Keepers' Diaries, March 2008

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Temperatures soared at the beginning of the month, so much so that on the 1nd the younger orphans were forced to draw stomach water to spray over themselves. However, Ithumba was blessed with very heavy rain on the 8th and 20th March, with a veritable cloud-burst on the 26th, which overflowed the rain-gauge, so must have been in excess of 4 inches overnight! These large storms have turned the vegetation lush and Ithumba once again resembles the primordeal Garden of Eden, with blossoms and butterflies everywhere. Hence, the Ithumba orphans have enjoyed a month of plenty; every depression filled with fresh rainwater, making a treat from the usual saline borehole water, and mudbaths and wallows at every turn.

01 March 2008

As soon as the Gates of the Stockade were opened at 6 a.m., Yatta, Nasalot, Mulika and Kinna rushed to meet the young ones before passing by the water trough for a drink. Kora and Challa enjoyed a pushing match whilst Lualeni, Kamboyo and Sian scratched themselves in different ways against trees and the Loading Bay. Sunyei and Sian shared the task of leading the herd out to browse, and at noon Kamboyo led the group to the mudbath. After half an hour Sian led the herd back to browse heading to the Kanzku area.

02 March 2008

Although the day began cool, it soon turned into a stiflingly hot day, so much so that the youngsters took to drawing water from their stomachs to spray over themselves. All enjoyed a lovely mudbath, because it was so hot, and later, under the leadership of Nasalot returned to the browsing area.

03 March 2008

The orphans emerged in the morning to the song of birds. Tomboi and Ndomot scratched themselves against the trees whilst Naserian and Galana enjoyed a friendly pushing game that was interrupted by Napasha. Later Kinna led the way out, leaving Mulika, Yatta, Kenze, and Ol Malo behind, who followed later on. The orphans fed at the Kalovoto area, until Zurura and Loijuk led the youngsters to the milk and mudbath venue. The weather was cool, so none of the orphans wallowed, but instead returned to browse.

04 March 2008

The orphans left in a happy mood, swinging their trunks from side to side as they filed out to feed. Once at the feeding area the older elephants broke down branches so that the youngsters could enjoy their new green leaves. At the mudbath only Napasha, Lualeni, Rapsu, Ndomot and Challa wallowed. Of late Sian has followed the lead of Kora in not liking to get into the mudbath, so she and Kora left, leaving the five enjoying the wallow. They joined the rest of the herd, who had walked a long way, later.

05 March 2008

While the other orphans were taking water in the morning, Sidai and Rapsu engaged one another in a pushing game that deteriorated into a fight. Rapsu stepped in to rescue Sidai who was on the verge of defeat, and escorted her away. Having browsed throughout the morning, Kamboyo and Zurura led the first batch to the milk venue. At the mudbath, Ndomot, Tomboi and Buchuma were the stars of the day until Mulika and Nasalot led the group back to the browsing area, Yatta following to ensure that none of the orphans lagged behind.

06 March 2008

After a peaceful night, the orphans gathered at the water trough to decide on their next move, Kamboyo, Madiba and Zurura opting to begin to browse nearby. Later it was Sunyei and Rapsu who led the entire herd to the Kanziku area where they all browsed until 11 a.m. Then trumpeting alerted the Keepers to the fact that it was mudbath and milk time. Having finished her ration of Milk, Sian went straight back to the browsing area, the rest following later to meet up with her at the Kalovoto river area where they spent the rest of the day.

07 March 2008

The orphans spent time around the Stockades today performing the usual morning activities. Yatta and Nasalot focused on their favourites, namely Ol Malo, Kenze and Zurura, whilst Kamboyo, Rapsu and Challa went in search of rubbing posts. Later Kinna led the herd out to browse, all the other orphans streaming behind her. It was a very hot day, so all enjoyed the mudbath, after which they sheltered in the shade of trees until temperatures dropped sufficiently to allow more browsing.

