Keepers' Diaries, March 2010

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Ithumba has received a lot of rain during the course of the month which has seen many of the natural waterholes, as well as all the cracks and crevices, being filled with fresh clear rain water. The Orphans have had a lovely time slipping and sliding in the water soaked earth and have often forgone their usual mudbath in favour of one of the many natural ones found along the way. The Tsavo landscape has transformed into a lush green haven and the orphans have been spoilt for choice of places to browse. The abundance of vegetation and water means that even the wild elephants have ample places to feed and quench their thirst and as such they have not been visiting the Stockade water trough as the did during the drought when it was not unusual for large groups of wild elephants to visit during the course of the day. Kora and Lualeni continue to enjoy spending time out with Wendi’s group. On the 6th Naserian also took the plunge and spent her first night away from the safety of the stockade in the company of Wendi’s group. This has left the milk dependent group with three males and five females, one of whom will eventually take over Naserians’ Matriarchal duties.

01 March 2010

The month began with heavy rains from the night before which continued throughout night stopping in the early morning. The orphans expressed their joy by swinging their trunks and bumping into one another as they walked to the fields. Even Sian, who is normally subdued, joined the others in their celebrations. They all enjoyed the natural mudbaths created by rainwater so much so that they showed no interest in their usual noon wallow. Makena led the way back to the stockades for the night.

02 March 2010

Following another heavy downpour the ground was saturated with water. The orphans left the stockades in a jovial mood stopping briefly on their way out for a scratch at the unloading bay. Sian led the way to the fields where by midmorning the heavens once again opened up allowing the orphans to revel in the flowing streams along paths and small crevices. On the way back to the stockades in the evening the youngsters were joined by Wendi’s group who had Mgeni in their midst after an absence of a few months.

03 March 2010

The day began with a glorious sunrise over Tsavo which cast a yellow glow over the landscape. It was a clear morning marking a hot day to come. Before heading out to the grazing fields Kenze and Zurura played a strength testing game that saw Kenze as the victor. The orphans spent the morning browsing and enjoying an occasional role in the rainwater pools. Just before the orphans headed back to the stockades they were joined by Wendi’s group who had Mgeni in tow. After a joyous reunion Wendi’s group left taking Lualeni and Kora with them. Makena led the rest of the group home.

04 March 2010

At dawn Challa arrived at the stockade compound and joined the junior group for the majority of the day. At noon the juniors attended the mudbath before heading back out to continue browsing at which time Challa left only to return at 5pm with Yatta’s group and the wild bull Mgeni.

05 March 2010

It was a cloudy morning with the promise of rain. The Tsavo vegetation is flourishing following the recent rains and the orphans are taking full advantage of the lush greens and spent the morning feeding along the eastern slopes of Ithumba hill. At 11am Makena led the way to the mudwallow. The afternoon was spent browsing before returning in the evening.

06 March 2010

At dawn Sian led the orphans to the fields where they remained until milk time. As it was a cool day none of the youngsters showed interest in having a swim. In the afternoon they were joined by Wendi’s group who took off with Naserian, the matriarch of the junior group. Makena took the lead and guided the orphan’s home. The keepers anxiously waited to see if Naserian would return but she opted to spend the night out with her older friends.

07 March 2010

Following a heavy downpour the orphans spent the early morning playing in the mud before browsing and drinking rainwater that accumulated in all the little niches in the park. The orphans showed no interest in the mudbath opting instead to roll in the loose damp soil.

08 March 2010

Loijuk led the orphans out at dawn. They were all careful not to rush and walked slowly so as to avoid slipping on the wet muddy ground. Ithumba has received its fair share of rain leaving all holes, crevices and ditches filled with water, leaving the orphans spoiled for choice. Throughout the day they played splashing games and drank water from the bountiful water sources along the way. At noon a heavy downpour delighted the orphans who ran around trumpeting happily. The rain lasted for about an hour before the clouds cleared giving way to the sun. In the afternoon Yatta’s group joined the orphans paying special attention to Meibai, the baby of the junior group. They hung about with the youngsters escorting them back for the night at which time Naserian opted to remain with the ex orphans. As such the keeper dependent group now consists of 8 orphans, 3 boys and 5 girls.

