Keepers' Diaries, July 2007

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

It has been a very exciting month for the Ithumba elephants, who have enjoyed many nocturnal visits from wild elephants, both bulls and cow groups, who have spent time at the compound, leisurely taking water from the Stockade trough, and rumbling to our orphans. The four Big girls, Yatta, Nasalot, Kinna and Mulika have begged to be allowed out to join them, desperate to make contact, eagerly following the tracks of the wild herds at daybreak, but so far have failed to find them during the hours of daylight. Wild elephants came to the Stockade during the night of the 27th June (covered in this Diary); 2 wild bulls arrived during the night of the 11th and again on the 12th, when one touched the hot wire of the Stockade with his trunk and got zapped, prompting a hasty retreat! On the l8th, a wild herd returned and spent a lot of time at the Stockade, communicating with our orphans, the orphans having come across an area where this wild herd had been during the previous day. The wild elephants appeared again during the night of the 20th, and on the 21st a lone wild bul lpaid a visitand spent a long time at the Stockade trough, chatting to our orphans, and also damaging one of the Stockade acacias.. Wild colleagues again came during the night of the 23rd and during the night of the 25th , the wild bulls again appeared, making the month of July a record for wild nocturnal visits to the orphans at the Ithumba Stockades, which is very gratifying. Were the four Big Girls allowed out to join their wild visitors during the hours of darkness, the Keepers are sure that they would go off with them, taking some of their adopted babies with them, but it is still too soon to allow this, some of the youngsters still a vulnerable target for the Tsavo lions.

01 July 2007

The turn of Loijuk and Sian to lead the column today followed by Kora, whilst Mulika, Kinna and Yatta remained behind. Sian and Loijuk were unsure of the route to take, so Nasalot hurried to get ahead of them. However, they did not want to be overtaken, so Nasalot broke a tree branch with a loud crack, which immediately brought the youngsters to a frightened standstill, wondering what it was. Loijuk and Sian immediately retreated, meeting up with Nasalot, who convinced them to change direction. For the rest of the day Nasalot kept a close eye on Loijuk and Sian to ensure that they did not wander from the main group.

02 July 2007

Happily swinging trunks from side to side, the orphans made their way out into the field. There ensued some confusion, since the babies had headed East. Nasalot wanted to follow the youngsters, whilst Yatta, Mulika Kinna and Wendi wanted to head westwards. After a while, Yatta conceded, and the whole group followed the babies and once at the feeding grounds, all fed quietly. It was another cool day, so they declined the wallow, but once the babies had downed their milk, all headed out to browse again.

03 July 2007

It was a very cold morning, so the orphans did not need to take water, instead concentrating on other things. Some scratched against rocks, others on trees, and all seemed undecided about which route to take. In the end the Keepers made the decision and took them to the slopes of Ithumba hill. It warmed up in the afternoon, prompting the boys (Rapsu, Tomboi, Buchuma and Taita) to indulge in pushing games to test each other’s strength.

04 July 2007

It turned out to be a lovely morning as the orphans headed out, accompanied by the singing of the birds. Whilst the herd was busy feeding, two dikdiks erupted from the bush, scaring Kenze especially. Nasalot noticed his discomfort and ran to comfort him. At the mudbath Ndomot played a mounting game with Rapsu and Napasha leaned on Mulika as she was kneeling down. It was a hot afternoon, so the orphans relaxed under shade until it cooled down, when they resumed feeding.

05 July 2007

Today was another chilly morning, so the orphans enjoyed a dustbath en route to the feeding grounds, all in a jovial mood. Out in the field Ndomot and Tomboi enjoyed chasing each other through the thickets, a game that was interrupted by Napasha who began pushing them away. At the mudbath, the orphans tested the water temperature with their trunks, and decided against going in.

06 July 2007

Out in the feeding area, a serious fight broke out between Rapsu and Ndomot. Sunyei did her best to stop the two boys fighting, but Ndomot wasn’t about to give up, and pushed her away. Nasalot then stepped in and used force to break up the battle, which annoyed Ndomot, who began venting his fury by pushing down small trees. Rapsu, on the other hand, just resumed browsing.

07 July 2007

By 9 a.m. it had turned very hot again, hundreds of birds arriving to take water at the Stockades once the orphans had left. Youngsters like Kenze, Orok and Loijuk felt the heat most and chose to rest under trees, hoping it would cool down, but when it didn’t, came out to feed despite the heat. At the mudwallow, all had a spectacular time, and then went to rest under shade. Normally the temperatures between June and September are cool, but this year it has been very unpredictable, sometimes very hot, the next day very cold. The long dry season which starts in mid-May is a challenging time for all life, but fortunately at Ithumba, browse for the elephants is plentiful, and water also available, so life is still good for them.

