Keepers' Diaries, July 2014
Ithumba Reintegration Unit
The seasons in Kenya usually follow a pattern of rain in May and then a cold spell for July and August. Despite being marked by a drop in temperature, usually July and August are not particular wet and this year is no exception. Unfortunately the northern area of the Tsavo ecosystem did not receive enough rainfall during the rainy season and the habitat is drying out rapidly, with much of the waterholes dry. As the green vegetation decreases the orphans have to utilize more of their time browsing which leaves less time for socializing and play. The food resources are limited so the orphaned elephants have to travel further and further to find food and water. Each elephant interacts much less during this time of year than in the greener seasons, but its important they learn how to cope in the dryer conditions before they become fully independent. In many ways it’s fortunate that they learn how to adapt to the ever changing environment under the keepers care as they have access to plenty of supplements and extra food when needed.
01 July 2014
In the morning, the juniors were joined by the ex-orphans and wild elephants. Chyulu fed close to Orwa and from time to time sniffed him with his trunk whilst Sunyei followed Garzi. Later, Mutara led the way to the browsing field leaving Yatta with the ex-orphans and wild elephants at the stockade. The orphans settled to browse at the Kalovoto area where Garzi and Vuria fed close to each other. At mud bath time only Bongo participated in wallowing whilst the others drank some water then returned back to the browsing field. At the browsing field Kainuk and Laragai took some time to have a little soil dusting fun.
02 July 2014
11 wild elephants with the ex-orphans reported for water in the morning. The ex-orphans joined the juniors feeding on Lucerne before the orphans left to browse at the Kone area. In the field Teleki and Kainuk browsed away from the others. At mud bath time, the sun was hot but only Kainuk, Kanjoro, Turkwel and Shukuru participated in wallowing. The rest took water and then headed to the browsing field. In the evening, the ex-orphans came back to the stockade with four wild elephants.
03 July 2014
The sky was clear as the orphans left the stockade. Suguta and her group had spent the night just outside the gates and joined the juniors for Lucerne. Sities and Vuria took some time to scratch on the nearby rocks and later Vuria led the way to the browsing field while Suguta and her group remained at the stockade compound. The orphans settled to browse at Kanziku area where the new babies tried to form their own group, but Sities kept on following them. At mud bath time Vuria led the first group down to the water hole. Soon after the mud bath, Orwa, Vuria, Garzi and Mutara scratched against the nearby trees then Laragai led the way back to the browsing field. In the evening, Kilaguni came with a wild friend for water at the stockade. Shortly later a herd of eight wild elephants and a small baby also came to drink water from the water trough.
04 July 2014
The orphans were joined by Kamboyo early in the morning who shared Lucerne with them. After the orphans finished feeding on Lucerne, Mutara led the way to the browsing field. At around 10 o’clock in the morning, Suguta and her group joined the orphans at the Kanziku area. Shortly later, Suguta and her group withdrew from the orphans and took Kanjoro with them. At mud bath time, the temperatures were low and only Bongo enjoyed a good wallow. As the orphans were relaxing at the mud bath, Suguta’s group returned with Kanjoro and joined the orphans. Garzi opted for a scratching mission against the nearby acacia trees and when he was done, Mutara led the way back to the browsing field. An hour later, Suguta and her group parted ways with the juniors. In the evening, nine bulls came for water at the stockade. One of the bulls had a deep wound that appeared to be healing. It was a busy night as another herd of ten wild elephants followed and at dark, a further 11 wild elephants checked in followed by Yatta and Mulika’s group.
05 July 2014
The orphans had a quiet morning after leaving the stockade. They settled to feed on Lucerne and were later led away by Mutara. The orphans settled to browse at Kone area up to mud bath time when Vuria led the first group to the mud bath. At mud bath, the juniors were joined by 19 wild elephants and then by Suguta and her group. Later the groups parted ways. In the evening, Teleki and Orwa walked side by side as they searched for green pastures and Kainuk browsed close to her friend Turkwel.
06 July 2014
It was another quiet morning as the orphans strolled nonchalantly out from the stockades. They settled to feed on Lucerne and later left for browsing. At mud bath time, the orphans were joined by three wild bulls. Laragai and Bongo joined one of the wild bulls for a wallow as Teleki scratched near the other two wild elephants. Later Vuria wanted to challenge Bongo in a pushing game but was warned by Bongo not to come close. In the afternoon, the orphans settled to browse at the slopes of Ithumba hill. Kainuk came across a green tree and she tried to stretch her trunk to pluck some of the green leaves. Turkwel that was near her also did the same.
