Keepers' Diaries, July 2008

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

The Ithumba orphans usually begin the day by having a drink at the stockade water trough, after which one can often find them scratching against nearby trees and rocks, running around or engaging each other in pushing matches before heading out for the day. Once out in the bush they browse together for a while before splitting into two groups, with the older orphans, led by Yatta, separating themselves from the youngsters, in search of the numerous wild orphans that are now returning to the Northern area in the hundreds. The orphans usually leave the stockades together as a herd, splitting up once out in the bush with the older orphans rejoining the younger orphans at the noon mudbath, or in the browsing fields. More often than not they rejoin the younger group when they return to the stockade in the evening. There are days also when they remain together as a group, led by Yatta, Mulika or Kinna who decide which direction the orphans will take and where they will spend the day feeding.

The Ithumba orphans usually begin the day by having a drink at the stockade water trough, after which one can often find them scratching against nearby trees and rocks, running around or engaging each other in pushing matches before heading out for the day. Once out in the bush they browse together for a while before splitting into two groups, with the older orphans, led by Yatta, separating themselves from the youngsters, in search of the numerous wild orphans that are now returning to the Northern area in the hundreds. The orphans usually leave the stockades together as a herd, splitting up once out in the bush with the older orphans rejoining the younger orphans at the noon mudbath, or in the browsing fields. More often than not they rejoin the younger group when they return to the stockade in the evening. There are days also when they remain together as a group, led by Yatta, Mulika or Kinna who decide which direction the orphans will take and where they will spend the day feeding.

The orphans can usually be found browsing around Ithumba hill, the Kalovoto area and Kanziku all of which are richer in vegetation than the surrounding areas. Even though there are days when it is too cold for the orphans to enjoy a mud bath there are also days when it is so hot that some of the orphans, namely Makena, Chyulu and Lenana, who are newer to the area, resort to drawing water from their stomachs to spray behind their ears and over their bodies. The orphans also often have to seek the shade of trees where it is cooler.

Wild elephants have visited the stockades on at least 12 different nights, usually under the cover of darkness, with as many as ten wild elephants coming to quench their thirst at the water trough, and staying at the compound for anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. On the 9th a wild elephant arrived at the stockade at about 10am for a drink of water and upon not finding the orphans there went in search of them. The bull was seen approaching the mud bath, but due to the presence of Angela, Robert their friends and the keepers, he preferred to stay hidden in the thickets, browsing near the orphans. Yatta and her group then followed the wild bull, who headed towards the Imenti water hole, not returning to the stockade till later that evening. On another occasion Yatta and her group, together with four wild elephants, arrived at the mud bath just as a keeper was filling the water drums. The keeper hid nearby allowing the group to drink in peace, before they left again, heading in an easterly direction.

On the 3rd the younger orphans in the group were scared when they crossed the path of a lesser kudu while on their way back to the browsing fields after the noon mudbath. Yatta and Mulika, who were at the back of the group, immediately took charge , rushing to the front of the group to see what the fuss was about, and after establishing that everything was ok, calmed the young ones down before continuing on their way.

On the 5th of the month two leopards chose to come and drink at the orphan’s water trough. They arrived at the stockades only after the wild elephants had had their fill of water and left.

Our young bulls have been busy testing their strength against one another and are often engaged in pushing matches which sometimes get out of hand and need to be broken up by either a keeper or one of the group’s junior matriarchs. On two occasions some of the females have also partaken of the pushing games, namely Galana and Sunyei who were taken on by Taita and Buchuma respectively. Both of the females were able to defeat their male rivals. Kora and Tomboi have both featured prominently this month taking on each other as well as some of the other orphans. Tomboi has been found taking on Challa, Ndomot, Kora, and Rapsu, with Kora taking on Taita, Kenze and Buchuma, who has also challenged Ndomot. Some of the other strength tests have involved Ndomot and Madiba, Orok and Kenze, Rapsu and Challa, as well as Napasha and Nasalot. On two different days Loijuk and Buchuma were both reprimanded by the keepers and Galana respectively for lying on top of other orphans while they were relaxing in the mudwallow.

The orphans enjoyed visits at the stockades and the mudwallow from Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick over the weekend of the 28th. Dame Daphne was accompanied by a group of foster parents all of whom enjoyed their visit and their time with the orphans.

On the 29th the stockade door for the older orphans stockade was left open so that Yatta and her group could enter and leave the stockade as they pleased during the course of the night and mingle with any wild elephants that happened to visit the compound to have a drink of water at the water trough.

July 2008 day to day

01 Jul

The sky was clear as the orphans headed to the field to browse till it was time for their noon milk feed, by which time the weather had cooled so none of the elephants partook of the mud bath, opting instead for a dust bath. Yatta led the group to the browsing fields. At 7pm the stockade was visited by four wild bulls where they drank water from the water trough. They remained at the stockade until 9pm.

Four wild bulls visit the stockades

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