Keepers' Diaries, November 2007

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

It is intriguing how the Ithumba elephants always seem to know when to expect others, something illustrated clearly in the Diaries. Kamboyo and Zurura left Nairobi at 5.30 a.m. on the morning of the 8th, and that same morning, as soon as the Ithumba elephants emerged from their Night Stockades, the Big Girls, namely Yatta (the Matriarch), Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna began trumpeting and running hither and thither, clearly excited and behaving uncharacteristically, even though the Keepers had yet to be informed that Kamboyo and Zurura had been loaded successfully and were on their way!. The Keepers only got this news at about 8 a.m. - another indication of the amazing intuition that elephants possess. It can only be telepathic, since the Big Ithumba Girls have never met Kamboyo or Zurura.

01 November 2007

Ndomot was first out this morning. Meanwhile, Sian, Kenze and Loijok delayed which irritated Yatta and Nasalot, both of whom went back to the trio and rumbled something that made them rush out and join the rest of the orphans at the waterhole. Whilst waiting for all to take water, Naserian, Sian and Madiba were busy scratching off ticks before joining Kora and Olmalo who were playing “push” nearby. Kenze, Loijok and Rapsu took a very long drink at the Stockade trough, while Galana ran around with her ears out. Tomboi went to inspect the older orphans’ night quarters and after half an hour of such activities, Wendi and Sian led the group out to the feeding grounds. All enjoyed the mudbath, and continued to feed in the afternoon.

02 November 2007

The orphans rumbled to each other as they emerged, Challa being first at the water trough. Many then took to scratching themselves against trees and the unloading bay. Kora and Olmalo were having a pushing game, which deteriorated into a fight when Kora poked Olmalo hard on the head. Immediately, sensing that he had done wrong, he went to dust himself. Today, Ndomot was the leader, heading for the Kanziku watercourse where there is still green vegetation. Yatta and Nasalot broke branches down for Orok and Kenze, two of the smallest orphans at Ithumba. Naserian took the group to the mudbath venue, after which they all fed until evening.

03 November 2007

The usual Stockade games dominated the early morning. Madiba and Challa chased each other around, while Naserian and Wendi headed to the unloading bay to scratch off ticks. Kenze and Sian enjoyed a pushing game, and Naserian and Challa had an altercation over a tree stump, and had to be separated by Nasalot. Kinna signaled that it was time to depart. Once in the feeding area, Orok and Kenze remained close to Nasalot who broke branches down for them. Napasha decided to be a Big Boy and go off to feed alone. Naserian, Kora, Lualeni and Loijok were first at the milk far, with Orok, Olmalo and Kenze last, always remaining close to the Big Girls. The mudbath and soil dusting lasted a full hour before the orphans resumed feeding.

04 November 2007

After the usual Stockade activities, Yatta rumbled and the entire herd rallied behind her to be led out to feed near Ithumba Hill, where they remained until it was time for the mudbath. Selengai, Sunyei, Madiba and Kenze enjoyed the mudbath ahead of the others. In the evening Yatta, Kinna and some of the bigger orphans remained behind for an hour after the babies returned to the Stockades for the night, led by Mulika. Yatta, Kinna and the others clocked in at 7.30 p.m..

05 November 2007

Another lovely morning as the orphans met outside their night stockades amidst trumpets and rumbles, which are the usual morning greetings. As soon as the Gates were opened, Mulika rushed to the babies to check that they were all fine. Having quenched their thirst, the games began. Mulika rolled on the ground so that Kenze, Orok and Olmalo could clamber on top of her, during which Orok pushed Kenze who toppled off, falling on his trunk which made him scream. All the others immediately stopped whatever they were doing, and rush towards him to check what was amiss. Even Mulika shot up and rumbled loudly with her ears wide. They then combed the entire compound to make sure that nothing untoward had prompted Kenze to cry, and later moved out to feed. Once in the field, the orphans split into two groups, Yatta and Kinna leading one, while Mulika and Nasalot led the second group. The two groups were apart all morning, but merged when it was time to head to the mudbath. Naserian led the advance group. All had a lovely mudbath, then continued to feed until it was time to return in the evening.

06 November 2007

After taking water, Orok and Buchuma had a pushing game, while Napasha and Ndomot did likewise. Kenze decided to get into the water trough and began to splash water over Nasalot and Sunyei, who were drinking from the trough at the time. When it was time to leave, Sian led the group out. After mudbath, the group went to the Kanziko river area to feed for the rest of the day.

07 November 2007

It was a cloudy day when the orphans emerged in the morning, so they began the day by feeding around the compound. Taita began rolling on the ground which attracted Wendi who came and sat on him, after which Taita opted for a pushing match that lasted about 5 minutes until Napasha interrupted the bout, prompting Wendi to leave Kenze and Orok were watching the older boys, and decided to initiate their own pushing match but this was interrupted by Sunyei and Ndomot who were chasing each other around. Orok then decided to roll on his own, closely monitored by Mulika and Wendi. At the Kalovoto watercourse, Yatta and Olmalo dug up roots, which they relished. After the usual mudbath, which lasted an hour, feeding resumed until it was time to return to the Stockades.

