Keepers' Diaries, May 2010

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

We have long been extremely anxious and puzzled by the condition of Sian, which has deteriorated radically of late. Her problem began with what we thought was a growth on her feet, which was examined under sedation by Dr. Ndeereh, the Vet attached to our Tsavo Mobile Unit, who said that it was not a growth, but calcification of the toenails. That condition was also evident in the deterioration of her teeth which appeared riddled with cavities and so brittle that they were breaking up. However, since elephants have 6 sets of molars in a lifetime, we hoped that perhaps the incoming replacements might be more normal but no such luck, so the reason for this condition remains a mystery, unless it has something to do with the highly mineralized soil of her Amboseli origin!

01 May 2010

Upon leaving the Stockades, led by Sian the orphans headed to the Kalovoto seasonal river to browse. At 9 a.m. Yatta passed by the Stockades, accompanied by her boyfriend. Since it was a cool day, none of the orphans opted for a mudbath, Makena spending time scratching her body against a tree. During the afternoon they happened upon a small puddle that was warm, and decided to roll in that.

02 May 2010

Today the orphans chose to browse at the Kanziku area. Again it was too cold to tempt them into the mudbath, so having scratched their bodies against the Acacia trees, they resumed feeding during the afternoon. Later in the evening Yatta’s group came to join them, and spent about an hour with them before it was time to return to the Night Stockades.

03 May 2010

Having left the Stockades, the orphans browsed close by, where they were joined by Mgeni (Yatta’s wild recruit). They then all left together and were joined by Yatta without her entourage at l0 a.m. Yatta remained with the Keeper Dependent orphans for the rest of the day, and escorted them back in the evening. Shortly before dark, Galana, Sidai and Lualeni passed by the Stockade, took water from the trough, and then disappeared into the thicket.

04 May 2010

All the ex orphans turned up at the Stockades just before dawn, and hung around for a while before heading off into the bush. The Youngsters were let out of their Stockades at 6 a.m., and followed the direction taken by the others earlier. The Youngsters settled down to browse in the Kanziku area, but the ex orphans had carried on towards the Imenti waterhole. After the mudbath the Youngsters browsed around the base of Ithumba hill. In the evening Yatta’s group turned up again at the Stockades, but without Mgeni, who had probably peeled off with Wendi’s splinter group.

05 May 2010

At 8.30 a.m. Yatta’s group joined the Youngsters. Nasalot immediately went to feed next to Meibai, Taita engaged Loijuk in a friendly Pushing Game, and the others all intermingled with one another. Both groups enjoyed a joint mudbath, fed together for the remainder of the day, and returned together to the Stockades in the evening to see the Youngsters in for the night.

06 May 2010

Yatta’s group joined the Youngsters in the morning. On the way out Sian remained behind the others, scratching herself against a tree, and then followed them at her own pace. Today Yatta browsed close to Meibai and escorted the Youngsters to the mudbath, paying particular attention to Meibai, guiding him into the water and making sure he didn’t get stuck. At 3 p.m. Yatta’s group separated from the Youngsters, leaving Makena to lead the way home in the evening. However, the ex orphans turned up again in the evening, and spent 20 minutes at the Stockades.

07 May 2010

Yatta’s group again joined the orphans in the morning. Orok engaged Loijuk in a Pushing Match, in which Loijuk surrendered and a short while later Mgeni engaged Yatta in a Pushing Game which went on for some time. At the mudbath, all the ex orphans went in, but the Keeper Dependent youngsters decided it was too cold. In the evening Yatta’s group separated, heading west of Ithumba hill.

08 May 2010

It was a hot morning, so the Youngsters took water before heading out, led by Sian, who has long been a weakling. They settled down to browse along the Kone road until 11 a.m. when Chyulu led the group to the mudbath. Soon after the Juniors had left the mudbath, Wendi and her group arrived to cool off, after which they joined the Juniors and spent the rest of the afternoon with them, escorting the Youngsters back to their Stockades in the evening.

