Keepers' Diaries, July 2010

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

The beginning of the month saw Loijuk leaving with some members of Wendi’s group who had joined the youngsters out in the field at 10am. Loijuk did not return to the stockades for a couple of nights choosing to spend some time out with the ex-orphans returning to the compound a couple of days later in the company of Yatta’s group. During Loijuk’s absence Sunyei took charge of the group assuming all the Matriarchal duties. She was given some guidance by Galana and Wendi who joined the youngsters at the mudbath the day after Loijuk left.

01 July 2010

The orphans left the stockade as dawn broke stopping for a drink at the water trough before being led out for the day by Loijuk. At 10am part of Wendi’s group joined the youngsters and they fed together till it was time for the mudbath and noon milk feed. None of the orphans partook of the mudbath choosing to quench their thirst while Chaimu scratched her back foot against the water trough wall. At 3pm Loijuk left with Wendi’s group leaving the youngsters in the keepers’ capable hands. Loijuk did not return to the stockades in the evening preferring to stay out with the older ex-orphans. In the evening the orphans were visited by Yatta’s group who had two wild elephants with them. They all had a drink at the stockades before heading back to the park.

02 July 2010

Chaimu, Kilaguni and Sabachi, together with the rest of the orphans were led out by Sunyei who, in Loijuk’s absence, assumed the role of Matriarch. At the mudbath the youngsters were joined by Wendi’s group with Galana and Wendi giving Sunyei some pointers on how to look after the babies. In the evening Sunyei, Wendi and Galana all escorted the little ones back to the stockades. A short while later they were joined by Rafiki who joined Wendi’s group for a spell before leaving.

03 July 2010

As Loijuk had still not returned Sunyei continued to stand in for her. As it was a very hot morning the orphans chose to browse in shady areas, flapping their ears to cool down. During the noon mudbath the youngsters were joined by Wendi’s group who stayed with them for the remainder of the day. After the orphans had returned to the stockades for the night Yatta’s group appeared with Loijuk in tow. She appeared to be comfortable with the ex-orphans a sign that the time for her to go wild is drawing near. The keepers called to her and she willingly joined the youngsters in the stockades. The babies were very happy to have her back in their midst.

04 July 2010

While the youngsters were out browsing near the Kone area they were joined by the ex-orphans who were in the company of Mgeni and another wild bull. Nasalot browsed close to Kilaguni and Chaimu. The two babies were watching her closely and imitating all her feeding tactics. The entire group attended the mudbath together after which they spent the day in each others company. The ex-orphans escorted the junior group back to the stockades for the night.

05 July 2010

Early in the morning Loijuk led her group northwards taking them to newer pastures to graze. Chaimu and Kilaguni browsed under Loijuk’s watchful eye who was pulling branches down for the babies. Sabachi chose to feed close to the big males Zurura and Meibai. At 9am the entire ex-orphan group joined the youngsters. As usual Nasalot headed straight for her beloved “babies” Chaimu and Kilaguni. They all proceeded to the mudbath at noon where they had a fantastic time wallowing together. The afternoon was spent relaxing and feeding under the shade of the acacia trees with Nasalot showing her affections for Kilaguni by gently placing her trunk over his back.

06 July 2010

It was a cool overcast morning which energized the orphans who ran around the compound flattening any small bushes in their path. As it was not hot the orphans did not show interest in the noon mudbath choosing instead to spend the day browsing.

07 July 2010

At 11am while the others were browsing Lenana, Chyulu and Makena enjoyed a dustbath. The orphans went to the mudbath but only for their noon milk feed as it was too cold to bathe. Loijuk assisted by Makena led the group eastwards to the slopes of Ithumba Hill where they orphans stayed till nightfall. At 3pm Rafiki and several wild friends came by the stockade water trough for a drink before going back to the park.

08 July 2010

As the orphans went about their usual morning feed Loijuk enticed the three young babies for a soil bathing session on the banks of a nearby stream. The entire day was spent browsing.