07 July 2014
The orphans left the stockade early as usual. As they were feeding on Lucerne, Shukuru was busy scratching on the nearby rocks. Vuria lead the orphans to the mud bath, where the orphans met with 16 wild elephants. Garzi and Teleki headed to drink water soon after taking their milk and found the bulls taking water. They stretched their trunks to sniff at the bulls but scared themselves and retreated to stand a safe distance away. Ziwa, who always walks slowly, was at the back of the second group and went straight to have a drink with the bulls. The other orphans gained confidence from Ziwa and soon joined in the drinking. Shortly later, Laragai and Bongo joined one of the wild bulls in the wallowing hole. Kanjoro and Garzi had a good time playing with each other and entwining their trunks. Bongo was the last to leave the mud bath. Back in the bush Teleki spent most of the time feeding close to Vuria. In the evening the same bulls that showed up at the mud bath came with the ex-orphans to the stockade to take water before leaving into the darkness.
08 July 2014
Nasalot and a few ex-orphans joined the orphans in the morning before the orphans left to browse, leaving the ex-orphans at the stockade. In the browsing field Orwa started a pushing game with Teleki, but when Ziwa came to feed close to Teleki he pushed him away. When the orphans arrived at the mud bath, they found 16 wild elephants and the ex-orphans drinking water. Vuria headed straight to drink water while Teleki, Shukuru, Laragai, and Bongo opted to have a mud bath first. Ziwa crossed a little close to one of the wild bulls who pushed him out of the way. Teleki was rolling in the mud surrounded by wild elephants while Bongo was bathing at the other end under the watchful eye of another wild bull. Later Ziwa joined the wild bulls as they were leaving and it took the keepers a long time to get him back to the orphan herd. In the evening Kanjoro and Mutara, who have been weaned off milk, were reluctant to go back to the stockade. The keepers managed to get them back but it appears that soon the two might join the wild just like Makireti who has since joined Suguta’s group.
09 July 2014
Soon after the orphans finished taking their morning milk, the gates opened for them to head into the park. As they were leaving, Teleki pushed Ziwa so hard that Ziwa bellowed, making the keepers have to shout at Teleki to stop such behavior. The orphans settled for Lucerne and soon Kinna, Yatta and Nasalot joined the juniors. Shukuru played with Kamboyo as Tomboi mounted Galana whilst Galana tried to play with Buchuma. After finishing the Lucerne and the games, Mutara led the orphans to the browsing field where everyone browsed peacefully. At mud bath, the orphans were joined by Kilaguni. It was interesting to see Vuria challenge Kilaguni who warned Vuria by pointing his trunk at him. When Kilaguni turned away, Vuria pushed him from behind and then turned and ran away. Kilaguni just looked at Vuria and decided not to take revenge. It was cold today so only Bongo participated in any wallowing. Later Laragai led the group to the slopes of Ithumba hill where they settled to browse. In the evening, Kamboyo who appears to have joined Suguta group, brought them all for water at the stockade. Later six wild bulls with the ex-orphans also came for water at the stockade.
10 July 2014
In the morning Sabachi reported as usual to take his milk. Amazingly enough, Vuria tried to block him from getting into the stockade. The keepers had to intervene and Vuria ran away. As they settled for Lucerne a few wild elephants with Mulika, Tomboi, Madiba, Taita, Mwende and Meibai joined them. One of the wild elephants tried to push the juniors to get the Lucerne but the keepers shouted at him and as he ran away he knocked down poor Ziwa. Ziwa appears to be always on the receiving end because he seems to get knocked down whenever an elephant is running. He always travels at a slower pace and doesn’t react quickly to get out of the way of a charging elephant. Once everything was calm Mwende started a pushing game with Orwa which Orwa won, whilst Shukuru and Bomani had a good time of scratching on the nearby rocks. At mud bath time the orphans were joined by 13 wild elephants. Kibo, Murka, Suguta, Kalama, Olare and Shukuru opted to have a mud bath in between two wild elephants as Ziwa relaxed near another a wild elephant. Orwa also took some time to play with Sities. Vuria tried to challenge Kibo, but Kibo warned him not to try by use his trunk and Vuria ran away. In the evening Bongo led the way back to the stockade, Bongo.
11 July 2014
Tomboi with two wild bulls spent the night just outside the stockade and in the morning Tomboi joined the juniors to share their Lucerne. Kainuk had a good time of playing and trying to climb on a nearby rock. Later, the orphans left for browsing leaving Tomboi at the stockade. At mud bath time, the orphans were joined by one wild bull that shared water with them. Laragai was taking water next to the wild elephant and kept on stretching her trunk and sniffing the big bull. Vuria tried to challenge Orwa but was defeated by him. He then went to scratch against a nearby tree before following the others that had started returning back to the browsing field. In the evening 19 ex-orphans and six wild bulls reported for water at the stockade.
