Keepers' Diaries, November 2011

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

November has been a very rewarding month for the Ithumba unit, not least because of the heavy rain storms which began in earnest on the 10th and continued throughout the entire month, filling the natural waterholes and promoting a veritable feast of lush green browse at every turn, not to mention endless mudbaths and puddles for the orphans, (and all elephants), to enjoy throughout the month. The usual artificial bush mudbath, which has to be topped up during the dry season, turned into a mini lake in which the orphans could actually submerge themselves.

01 November 2011

On a day when the sky was sullen, the orphans headed out to browse in a joyful mood. It was an uneventful day, but for Kilaguni kneeling down on his forelegs and piercing the ground with his small tusks, watched curiously by Sabachi and Kandecha! Because of the weather, none of the orphans wallowed today, but on the way back in the evening Ithumbah and Chaimu enjoyed a dustbath in an aardvark burrow.

02 November 2011

The sky promised rain as the orphans headed out to browse in the morning, Sabachi and Kilaguni enjoying a Pushing Contest, which Sabachi won. At 8 a.m. Suguta’s group got a scare, the cause of which remained a mystery to the Keepers, who had to calm the herd down. The day turned hot, so all the orphans enjoyed the mudbath today. Despite promising rain, the clouds dispersed in the evening.

03 November 2011

The orphans headed westwards to browse today, enjoying the green flush brought on by recent rain. Kandecha and Kibo engaged one another in a Pushing Game, in which Kibo emerged victorious! All enjoyed a good wallow because the day was hot.

04 November 2011

The orphans browsed the Kalovoto watercourse today, concentrating upon feeding. Since it was too cool, none of them wallowed today. In the evening Ololoo joined a herd of wild elephants that happened to pass nearby and by nightfall had not returned.

05 November 2011

By morning Ololoo had not returned, so the Keepers went in search of him, as the orphans browsed not far from the Stockades. At l0 a.m. the Keepers came across Ololoo who was with two large wild bulls, who fled the moment they spotted the Keepers. Ololoo tried to keep up with them, but the Keepers managed to corner him and escort him back to join his orphaned peers. All browsed the sloped of Ithumba hill until it was time to return in the evening.

06 November 2011

Today the orphans browsed the Kone area, Kandecha leading the group to the mudbath at 11 a.m. There the Juniors were joined by Yatta, Kinna, Lualeni, Loijuk, Naserian, Buchuma, Orok, Nasalot and Selengai but because the weather was still cool, all opted for a soil bath instead of the mud. The Ex Orphans then accompanied the Juniors to the browsing area, but withdrew an hour later.

07 November 2011

No one was to know that today would bring a very happy surprise for all the Ithumba team and their charges. At 11 a.m. Daphne Sheldrick and her visitors turned up at the Orphans mudbath venue, and settled down to await the arrival of the Juniors who had been browsing the Kanziku area. Suddenly, in a slow measured walk came Ex Orphan Mulika with a tiny calf walking beneath her. We simply could not believe our eyes, fully anticipating the arrival of Mulika’s first wild-born baby in December, since Mulika was mated in February 2009. We were surprised that Mulika was on her own without being attended by any of her group. As soon as the Juniors arrived, all were excited to greet the new baby, crowding around it and touching it gently with their trunks. In the evening Mulika and her new baby returned with the Juniors to the Stockades, and went into her old enclosure to enjoy a handout of Copra, Dairy Cubes and Lucerne to await the arrival of Robert Carr-Hartley (Angela’s husband) who was on his way by air from Nairobi to film the new arrival for all Mulika’s foster-parents. As soon as Robert arrived, she was let out, and in the late evening she and her baby left, accompanied by Makena and several other Ex Orphans who had shown up, among whom was Lualeni, who decided to take Makena’s place overnight in the Stockade, and enjoy a handout of supplements!

08 November 2011

Mulika’s baby was named “Mwende” which means “the loved one in Mkamba”, a name chosen by Head Keeper Benjamin. We had high expectations of find Mulika and the baby this morning, but despite a long search, it was not to be. The Juniors went about their daily business as usual, returning to the Stockades in the evening.

09 November 2011

Mulika was nowhere to be seen again, although we all hoped she would return with her baby so that we could enjoy the little one again. Meanwhile the Juniors concentrated on browsing.