08 November 2007

Today, the Keepers were surprised by the behaviour of Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna who were trumpeting and running hither and thither, with the whole troupe following. At 8 a.m., the Keepers were happy to hear that there were two new babies on their way from the Nairobi Nursery, making them conclude that the elephants somehow knew that new members were on their way. The Keepers and the elephants remained close to the compound to welcome the two new babies, namely Kamboyo and Zurura who arrived at about 1 p.m. Instantly, Sian and Loijok recognized them and were overjoyed to be reunited with them. The afternoon was spent competing about who should look after the new babies. Mulika spent all afternoon comforting them.

09 November 2007

It was the second day for the newcomers, so they walked close to the Keepers, attended by Sian and Loijuk. Once out in the field, the Big Girls were still competing for possession of them. Nasalot, who is fond of adopting little boys, kept the Keepers guessing. Orok was keeping very close to her, afraid of being replaced! In the evening Sian and Loijuk led the new babies to their Stockade for the night.

10 November 2007

Just before 7 a.m., rain fell. The babies sought shelter underneath the bellies of the bigger elephants, finding the rain cold, but soon all were happily slipping and sliding in the mud. Kora led them to the feeding grounds today, where they had a happy time until it was time for the mudbath, and later to return in the evening.

11 November 2007

Another rainy morning, so the orphans did not need to drink from the Stockade trough. Instead they played pushing games. Rapsu took on Selengai. It rained all day, so the orphans enjoyed numerous wallowing sessions every time they came across a puddle.

12 November 2007

This morning, Rapsu took on Wendi for a pushing match while Yatta trained Orok on how to defend himself when attached by a stranger. Nasalot led the orphans out to feed, but when they came across a waterhole, then began wallowing. Loijuk lay down so that Zurura and Kamboyo could climb onto her, but the Keepers cautioned them.

13 November 2007

Sunyei was first out this morning, with a happy trumpet as she headed for the drinking trough. Kora and Buchuma, old pushing mates, became involved in a tough fight that brought Mulika in to intervene. Ndomot led the herd out to feed along the Kanziko road, where they found a heap of damp soil, and enjoyed a roll. After milk and mudbath time, the orphans filed home.

14 November 2007

After the early morning greetings, and a drink at the trough, being cloudy, the orphans began feeding around the Stockades. Taita came across a heap of loose soil and began rolling, soon to be joined by Napasha. Sunyei led the herd out today, and after milk and the mudbath, Yatta and Wendi took the herd to the Kalovoto river where they fed until evening. The home run in the evening was led by Kora.

15 November 2007

The orphans emerged to the sound of birdsong, which put all in a happy mood. Kora and Naserian led the youngsters to the waterhole for a drink, but Kamboyo and Zurura waited for the Keepers to take them, so Nasalot, having observed their reluctance, came to fetch them. Kora, Loijuk and Sian led the group to the forest to feed today, where they came across a pool and began wallowing at 11 a.m. The Keepers then took the milk dependent babies to their milk venue..

16 November 2007

Today, after a drink, Tomboi led the group back to the forest to feed. Kinna, Mulika, Yatta and Nasalot surprised the Keepers by not encouraging any of the youngsters to feed alongside them, and wandered off as a group, watched at a distance by the Keepers. This indicates that they are ready to be free spirits, because they did not even want to come with the youngsters to the mudbath, but turned up a lot later. The evening browsing happened towards Kone until it was time to return in the evening.

17 November 2007

The orphans greeted a new day with enthusiasm, Kora, Kenze and Naserian running around the compound trumpeting and rumbling at the others. Sunyei was this mornings leader. With fresh green vegetation and water everywhere, the orphans had a wonderful day. After feeding for some time, Kinna, Mulika, and Yatta began playing along the road, rolling in the mud, soon joined by Zurura, Kenze and Orok. When Yatta rumbled, all stopped the game and resumed feeding. At noon all the orphans came to the milk venue to watch the babies take their quota, after which they fed happily until the evening.

18 November 2007

It rained all last night, so the orphans had no need of water this morning, but instead began to play. Mulika taught Olmalo defensive tactics. Loijuk, Kamboyo and Zurura, who are close friends, decided to feed near the Stockades, whilst Tomboi, Ndomot and Madiba enjoyed scratching themselves against the loading bay. Kora and Lualeni led the group to the field today, where the group busied themselves feeding. After an hour or so, the rain started, and Kamboyo and Zurura enjoyed a drink of rainwater, whilst rolling around in the mud and plastering themselves. Yatta loosened some soil for the babies to play in. After the milk feed, the orphans went to the Kalovoto river where the entire herd fed together all afternoon, but for Kinna, Nasalot, Yatta and Mulika, who like going further afield these days without the youngsters. Even in the evenings, they often remain behind in the bush, and return after dark.

