Keepers' Diaries, May 2008

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.

01 May 2008

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.

02 May 2008

Sunyei and Naserian led the way out to browse today, Lualeni, Rapsu and Sidai already having started feeding around the Stockades, while Kenze and Kora opted for a scratch instead. At around l0 a.m. it was very hot, forcing the orphans under shade until the Keepers called them for the mudbath, where they all enjoyed a cool-off. Kora and Ol Malo did not stay in the water long, but the others remained in the waterhole for at least another 30 minutes before joining Kora and Ol Malo, both of whom are not fond of getting wet! Once again the afternoon feeding session was at the Kalovoto area where the vegetation is still green.

03 May 2008

Today, Yatta, Nasalot and Kinna bade farewell to the youngsters and took the older elephants out, leaving the youngsters indulging in their usual activities back at the Stockades, before heading out towards the foot of Ithumba hill. There Kenze and Zurura had a disagreement over a branch that Galana had broken and left for them, until Sunyei intervened and forced them to share it. After the mudbath Sidai and Kamboyo led the youngsters out to feed for the rest of the afternoon.

04 May 2008

The orphans entered the feeding grounds in a jovial mood, to the accompaniment of early morning birdsong. They fed peacefully for the morning, after which only half the group enjoyed the mudbath before being led away by Kora.

05 May 2008

Soon after leaving the Stockades Zurura engaged Ol Malo in a pushing strength, but soon had to give way because she was much stronger. Led by Mulika, the entire group headed towards the Kone area where they settled in to feed. After the milk and mudbath, they all returned to browse until Loijuk and Sian led them all back home in the evening.

06 May 2008

The orphans spent a long time within the compound area today, Ol Malo and Kora enjoying a pushing game which was won by Kora, who then somewhat unwisely took on Yatta who very shortly over-powered him and sent him running off! Only at 7 a.m. did Mulika lead the entire herd out to feed. Sian led the group to the milk and mudbath venue after which they all browsed close to the waterhole before returning in the evening to the Stockades.

07 May 2008

On a cold morning the orphans gathered around the Stockade trough deciding which direction to take today. Meanwhile Kora and Zurura warmed themselves up by indulging in a pushing game until the Seniors had made up their mind and led the way out towards the Kanziku area. As it was very hot, all enjoyed the mud-wallow today. Challa and Kora challenged one another which deteriorated into a tough fight which brought Taita along to break it up, and push them both away. Loijuk and Sian then led the group back to feed until it was time to return in the late evening.

08 May 2008

As soon as the Stockade Gates were opened, Kora was eager to meet up with Yatta to have a lesson in pushing techniques. Later Mulika led the group out to feed and after the mudbath they all went to the Kalovota area for the remainder of the day before returning to the Stockades.

09 May 2008

Today Yatta led her group out, leaving the youngsters with the Junior Matriarchs and their Keepers. Lualeni and Naserian engaged one another in a pushing game whilst Kenze scratched at the unloading bay until Sunyei indicated that it was time to leave. The youngsters spent the morning at the Kanziku area whilst Yatta’s group browsed along the Kalovoto river. Both groups then merged at the mudbath venue, and then fed together back at the Kalovoto area.

10 May 2008

Wendi and Kora opened the day’s activities with a pushing match until Yatta led the entire herd northwards, heading to the Imenti waterhole at noon, only to miss a wild herd who had been drinking there shortly before their arrival. The orphans thoroughly enjoyed bathing in the waterhole, Lualeni mounting onto Challa and Kora as they were lying in the water, and the others playing many games until Yatta called off the exercise. She led the orphans in the direction taken by the wild elephants. In the evening Sian and Kora led the first group back to the stockades whilst Yatta remained at the rear guarding little Orok.

11 May 2008

Wendi and Challa engaged one another in a pushing match which lasted quite some time, until the others wanted to leave. For the second day running the orphans went to the Imenti waterhole where just a few meters away two wild elephants were breaking bushes, feeding. After Yatta’s group had been in the wallow, their trunks went up, scenting the wild elephants, and then, led by Kora, the orphans went into the thickets trailing the wild elephants. A few minutes later the orphans returned in a rush to the Keepers, the youngsters huddled around their human family, obviously disturbed. The orphans continued to raise their trunks in the air scenting the wild elephants, and then, led by Challa (who was orphaned old enough to remember his wild family clearly) they all went to check again. A very large wild bull then emerged bent on making his way to the water, but as soon as he got the scent of the men, he retreated hurriedly. Yatta and the older elephants then split from the youngsters and followed the wild bulls. At 5 p.m. in the evening the older elephants met up with the youngsters in the Kanziku feeding area, and together they all returned to the Stockades for the night.

