Keepers' Diaries, June 2010

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

An immense sadness for all the Ithumba Keepers, ourselves and all the Ithumba orphaned elephants, those still Keeper Dependent under the Matriarch-ship of Loijuk as well as those now living wild led by Yatta with a Splinter Group led by Wendi, has been the death of 5 year old Sian on the 26th June. Sian had been unwell for a long time, steadily growing thinner and weaker for no reason that was obviously apparent. When she collapsed and could not get up prior to dying, it was very touching that Loijuk did not want to leave her side, even though the rest of her group were being escorted out. A post mortem examination revealed that Sian had an under developed left lung which was obviously a birth defect. As she grew, the one lung could not provide sufficient oxygen to her blood and that compromised the health of her kidneys and other major organs as well. Sian, like Mweiga of the Voi Unit, whose heart gave in when she was l0, was not destined to make old bones. However, there is consolation in knowing that there was nothing we could have done to save her and that in early childhood until her health failed, she enjoyed a carefree and happy life that would otherwise have been denied her had she not been found as an orphan.

01 June 2010

On another day marking the beginning of another new month Sian slowly followed the Keeper Dependent orphans when they left their Night Stockades, escorted by both Loijuk and Zurura, who understand Sian’s condition well. Led by Makena the group slowly browsed their way to the mudbath venue, but since the day was cool, the orphans just took a soil bath. In the evening the Vet arrived in the Trust’s Mobile Veterinary Unit vehicle to assess Sian’s deteriorating condition. He administered several injections.

02 June 2010

Again Loijuk and Zururu kept close to Sian as the orphans browsed heading westwards. Again at the mudbath, the orphans opted only for a soil bath, but later in the afternoon they found a mud puddle from which Sian sprayed herself. In the evening she only took 1 bottle of milk, and later collapsed, leaning on the metal pole holding the roof. The Keepers immediately ran to help her back onto her feet.

03 June 2010

The day unfolded as usual. Sian had not yet improved and refused her milk, only taking water. At noon the orphans headed for the mudbath, and returned in the evening, Loijuk and Zurura again keeping vigil over Sian, who trailed the herd home.

04 June 2010

At first light a familiar wild bull was at the Compound, waiting for the orphans to emerge. The orphans joined him at the Stockade water trough, and he instantly took control of them, charging the Keepers whenever they tried to call the group back. The Keepers were concerned for weak Sian in case she fell and got hurt. At l0 a.m. the Vet arrived to give Sian more medication, but the Keepers had not yet managed to regain control of the orphans. However, eventually the Bull ran off, but the drama continued because Loijuk and her group were concerned that the Vet might harm Sian. They kept trumpeting and charging at him, but the Keepers managed to calm them, and surrounded protectively by her group, the Vet managed to inject Sian with Novidium and Catasol. At the mudbath the orphans only took water and then resumed browsing, when Zuyrura scratched his body against a rock.

05 June 2010

Today Sian seems to be a little stronger. The ex orphans, accompanied by Yatta’s wild recruit named “Mgeni” as well as a large wild bull, joined the Youngrsters at the mudbath. Yatta, Sunyei and Galana went straight to comfort Sian and spent time with her before taking a mudbath, after which the Ex orphans separated, heading west. However, Sunyei decided to remain with Sian for the rest of the day and in the evening the Ex Orphans came to the Stockades to collect her once Sian was safely ensconced for the night.

06 June 2010

Led by Loijuk, the Youngsters settled down to browse in the Kanziku area until it was time to head for the mudbath, where they were joined by the Ex Orphans. All enjoyed a soil dusting session after which the Ex Orphans headed towards the Imenti Waterhole. They came to the Stockades in the evening again, took water from the Stockade trough and then headed out again.