08 July 2007

Today, the morning was cold as the orphans left the Stockade. Having taken water, Yatta led the way with Olmalo, her favourite, following close behind. All fed peacefully for the rest of the day.

09 July 2007

Naserian, Sian, Loijuk and Kora led the group today on a chilly morning, each elephant snatching what few greens remain on the way out. After relaxing at the mudbath for just 20 minutes, Yatta, Kinna, Galana and Olmalo left the venue and headed eastwards, leaving Wendi and others soil dusting. Later Tomboi and Rapsu had a test of strength, Tomboi emerging as the winner, who celebrated his victory by mounting onto Rapsu.

10 July 2007

Another chilly morning, as the orphans left the Stockades, heading towards the dam, Kora, Loijuk, Sian and Naserian, appearing to read the Keeprers’ minds, leading in that direction. At the dam, the orphans enjoyed the water, those smaller like Kenze, Sian, Loijuk, Orok and Sidai actually submerging themselves. Having had their fill of swimming, the orphans resumed feeding, and gradually made their way back to the Stockades.

11 July 2007

The orphans left in a hurry this morning, leaving the Keepers behind. Soon it became unbearably hot, forcing both elephants and Keepers under shade. Suddenly, the weather turned cold again, so the orphans were not in a hurry to get to the mudbath. When they did arrive, they had a dustbath instead. Two wild bulls paid a visit to the orphans during the night where they took water and rumbled to our orphans.

12 July 2007

Yet again, during the night just before dawn, two wild bulls came to the Stockade water trough to drink, and then came to the wire to greet the orphans inside. One of the bulls touched the live wire, which abruptly ended their visit, as they ran off, confused as to what had happened. Later the orphans left the stockades as usual, to begin another day..

13 July 2007

The orphans left the Stockade in a happy mood. During the night, the two wild bulls returned, and spent about two hours at the Stockade, enjoying the water in the trough, and communicating with the orphans with rumbles, which the orphans returned. Yatta led the orphans out in the morning, trailing their wild colleagues, but gave up the quest when temperatures rose

14 July 2007

Kora, Loijuk and Sian again led the way out in the morning, settling down to feed close to the Stockade. At 11.30 a.m., which is mudbath time, the orphans came to the Stockade for a drink before Yatta led them out to the feeding grounds in the afternoon

15 July 2007

It was another cold day, so the orphans were able to concentrate on feeding, since the dry season has set in. Yatta spent time breaking down high branches and sharing the green leaves with her favourite, OlMalo. Soon after mudbath, Tomboi and Ndomot engaged each other in a strength testing game, which ended with Tomboi emerging as the winner.

16 July 2007

Nasalot led the way out. The sky was clear, promising a hot day, and by 11 a.m. the orphans had to seek shade. After mudbath, it was still hot, so the orphans relaxed under trees until it cooled down, when they resumed browsing. Again, wild elephants visited the Stockades to take water, which disrupted the tranquility of the night, since Yatta, Mulika and Nasalot made a lot of noise, wanting to be let out to join the wild group. The wild elephants remained for a long time

17 July 2007

Yatta, Mulika and Nasalot spent time investigating the scent of the wild elephants, sniffing their dung. They then followed their tracks for a long way, but in the end gave up the chase. In the evening the weather changed abruptly and a light shower of rain fell, which saw the orphans quit feeding and perform a marvelous dust concert, utilizing their trunks. From time to time Yatta raised her trunk into the air to determine the safety of the area.

18 July 2007

The morning was chilly, so the orphans enjoyed playing with the water, as the older elephants decided which direction to take. Out in the field, the orphans came across a place where the wild herd had spent the night. Yatta, Mulika and Nasalot rumbled loudly as they investigated the dung, but there was no response. At 8 p.m. some of the Keepers, whilst returning from watching TV at Park HQ., came across three wild elephants drinking at the Stockade. The wild group retreated as they saw the vehicle lights, but returned later and spent quite some time at the Stockade.

19 July 2007

As soon as the Stockade Gates were opened in the morning, Yatta led the race to try and meet up with their wild friends. Obviously, the four Big Girls are missing the company of wild elephants, which they used to enjoy whilst at the Voi Unit, where they found the company of the wild herds more stimulating than that of their human family. We feel that given a chance, the four Big Girls would take the orphans to join them and remain with the wild herd for a while together with their adopted babies. During the night the usual visitors made a brief visit to the stockade water trough, before leaving again for an unknown destination.

