Keepers' Diaries, May 2007

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Kora, whose best friends are Naserian and Lualeni, features prominently in this Diary. The month has alternated between extremely hot days, and light drizzles (the April/May rains having been disappointing)so on days when temperatures soar, the orphans often have to seek shade early on in the morning, and thoroughly enjoy, and need, their noon mudbath when even Kora, who normally would rather not go into the mud, of necessity gets in to cool himself. The fact that the older elephants consult with one another before making a decision as to where to lead the group to feed each morning is clearly illustrated, the Big Girls gathering together in a tight group, before heading out each morning after the usual Stockade drink at the water trough. Each morning is usually greeted with joy, trunks swinging from side to side displaying happiness, as the orphans file out to browse in the bush, usually one of the youngsters allowed to lead, with Yatta bringing up the rear to ensure that there are no stragglers left behind. Sometimes even the younger set, led by Wendi, Sunyei and Naserian consult together and head off independently, meeting up with the others somewhere out in the bush, or back at the Stockades in the evening. An interesting event occurred on the 23rd, when the Keepers tried to persuade the herd to head out eastwards, and instead, unusually, the older elephants led the herd in the opposite direction, disobeying the order of their Keepers. Shortly afterwards, the reason became clear to the Keepers for a pack of wild dogs appeared from the direction they had chosen for the elephants. The wild dogs have disrupted the tranquility of the orphans this month only on two occasions, but the elephants are becoming more confident now, and the older Girls see them off.

01 May 2007

Out in the feeding area, Rapsu, Kora and Ndomot had a pushing game together, which ended when Rapsu mounted onto Ndomot. Kora, not wanting the same treatment, ran off. At the mudbath, everyone was surprised when Kora joined Lualeni and Naserian actually in the wallow, since he usually would rather not go into the wallow, normally just disappearing off to wait in the bush having had a drink. Sunyei found herself stuck and unable to get up, so she yelled for help, and instantly Kinna arrived to help lift her up. In the evening, Challa found himself separated from the others, so he remained close to the Keepers until they led him to join the others.

02 May 2007

Yatta led the group westwards on a cloudy morning. After mudbath the group split into two, one led by Nasalot and the other by Yatta, both groups rejoining prior to the return in the evening.

03 May 2007

Having enjoyed a drink, Mulika led the group out on a lovely morning, all the elephants swinging their trunks from side to side as a sign of happiness. At mudbath, 4 warthogs arrived to quench their thirst, but Yatta, Kinna and Nasalot spotted them, after which all hell broke out as the entire group, led by the older members dispatched the intruders in a rowdy group charge.

04 May 2007

Today, Lualeni, Kora and Naserian, who are inseparable, led the group out where all concentrated on feeding. At the mudwallow, after the youngsters had taken their milk, the older elephants led the group back to browse, without taking a wallow.

05 May 2007

After a long drink, since the orphans faced a hot day out in the bush, Kora and Lualeni led the group out. By 9 a.m., it was already unbearably hot, so the orphans sought shade. At mudbath time, Napasha, Yatta, Kinna and Galana rushed into the wallow for a cooler, soon joined by the others.

06 May 2007

Following the usual Stockade drink and games, Nasalot, followed by Lualeni and Kora led the herd out to browse this morning. Yatta and Mulika followed later. It was a hot day, so there was a lot of ear flapping to try and keep cool, until 11 a.m. when Kora decided it was time to head for the mudbath, and led the group off. All enjoyed an exuberant and lengthy mudwallow, including Kora.

07 May 2007

Having left the Stockade, Nasalot, Buchuma, Napasha and Wendi headed to nearby rocks to scratch themselves before joining the rest. Meanwhile Rapsu and Tomboi engaged one another in a strength test, which was interrupted by Nasalot. The orphans filed out following Yatta. It was a very hot day, making the orphans uncomfortable, so today Rapsu led the way to the milk venue in a hurry, arriving several minutes before the next orphan. By the time the rest arrived Rapsu was already ending his mudbath.

