Keepers' Diaries, July 2011

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

As the dry season tightens its grip, so more and more wild elephants have been turning up to drink at the Ithumba Compound Water trough, putting increasing strain on the original borehole, which has necessitated bringing water in several times a day from the new borehole that pumps water to the Holding Tank above the Ithumba Camp. Taking their cue from the Ex Orphans now living wild under the leadership of Yatta and the Sub Matriarchal Splinter groups, the wild herds wait quietly and patiently by the water trough every morning when it has been emptied during the night, until the Trust’s Bowser brings water from the Holding Tank on Ithumba Hill to refill it. Sometimes the Bowser has to make several trips a day. (On the 30th for instance, 21,000 liters were bowsered in to satisfy the thirst of the visiting wild community, as well as our Ex Orphans, so the new borehole has not happened a moment too soon!) As the natural depressions dry out, there is no other water save the very saline water of the Tiva sandriver, where the elephants have to drink sand filtered water from holes tunneled into the sands, where they obviously feel vulnerable to ambush by Poachers.

01 July 2011

On a cool July morning, the orphans left the Ithumba Stockades in a playful mood to embark on the usual Stockade activities before setting out to browse. At 11.30 a.m. Kandecha led the Juniors to the mudbath where all enjoyed their milk feed. Only Chaimu braved the water, and enjoyed a solo wonderful mudbath while the rest decided on a soil dusting exercise.

02 July 2011

Shortly before 9 a.m., Kandecha, Sabachi and Kibo came across a pair of dikdiks resting under a bush. The three boys charged in unison, putting the dikdiks to flight, after which they gambolled around the bushes, feeling very pleased with themselves. At the mud bath all the orphans participated fully in the wallowing exercise, after which Suguta led the group to the roadside for soil dusting before crossing the road and heading to the slopes of the Ithumba hill where they browsed till evening.

03 July 2011

On another cool morning, the orphans left the Stockades deliberately bumping into one another playfully, the Keepers lagging behind. At the browsing area Kibo and Kandecha enjoyed a Pushing Game which was interrupted by Sabachi. Sabachi had no option other than to resume browsing. At the mudbath only Chaimu, Tumaren, Olare and Kandecha went into the cold mud, the others opting for a dustbath instead.

04 July 2011

The orphans browsed calmly until time for the mudbath when temperatures were not conducive to wallowing, so the group opted for a soil bath instead. Soon after the Juniors had left the mud bath, a wild herd with two babies came for water at the mud bath water trough.

05 July 2011

The orphans left the stockade early in the morning and passed by the water trough, happily swinging their trunks to express their happiness. Ithumbah led the way to the Kanziku area to browse. At 11 a.m. Kandecha as usual led the way to the milk and mudbath venue, after which the orphans browsed along the slopes of Ithumba hill where they were joined by Lualeni who remained with them until 4.30 p.m. before separating and heading off to an undisclosed location.

06 July 2011

Shortly before 9 a.m. 4 wild dogs showed up for a drink at the Stockade water trough. On the way to mud wallow, the junior group was joined by Galana, Meibai, Sidai, Nasalot, Lualeni, Sunyei and Naserian. At mud bath, the juniors had their milk, then later joined the ex orphans in wallowing. Soon after mud bath, Galana led the entire herd to the browsing field. The two groups browsed together up to four o’clock in the evening when they parted, Galana taking her group to an undisclosed location while the babies started browsing their way back to the Stockades.

07 July 2011

At dawn, Makena, Kamboyo and Tomboi reported at the stockade water trough. Shortly later, Meibai, Naserian, Lenana, Wendi and Sunyei joined them and as soon as the Juniors emerged from their Night Stockade, the rest of the Ex Orphaned group arrived accompanied by the wild recruit named "Kijana" and some other wild friends. Wendi and Galana greeted the babies extending their trunks towards them, but were obviously anxious to keep pace with their wild friends who were departing. At 11 a.m. the Juniors headed towards the mudbath, meeting up with the Ex Orphans, Kijana and the wild elephants en route. They then all headed together for the mudbath, separating from the Juniors afterwards. In the evening "Rafiki" (the orphans' first wild friend turned up for a drink at the Stockade trough.