09 March 2010

Chilly weather and light showers dominated the early morning hours. Meibai, Chyulu, Makena and Loijuk welcomed the rain rolling around in the wet earth getting as muddy as possible. At 10am the orphans came across crystal clear water that had collected in a rocky pool and had so much fun wallowing in it that they were completely disinterested in their usual mudwallow. The milk dependent babies had their milk whilst the older orphans waited for them to finish before they all headed back out to browse. In the evening Yatta’s group visited the stockades accompanied by Mgeni and another wild bull.

10 March 2010

Soon after the junior group left the stockades Yatta, her group, Mgeni and a wild bull passed by the stockades followed half an hour later by Wendi’s group who took the same direction as the others. By midmorning both ex orphan groups joined the youngsters spending a short time browsing with them before heading in a westerly direction.

11 March 2010

Once at the browsing fields Loijuk, Makena, Zurura and Chyulu found a place with loose soil and enjoyed a dustbath which enticed the rest of the group to join in. En route to the mudbath Kenze found a natural mudwallow and immediately lay down and rolled around. A little while later Makena led the group to the milk spot with Kenze slowly brining up the rear.

12 March 2010

Shortly after exiting their nightly quarters the orphans, led by Zurura, enjoyed a chasing game, running in out and of the thickets trumpeting excitedly.

13 March 2010

While out feeding Lenana and Chyulu began playing pushing games before enjoying a roll in a dustbath. Zurura and Kenze engaged one another in a long lasting strength testing game before rejoining the others who were browsing close by. Following the noon mudbath Loijuk led the group to the slopes of Ithumba Hill where they settled to browse for the remainder of the day.

14 March 2010

The orphans left the stockade passing by the water trough for a drink before heading out. They spent the morning feeding stopping only for their noon milk feed. At 2pm Wendi and her group passed by the stockades stopping for a drink before heading back into the park.

15 March 2010

The day was uneventful and was spent browsing on the rich vegetation. Makena led the way back to the stockades in the evening.

16 March 2010

Due to light rains throughout the night the ground was wet and slippery. Sian slowly led the way to the browsing fields settling at Kone for the morning. At noon the milk dependent orphans guzzled down their milk before rushing to join the rest of the group who were feeding nearby. At 4pm both ex-orphan groups passed by the stockades before heading in an Easterly direction.

17 March 2010

Ithumba was blessed with another wet night, with the rain carrying on till midmorning. The orphans had fun skidding in the wet earth before coming across a rain filled wallow where all except Sian and Lenana, who opted for a dust bath, had a marvelous splashing game.

18 March 2010

At dawn Wendi and Nasalot came to the stockades just before the orphans were let out. As soon as the doors opened Wendi showed concern for Sian who was lagging behind and went over to greet and inspect her before escorting to the browsing fields. Nasalot also gave Sian a warm greeting and fed next to her before leaving to rejoin the ex-orphans who briefly passed by the junior group. At noon a mudwallow was initiated by Zurura and Loijuk who were quickly joined by the rest of the group.

19 March 2010

It was a clear beautiful morning with Loijuk leading the orphans to the Kanziku area where they were joined by the older wild groups. They all fed together till noon when they had a glorious mudbath after which the ex-orphans peeled away from the juniors and headed off in a Westerly direction. At 2pm Sian and Loijuk found a nice clear rain pool and proceeded to lie in it enticing the others to join them for a frolic. Once the other orphans came to play Sian left preferring to watch the activities from the sidelines.

20 March 2010

The day was cloudy and as such the orphans were not very energetic choosing to spend the day browsing in the fields stopping for a short while on Ithumba Hill before returning to the stockades for the night.

21 March 2010

The orphans were engaged in their usual morning feeding routine when at 9am, without warning, a thunderstorm came in. Loud thunder, occasional lighting flashes and heavy downpours pounded the area. The youngsters loved the sudden short storm and began rolling in the wet earth while enjoying the sensation of being caressed by the rain. In the evening Makena once again led the way home.

