Keepers' Diaries, May 2008

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

The Ithumba orphans continue to follow the usual routine, the older elephants led by Yatta frequently separating themselves from the youngsters who are left in the care of the Junior Matriarchs and the Keepers, and going off independently on their own. Sometimes they are away for just the morning, meeting up with the youngsters either out in the bush or at the noon mudbath venue, and at other times absenting themselves for the entire day, meeting up with the youngsters when they return to the Stockades at a time of their choosing. On other occasions the entire herd remains together, feeding as one united family. This month, yet again, Wendi has been undecided as to which group to join, and has spent time with both, sometimes leaving with the Senior set, but turning back to be with the juniors when she, Galana, Sunyei, Loijuk, Sidai and Sian share the Junior Matriarchal role.

The Ithumba orphans continue to follow the usual routine, the older elephants led by Yatta frequently separating themselves from the youngsters who are left in the care of the Junior Matriarchs and the Keepers, and going off independently on their own. Sometimes they are away for just the morning, meeting up with the youngsters either out in the bush or at the noon mudbath venue, and at other times absenting themselves for the entire day, meeting up with the youngsters when they return to the Stockades at a time of their choosing. On other occasions the entire herd remains together, feeding as one united family. This month, yet again, Wendi has been undecided as to which group to join, and has spent time with both, sometimes leaving with the Senior set, but turning back to be with the juniors when she, Galana, Sunyei, Loijuk, Sidai and Sian share the Junior Matriarchal role.

The Ithumba orphans have had several encounters with wild elephants witnessed by their Keepers, and the older independent ones have obviously enjoyed many more which are not witnessed by their Keepers. On the 11th, whilst bathing in the Imenti waterhole, 2 wild bulls were obviously feeding in the thicket nearby, for their scent was detected by the orphans all of whom raised their trunks to test the wind. Led the Kora, the youngsters were bold enough to go and investigate, but soon came rushing back to their Keepers, obviously fearful of the wild visitors! Then Challa, who was orphaned old enough to clearly remember his time as a wild elephant calf, plucked up enough courage to hesitantly return into the thicket. Soon afterwards he and one of the wild bulls emerged from the thicket, but as soon as the wild stranger picked up the scent of the Keepers, he fled!. Yatta and the older elephants then went in pursuit, only returning to meet up with the youngsters at 5 p.m. in the evening and then returning with them to the Stockades for the night.

On the 23rd the youngsters were scared when they again happened upon a large wild bull. This prompted a rapid retreat back towards the Stockades, the wild bull following them until the sound of a passing vehicle scared him off! Meanwhile, the Keepers had remained hidden from view and taken a different route back to the Stockades in order to avoid contact with the wild bull. Soon after their arrival, Yatta and the older group arrived back, according to the Keepers, “looking very happy”, obviously having had a good day!

The orphans enjoyed a visit from the Trust’s US Board of Trustees on the 24th, a day that the Keepers had a busy time trying to keep the group intact so that the Trustees could see them all at the noon mudbath. Kinna, Nasalot and Mulika did their best to escape during this time, charging into the bush as though needing to see some intruder off. However, the ruse did not escape the Keepers, who went to investigate and upon finding out that there was nothing, rounding them up again! All were present and correct at the noon mudbath for the enjoyment of the US Board of Trustees, but the older elephants didn’t linger long, obviously eager to be on their way. However, on this occasion Wendi had no difficulty in making up her mind, and was, as usual very curious and eager to make contact with the visitors, giving them all the “ once over” with her trunk!

On the 29th, the sound of a breaking branch alerted the orphans to the presence of wild elephants, something that again made the youngsters nervous, particularly when they head the wild elephants trumpeting at a distance. However, Yatta and the older elephants responded by also trumpeting and rumbling and were soon heading off to try and make contact, leaving the youngsters behind with their Keepers. Yatta and her group returned to the Stockades at about 7 p.m. and shortly afterwards a wild bull turned up to take a drink, and rumble them a greeting. The next morning the older orphans left in the direction the wild bull had taken meeting up with the youngsters in the afternoon in the Kone area.

As usual, the young bulls have been busy testing their strength against each other, something that is the favourite pastime of young bulls. This month Kora has featured prominently, taking on Kenze, Challa, Rapsu and even trying his luck with older elephants such as Ol Malo, Wendi, and even the main Matriarch and Leader, Yatta, all of whom put him back in place, as did Taita when he was being a bit too forceful with Challa. It is good to know that Kora’s jaw is no longer a deterrent to such games having been shattered by a bullet wound before he was rescued as an orphan. Kamboyo, who was the pushy one during his Nursery time, has also been busy with his friend Zurura as well as challenging Rapsu, who is no push-over! Rapsu often engages Challa as does Kenze.

The Kalovoto area has been a favourite haunt of the Ithumba unit this month as it remains somewhat lusher than the surrounding countryside which is beginning to dry out as the long dry season begins to take hold. However, the weather continues to be very changeable, on occasions so hot that the orphans have to resort to drawing on reserves of stomach water to spray over their bodies, as well as take to the shade, and at other times so cool that they are reluctant to go into the noon mudbath. Kora and Ol Malo still stand out as two that are not overly keen on getting into cold water – always the last in, if they go in at all, and always the first out whenever they do!

May 2008 day to day

01 May

Having quenched their thirst the Stockade trough, Nasalot and Kinna led the way to the field, followed only by Buchuma, Yatta, Orok, (Nasalot’s favourite calf), Taita, Tomboi, Mulika and her favourite, Selengai, and Napasha. As usual Wendi was undecided about which group to be with. At first she followed the older group, but then returned to the youngsters who were still in the compound where Kenze, Olmalo and Zurura were busy scratching themselves at the unloading bay. Galana and Sunyei, both Junior Matriarchs, then blew the whistle and all then headed out to browse. After the mudbath, where the youngsters took their milk ration, the youngsters headed to the Kalovoto watercourse until it was time to return to the Stockades in the evening, where they met up with the first group who had returned independently.

Kinna sniffing the air

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