09 July 2010

The orphans exited the stockades and passed by the water trough for a quick drink on their way out. While browsing in the park Loijuk tore down a large branch and began to peel the bark off for Chaimu, Kilaguni and Sabachi who happily feasted on the treat. During the noon milk feed Sabachi greedily gulped his share and went on to try and steal Chaimu’s bottle. The keepers cautioned him and he quickly abandoned his cheeky plan. Following the mudbath some of the orphans were happy soil bathing while the others rested under the shade of the acacia trees.

10 July 2010

Loijuk and Makena led the orphans out to the park for the day. Meibai and Zurura enjoyed a pushing game which abruptly ended when the ex-orphans surprised the youngsters with a visit. The entire group partook in a joyous mudbath after which they all took to resting in the shade before browsing for the remainder of the day.

11 July 2010

The orphans concentrated on feeding for the early part of the day. By 10am the temperature was soaring making the little ones draw water from their stomachs to spray under their ears. A little while later the ex-orphans joined the baby group and accompanied them to the mudbath where they all jumped in having a lovely time splashing and rolling in the cool water. They spent the afternoon feeding on the slopes of Ithumba Hill. Kilaguni led the way home at nightfall.

12 July 2010

Kilaguni took the lead as they headed out to feed. At 9:30am Yatta’s group joined the orphans in the Kanziku area. The entire orphan group participated in the noon mudbath except for Kilaguni who did not want to get wet and opted for a dustbath instead. The ex-orphans spent the early afternoon with the youngsters before parting ways at 4pm. Chyulu enjoyed a dustbath just before it was time to return to the stockades for the night.

13 July 2010

At early dawn Nasalot and Kinna appeared at the compound to greet the youngsters as they exited the stockades. As soon as the gates opened Kinna and Nasalot rushed over to Kilaguni who appears to be the favourite among many of the older females. They kept him sandwiched between them as they guided him to the water trough. While out browsing the group was joined by more of the older orphans who remained with them for the duration of the day. A group of wild elephants came by the water trough for a drink in the morning. In their midst were two calves as well as a single tusked female who appeared to be the mother of one of the calves.

14 July 2010

The youngsters spent the morning browsing before heading to the mudbath where they were joined by the ex-orphans. Galana paid special attention to the three little ones before Nasalot took over lavishing Kilaguni, who is her favourite. The ex-orphans jumped in at mudbath and were joined by Meibai while the other youngsters stood by watching.

15 July 2010

At 10am the older orphans accompanied by two wild bulls joined the orphans and browsed calmly with them the entire day leading home in the evening.

16 July 2010

The ex-orphans have made a habit of joining the youngsters either at the stockades in the morning or to during the course of the day. As Tsavo is entering the dry season waterholes and rivers are drying up and the only clean water source is at the stockades. This coupled with the arrival of the three babies is drawing the wild orphans visit regularly. The wild elephants are also enjoying the Ithumba water trough and visit often. The ex-orphans united with the babies at the mudbath and joined them for a wallow accompanied by a new wild friend something that is beginning to become a regular occurrence. This particular wild elephant is a friend of Mgeni’s and the keepers are yet to name him.

17 July 2010

It was a cool morning and the orphans scattered as they exited the stockades heading straight for the greenish vegetation. Some scratched against rocks while others rubbed against tree trunks. The keepers noticed that the elephants were unsure as to which direction to take and so took the lead taking them to the slopes of Ithumba Hill where they settled to browse.

18 July 2010

By 9am the sun was scorching hot and the orphans took to browsing in dense bush to protect themselves from the sun’s rays. Sabachi, Chaimu and Kilaguni who are the newest arrivals from the Nairobi Nursery were feeling the heat the most. At 11am like clockwork the orphans arrived at the waterhole and headed straight to the wallow for a swim. They then took to having a doze in the shade of the acacia trees waiting out the midday heat so that could continue browsing.

19 July 2010

Following yesterdays soaring temperatures today started off cooler which pleased the orphans. Kilaguni, Chaimu and Sabachi spent the day close to Loijuk and the entire herd enjoyed a peaceful day browsing.