07 June 2010

It was an important day, because we were to receive three new Nursery babies into the Ithumba unit, Kilaguni, Chaimu and Sabachi. The Ex orphans browsed close to the Stockades during the night, and at first light Kenze turned up to join Loijuk’s Keeper Dependent group in order to be there when the newcomers arrived. By l0 a.m. none of the Ex Orphans had shown up, but 20 minutes before the arrival of the newcomers Kinna, Rapsu, the wild recruit Mgeni, Buchuma and Taita joined the Loijuk group and at 11 a.m. Kilaguni, Chaimu and Sabachi drove in, in three trucks. First to be unloaded was Kilaguni, who was very warmly received by Loijuk and her group; next was Sabachi, who looked a little anxious until he spotted Kilaguni at the water trough, and ran to join him. Last to be unloaded was Chaimu, who also looked a little bewildered, and homed in on Kilaguni and Sabachi, since all the Ithumba orphans were unknown to the three new arrivals. Only Meibai might remember them from the brief time he spent in the Nursery alongside them. Loijuk and the Ex Orphans with her all welcomed the new arrivals warmly, surrounding them, and laying trunks lovingly across their backs. Loijuk remained very close to them and once they had taken milk and water, escorted them to the bush to begin learning what was expected of them out in the wild. Kinna also followed the babies closely. In the evening the entire herd of Ex Orphans turned up to greet the new arrivals, amidst great excitement and trumpeting. The Keepers had a hectic time trying to control the 34 elephants until the entire herd cooled down. In the evening all the Ex Orphans were there to see the babies into their Night Stockade, and remained just outside for most of the night. During the night Meibai who has been “the baby” of the Ithumba orphans, became a little jealous of the new arrivals and kept trying to mount onto them. Loijuk was brought into their Stockade to comfort them, and Meibai was moved next door. Kilaguni was unsettled because for the first time he was without a blanket, so Keeper Mischak came to settle him.

08 June 2010

Loijuk escorted Kilaguni, Chaimu and Sabachi to the Stockade water trough ahead of the others first thing in the morning. The Youngsters then headed out browsing their way to the noon mudbath venue, where they were joined by all the Ex Orphans who had arrived there earlier and were waiting for them. The new babies and all the Ithumba herd thoroughly enjoyed the huge pile of soft red earth which the tractor had brought for them, throwing clouds of red soil over themselves. The newcomers were daunted by the mudbath which was now a large, deep waterhole, so they just took water in their trunks to spray over themselves. Buchuma and Ndomot engaged one another in a lengthy play pushing match on the huge slab of rock on the opposite bank. Only Naserian had a swim before joining the soil dusting session, all the others doing their best to be nearest to the three newcomers. Meibai who had been bent on trying to mount onto the newcomers all morning was warned off by Kinna who drove him away from them. By the evening the three Ithumba newcomers seemed very relaxed and happy in their new environment.

09 June 2010

The Youngsters left their Night Stockades as usual first thing in the morning, Loijuk following the three newcomers to the water trough. Out in the browsing fields Loijuk taught the new babies what was best to eat. At the mudbath the Youngsters took their milk, and were then joined by the Ex Orphaned Group. The entire herd remained together up until the evening, all the Big Girls vying with each other for possession of the new babies. The babies enjoyed the attention of the Big Girls very much, because they were always in the middle of them and were escorted back to the Stockades in the evening.

10 June 2010

It was a cloudy morning and the third day that the ex Nursery babies had been at Ithumba. Loijuk took them through different trails showing them the general area. Only Meibai took a mudbath, because the weather was cool. The others all enjoyed a dustbath instead. Loijuk led her group away, and a little later all the Ex Orphans arrived, accompanied by Mgeni and a familiar wild bull. They all just waded in the pool, but did not bathe, because the weather was not conducive. They all enjoyed the soil pile.

11 June 2010

The Ex Orphans, accompanied by Mgeni and the wild bull all arrived at the Stockade compound very early before the Junior group emerged. As soon as the Gages were opened, the Ex Orphans surrounded the new babies, and Meibai headed to the Unloading Bay to scratch himself. Later he engaged Ndomot in a Pushing Game. Meibai is always eager to learn new pushing skills from the Seniors, and every time they appear he engages one of them. In fact, most of the time he enjoys the company of the bigger elephants than that of the Youngsters, so he is likely to leave the Youngsters and join the Seniors to become a wild elephant before the age of 5 years. Kinna and Nasalot selected Kilaguni while Galana and Loijuk remained with Sabachi and Chaimu. The entire herd remained together until mudbath time and there enjoyed a soil dusting session. At 3 p.m. the Ex Orphans separated from the Juniors, but turned up again at the Stockades in the late evening.

