompanied by Lualeni. The Keepers opened the Gate so that Ololoo could join his Junior Colleagues, after which Lualeni left.

25 January 2012

The Juniors were joined by the Ex Orphans in the morning. Mulika’s baby, Mwende, is very precocious. She engaged Kilaguni in Pushing Play before turning to Sabachi for the same and then going to share a branch of a tree that Ithumbah had. From there she spotted Makena holding a branch and ran to have a go at that too! An hour later the Ex Orphans headed towards the Stockades, while Lualeni remained with the Juniors and went with them back to the Stockades, but then took Ololoo off again. She returned him to the stockades at 8 p.m.

26 January 2012

The Ex Orphans, accompanied by Kijana and Mgeni, have taken to coming to the Stockade twice daily, in the morning and often again at noon, which enables us to monitor the progress of the two babies. Today, having taken water in the morning, the Ex Orphans followed the Juniors and joined up with them to spend the entire morning with them, only separating after the noon mudbath. Lualeni did not take Ololoo today.

27 January 2012

As the Juniors were in the process of leaving, the Ex orphan groups of Wendi and Yatta, accompanied by several wild elephants, came to the Stockades. Chaimu enjoyed playing with Yatta’s and Mulika’s babies before catching up with the Junior group who were heading out to browse. Lualeni had also joined the Juniors. After relaxing at the Stockades for a while, the Ex Orphans headed out towards Kone, but returned at midday with the two tiny babies to relax under shade before returning to browse in the evening. Meanwhile, Lualeni had again hijacked Ololoo, but returned him to the Stockades at 7 p.m.

28 January 2012

The Juniors left the Stockades early as usual, and at 8 a.m. the Ex Orphans turned up with the two babies. Having taken water, the Ex Orphans enjoyed a soil bath before returning to the bush. The Juniors took their mudbath at noon as usual and then browsed the slopes of Ithumba hill.

29 January 2012

Led by Murka, the Juniors settled down to serious browsing at the Kalovoto area since the vegetation is drying up rapidly. It was a fairly cool day so they opted for a soil bath instead of the mud.

30 January 2012

Melia led the Junior Group out today. Kilaguni and Sabachi had their usual strength testing game, ending with Kilaguni surrendering. At 3 p.m. the Ex Orphans brought the two babies back to the Stockade compound.

31 January 2012

Two hours after the Juniors had left in the morning, the Ex Orphans accompanied by Mwende and Yetu showed up and remained at the compound for amount an hour before returning to the bush. At 11 a.m. the mudwallow took place at the Stockade waterhole, where the Juniors were joined by a wild herd of l0, amongst whom was an elephant with one tusk and two young aged about 4 years. Chemi Chemi and Murka joined them at the water trough and when the wild herd left, the Juniors headed back to the Kalovoto area to browse for the rest of the day.