22 March 2010

It was a cool morning as the orphans strolled out of their night quarters towards the water trough for a quick drink before heading to the fields. As the day progressed the temperatures sky rocketed making young Meibai draw water from her stomach to spray behind his ears to help him cool down. At noon the orphans all thoroughly enjoyed a long wallow in the cooling mudbath.

23 March 2010

The singing weaver birds could be heard as the sun came up over Tsavo. At the stockades Loijuk and Chyulu had a good scratch against the acacia trees while Kenze and Zurura engaged one another in a pushing game. Meibai stood aside and watched Loijuk’s scratching tactics before trying to implement them! At 11am Makena and Chyulu led the youngsters to their noon milk feed before they all headed back out to browse for the rest of the day.

24 March 2010

After exiting the stockades the orphans scattered around the compound with each one choosing something to scratch against. Meibai who has become very close to Loijuk spent the morning browsing near her. On the way to the noon mudbath the orphans found a rain filled wallow in which they decided to splash around in before going for their milk. They spent the afternoon browsing on the slopes of Ithumba Hill.

25 March 2010

It was a quiet day spent browsing with Meibai feeding close to Loijuk. A natural waterhole was chosen for a wallow in place of the usual mudbath as the orphans took a break from feeding to cool off and play.

26 March 2010

For several days now Yatta and Wendi’s group have been absent. However,Lualeni, Kora and Naserian, the latest of the orphans to reintegrate back into the wild, passed by the stockades this morning. The trio joined the youngsters for a few hours before disappearing back into the bush. The orphans stayed close to the keepers until 11am when Makena led the way to the mudwallow. The keepers led the way to the stockades in the evening.

27 March 2010

Lualeni and Tomboi came to the stockades at dawn and joined they orphans for a short while before leaving in search of their wild friends. Following the noon mudbath Yatta’s group joined the orphans on the slopes of Ithumba Hill. As the day came to an end a drama unfolded when Yatta, Kinna and Nasalot joined forces in an attempt to lure Meibai away from the younger group. Loijuk who loves Meibai very much turned to the keepers for assistance rumbling loudly in order to get their attention. The keepers responded to her call and came to see what the commotion was about. They saw the big girls pushing Loijuk while circling Meibai in an effort to draw him away. They intervened and returned Meibai to Loijuk who seemed very pleased to have her “baby” back.

28 March 2010

Naserian, Lualeni and Kora seem to have formed their own little group who come to visit the juniors in the early morning. They spent the morning browsing with the orphans leaving at about 10am with Kenze in tow who returned a short while later. The youngsters, including Sian who usually prefers to watch rather then partake, enjoyed a mudbath in their usual wallow, followed by a roll in the mud. Shortly before 5pm Galana, Ndomot, Kamboyo and Naserian visited the stockades and waited for the keeper dependent orphans to return. A joyous reunion ensued after which they disappeared into the bush.

29 March 2010

Loijuk led the orphans out to browse settling on a rocky terrain behind the staff quarters. It was a hot day and by mid morning temperatures were soaring making all the orphans flap their ears to keep cool. At mudbath they all piled in and enjoyed a lengthy wallow. Shortly after the junior group left the mudbath Napasha came by and had a splash in the water. Later in the day Kora, Naserian, Sidai and Lualeni passed by the mudbath on their way to an unknown location. On the way home Zurura lagged behind the rest and came to the stockades accompanied by Naserian, Galana, Sunyei, Ndomot and Tomboi. While at the compound Naserian tried to convince Zurura to join her group for the night but he chose to remain in the stockade with his younger friends.

30 March 2010

It was a clear day as the orphans left the stockades to feed for the morning settling to browse in the Kone area. At 10am the group was joined by Sidai who spent the entire day with Loijuk mothering Meibai. She then escorted Meibai and the rest of the orphans back to the stockades for the night. She left after making sure that Meibai was comfortable and settled in for the night.