12 June 2010

Today the Ex Orphans joined the Youngsters at the mudbath. Nasalot immediately took control of Sabachi, Kilaguni and Chaimu and escorted them to the new drinking water trough before leading them to the soil pile to enjoy a dustbath. Later they all relaxed under shade, and then headed out again to browse as one large herd, the babies in the midst of the herd making sure that nothing could come close to harm them. The entire herd escorted the Youngsters back in the evening and saw them safely ensconced for the night before departing.

13 June 2010

Loijuk led her group out to browse, having passed by the water trough first. At 11 a.m. they made their way to the mudbath and on the way were joined by the Ex Orphans. Nasalot, who loves the three new babies, immediately relieved Loijuk of the escort duty and took the three newcomers to their milk, standing beside them until they had finished. She then took them to the water. Two old bull buffaloes were enjoying the mudbath, and amazingly were totally unafraid of the human Keepers. Later Nasalot escorted the three babies back to browse, all the other elephants following behind. The entire herd escorted the Youngsters back to the Stockades in the evening. Nasalot did not leave immediately, but stood outside the Stockade communicating with the babies and only later followed her group who had left earlier.

14 June 2010

Nasalot, Lualeni, Rapsu and Challa were back at the Stockades early before dawn, relaxing outside waiting for the babies to be let out. As soon as they emerged Nasalot took charge of the babies, Loijuk following behind unsure as to whether Nasalot wanted to own them completely. A little later all the rest of the Ex Orphans in including Mgeni turned up to join the Youngsters. Kinna and Galana joined Nasalot and Loijuk in herding the new babies. All the Ex Orphans remained with the Youngsters for the entire day, and even escorted them back to the Stockades in the evening.

15 June 2010

All the Ex Orphans came to join the Youngsters soon after they were let out in the morning. As usual Mgeni was with them, along with a new Junior bull bigger than Mgeni. Having all taken water, the entire herd moved off to browse, Nasalot, Kinna, Galana and Wendi following the new babies wherever they went. Loijuk was uneasy with this new turn of events, and did her best to get closest to the three small babies, remembering the time when Yatta’s group tried to take Meibai from her. All attended the mudbath together, browsed together all afternoon, and brought the babies back in the evening.

16 June 2010

Sian looked very weak today, so the Keepers decided to keep the Youngsters nearby because of Sian. Loijuk and Zurura remained close to Sian, consoling her throughout the day.

17 June 2010

Sian was still limping and weak, so Loijuk and Zurura made sure they were always nearby in case she needed their help. The orphans made the mudbath at 11 a.m. and browsed throughout the afternoon.

18 June 2010

It was a very cold morning as the orphans, led by Loijuk, headed out to browse in the morning. It was too cold for the mudbath, so having taken their milk, the orphans headed off to browse again. In the evening they were joined by Yatta’s Ex Orphaned Group who returned with them to the Stockades, having spent time browsing with them beforehand.

19 June 2010

At the mudbath, only Kilaguni decided to step in, since it was too cold, the rest of the group having opted for a dustbath instead. Whilst soil bathing, a large wild bull who is familiar to us joined them, taking control of the group, and remaining with them for a full hour before heading off on his own again. Whilst with them the wild bull found time to mingle and teach Kilaguni, Sabachi and Chaimu something which we humans could not understand, being very close to the three babies who were not at all scared of him!

20 June 2010

Loijuk’s group left the Stockades, Zurura remaining very close to Sian. At the mudbath, the Youngsters were joined by the Ex Orphans. Kilaguni, who was feeling the heat, decided to go right into the pool, closely followed by Kinna and Nasalot to make sure he did not drown. When he had had enough, they stepped out alongside him. During the afternoon Nasalot and Kinna kept Kilaguni between them. He has obviously won their heart, and the Keepers are sure they would like to take him off with them, but since he is still small and needs milk, they will have to be content to have him only during the day and allow Loijuk to enjoy him at night!