20 July 2010

At 8am the babies were joined by the ex-orphans, Mgeni and his friend, as well as two other young bulls of Rapsu’s age. They spent the morning feeding together before going to the mudbath where the two young bulls, upon seeing the keepers, left the group. The afternoon was spent feeding on the slopes of Ithumba Hill.

21 July 2010

The orphans led by Loijuk happily strolled out swinging their trunks as they headed to the park where they were joined by the ex-orphans, Mgeni and his new found friend. The day was cooler and uneventful with browsing taking precedence.

22 July 2010

The babies were joined at the noon mudbath by the older orphans and their wild friends. They spent the day together on the slopes of Ithumba Hill before Kilaguni led them all home.

23 July 2010

The orphans were again joined by the ex-orphans, Mgeni and his friend. They all had a lovely time at the mudwallow where everyone participated before heading back out to browse. As the day wound down and the youngsters entered their stockades the wild orphans quenched their thirst and remained on the compound for a few hours.

24 July 2010

Due to it being the dry season vegetation is slowly diminishing and the orphans tend to feed intensely for as long as they can. Loijuk showed her true motherly side today by spending much of her time breaking down branches for Chaimu and Kilaguni to feed on. Sabachi was with the rest of the group browsing and taking time out to play strength testing games with Meibai who was always the victor.

25 July 2010

Loijuk led the orphans away from the compound to the fields where they browsed for the morning. By 11am the sun burst through the clouds forcing the herd to take cover in the shade where they remained browsing until it was cooler. The ex-orphans who had joined the youngsters in the afternoon escorted them to the stockades at dusk. At 6pm as the ex-orphans were relaxing nearby four wild elephants appeared and after having a quick drink they left with the ex-orphans in tow.

26 July 2010

The junior group was joined by the older orphans at 11am at which time they all made their way to the mudbath where they all had a drink from the water drums. At dusk the entire group returned to the stockades. At 6pm seven wild elephants joined the ex-orphans at the water trough where they remained till darkness fell.

27 July 2010

Following a drink at the stockades Makena, Chyulu and Lenana enjoyed a scratching session on the nearby rocks while Meibai and Zurura scratched against acacia trees. Loijuk led the orphans as they all headed to the fields with Meibai and Zurura lagging behind.

28 July 2010

Kilaguni took the lead this morning as the orphans headed out feeding together all day stopping only for their milk and a mudbath.

29 July 2010

The orphans went about their usual morning activities of scratching, playing and drinking water near the stockade compound. They settled to browse near the Kalovoto River where they were joined by Naserian, Kora, Lualeni and Kamboyo. They enjoyed a wonderful mudbath together after which they took to resting in the shade. Loijuk then led the group back to the Kalovoto area where they stayed for the rest of the afternoon.

30 July 2010

Naserian, Kora, Lualeni and Kamboyo came to the stockades early in the morning to greet the youngsters as they exited their nightly quarters. Naserian spent most of her time with Sabachi and Meibai and was busy formulating a plan whereby she slowly gathered all the orphans together. After the mudbath the group settled on the slopes of Ithumba Hill where they browsed till about 4pm. Chaimu and Kilaguni were feeding close to the keepers while the rest were thought to be nearby. Little did the keepers know that the morning visitors had taken the orphans far afield and left Kilaguni and Chaimu with the keepers who looked for the orphans but as night was falling they decided to return to the stockades with the remaining two babies. For the first time Meibai and Sabachi spent the night away from the safety of the keepers.

31 July 2010

It was an early start to the day as the keepers left the compound at 5:30am to look for the orphan group. Kilaguni and Chaimu followed the keepers closely during their search. At 7:30am Naserian and her entire ex-orphan group including Sabachi and Meibai were found feeding on the slopes of Ithumba Hill which is only about 1kilometer from Ithumba camp. The entire herd browsed their way to the mudbath. In the evening the ex-orphans escorted the junior group back to the stockades. Following their adventure in the wild the babies were exhausted and went to bed early.