09 May 2010

The orphans dawdled at the Stockades, having taken water, scratching themselves against the trees until the Keepers called them to head on out to the field. Since it was a cool day, none of the Youngsters were interested in taking a mudbath, but instead resumed browsing. Kenze and Zurura enjoyed a Pushing Match.

10 May 2010

It was a hot day as the orphans left the Stockades, led by Loijuk. She and Meibai browsed together before seeking the shade. Lenana, Zurura and Kenze dug cool soil out from beneath rocks to dust themselves. All thoroughly enjoyed the mudbath today, temperatures being conducive. In the evening Wendi’s group joined the Juniors on their way back to the Stockades in the evening, and managed to tempt Kenze to remain with them for a night outing and later left with him. Kenze came to Ithumba 3 years ago together with Sian and the youngsters current Matriarch, Loijuk. Now that he has embarked on outings with the older orphans, he will be shown all the trails and waterholes and at puberty no doubt he will attach himself to older bulls where he will learn the discipline mail elephants need to respect.

11 May 2010

Loijuk led the Youngsters out, minus Kenze, with Meibai and Zurura the only two boys remaining in the company of 5 girls. Understanding that Sian is weak and needs company, Zurura spent the entire day close to her. The Youngsters took a short mudbath before resuming to browse. On the way back Zurura remained behind the others to keep Sian company, because she is so weak and cannot keep pace with the rest.

12 May 2010

All the ex orphans, which included both Yatta’s and Wendi’s groups, joined the Juniors at the Stockades in the morning and accompanied the Juniors out to browse. Today it was Kinna who fed close to Meibai Nasalot and Wendi enjoyed a soil bath before the entire group climbed Hyena hill, where they spent the morning feeding. At 11 a.m. Yatta led the entire group to the mudbath, after which the ex orphans headed westwards while Loijuk took her group to the East, for fear of losing Meibai to the ex orphans.

13 May 2010

The Ex Orphans joined the Juniors at the mudbath today. Kinna took great care of Meibai, who enjoyed the attention of the older elephants so much that he refused to follow the Juniors when Loijuk decided it was time to leave. Loijuk rumbled to him, but he paid no attention. She then returned to the wallow and tried to push him out. The Keepers helped, and once he was out of the mudbath, he went with Loijuk to catch up with the rest of her group, who were waiting not far off.

14 May 2010

In the evening some of Wendi’s group – Lualeni, Kora, Naserian and Challa – joined the Juniors at the slopes of Ithumba hill and fed amongst the Youngsters, escorting them back to the Stockades in the evening. At the Stockades Challa mounted onto Lualeni, which angered Kora who came to engage Challa in a Pushing Match that went on for some time. The four Ex orphans left the Stockades compound shortly before dark.

15 May 2010

It was a misty morning with light showers which left the Orphans in a jovial mood, enjoying wallowing in stagnant pools of water they encountered on their way out to browse. In the evening, another batch from Wendi’s group turned up at the Stockades, namely Lualeni, Kora, Naserian, Challa and Rapsu. They escorted the Youngsters back to the Stockades.

16 May 2010

Yatta and her group were at the Stockades to join the orphans first thing in the morning, and together all the orphans went to Hyena Hill to browse. At 11 a.m. the Keeper Dependent orphans headed for the mudbath while Yatta took her group to the Kalovoto area. The two groups merged again at about 1 p.m. and spent the rest of the day together, with Yatta’s group escorting the Youngsters back to the stockades in the evening.

17 May 2010

Once out in the field, Zurura enjoyed a pushing game with Lenana, watched by Sian, who is very fond of Zurura. Sian has been in a weak condition for a long time now, beginning with what looked like a growth on her feet. This came off in time, and we thought that she was over her health issues, but it was not to be. For a long time she has been getting extra nourishment in the form of Dairy cubes, coconut, etc., putting on a little weight, but then losing it all again and becoming emaciated, even when the browse is green and lush. Zurura withdrew from the Pushing match and went to join Sian.

18 May 2010

The orphans left the compound in a jovial mood, bumping playfully into one another and swinging their trunks from side to side. Even Sian swung her trunk slowly, no doubt wishing she could be as strong as the others. Once out in the field Meibai had some instruction in Pushing tactics from Zurura, who is the only other boy in the group.