21 June 2010

Wendi’s Splinter Group joined the Juniors as soon as they were let out in the morning, Galana and Naserian taking over the care of the young ones from Loijuk, but paying most attention to Kilaguni. Loijuk, always suspicious of the motives of the Big Girls, was never far from them. At mudbath Yatta’s Ex Orphaned Group joined them and immediately Nasalot, who is their Big Mother, took over from Galana and Naserian. Kilaguni was delighted to greet Nasalot, putting his trunk in Nasalot’s mouth and Nasalot did the same to him. The entire herd browsed together during the afternoon and returned together in the evening back to the Stockades.

22 June 2010

It was a quiet morning for the Junior Group and a peaceful one for Loijuk who had the three new babies all to herself. At the mudbath the Juniors were joined by Wendi’s Splinter Group, who left soon afterwards, leaving the Juniors to return on their own back to the Stockades in the evening.

23 June 2010

Sian was unable to stand on her own today. The Keepers helped her up. The Youngsters remained close to the Stockades today, since the Keepers feared that Sian might collapse out in the bush, and be unable to return. By evening Sian looked very tired and weak.

24 June 2010

Yatta’s group, accompanied by Mgeni and the usual wild bull, joined the orphans at the Stockade. Kinna and Nasalot went for Kilaguni and browsed with him until around l0 a.m. when Yatta’s group peeled off to an undisclosed location. It was too cold for the mudbath today, so Loijuk’s Juniors went to eat the seeds fallen from a nearby Acacia, Sabachi imitating Loijuk in plucking seeds from the tree itself. After the Juniors had left, Yatta’s group arrived and hung around the mudbath for quite a long time.

25 June 2010

The orphans left the Stockade as usual, Sian looking very tired, but at noon she took her milk as usual. In the evening she refused her milk, but kept on throwing soil over herself. She collapsed twice throughout the night and had to be helped up by the Keepers. All the ex orphans came to the Stockade Compound at midnight and hung around for half an hour before leaving. This left the Keepers wondering why they had come back to the Stockades at midnight.

26 June 2010

Sian was down again before 5 a.m. and when the Keepers tried to help her up, she could not manage to stand by herself. We were very concerned because she was weaker. Later we realized that despite all the loving care lavished upon her, Sian was slipping away. At 6 am the rest of the group left the Stockades. Loijuk was reluctant to leave, but wanted to remain in the Stockade with Sian, who was lying down. The Keepers tried to make her follow the rest, which eventually she did, but unwillingly. Sian died at 10.15 a.m. and that evening a post-mortem examination was undertaken on her body which revealed an under developed left lung and a kidney infection. No more could have been done for poor Sian, but for the rest of the group, life goes on.

27 June 2010

Loijuk led her group out into the bush where they were joined by 4 Ex Orphans, namely Naserian, Kora, Lualeni and Challa. Naserian spent most of the time with Meibai and Sabachi, the Keepers suspicious of her intentions. In the evening Naserian sneaked off with Meibai and Sabachi heading eastwards, but by rumbling and charging Loijuk alerted the Keepers to the fact that Naserian had hijacked two of her group. The Keepers tracked them down and found the three heading towards the Kalovoto river area. The Keepers regained control of Meibai and Sabachi, thinking that Naserian would leave them, but instead she followed them back to the Stockades, complaining that they had been taken from her. She remained at the fence looking in until it turned dark!

28 June 2010

Led by Loijuk, the orphans settled down to browse in the Kone area. At l0 a.m. Kora, Naserian, Challa and Lualeni joined the Juniors, Naserian having failed to take away Meibai and Sabachi the previous day, probably bent on devising another way, so the Keepers kept a close eye on her. At noon they attended mudbath together and later headed back to the browsing area. At 3 pm., having failed in her mission, Naserian left with her small group.

29 June 2010

On a cold morning the orphans emerged as usual, Chaimu using a nearby tree to scratch against. At the mudbath only Kilaguni went in for a dip, the rest opting for a soil dusting instead. At 4 p.m. all the Ex Orphans joined the Juniors, and browsed alongside them until the evening, when they escorted the Juniors back to the Stockades for the night.

30 June 2010

The day unfolded as normal today without interruption, the orphans leaving to browse having taken water in the morning, attending the mudbath at noon, browsing again in the afternoon, and returning in the evening. Loijuk had the babies all to herself today which pleased her enormously!