08 March 2008

It was a chilly morning as the orphans marched out, swinging their trunks happily to the song of the birds and led by Kamboyo and Sunyei to the Kalovoto river area. Suddenly, the heavens opened and there was a heavy downpour of rain, which the orphans greatly enjoyed, wallowing in the mud and rolling in every puddle they could find. However at noon, Kora remembered his milk, and led the group to the milk venue, after which the older orphans escorted the milk dependent group back to browse. The rain continued until it was time to return to the Stockades in the evening.

09 March 2008

As soon as the Stockade Gates were opened in the morning, the orphans gathered at the water trough while Kora, Lualeni and Sian went to find scratching places. Today Nasalot was the leader to the field where the orphans split into two groups, Yatta leading the older group far East whilst the youngsters remained with their Keepers. At noon Kora led the first batch of milk dependent youngsters to the mudbath, and Sian and Kamboyo led the second group. After the mudbath Naserian led the orphans back to the browsing area. The older group returned to take water at the Stockade trough at 2 p.m. and thereafter joined the youngsters in the browsing area.

10 March 2008

Having taken water, because the day promised to be a hot one, Nasalot and Sunyei led the orphans out. At noon Kora and Kamboyo led the first milk dependent group while Kenze, Challa, Loijuk and Zurura followed in a second group, the last group coming later. After wallowing Napasha, Buchuma, Rapsu and Selengai enjoyed a red dustbath and then followed the others, who had been led off by Madiba.

11 March 2008

As the Gates opened, Nasalot and Yatta went to greet the babies, touching them all with their trunks before leading them to the water trough. Kinna then led the orphans to the browsing area, but no sooner had they all settled down, than all hell broke loose! Four wild dogs emerged from the thickets, prompting the babies to rush to their Keepers. The older elephants stood their ground and led by Yatta, backed up by Mulika, Napasha, Nasalot and Kinna, charged the dogs and chased them off. This caused the split between the two groups because the older elephants chased the dogs a long way off. They only met up with the youngsters on their way back to the Stockades in the evening.

12 March 2008

As soon as the Gates of the youngsters opened, all the older elephants rushed to greet them. Out in the field Kora, Kamboyo, Zurura and Sian retreated towards their Keepers when they noticed the older group walking further away. Yatta took her group to the Kalovoto river area whilst the youngsters remained close to the Keepers, mindful of yesterday’s dog incident. At noon Kamboyo led them to the mudbath after which Sian took the youngsters back to the browsing field. In the evening the youngsters were joined by the older group and Naserian and Wendi led the group back home.

13 March 2008

Kenze and Kora welcomed the day with a pushing match, whilst Naserian, Lualeni and Sian found objects against which to scratch themselves. The group then split at the Stockade compound, Sidai and Galana leading the youngsters towards Kone, while Yatta and the older group just watched them depart and then headed to the Kalovoto area. As the youngsters were feeding, Challa, Lualeni and Madiba found a wet patch of soil where they enjoyed rolling before heading to the milk venue. The two groups joined up on the way back to the Stockades.

14 March 2008

When the Stockade Gates were opened, for some reason Ol Malo refused to come out until Yatta came to coax her out. Sunyei trumpeted that it was time to leave, and led the group towards the Kalovoto river, where they split into two, Yatta’s group crossing the river, while the youngsters remained with their Keepers. At noon the milk dependent orphans went for their milk ration, while the older ones such as Madiba, Rapsu, Sidai and the rest took water before returning to browse.

15 March 2008

Once all the orphans were out of their Night Stockades, Wendi went to investigate whether there was any Copra Cake left, but was disappointed because there was none. She then went and joined the others at the water trough. Once in the field, the orphans split into three groups today – Yatta, Mulika and Nasalot going on their own leaving Kinna to lead another group, with the babies remaining under the leadership of Galana. At 11.30 a.m. the three groups met up at the mudbath; the babies took their milk, Sunyei drank from the borehole pipe, and later Galana led the group back out, with Yatta at the rear to make sure that none were left behind.