12 May 2008

It was a cloudy morning, with light showers throughout the morning, which were greatly appreciated by the orphans, the youngsters playing and rolling in the dampened earth and the older elephants breaking down branches for them to enjoy. Just before 11 a.m. Challa and Rapsu engaged one another in a strength test, a bout that was won by Rapsu, leaving Challa to join the milk dependent youngsters who were set to head off for their noon feed and the mudbath. As it was still cool and cloudy none of the orphans felt like wallowing today.

13 May 2008

After an early morning drink at the stockade trough, the orphans split into two groups, Yatta and the older elephants heading towards the Kone area, while the youngsters, led by Lualeni, went to the Kanziku area. At the mudbath venue Naserian and Lualeni enjoyed a friendly pushing game, watched by Kenze, while the rest enjoyed a wallow. Galana was enjoying mounting onto Kora who was rolling around in the mud. Later Galana led the group to the Kalovoto area where they were joined by the older elephants of Yatta’s herd. Sian and Loijuk were the leaders when it was time to return to the Stockades in the evening.

14 May 2008

On a warm morning, the orphans enjoyed their usual Stockade games before heading out to feed. Kenze and Kora engaged one another as did Kamboyo and Rapsu. Lualeni and Ol Malo were busy scratching their bodies against the unloading bay while Challa and Naserian chased one another around the compound. When it was time to leave Sunyei took one group to the Kone area, while Nasalot took the older elephants towards the Imenti waterhole. The youngsters browsed comfortably and then enjoyed the mudbath while the older elephants cooled themselves at the Imenti waterhole. In the evening the two groups met up at the Kanziku area where they fed all together for about an hour before heading back home.

15 May 2008

The orphans left the Stockades early for the field, where they again split into two groups, the older elephants led by Yatta, while Wendi decided to remain with the younger set. The two groups merged again later at a natural depression where they all enjoyed wallowing. Just before 11 a.m. Zurura and Kamboyo engaged one another in a pushing game that was interrupted by Challa, who then led the group to the usual mudbath venue. However, he was soon overtaken by Kora and a competition about who should be leader ensued, until the Keepers reprimanded the boys to allow Sian, Loijuk, Kamboyo and Zurura to take the lead, being the first relay to the milk venue. Later on that day Kora and Challa had a strength testing exercise which was won by Kora.

16 May 2008

It was a cool morning, so the orphans felt no need to visit the Stockade trough, instead heading out to the field immediately. There some of them enjoyed warming up, Madiba and Naserian playing a pushing game while Sunyei, Lualeni and Kora chased one another around. At 9 a.m. Yatta took her group away from the youngsters. The two groups then met up at the mudbath venue and spent the rest of the day together.

17 May 2008

The orphans all concentrated on feeding once out in the field, and after mudbath rested under shade for some time, flapping their ears constantly to cool themselves since it was a very hot day.

18 May 2008

Soon after leaving the Stockade, the orphans browsed nearby while Kenze and Challa engaged one another and Naserian and Loijuk enjoyed rolling on the ground. Sunyei then led the group out. By l0 a.m. it was very hot, so the orphans took to shade, browsing whilst sheltered by shade. At noon the mudbath was popular with them all after which Yatta led the entire herd to the Kalovoto area where they spent the rest of the afternoon.

19 May 2008

Today, it was the Keepers who decided to lead the orphans to the Eastern side of Ithumba Hill, an area well pastured. Kora and Kenze spent time playing a pushing game that drew the attention of Nasalot, who watched the two carefully as they exchanged pushes. As the group was heading to the mudbath, Sunyei played her usual trick, this time in conjunction with Loijuk, both of whom exploded from the thickets trumpeting as though scared. This prompted a general hasty retreat to the Keepers, the youngsters bellowing their fear!

20 May 2008

On a lovely morning the orphans left their Night Stockades as usual. Soon Kenze, Kamboyo and Challa were embroiled in a pushing game which ended when Challa attempted to mount onto Kamboyo, prompting him and Kenze to run off together and begin browsing apart from Challa. All enjoyed the mudbath which lasted about half an hour until Kora brought things to an end by rushing out, followed by the rest.

21 May 2008

It was an uneventful day, just spent feeding quietly, going to the mudbath and milk venue at noon and enjoying a dust bath afterwards.