08 July 2011

The day was partially cloudy, which impressed the entire orphaned herd. The orphans entered into the grazing field in a playful manner, Sabachi, Kibo and Kandecha charging around playfully, knocking bushes as the rest joyfully gambolled within the thickets. At some minutes to eleven o’clock, Kandecha and Kibo had a busy moment of pushing one another but the game ended when Kandecha surrendered. During mud wallow time, all the orphans wallowed and afterwards scratched their bodies against the nearby acacia trees. When it was time to go, Ithumbah led the way and took the group to Kanziku area where they settled to browse.

09 July 2011

A cloudy, cold morning greeted the orphans who went about their daily routine as usual. Towards eleven in the morning, Melia, Tumaren, Kilaguni, Suguta, Olare and Murka enjoyed a soil dusting session. At mud wallow none of the orphans participated in the wallowing exercise due to the chilly weather.

10 July 2011

Shortly before 6a.m. "Rafiki" and a wild bull came to drink at the Stockade trough. As soon as the Youngsters were let out, they joined Rafiki and his wild pal until Suguta led the Juniors out to browse, Ithumbah lagging behind in the company of Rafiki and the wild bull. Only when the Keepers called her, did she run to join her group. Today the orphans settled down to browse the Kone area until time for the mudbath, when Kandecha led the Juniors as usual. After the mudbath, all enjoyed a soil dusting session before returning to browse.

11 July 2011

The orphans left the stockade and passed by the water trough to take water before proceeding on to the field. At the field, the orphans were joined by Nasalot and Sunyei. Nasalot broke a green a branch and started to peel its outer cover when her favourite Kilaguni came to share the same branch with her. The two were seen happily feasting on the green branch. At eleven o’clock in the morning, the orphans headed for mud bath. On arrival, the babies took their noon bottle feeds whereby greedy Kandecha took his share so fast and went to demand more from Kitirua who was taking her last bottle; the keepers cautioned Kandecha not to try what he intended to do, and he left rumbling a grumble for having been stopped from trying to snatch Kititrua’s milk. After wallowing, the Juniors split into two; one group was left having a soil dusting session while the others took shelter from the hot sun under the nearby trees.

12 July 2011

At ten o’clock in the morning, the junior group were joined by Yatta, Nasalot, Mulika, Orok, Buchuma, Selengai, Kinna and Napasha. Nasalot and Kinna browsed close to Kilaguni until mud bath time. At mud bath, Kina and Nasalot escorted Kilaguni to take his milk and then shepherded him for a wallow. Yatta led the orphaned herd to the browsing field where the Ex Orphans parted company with the Juniors. In the evening as the orphans passed by the mudbath, the sun was still hot, so they had another wallow to cool off before heading to the Stockades for the night.

13 July 2011

The orphans left the stockade early as usual and settled to browse at Kanziku area. At ten o’clock in the morning, Kora, Lualeni and Kamboyo were spotted crossing the Kanziku road heading towards mud bath. Kora had something hanging on the right side of his body which made the Keepers suspicious. On inspecting him further, it was found out to be a poisonous arrow. The Keepers encouraged the Ex Orphans to return with them to the Stockade in order to remove the arrow. There Kora was held inside the stockade for the removal of the arrow which the Keepers managed to pull out, but half the poison had obviously entered his body. The wound was washed out and antibiotic spray applied. Kora was then taken to join the Juniors so that he could be closely monitored and a report was made to DSWT H.Q. in Nairobi, who arranged for a chartered plane to fly down extra medication for Kora in an attempt to allay the affects of the Akokanthera arrow poison. This is the second time that an ex orphan has been shot by a poisoned arrow, the first incident being in December 2008 when Napasha came in with an arrow in the top of his trunk. The arrow was extracted and he was held in stockade for two days, but showed no adverse affects. Once he was out of danger he rejoined his Ex Orphan colleagues. In the evening Kora returned with the Youngsters and later Zurura, Loijuk, Makena and Rapsu came to the stockade and watched through the fence wondering what could have transpired to have Kora in the stockade with the babies. After some time, the ex orphans left. Shortly before dark, Lualeni came and stood outside the gate to see Kora. Lualeni happens to be Kora’s best friend. Lualeni decided to camp outside the stockade because she didn’t want to leave without Kora.