16 March 2008

Sian led the babies out of their Stockade and all gathered at the water trough where Yatta had the rest. The orphans then split, Yatta leading the older orphans eastwards whilst Galana led the youngsters in a westerly direction. Out in the field Sunyei and her group came across a little waterhole where they all enjoyed a cooling wallow, because the day was hot. Zurura and Kamboyo engaged each other in a strength testing exercise. As the youngsters were preparing to head for the mudbath, Mulika and the older group emerged from the thickets to join their colleagues amidst happy trumpeting and rumbling greetings. The orphaned herd then headed all together to the mudbath, the youngsters followed by the older group.

17 March 2008

To greet the new day, Kamboyo and Challa enjoyed a pushing bout which was interrupted by Nasalot. Meanwhile Sian, Loijuk, Kenze and Madiba scratched themselves against the trees while Naserian and Rapsu rolled on the ground to coat themselves with red earth. Kinna and Tomboi indicated the direction chosen for the day which was the Kanziku area where the orphans browsed peacefully until it was time for the mudbath. As usual Kamboyo led the youngsters to the milk venue, while the older elephants followed later.

18 March 2008

After Buchuma and Lualeni had scratched themselves against the unloading bay, and Kenze and Kora had enjoyed a pushing match, Mulika led the orphans out to browse with Kinna lagging behind to ensure that Orok and Selengai, who were still drinking, caught up with the rest. The days feeding was interrupted by a troupe of noisy baboons who passed close by and scared the babies. They ran to their Keepers while the older elephants saw the baboons off, charging and trumpeting until they all took to the trees, or ran into the thickets.

19 March 2008

Once out in the field, the orphans split into two groups, but Selengai found herself in the wrong group. She bellowed and immediately Mulika responded and came running to her side, backed up by Yatta, Kinna, Nasalot, Napasha, Taita, tomboy, Buchuma and Orok. They all surrounded Selengai, comforting her. Galana found herself in trouble when Mulika thought she could be responsible for Selengai’s distress and pushed her away. The orphans then fed all together until it was time for the mudbath after which Nasalot took the herd back to the Kanziku area.

20 March 2008

Heavy clouds threatened rain in the morning, so the orphans did not drink from the trough. Later lightening and thunder scared the youngsters, all of whom rushed to their Keepers for protection. Then the rain began to fall heavily, but the orphans fed throughout, enjoying all the waterholes that soon filled with rainwater. Only the milk dependent babies went to the mudbath – the older elephants saw no reason to do so because there was mud everywhere. The two groups only met up back at the Stockades in the late evening.

21 March 2008

The previous day’s rain left the countryside very wet. Sian and Sunyei led the entire group towards Kanziku road where they came across stagnant water. They all enjoyed rolling after which the group split into two, the youngsters left in the custody of their Keepers. At the mudbath, Sunyei noticed water coming from the pipe, and went to drink directly from it. Madiba then wanted the pipe, and this dispute turned into a fight. The Keepers removed the pipe to settle the quarrel. Later Sidai led the youngsters back to browse, where they were joined by Yatta’s group. After a happy reunion greeting, all then went back for the night, but before the Keepers could close the Gates of Yatta’s Stockade, she and her peers headed out again, and only returned after 8 p.m.

22 March 2008

Happy rumbles and trumpets were exchanged to greet a new day. Zurura, Sian, Challa, Rapsu and Napasha enjoyed scratching their bodies against trees while Ndomot engaged Kora in a pushing match which was interrupted by Madiba. Kamboyo and Kinna led the group out to feed in the Kanziku area. At noon Kamboyo led the milk dependent group to the milk venue. Challa found a small puddle near the mudbath which he enjoyed, and followed the others once he had had his fill.