22 May 2008

The orphans headed out to feed in an up-beat mood, deliberately bumping into each other playfully as they went. In the bush Galana, Kamboyo, Sunyei and Sidai enjoyed a soil bath against an anthill while Kora and Challa engaged one another in a strength test, which lasted quite some time until Nasalot decided that “enough was enough” and separated them. Since it was a cool day very few orphans went into the mudbath, most of them opting for a soil bath instead.

23 May 2008

Yatta’s group headed Eastwards today, leaving the youngsters at the Stockade compound with their Keepers. The day turned very hot for the youngsters, forcing Sian, Kamboyo and Zurura to draw on reserves of stomach water to spray over their bodies. The heat prompted Galana and Sunyei to lead the youngsters to the mudbath earlier than usual where all enjoyed cooling themselves down. Later they went to feed around the Kamziku area. At about 4.30 p.m. the youngsters were scared by a wild bull that they happened upon, sending them running back towards the Stockades. The bull was following them, so the Keepers took another route, but the wild bull retreated when he heard a passing vehicle. The Keepers were reunited with their charges at the Stockades, and 30 minutes later Yatta and her group turned up, all looking very happy.

24 May 2008

Today, the orphans woke up early and the Keepers were on high alert to try and keep the herd together, because the Trust’s US Board of Directors, Dame Daphne and Robert Carr-Hartley were due to fly in and visit the Stockades and visit the orphans at their noon mudbath. Nasalot, Mulika and Kinna did their best to escape in the morning, by pretending to charge something unseen in the bush, but the Keepers rounded them up again so that all the orphans could be at the mudbath with the important visitors. Meanwhile a Helicopter brought the other Trust Trustees from the Trust House, who had motored down the previous day. All visited the Stockades and Trust Staff quarters and held discussions with the Warden before meeting the orphans at their noon mudbath where Wendi, as usual, was curious about the visitors and went out of her way to give them the “once over” investigating them with her trunk. After the mudbath, the orphans disappeared into the thickets, thereby ending the encounter with their visitors, who went for lunch at the Ithumba Camp before leaving for the Trust House.

25 May 2008

The orphans headed out to feed in a jovial mood where Loijuk, Zurura and Kenze enjoyed a dustbath which was interrupted when Ndomot and Madiba took it over. After the mudbath, Yatta took the herd to the Kalovoto area where they all spent the rest of the day.

26 May 2008

Although the country is now beginning to dry out, the Kalovoto area remains quite lush, so the orphans went to browse there. Because it was a cool day, they were in no hurry for the milk and mudbath, but took their time. After the mudbath Mulika took the herd back to the Kalovoto area to enjoy feeding for the rest of the day.

27 May 2008

Mist obscured Ithumba Hill this morning, so the orphans fed closer to the Stockades, slowly making their way towards the hill. Towards 9 a.m. the day began to warm up. Challa and Kora enjoyed another strength test, which saw Kora victorious. The older elephants then split from the youngsters when it was mudbath and milk time, but the two groups met up at 4 p.m. in the Kanziku area where they browsed together for the rest of the day.

28 May 2008

Out in the feeding area, the orphans scattered far and wide as they browsed. Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot, Kinna, Napasha, Selengai and Buchuma sneaked off on their own, but showed up at the mudbath venue, after which all the orphans remained together browsing in the Kanziku area. In the evening Loijuk and Sian led the herd back home.

29 May 2008

Today, the orphans concentrated on feeding. There was a high wind, and the snapping sound of a tree branch scared the youngsters who rushed back to their Keepers, while the older group went to investigate the sound. Later, from the direction of the sound, a wild herd trumpeted and bellowed. Yatta and her group responded, still heading in that direction. Meanwhile, the Keepers escorted the youngsters to the mudbath and milk, after which Galana, Sunyei and Sidai took the group back to the browsing area. At 5 p.m. Kamboyo led the youngsters back to the Stockades and an hour later Yatta and the older elephants arrived. At 7 p.m. a wild bull appeared at the Stockades, with whom the older group had probably spent the day. He took a drink at the Stockade trough, rumbled a greeting to Yatta and the older elephants in the nearby Stockade and then left.

30 May 2008

On a chilly morning, Yatta and the older elephants left in the direction the wild bull had taken, leaving the youngsters, and Wendi, at the Stockade with the Keepers. Wendi and Sunyei led the youngsters to the Kanziku area to feed. In the evening the youngsters met up with the older orphans at the Kone area, and they all fed together until it was time to return in the evening.