12 July 2014
For the second night, Tomboi and two wild bulls spent the night just outside the stockade. Soon after the orphans left their night stockades, Tomboi joined the juniors once more in feeding on Lucerne. Later they were joined by Yatta, Yetu, Ithumbah, Wendi, Kinna, Makena and Rapsu. At one time Yetu had a fight with Vuria and he had to flee because she easily defeated him. Later Yetu tried to push Shukuru, but Shukuru was stronger than her. The mud bath was quiet as no wild elephant or ex-orphan showed up. Only Shukuru, Laragai, Bongo, Mutara and Narok had a mud bath. Vuria opted to play by nose diving and rolling on the ground. The rest, after taking milk and water, returned back to the browsing field.
13 July 2014
Three wild bulls were waiting for water outside the stockade when the gates opened for the juniors to come out. The juniors settled for Lucerne and there was some competition as Kanjoro pushed Orwa and Sities pushed Laragai for the best feeding spots. Soon after finishing Lucerne the juniors, led by Mutara, headed for browsing. The orphans settled at Kone area for a good browsing session before heading for the mud bath. The sun was hot and the orphans all had a mud bath before covering themselves with dust. Laragai and Sities rolled on the red dirt together whilst Mutara and Shukuru used the same tree to scratch against. In the evening Kanjoro and Mutara were reluctant to return to the stockade and joined Lualeni, Ololoo and Kenze that were taking water at the water trough. Kanjoro had a strength testing game with Kenze before finally entering the stockade for the night.
14 July 2014
16 wild bulls were taking water at the stockade water tough when the orphans left the stockade. The orphans settled for Lucerne and five wild dogs came for water at the stockade water hole. Shukuru and Bomani scratched on the nearby rocks as Bongo pushed Orwa in a competition for Lucerne. Later, Mutara led the way to the browsing field. In the field, Garzi was feeding close to his friends while Orwa and Teleki fed away from the rest. At mud bath time, it was cold and quiet so the orphans just took water before they returned back to the browsing field. In the evening, only Tomboi, Kenze, Lualeni, Kilaguni and Ololoo showed up at the stockade.
15 July 2014
Mulika and Yatta’s group, with three wild elephants, reported at the stockade compound early before dawn. At six o’clock in the morning, the juniors were let out and intermingled with the ex-orphans. It was difficult for the juniors to share the Lucerne with the ex-orphans as the bigger orphans kept pushing the juniors. Eventually the juniors surrendered and left for browsing. At ten o’clock in the morning, the temperatures skyrocketed so the orphans fed under the trees for shade. At mud bath time, the orphans took their milk then headed for mud bathing. Laragai, Teleki, Bongo, Mutara and Kanjoro had a prolonged wallowing session and Teleki was the last to leave the mud bath. Vuria on the other hand was busy chasing warthogs that were waiting just nearby to enter the wallow as soon as the orphans finished. The warthogs ran for their life only to return after Vuria and the rest had returned back to the browsing field. In the evening, Kamboyo, who appears to have joined Suguta group, came for water at the stockade.
16 July 2014
20 wild elephants reported at the stockade early before dawn where they waited for the truck to fill the water trough with water. As they satisfied their thirst, the orphans were taking their milk, then they left the stockades and settled for Lucerne. Laragai disagreed with Vuria about a flake of Lucerne and Laragai decided to push Vuria. Orwa, who was not far away, wasn’t happy about that and came running to push Laragai in Vuria’s defence. Shortly later, the juniors were joined by the ex-orphans which created great commotion as it brought about competition of the Lucerne. The juniors decided to then leave for browsing. At mud bath time 16 wild elephants and all the ex-orphans came for water. The juniors intermingled with the wild elephants and both Teleki and Bongo wallowed with them. Later, the groups parted ways, with the orphans heading to the slopes of Ithumba hill. In the evening 30 wild elephants reported for water followed by Suguta and her group.
17 July 2014
Soon after the orphans left the stockade, they were joined by a lone wild bull that had come for water. The bull sniffed at Vuria and took a few flakes of Lucerne before disappearing into the bush. Orwa had a good time of scratching on a nearby rock while Shukuru decided to join another wild elephant at the stockade water trough that had come to drink. At mud bath time, the juniors were joined by a lone bull that also shared water with them. Later Suguta and her group came for a mud bath. Teleki, Bongo, Laragai, Mutara were the stars of the day as they had a prolonged mud bath and lots of fun. Bomani took some extra time to scratch against the nearby acacia trees. In the evening, Mwende and Yetu, in the company of six wild elephants, came for water at the stockade compound and later, the ex-orphans joined them.