19 November 2007

Kora, Naserian, Lualeni and Kenze were today’s leaders. Nasalot, Kinna, Wendi and Napasha led half the group towards the Western side of the Stockade to feed whilst Yatta, Mulika and Galana led the rest towards the Eastern side. Sunyei and Naserian enjoyed chasing each other around an anthill, which attracted Zurura and Loijuk, who joined them in a rolling game later. After the young ones milk feed, the group fed quietly for the rest of the day, and when it was time to return, the Big Girls remained behind and came back to the Stockades an hour later.

20 November 2007

Wendi and Kora led the group out today, all feeding as they went along, Yatta picking flowers which she stuffed into her mouth after which Nasalot and Yatta pushed small trees down for Orok, Kenze, Loijuk, Zurura and Kamboyo to enjoy. After the milk feed, Zurura, Loijuk and Naserian fed close to the Keepers whilst the rest went as far as the Kalovoto river. There was a lot of water in the river, so the orphans enjoyed bathing. Yatta, Kinna, Nasalot, Mulika and Napasha crossed over to feed on the other side all afternoon. When it was time to return Zurura and Kamboyo led the way back where Kenze and Kora had a pushing game in which Kora sat down to give Kenze some advantage. Lualeni came to watch.

21 November 2007

It was a rainy night, and the orphans faced a rainy morning. Taita led them to a rolling session which all enjoyed until Kora led them out to the bush, where Kamboyo, Zurura and Challa split from the rest to feed apart. Sunyei and Wendi initiated a rolling game in red soil, joined by the rest where Napasha and Taita enjoyed a pushing match. After pushing for a few minutes Napasha tried to mount onto Taita, but Nasalot, who was watching closely, rushed up and pushed him off Taita’s back. After the milk feed, the orphans went to the Kalovoto river again where Galana, Wendi and Kamboyo encouraged the others to have a mudbath on the banks.

22 November 2007

Another lovely morning as the orphans emerged, filling the air with happy trumpets and greeting rumbles, after which the games began. Kenze and Olmalo played a pushing game while Rapsu and Madiba charged aimlessly around. Naserian, Lualeni and Selengai enjoyed scratching at the unloading bay and Zurura, Kora, Loijuk, Sian, Sunyei and Challa began to feed near the carpark. Kinna led the group along the road where they all enjoyed rolling in the wet soil. After milk, Nasalot led the orphans to the Kanziku river which they all enjoyed and where Kenze and Zurura played a pushing game, joined by Kamboyo. The three young boys played all evening until it was time to return. The Big Girls remained behind as usual and came in a lot later.

23 November 2007

The orphans greeted the day happily. Challa and Sian led the orphans off to feed, leaving Olmalo behind, who rumbled, bringing Yatta back at the double to escort her to the others. After milk mid-morning, Nasalot took the little orphans with her across the Kalovoto river, while Yatta remained with the other half on the opposite bank. The two groups joined up on the way back in the evening.

24 November 2007

Kora led the youngsters today, whilst Mulika took the older group. Just beyond the Stockade they had a lot of fun, Kamboyo and Zurura enjoying a pushing game, while Rapsu and Taita did the same. Meanwhile Kora tried to mount onto Sunyei. Out in the field, Sunyei remained with the smaller elephants, while Yatta took the older ones who will soon be leaving the human family. At 11 a.m. the young ones went back to the stockade waterhole for a drink and their milk, after which, it was feeding again until the evening.

25 November 2007

Nasalot and Kinna led the group to the forest on a very rainy day, the youngsters slipping and sliding and having difficulty walking. When the rain stopped Yatta took the lead to the Kone road where they came across a heap of red soil for rolling. After the milk feed for the babies, Mulika led the group to the Kalovoto river again where they spent all afternoon. Once back inside the night Stockade, Kenze and Kora spent 2 hours playing a pushing game.

26 November 2007

Today, Kora and Orok enjoyed a pushing game, as Wendi and Napasha inspected the babies’ Stockade, hoping to find some remaining Copra. Nasalot and Sian led the orphans to the forest to feed, and there they came across fresh dung of a wild elephant. This made Mulika, Yatta, Kinna, and Nasalot crazy, and soon all the orphans were running around excitedly. After milk Yatta led the way back to the browsing field.

27 November 2007

Again, it was a forest feeding day, which turned difficult, due to the presence of so many tsetse flies that were an annoyance to both the Keepers and the elephants.

28 November 2007

The orphans wasted no time at the Stockade today, and after a quick drink hurried back to the forest before the flies became too active.

29 November 2007

The orphans filed out early, bumping against each other playfully, and swinging their trunks happily. Madiba, Buchuma, Sunyei, Ndomot and Naserian enjoyed a soil bath on an anthill and at l0 a.m. Rapsu and Tomboi engaged each other in a pushing match which was broken up by Kinna, who warned Tomboi off Rapsu. Since everywhere was wet, there was no need for the mudbath venue, so after taking their milk, the babies joined the older elephants and spent the rest of the day feeding.

30 November 2007

There was a heavy night downfall, so the orphans had a splendid morning, feeding and in between wallowing and rolling in the mud, activities interrupted only when the youngsters came for their milk, before resuming the same activities all over again.