08 May 2007

Today it was cool, with a nice breeze coming from the East, so the orphans took advantage to head out hurriedly to browse, leaving Madiba and Ndomot behind, who were enjoying a pushing bout. There seemed to be no clear winner, until Yatta decided that enough was enough, and returned to fetch them, forcing them to walk ahead of her. After the mudbath, it was Wendi and Galana that led the way back to the browsing area.

09 May 2007

It was a cool morning, so the orphans enjoyed some warming up exercises, rolling on the ground, others swinging their trunks whilst the boys engaged one another in shoving bouts. Mulika and Selengai led the way out today, heading towards the slopes of Ithumba Hill, where they all settled down to feed throughout the morning, in no hurry to go to the mudwallow until the Keepers decided that it was milk time for the smaller orphans. The Keepers split the orphans into three groups, as usual, with Kora, Lualeni, Challo and Naserian the front runners, followed by Buchuma, Sunyei, Ndomot and Sidai and finally the last group of Yatta and the older elephants.

10 May 2007

Another lovely morning, so the orphans gathered under the Acacia trees, as though in consultation about where to head today, Yatta, Nasalot, Mulika and Kinna in a huddle, as though in a Meeting. Mulika then rumbled, calling the rest to follow with Yatta at the rear to ensure that no-one was left behind. Out in the browsing area, suddenly a troupe of baboons interrupted the peace, resulting in a charge led by Yatta and Napasha and a good deal of trumpeting, which didn’t seem to bother the baboons much. They merely avoided the elephants and walked past.

11 May 2007

Another cool morning, with a breeze from the East. Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna again consulted about where to lead the others, after which Kinna led the way, again with Yatta following to ensure all were in line. In the field a disagreement arose between Olmalo and Lualeni, when Lualeni went to feed next to Yatta, of whom Olmalo (as the favourite of Yatta) is very possessive. Olmalo pushed Lualeni away from Yatta, resulting in a tussle which brought Wendi and Sunyei in to solve the problem. Since it was cool, none of the elephants felt like a mudwallow today.

12 May 2007

Another cool morning with a light drizzle. Yatta led the way. After the noon milk feed, Lualeni, Kora, Naserian, Madiba and Sunyei gathered together, obviously in discussion, and soon afterwards the Keepers were surprised to see them moving off together in a different direction to all the others. The Keepers called them back to wait for the others, who had not yet arrived at the mudbath. Since it was a cool day, the orphans took a long walk out to feed.

13 May 2007

The day was welcomed with exuberance by the orphans, Sunyei running around trumpeting and charging, which drew the attention of the young ones, who all joined in turning the morning into a noisy one. Come time to leave the Stockades, there seemed to be some disagreement about where to go to feed, Yatta and Mulika heading in one direction and Kinna in another, which confused the others. There was a light drizzle throughout the day, which the orphans enjoyed, and didn’t walk far today, so the Keepers had an easy time monitoring them.

14 May 2007

There were light showers again today. Out in the field Buchuma and Tomboi decided to warm up with a pushing game, which deteriorated into a battle, which ended with no clear winner. Lualeni was seen copying Yatta, obviously learning about how a Matriarch should conduct herself. Since she was a Mini Matriarch of the Nursery, she obviously is eager to climb the ladder!

15 May 2007

Clear skies heralded a hot day ahead as Mulika and Yatta led the group out to browse. By 9 a.m. it was so hot that the orphans sought a shaded area in which to feed. All enjoyed the mudbath, before heading back to feed.

16 May 2007

Today was much cooler. As some of the orphans took a drink, Madiba, Naserian, Buchuma and Selengai scratched their bottoms on the sides of the trough. Later Olmalo and Lualeni engaged each other in a pushing game, as did Madiba and Kora, while Tomboi tutored Orok in pushing tactics. At the mudbath Ndomot and Buchuma had a pushing game, which delayed their wallowing.

17 May 2007

Yatta led the way out today, the rest following swinging their trunks happily from side to side. At l0 a.m., out in the field, there was tension when a lion roared some distance away. Nasalot and Yatta mobilized all the orphans, who walked to their Keepers with trunks high in the air. The Keepers calmed them down and assured safety by walking in their midst. From time to time Yatta was seen sniffing the air, checking that all was well. At the mudath Lualeni and Naserian had a wonderful time, rolling around together, tempting Kora to step in. In the evening, Nasalot and Orok were moved into Yatta’s Stockade to make room for the expected three new arrivals from the Nairobi Nursery in a few days time.