18 July 2014
In the morning, the orphans were joined by the ex-orphans for Lucerne. Kenze fed close to Ziwa while Tomboi fed close to Vuria. Shortly later there was a pushing game between Kora and Kamboyo. Soon after the Lucerne was over, the ex-orphans headed to the Kalovoto area while the juniors headed to Kanziku where they settled to browse. At eight o’clock in the morning, five wild dogs came to drink water at the stockade. They were followed by 30 wild elephants. At mud bath time, the weather was chilly and none of the orphans dared to mud bath, but Ziwa spent some time soil bathing.
19 July 2014
Soon after the orphans settled for Lucerne, the ex-orphans joined them. There was competition for the Lucerne and at one time, Laragai, who is very smart, decided to go under the wire by crawling on her belly to get to the store where the Lucerne is kept. The keepers shouted at her and she quickly stopped and returned to the herd. After sharing the Lucerne, the group parted ways. The orphans settled to browse at Kone are where the slow Ziwa was feeding leisurely and still looked sleepy. Later during the day 20 wild elephants reported for water. Kilaguni, with his usual problem, reported in the evening and was helped by the keepers and given molasses.
20 July 2014
It was a cold morning as the orphans left the stockade. The orphans were joined at the Lucerne feeding time by Madiba and also Kilaguni who had come for his molasses. As the orphans fed on Lucerne, a wild herd of about 15 wild elephants and a small baby reported for water at the stockade, but left as soon as they had their fill. The orphans slowly walked to the now dry bush and there was no activity as the orphans concentrated on browsing. The drought has started early and the drought is starting to become severe. The seriousness of the situation is confirmed by the number of wild elephants returning to the area. Some of them are totally new and we have never seen them before. The elephants are consuming more than 20,000 liters of water per day. We just hope that the rain comes sooner rather than later.
21 July 2014
As the orphans settled on Lucerne in the morning, the ex-orphans with wild elephants arrived at the stockade. The wild elephants headed straight to drink water while the ex-orphans joined the juniors. One wild bull that has been in the ex-orphans group for a long time, joined in feeding on the Lucerne. Ziwa went to join the wild elephants and it took the keepers some time to get him back to join his orphan friends. Given the fact that it is so dry, the orphans didn’t have time to play. They concentrated on browsing up to mud bath time when they were joined by ex-orphans. The weather at this particular time was chilly and the orphans only took milk and water before returning back to the browsing field.
22 July 2014
The ex-orphans joined the juniors at the stockade this morning. Shukuru was busy scratching on the nearby rocks instead of feeding on Lucerne. When the Lucerne was over, the orphans left for browsing. At the browsing field, Sities and Shukuru fed separately from the group and at mud bath time, the ex-orphans with over 30 wild elephants joined them. The orphans only took milk and water and opted to return back to the browsing field. The ex-orphans and their wild elephant friends remained at the mud bath and later enjoyed some soil bathing before heading to Imenti.
23 July 2014
In the morning, a lone wild bull joined the juniors feeding on Lucerne. Later, the ex-orphans with four wild bulls reported for water. Some of the ex-orphans joined the juniors and due to the competition over the Lucerne the juniors gave up and left for browsing. At the browsing field, Bomani and Vuria browsed together while Kanjoro and Mutara browsed some meters away from the rest. At mud bath time, six wild bulls came for water and the orphans stepped aside to allow the big ones to drink. Orwa opted to stand close to the drinking elephants as Vuria led the rest of the group back to the browsing field. Later, the keepers called Orwa to follow the orphan herd and join his friends. In the evening Ziwa spent some time in soil dusting.
24 July 2014
The orphans left the stockade in a jovial mood. As they settled for Lucerne, six wild elephants were taking water at the stockade water trough. It was a quiet morning as the orphans settled at the Kanziku area where they browsed till mud bath time. At the mud bath, no wild elephants showed up and Mutara, Laragai, Bongo, Narok and Kanjoro had prolonged wallowing. Later, Mutara scratched on Ziwa and then started pushing him. When the orphans were soil bathing, Teleki tried to mount Vuria who had laid down to play. Vuria made a lot of noise that prompted Teleki to stop. In the evening, Yatta, Nasalot, Suguta, Lenana, Sunyei, Kibo, Makena, Sidai, Tumaren, Sabachi, Naserian, Yetu, Melia, Chyulu and three wild elephants came for water at the stockade.