23 March 2008

Yatta is now independent of the Keepers, and no longer follows their instructions, but instead does her own thing. Today, she left all the others and went off on her own. It was very wet and slippery, and the orphans enjoyed endless mudwallows on their way out to browse. At l0 a.m. the orphans split into two groups, Mulika and Nasalot taking the older elephants and leaving the youngsters with their Keepers. At the mudbath, as the youngsters were taking their milk, Yatta emerged from the thickets and monitored the babies. Having made sure that they were all O.K., she again left, despite being called back by the Keepers. The other older group did not show up at the mudbath but joined the youngsters back in the Kanziku area, by which time Yatta was amongst them. At 5 p.m. it was time to head back home, Kamboyo in the lead, as usual.

24 March 2008

As the orphans were heading out into the field, Ol Malo was in a dilemma as to which group to follow, tempted to follow Yatta’s older group, but on the other hand wanting to remain with her normal group of youngsters! When the orphans eventually split, Buchuma found himself with the youngsters, which was not to his liking, so he raised his trunk to test the air, and having got Yatta’s scent, parted and headed off on his own. Sunyei led the youngsters in the direction of Kone, while Yatta went to the Kanziku area. Meanwhile Ol Malo had decided to remain with the youngsters. The two groups re-united at the Kanziku area later on in the day and spent the rest of the day all together.

25 March 2008

Today, the older and younger groups spent the day apart, Yatta having taken her group to feed along the Kanziku road while the young group, was led by Galana and Sidai. Amongst the younger set are the Nursery Matriarchs, so there is no shortage of leadership. In the group is Sunyei, Galana, Lualeni, Loijuk, Sian, Kamboyo, Kora, Zurura, Ol Malo, Challa, Kenze, Madiba, Sidai, Rapsu, Ndomot and Wendi, although Wendi keeps on switching groups. The remaining orphans form Yatta’s group. Today, the two groups met shortly before 5 p.m. as thunder was rumbling in the distance accompanied by flashes of lightening. The Keepers called the group to head for home before the heavens opened, and all responded, eager to reach the shelter of the Stockades.

26 March 2008

There was a downpour during the night, which filled every available waterhole and overflowed the rain gauge which can only measure ll0 mls. meaning that over 4 inches fell during the night. As it was very wet and slippery, the orphans walked carefully to avoid stumbling and spent most of the morning wallowing in all the new waterholes and mudwallow they found en route. At noon Nasalot took the youngsters to their milk venue, while the older elephants remained to concentrate on feeding, having wasted a lot of time wallowing during the morning. Having taken their milk, Nasalot escorted the babies back to the others and the herd spent the rest of the day together.

27 March 2008

The orphans left the Stockade to feast on the greening vegetation following the heavy rain. At noon Sian and Loijuk led the milk dependent youngsters to the mudbath, where Lualeni enjoyed a good swim. The others stood at the edge of the waterhole spraying water over themselves. Galana led the group back to join the others where more wallowing was enjoyed by all.

28 March 2008

On a sunny morning the orphans left the stockades led by Mulika who took them across the Kalovoto river to feed on soft greens. At the mudbath Challa and Kenze enjoyed a pushing match which was interrupted by Rapsu who pushed Challa away from smaller Kenze. On the way home the orphans came across a large pool, and enjoyed another wallow. They were led home by Sian and Kamboyo in the evening.

29 March 2008

With waterholes at every turn, there was no need for the orphans to drink the saline borehole water. Instead they could take what they needed anywhere, and as the day turned hot, they enjoyed wallowing in all the new mudwallows they encountered as they fed. Nasalot and Wendi escorted the youngsters to their milk venue but there was no reason for the others to follow.

30 March 2008

The orphans headed straight out in the morning, enjoying the soft vegetation that they could now eat without much chewing. At 2 p.m. they came to a large dam filled with water, and all went in for a swim, Kenze enjoying using Galana as a prop as she rolled in the water. She, Sunyei, Loijuk and Sian enjoyed putting their heads under water and then, when they popped up again, thrashing the water with their trunks. All the orphans had a wonderful time, all so obviously happy that the rains have come at last. In the evening Kenze and Challa enjoyed their usual pushing match, which ended in a draw.

31 March 2008

There was no need for the orphans to bother about water before leaving, because water is in every depression out in the field and the bush is green, so they are enjoying each and every day.