Keepers' Diaries, May 2011

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

As usual, in anticipation of the arrival of new Ex Nursery babies, all the independent Ex Orphans hung around the Ithumba Stockade compound for two days before the arrival of Olare, Kibo and Kandecha on the 13th, who were welcomed with the usual outpouring of love by the entire Ex Orphaned Group plus some wild Hangers On. When Murka, Naisula and Kitirua followed on the l9th, a wild bull of about l8, who has recently been a fixture in Yatta’s group, was there to oversee events and probably report back, for both the Ex orphans led by Yatta as well as a large Splinter Group led by Wendi turned up a little later to greet the new arrivals with the same enthusiasm and love.!

As usual, in anticipation of the arrival of new Ex Nursery babies, all the independent Ex Orphans hung around the Ithumba Stockade compound for two days before the arrival of Olare, Kibo and Kandecha on the 13th, who were welcomed with the usual outpouring of love by the entire Ex Orphaned Group plus some wild Hangers On. When Murka, Naisula and Kitirua followed on the l9th, a wild bull of about l8, who has recently been a fixture in Yatta’s group, was there to oversee events and probably report back, for both the Ex orphans led by Yatta as well as a large Splinter Group led by Wendi turned up a little later to greet the new arrivals with the same enthusiasm and love.!

The reunion of Ex Nursery elephants Olare, Kibo and Kandecha, who had preceded Murka, Naisula and Kitirua, was a moving and very intense quiet expression of profound relief at finding one another again, rather than the normal exuberant and somewhat rowdy welcome. All instantly came together huddled in a circle with heads pressed together and a great deal of gentle rumbling, trunk kissing and fondling taking place. Standing apart from the Ex Nursery group, somewhat taken aback, since the newcomers were not previously known to her, was little Ithumbah, obviously the “odd man out”. She seemed puzzled as to where so many close friends could have come from and found one another again! Having been rescued at Ithumba and reared in situ by the Keeper, she had no experience of the Nursery herself.

After the initial comfort greeting, all the Youngsters fraternized freely with Yatta’s wild “envoy” who was still standing by the water trough, none of the Juniors reticent about going straight up to him, so he was obviously putting out the right “vibes”! He left later, but was amongst Yatta’s group that evening when she and her Senior peers came to welcome the newcomers, Wendi having turned up at the compound with a large Splinter Group earlier.

Many natural waterholes around Ithumba have now dried up, so the wild elephants are coming in numbers to drink at the Stockade compound, sometimes with the Ex Orphans and at other times independently of them. This month the Ex Orphans have been coming twice daily to the Stockades to drink and catch up with the Babies either out in the bush, or at the noon mudbath, not always as one large herd, but either individually or with a Splinter Group led by Wendi, which usually incorporates all the ex Nursery Matriarchs and just some of the Ex Orphan bulls. Yatta’s Senior group usually incorporates the older Ex Orphans, such as Mulika, Kinna, Nasalot, Selengai, Buchuma and Napasha plus little Orok who seems to be a fixture of the Senior Set. The Seniors are usually always accompanied by wild bulls other than Yatta’s “recruit” named Mgeni, who has been absent this month. Wendi has kept in close touch with the youngsters this month, joining them during the evening of the 2nd, out in the field on the 7th, taking them to the mudbath where they were joined by Yatta, Mulika and some wild elephants, again out in the bush at Kone on the 14th (this time along with Yatta, Mulika, Sunyei, Selengai, Buchuma, Taita, Kora and a wild friend); on the 16th along with Galana, Chyulu, Lenana and 4 of the Ex Orphan bulls, Rapsu, Zurura, Taita, and Buchuma. On this occasion the Juniors had a demonstration from the Seniors about the choice of food plants, following the older Ex Orphans closely, and sampling whatever they selected. Similar food selection instruction took place on the 20th this time from the Seniors (Yatta, Nasalot, Kinna, Selengai, and bulls Napasha, Challa, Buchuma, Taita, and Orok) and on the 26th Lenana and Chyulu came together to join the Juniors and instruct them about what to eat.

Wendi’s group was with the Juniors again on the 21st, meeting up with Yatta’s Seniors at the mudbath. This has been the interaction pattern throughout the month, except on the 15th when Lenana came alone to join the Youngsters as they were returning in the evening.

Nasalot’s love of Kilaguni endures. On the 11th she was at the Stockades early in the morning to lead the babies out to browse, as usual fixated on Kilaguni and she appeared on her own on the 24th, instantly singling out Kilaguni for special loving. He appears to also be the favourite of Kinna.

In all, May has been a very happy month for the Ithumba orphans, with plenty of instruction given to the Juniors by the independent Ex Orphan Seniors, as well as plenty of wild elephant interaction. With the vegetation rapidly drying out, and the trees and shrubs losing leaf, it is interesting that the Ex Orphans have spent time deliberately showing the Juniors how to cope with a very different form of browsing, with bark and roots becoming an important food source.

May 2011 day to day

01 May

On a cloudless, hot early morning all the orphans took a drink at the Stockade water trough before heading out to browse. After the mudbath, all sheltered under trees until the temperature dropped. Kilaguni and Sabachi attempted a Pushing Match, but Suguta intervened and separated the two boys.

Kilaguni playing with Sabachi

Sabachi

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