19 May 2010

It was an extremely hot morning, so having taken water at the stockade trough, the orphans had to seek shade out in the browsing field, waiting for temperatures to fall. They enjoyed a cooling mudbath, and rested under shade again, waiting for cooler weather to begin browsing. Yatta and her group joined the Juniors in the evening and escorted them back to the Stockades.

20 May 2010

The orphans enjoyed a more cloudy morning today, which enabled them to browse peacefully until mudbath time. They spent about half an hour at the mudbath before resuming to browse. At around 2 p.m. the Youngsters were joined by Yatta’s group which included Mgeni and another wild bull his size. They then all returned to the Stockades together in the evening, and once the Youngsters were inside, the others hung around in the compound for a while before leaving.

21 May 2010

The orphans enjoyed feeding without interruption today. At the mudbath Sian and Meibai took their milk while the rest took water before returning to browse again without even stepping into the mudbath.

22 May 2010

Only Meibai went into the mudbath today, while all the others just opted to take water and decided against wallowing. Not wanting to be alone, Meibai then emerged, and the Youngsters headed to continue feeding along the slopes of Ithumba hill. All the ex orphans came to the Stockade compound in the evening.

23 May 2010

After the Juniors had left in the morning, Yatta’s group passed by the Stockades where they took water before moving on. The juniors all enjoyed their noon mudbath today and returned to browse until it was time to return in the evening.

24 May 2010

Yatta and her group joined the Juniors in the morning, and took the Youngsters to feed along the Eastern side of Ithumba hill. Nasalot browsed close to Sian, touching her back in a loving gesture, understanding that Sian is not well. When she joins the juniors she always goes to where Sian is feeding to try and comfort her. After the mudbath Loijuk took her group to browse in the Kanziku area while the Ex Orphans continued on towards the Imenti waterhole.

25 May 2010

Light showers fell during the morning, which the orphans thoroughly enjoyed. Loijuk and Chyulu enjoyed a playful pushing match. None of the Juniors was tempted to go into the mudbath, because it was too cool, but enjoyed dusting themselves with soil instead.

26 May 2010

Today, Sian headed straight out to browse without passing by the water trough, soon joined by the others. All fed calmly throughout the day.

27 May 2010

The Juniors browsed all morning as usual, and headed for the mudbath at noon. Sian went to stand in the shade having taken her milk. The orphans fed throughout the afternoon until it was time to head back to the Stockades in the evening.

28 May 2010

The orphans left the Stockades in drizzling rain, and settled to feed along the Kone road. Sian did not want all her milk at noon, which was unusual. Later she discharged a watery stool, and on the way home looked weak and tired. Zurura remained with her, coming along slowly behind all the others.

29 May 2010

Sian refused her milk today and went to join her colleagues who were waiting outside. Still looking tired and weak, she led the group to browse in the nearby thickets. Zurura remained very close to Sian today, knowing that she was not well and might need help. At noon she only took half her milk. A Noroclav injection was administered at 1 p.m. She again refused her milk in the evening, instead eating Dairy Cubes and browse.

30 May 2010

Again Sian refused her milk. She was given her 2nd Noroclav injection, dragging herself slowly to the water trough. The Keepers hand fed her soft greens, but she had no appetite and took very little. At the mudbath, she joined the others in soil dusting, and went to rest under the trees. At around 2 p.m., she returned to the mudbath, where she was joined by Wendi’s group. Wendi and Galana comforted her by placing their trunks over her back as they walked her slowly to join her colleagues who were waiting nearby. Wendi and Galana remained with Sian until 5 p.m. and then escorted her slowly back when Wendi wanted to join her in the stockade for the night, but was barred by the Keepers. Instead she remained outside watching Sian, obviously concerned about her deteriorating health, before joining her group who were waiting close by.

31 May 2010

Sian took only half a bottle of milk, and passed a stool with dead worms. She went to feed on soft greens, also taking some from the Keepers’ hands. Wendi’s group came to the mudbath and all immediately surrounded Sian, comforting her. They later took a soil bath, before heading back out to feed, Sian slowly following them.