18 May 2007

In the morning, there was a contest about who should lead the way, Lualeni, Sidai, Kora and Challa in competition for the privilege, a contest won by Kora. Out in the field Buchuma and Ndomot engaged one another in a pushing match, which was interrupted by Mulika. At the mudbath, some orphans opted out, and enjoyed a dust-bath instead.

19 May 2007

Having stepped out of the Night Stockade, Yatta greeted each orphan, touching them with her trunk. As the elephants were taking their morning drink, Kora spotted a dikdik and plucked up courage to charge it and trumpet. The dikdik disappeared rapidly, leaving Kora, Sidai, Buchuma and Challa charging around the bushes and breaking down small shrubs. Out in the Park, Rapsu and Madiba engaged one another in a pushing bout, which lasted until Sunyei came in to assist Madiba. Since it was another hot day, all the orphans enjoyed the mudwallow, after which Kora led the way back to the field to feed.

20 May 2007

As the orphans were taking their morning drink, Nasalot and Kinna realizsed that Orok was not nearby, since he was busy scratching himself at the rocks. They rumbled loudly after which Orok rumbled, and the two big elephants went to check that he was O.K. At noon Naserian led the first group to the milk venue, whilst Sunyei led the second batch, and finally Rapsu arrived with the last lot. After the mudbath, since it was still hot, the orphans relaxed under shade for some hours until it cooled down.

21 May 2007

There was tension at the water trough when two wild dogs appeared, also wanting to take a drink. Yatta, Mulika, Napasha and Nasalot drove the dogs away, in a noisy charge. Clear skies heralded another hot day, but even so, after having taken milk at noon, Naserian, Kora and Lualeni decided to head out again, without taking a wallow, leaving the others in the mudbath. In the evening the orphans split into two groups, one led by Kinna and Nasalot who took their charges to the seasonal river bank, while Yatta and Sunyei kept the second group close to their Keepers. When it came time to leave for the Night Stockades, the Keepers counted the elephants, only to find that Lualeni, Kinna, Orok, Nasalot, Naserian and Buchuma were missing. As the Keepers mounted the usual search, Sunyei came to the rescue as usual, leading the Keepers and sniffing the air from time to time to determine the direction. It was a long walk before, they came across the missing six, who had already begun the journey back to their Night quarters. There followed the usual exuberant welcome.

22 May 2007

The Keepers then steered the orphans to the Kalovota river line, where there is still plenty of browse. At l0 a.m. Madiba expressed his wellbeing by rolling on the ground, which attracted Ndomot, his Nursery playmate, so both rolled around together. Later Buchuma arrived to challenge Ndomot to a pushing contest which lasted quite a long time until Madiba intervened on the side of Ndomot, overpowering Buchuma.

23 May 2007

Soon after leaving the Stockade, the orphans gathered around the water trough, remaining there for a long time, every now and then raising their trunks to sniff the air. They were reluctant to follow the Keepers, who called them to move eastwards, but instead the elephants headed in a westerly direction. Shortly afterwards, four wild dogs arrived from an easterly direction, so the Keepers understood now why the elephants disobeyed their orders. Yatta, Nasalot and Mulika trumpeted, and charged the dogs, applauded by all the others, who were also trumpeting, and who had gathered around their Keepers for protection.

24 May 2007

It was a Big Day for the orphans – the day another three arrivals from the Nairobi Nursery were on their way to join them, namely Kenze, Sian and Loijuk. Meanwhile, Rapsu was running after Sidai intent on mounting her, Taita and Napasha were engaged in a pushing game, whilst Wendi and the others scratched themselves against nearby trees. Soon it was time to leave, but the orphans never wandered far, as though they knew that the new arrivals were expected. Shortly after 2 p.m., the three truks drew in with Kenze, Loijuk and Sian aboard. Naserian and Lualeni were the first to welcome the new arrivals, followed by the older group. The air was filled with excited trumpets, rumbling and bellowing, as all the elephants searched for, and checked out, the new arrivals. Kenze was the most popular amongst the group of older elephants, who eagerly followed him everywhere he went, forgetting about Orok for a time. Back in the field, there was very little feeding, since all the elephants were so interested in the new arrivals. Kora and Buchuma wanted to assert their authority in a bullying manner, but were warned off by the Keepers. Surprisingly, Yatta remained with Olmalo, walking slowly behind and watching events. When it came time to return in the evening, the Keepers had a hectic time, as no orphan wanted to be either in the second or third group as usual, but all wanted to accompany the new babies back to the Stockade. At long last the Keepers succeeded, but Kenze insisted on remaining behind with Nasalot and the Big Group. The day ended without Sian, Loijuk or Kenze showing any signs of stress or discomfort over their new circumstances.