25 July 2014
34 wild elephants and 36 ex-orphans reported for water in the morning. Amongst the wild elephants, there were two wild babies. One of the wild babies joined the juniors in feeding on Lucerne and even started a pushing game with Orwa. Orwa pushed the baby so hard that the baby screamed. Luckily Sidai and Lenana came to rescue the baby and escorted it back to it's mother. Later the juniors left for browsing and settled to browse at the Kanziku area. At mud bath time, the weather was chilly so the orphans only took water and milk then returned back to the browsing field. The orphans had no time to waste given that it is so dry and they concentrated on browsing throughout. In the evening ten wild bulls showed up for water and soon after the orphans returned back to the stockade. Poor Ziwa has been looking dull and sleepy so he was given a dose of antibiotics.
26 July 2014
It was drizzling in the morning when the orphans left the stockade. The orphans settled for Lucerne and as usual six wild bulls enjoyed drinking water at the stockade water trough and were then joined by 20 other wild elephants. Orwa opted to scratch his ear against the only remaining acacia tree in the stockade compound while Laragai moved closer to where the wild elephants were taking water. A short while later the juniors were led away by their keepers. At 7 o’clock in the morning, the drizzling stopped giving way to sun shine. In the afternoon shortly after mud bath, Orwa separated from his friends and went to feed a few meters away from them. He only joined the group when it was time to return to the stockade.
27 July 2014
It was a day without any major events as the orphans browsed calmly throughout the day. Several wild elephants reported for water in the morning and in the evening. Ziwa was given his third dose of antibiotics and he is starting to show a slight improvement.
28 July 2014
The orphans headed for the mud bath at 11 o’clock in the morning. Laragai and Bongo headed straight for the mud hole as the rest headed to drink water. After the two finished wallowing, two warthogs emerged from the nearby bushes clearly wanting a mud bath too. Turkwel, who was not far away, spotted them. He trumpeted to scare the warthogs off, but the warthogs did not move which angered Turkwel. He charged and ran towards the warthogs who, on seeing Turkwel coming at full force, opted to run for their lives. Shortly later six wild elephants emerged from the nearby bushes and passed by Laragai who was having a good dust bath. Laragai did not move but continued with her soil bath. Bomani kept on sniffing the wild bulls and as soon as they drew close to him, Bomani stepped aside to let them pass. When all the fun and games were finished, the orphans returned back to the browsing field.
29 July 2014
In the morning, as the orphans were feeding on Lucerne, Half trunk and nine wild bulls were taking water at the stockade water trough. Shukuru decided to go and join them but when she drew close to the wild bulls she changed her mind. She sniffed at them, and then returned back to her friends. When the bulls left, the orphans got an opportunity to drink and then Mutara led the way to the browsing field. In the browsing field it was all quiet as the orphans concentrated on browsing. At mud bath time, only Laragai and Teleki entered the water and the orphans were also joined by a few ex-orphans. In the evening there was some drama when it was time to go back to the stockade as the keepers found out that five orphans were missing. Bongo, Orwa, Garzi, Bomani and Vuria had taken off into the bush and it took the keepers forty minutes to locate the missing group. Ziwa finished his dose of antibiotics and is now looking much better, though he still moves at a slow pace.
30 July 2014
The orphans settled at their usual Lucerne feeding spot in the morning after leaving the stockade. Several wild elephants were taking water at the stockade water trough when Orwa decided to go and join them. Upon reaching the bulls who were taking water, Orwa became unsure and just stood and watched them. Shukuru then came and joined the bulls and it was only then that Orwa got the courage to join them. When they had enough, the two returned to join their friends. At mud bath time, the juniors were joined by the ex-orphans and some wild elephants. They intermingled for some time before the orphans returned back to the browsing field leaving the ex-orphans and the wild elephants at the mud bath.
31 July 2014
It was a cold morning as the orphans left the stockade. Immediately after settling for Lucerne, a few ex-orphans came to join them. First Galana came and sniffed at Ziwa before starting to feed on Lucerne. Then Sunyei approached and also sniffed at Ziwa probably wanting to know how he was feeling. Vuria on the other hand was busy scratching on the nearby rocks. After the Lucerne, it was time to leave and the orphans settled at the Kone area. Given the dryness of the bush, the orphans concentrated on browsing with Vuria and Garzi feeding close to each other and Bongo feeding by himself a few meters away from the rest. At mud bath time, the weather was chilly and none of the orphans dared to touch the water. They took milk then returned back to the browsing field.