14 July 2011

In the morning, Lualeni was still outside the stockade waiting for her friend Kora. As soon as the Gates were opened, Lualeni joined Kora and the juniors. Where Kora had been hit with the arrow was swollen. At 9 a.m. Kora was injected with antibiotics to fight the affects of the poison and at l0 a.m. Mulika, Yatta, Napasha, Selengai, Galana and Wendi came to join Kora and the Juniors. At mud bath, the Orphans were joined by wild elephants, and later Yatta and the Ex orphans parted from the Juniors, leaving Lualeni behind with Kora. She escorted Kora back to the stockade and during the night, she was joined by Galana and Wendi who came to the Stockade for a drink.

15 July 2011

On a clear day the orphans passed by the water trough before embarking on the usual Stockade activities before heading out to browse where Kibo and Sabachi engaged one another in a Pushing Match, with Kibo emerging victorious despite being younger. This angered Sabachi who charged Kibo and pushed him hard as a deterrent. At mud bath the Juniors were joined by the Ex Orphans and some wild elephants.

16 July 2011

Just a few hours after the Juniors had left the stockade, 11 wild bulls came to the stockade water trough and then began heading for the mudbath venue where they were joined by the Juniors at 11 a.m. After wallowing the Juniors returned to the browsing field, leaving the bulls at the mud bath water trough. In the evening, Rafiki and 4 wild elephants came for water at the stockade water trough.

17 July 2011

Upon leaving the stockades in the morning the orphans settled to browse in the fields where they enjoyed feeding from some tasty thickets that they had found the previous day. As the day was cold none of the orphans partook of the mudbath. Upon returning to the stockades the group was visited by Lualeni who came to check on Kora before she returned to the park for the night.

18 July 2011

Lualeni joined Kora and the babies in the morning and then led the Junior herd to the Kone area where they settled to browse. At mud bath, the orphans were joined by the Ex Orphans who were accompanied by their latest wild recruits, “Kijana” and “Kimathena” as well as some other wild elephants. After wallowing, the babies returned to the browsing field while the Ex Orphans and the wild elephants remained for a while before disappearing into the bush. Late in the evening, Lualeni escorted Kora and the Junior orphans back to the stockade and insisted upon being allowed in for the night with her friend, Kora, and the Youngsters - an example of true friendship which humans need to learn about.

19 July 2011

The day started well with all orphans in a jovial mood. At the field, all the orphans concentrated on browsing with the exception of Sabachi and Kandecha who wasted a lot of time Pushing one another, a contest that ended only when Sabachi overpowered Kandecha and tried to mount him. Kandecha then sought safety next to Olare. After mud wallow, the orphans proceeded eastwards down to a seasonal river where they enjoyed a selection of vegetation and where Ithumbah had fun sliding down the river banks while Kibo, Murka and Kitirua had a competition as to whom among them could climb the river banks fastest. Kitirua, being lighter in body won.

20 July 2011

It was a day with moderate temperatures and the orphans settled to browse at Kanziku area where they were joined by the Ex Orphans. At eleven o’clock in the morning, the entire herd enjoyed the mudbath followed by a red soil dusting before the Ex Orphans parted from the Junior group. In the evening just before time for returning back to the stockade, Sabachi and Kibo engaged each other in the usual Pushing Game which ended when Kibo surrendered.

21 July 2011

The melody of bird song welcomed another day as the orphans filed out to the browsing fields. Sabachi, Kibo, and Kandecha warmed themselves up by racing around the thickets before settling down to feed. By mudbath time, it had turned hot, so all the orphans participated fully in wallowing. At around one o’clock, it turned unbearably hot, driving the elephants under shade until the temperature dropped and they were able to resume browsing.

22 July 2011

Lualeni, Kora and Ithumbah led the way to the field after all the Juniors had taken water at the stockade water trough. At the field all was well as each orphan concentrated on browsing without the usual jokes and pushing of the boys. At mud bath time the weather was cool so the orphans opted for a soil dusting instead of a mudbath. Lualeni then led them back to browse for the remainder of the day, before returning to the Stockades for the night.