25 May 2007

The three babies woke up in a fine mood and were led by Naserian to the water trough where they were joined by Nasalot and the rest of the group. Nasalot still showed great interest in Kenze, following him closely wherever he went, with Orok behind her. Out in the field, Buchuma tried to push Kenze away from Nasalot in order to challenge him to a pushing bout, but Nasalot thwarted him and pushed him away instead. By l0 a.m., it was very hot, and Kenze, Sian and Loijuk had to draw water from their stomach to splash behind their ears, not having yet adapted to the hotter climate of Ithumba. At noon, Sidai joined the three newcomers, escorting them to their milk, after which all enjoyed a good mudbath along with Maserian, Lualeni and Kora. Afterwards, Yatta led them all off to browse until evening.

26 May 2007

Today, out in the field, Buchuma kept on trying to mount onto Sian whenever she was away from the older elephants. Sian noticed this, and was careful to keep near to Mulika and Kinna, who defended her whenever Buchuma approached. In the evening Sian, Loijuk and Kenze enjoyed a soft drizzle, which cooled things off. At 5 p.m., Kora, Naserian, Lualeni, Sian, Loijuk and Kenze were in the first group, who left for the Night Stockades.

27 May 2007

At 6.30 a.m., as the orphans were quenching their thirst at the Stockade trough, Yatta, Mulika and Kinna raised their trunks in the air, sensing danger. Soon afterwards a group of wild dogs appeared from the nearby thicket making yipping sounds as they pursued a dikdik, frightening Kenze, Loijuk and Sian, who had never seen wild dogs before. Nasalot came to calm them down before leading them out to the field, but the three newcomers, who were nervous still, fed close to the Keepers for the rest of the day.

28 May 2007

Having taken water, surprisingly it was Sian, Loijuk and Kenze who led the way out, with all the others streaming behind them. After the mudbath, Sian led the others in the direction of Kone for three hours into extremely thick bush. The Keepers finally managed to bring Sian under control, and reverse direction, by which time everyone, both Keepers and elephants were tired. The older orphans walked behind all the others, and it was not until 7.30 p.m. that the first group and their Keepers arrived at the Stockade, very tired. Olmalo came last group, 30 minutes later, always a slow coach, with Yatta keeping her company, thus closing the Chapter.

29 May 2007

After the usual Stockade games, and a drink at the water trough, the orphans fed peacefully for 2 hours until Ndomot and Tomboi began a pushing game, after which Madiba and Naserian, followed by Buchuma and Kora all followed suit. Kenze, Loijuk and Sian were spectators, in amongst the Big Girls and therefore well out of the fray. These three newcomers were the first at the mudbath for their noon bottles of milk.

30 May 2007

Kenze, Loijuk and Sian went with the Big Elephants, swinging their trunks happily, after having taken water at the Stockade trough. Lualeni, Sian and Naserian enjoyed a wonderful mudbath at noon as Wendi, as usual concentrated on the human visitors. When Kenze, Loijuk and Sian quit the mudbath, the rest of the herd followed bringing the wallowing exercise to an abrupt end.

31 May 2007

Happy trumpeting filled the air as the orphans left the Stockades in the morning, whilst the youngsters waited for the older elephants to decide in which direction to lead today. In the end Yatta steered the orphans towards the slopes of Ithumba Hill. On the way Yatta and Kinna took a dustbath in some loose soil. Loijuk spent time glued to Mulika, who kept touching her to reassure her. Again, it was Kenze, Loijuk and Sian who led the first group to the milk venue at noon.