20 July 2007

Again Yatta inspected the dung and footprints of the wild visitors closely before leading the orphans eastwards. At the mudbath two jackals appeared suddenly, frightening the youngsters. Kinna chased them off, but once the elephants had left the water, they returned to quench their thirst. In the afternoon the orphans headed for the Kalovoto watercourse where they fed for the rest of the day.

21 July 2007

It was a calm night, free of nocturnal visitors. In the morning, after a brief stop for a drink, the orphans concentrated on browsing for the rest of the day since the temperature was conducive. During the night a lone wild bull visited the Stockade to take water, following which he damaged one of the Acacia trees at the Stockade compound. He left just before dawn.

22 July 2007

Out in the field Buchuma and Ndomot enjoyed a pushing game which was broken up by Rapsu, who separated them. Only Lualeni, Loijuk and Madiba did a bit of wallowing at the mudbath, it being too chilly for the others.

23 July 2007

Yatta, Olmalo and Kinna spent time scratching against nearby rocks whilst Wendi and Napasha rubbed themselves against the nearby Acacia trees and the rest waited for their colleagues in order to move off in unison. Nasalot led the way, with the rest streaming behind her, leaving Yatta and Napasha having a pushing game. Later on they followed and joined up with the rest at the field. Yet again, the orphans were visited by their wild colleagues who passed by to take water and spent close to 2 hours loitering at the Stockade compound before leaving.

24 July 2007

In the morning, Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna were at the forefront trying to locate the whereabouts of their wild friends who had visited them the previous night, but after a long walk, luck was not with them, so they decided to concentrate on feeding. After mudbath, the orphans split into two groups, one led by Sian in the company of Naserian, Loijuk, Challa dnd Lualeni, whilst the rest went with Yatta to feed far from the Keepers. The two groups joined up at 5 p.m. to return to the Stockades together.

25 July 2007

Yatta led the way out, her trunk high in the air trying to detect the whereabouts of the wild visitor of the previous night, as the other big elephants, including Napasha inspected his dung. The bull seems elusive, but in time he will undoubtedly show himself during daylight hours in pursuance of our lovely young lades! At the airstrip dam, the orphans came across a herd of zebras who were drinking, but who fled as soon as we arrived

26 July 2007

Yatta and Nasalot hurriedly left following the path taken by their wild friend, whilst Kenze, Challa, Lualeni, Loijuk and others seemed unconcerned, playing around as the Big Girls investigated the dung of their visitor. Yatta led the orphans following his footprints for a while, but gave up to spend time feeding. At mudbath, Mulika had fun playing with her faourite, Selengai, soon joined by Tomboi and Taita, all enjoining trunks in an act of friendship and togetherness. During the night we had another surprising visit by wild bulls. This month has seen more wild activity at the Stockade than previously, and we are sure that this is just a beginning!

27 July 2007

Nasalot led the orphans in the direction of Kone, but decided to climb and feed on the nearby Ithumba hill. She was joined there by Kenze, Orok, Loijuk, Sian, Challa and Buchuma, but Yatta and the rest decided not to climb but instead fed along the Kone road. Since it was cool at mudbath time, only Lualeni, Loijuk and Sunyei went into the water, while the rest opted for a dustbath.

28 July 2007

For the first time, Kenze surprised the orphans by leading the way out, having taken water in the morning. He took the herd to the Kalovoto river where they all settled down to feed. By l0 a.m., it was so hot that the herd had to take to shade and at 11 a\.m. Sian led the first batch of babies for their noon milk feed. After mudbath, Galana, Wendi, Selengai and Mulika chose to take a different direction to the rest but they all joined up shortly after 4 p.m. to make their way slowly back to the Night Stockades.

29 July 2007

Led by Sunyei, the youngsters swung their trunks happily as they left for the field to start a new day. Since it was a cool day, the orphans fed peacefully and extensively throughout the morning, and after the mudbath, relaxed under trees for a while, before heading back to the feeding grounds.

30 July 2007

It was a chilly morning when the orphans left their Night Stockade, Olmalo and Challa waiting to be shown the direction they should take, whilst Rapsu scratched himself against a nearby rock. Once in the browsing area Naserian fed close to Yatta for quite some time. By noon it was warmer so some of the orphans enjoyed a mudbath, Kora, as usual, opting for a soil dusting session instead.

31 July 2007

The orphans headed out to feed in a very jovial mood, bumping against each other, and swinging their trunks from side to side. Sian, Loijuk, Buchuma, Challa and Naserian enjoyed a dustbath near an anthill. Later Challa and Naserian engaged one another in a strength testing exercise, which was interrupted by Kinna. At noon all the orphans enjoyed a dustbath, it being considered too cool to take to the mud.