23 July 2011

In the morning, just as the orphans were leaving for the field, the Ex Orphans and some wild elephants reported at the stockade water trough. The wild elephants weren’t even scared of the lorry that was filling the water trough but continued to drink as the water flowed into the water trough with a man standing on the back of the lorry within trunk reach. After getting enough, the herd headed west of the stockades. The same group joined the Juniors at their mud bath and after that a soil dusting session before departing. Lualeni led the babies to the slopes of the Ithumba hill where they settled to browse till evening.

24 July 2011

In the morning 36 wild elephants came to the Stockade water trough to drink and were joined by the Ex Orphans. Later they all left slowly, but turned up to join the Youngsters at their mudbath venue, where all inter-mingled undertaking different activities.

25 July 2011

It was an unusually cold morning as the Juniors left their Night Stockades in the morning. This time the orphans had no need of water, but instead scattered around the compound doing different things. Some scratched against rocks, others against trees while the rest just stood and waited for the next step. The keepers noticed that due to the cold weather the elephants were undecided as to which direction they should take, so the Keepers made the decision for them, leading them to the Kalovoto seasonal river where they settled for the morning browsing. In the afternoon it started to warm up and Sabachi and Kibo engaged one another in the usual Pushing Game.

26 July 2011

Rafiki and three wild elephants reported at the stockade early in the morning and were joined by the Juniors at the water trough. Later the Juniors headed out to browse where the weather was conducive to browsing, being chilly. Rafiki again showed up at the Stockade water trough in the evening as the orphans were going into their Stockades for the night, this time accompanied by 5 wild friends. Shortly before dark, the ex orphans joined the Rafiki Group at the stockade water trough.

27 July 2011

Soon after taking water at the stockade water trough, Ithumbah, Kandecha and Sabachi went on to scratch against nearby rocks while Suguta and Tumaren scratched against the nearby acacia trees and the rest fed nearby waiting for their colleagues so as to move off in unison. Melia led the way as the rest streamed behind her with the exception of Kandecha and Kibo who remained behind busy with their Pushing Game. Later on they caught up with the rest at the field.

28 July 2011

It was cloudy as the orphans left for the field, Lualeni leading the way towards Kone, but veering off to climb Ithumba hill and browse there instead. She was joined by her friend Kora the junior boys, Kilaguni, Sabachi and Kibo while Suguta and the rest of the Junior group decided not to go up but browsed along the road leading to Kone. At mud bath time, the weather was warmer so some of the orphans - Chaimu, Tumaren and Kandecha ventured into the mud while the rest opted for a soil dusting exercise.

29 July 2011

The sky was partly obscured by clouds as the orphans left to the field to start yet another day. Led by Lualeni, some of the young ones swung their trunks joyfully to welcome a new day as they followed her. At the field the orphans enjoyed the cool weather and fed together as a group throughout the morning. After mud bath the orphans relaxed for a while before heading back to the grazing field.

30 July 2011

On a day that was unique wild elephants arrived at the Stockade water trough to join the Ex Orphans as all waited patiently for the Bowser to bring in water to fill the trough, since the borehole is failing. As the Bowser filled the water trough, more elephants continued to turn up and just before 7 a.m. 6 wild dogs arrived to hurriedly drink in between being charged by the wild elephants as well as our Ex Orphans. Challa was limping slightly but had no obvious physical injury. By ten o’clock in the morning, the water trough had been drained (21,000 litres were consumed by the elephants that day). There was drama in the evening when Taita and Kamboyo tried to chase off a warthog who refused to run until more Ex Orphans came in as reinforcement and succeeded in chasing off the pig.

31 July 2011

Shortly after 9 a.m. the resident pack of wild dogs came to the Stockade water trough for a drink. Meanwhile, on a sunny day, the orphans browsed calmly without any major incident until the mudbath, when they were joined by both wild elephants and the Ex Orphans. The Keepers were pleased to see that Challa was now walking normally. Soon after, the orphans headed for a red soil bath, where they were joined by Nasalot, the Ex Orphans and their wild elephant friends having headed to the slopes of the Ithumba hill where Nasalot eventually rejoined them.