10 November 2011

There was a heavy downpour this morning. To our surprise Mulika and her baby, accompanied by Ex Orphans and wild elephant friends, emerged from the bushes and visited the Stockade compound briefly. Meanwhile the orphans were browsing the Kanziku area, and missed seeing Mulika and her baby.

11 November 2011

It was a chilly morning, rain having pounded down all night, so there was no need for the orphans to drink from the Stockade trough before heading out to browse. There Ololoo, Chaimu, |Ithumbah, Melia, Kandecha and Kilaguni enjoyed an early mudbath in a field wallow. It began raining again at 9 a.m., so the Juniors had another joyous mudbath in the rain which went on all afternoon.

12 November 2011

Kalama led the Juniors out to browse on a day when there was water everywhere. Kilaguni, Sabachi and Kandecha enjoyed wallowing as they waded through a muddy patch. None of the orphans were interested in their usual wallow, having enjoyed plenty of natural ones as they browsed. In the evening Sabachi and Kilaguni challenged one another to a test of strength, which Sabachi won.

13 November 2011

This morning Olare and Melia enjoyed a Pushing Game just before heading to the milk and mudbath venue, but since the day remained cloudy, having taken their milk, the Juniors returned to browse. Altogether the Juniors thoroughly enjoyed their day with food and water at every turn.

14 November 2011

Kalama and Kitirua led the Juniors out in the morning, with Kilaguni and Suguta guarding the rear of the column. The Ex Orphans have been absent for a few days, since food and water is plentiful everywhere and the countryside resembles paradise.

15 November 2011

Wendi and her group joined the Juniors early in the morning at the Stockade compound. After interacting happily for some time, Wendi and her group headed to the Kalovoto area while the Juniors headed towards Kone, where Kilaguni and Sabachi enjoyed their usual strength test. At mudbath time the Juniors opted for a soil dusting instead of a mudbath.

16 November 2011

The only unusual activity for the Juniors today was a patch of wet loose soil in which they played for a long time.

17 November 2011

It was a chilly morning following another heavy downpour during the night, which left running water out in the browsing area. Chemi Chemi, Kitirua, Ololoo and Ithumbah enjoyed playing in it. Sabachi and Kilaguni had their usual contest, and although Kilaguni did his best, he could not overcome Sabachi. At the mudbath site the orphans found not their usual mudbath, but a lake, in which they thoroughly enjoyed submerging themselves.

18 November 2011

Lualeni, Kamboyo, Rapsu and Naserian were waiting for the Juniors outside the Stockades this morning, greeting them very warmly as soon as they emerged. Naserian then led the Juniors to the browsing area. At l0 a.m. Mulika and her baby, “Mwende” who were accompanied by the other Ex Orphans past by the Stockades to greet whoever happened to be there.

19 November 2011

As the Juniors entered the browsing area, there was another heavy downpour of rain. All enjoyed sliding and skiing on the wet soil and rolling in the mud. Again at 3 p.m. the orphans were treated to another heavy downpour of rain which prompted more fun and wallowing until all looked like red anthills passing through the green vegetation. They had a truly wonderful day.

20 November 2011

Once out in the browsing area Kibo and Kandecha took to charging around the thickets, a game that failed to attract the others who were enjoying their own mud games.

21 November 2011

It had been raining throughout the night and was still raining in the morning, so the orphans headed out in a very cheerful mood, deliberately sliding in the slippery mud.

22 November 2011

It was another rainy day during which Chemi Chemi, Kitirua, Kilaguni and Chaimu had a particularly fun time playing in the rain which did not let up throughout the day. Just after 4 p.m. the orphans took to charging and trumpeting their joy as they knocked down small bushes, settling down when the Keepers called them to order.

23 November 2011

The Juniors settled down to browse the Kanziku area where the bush is very dense following so much rain. All was calm until l0 a.m. when hell broke loose, the orphans sprinting towards their Keepers with outspread ears, the lead sprinter being Kandecha followed by Chaimu. The Keepers went to investigate the cause of so much confusion and came across a huge bull buffalo, which prompted them to retreat and change location!

24 November 2011

It was a thundery, wet night, so the morning was chilly. The Juniors had another wonderful mud bathing day.

25 November 2011

The Juniors woke up to another wet morning. Kalama instigated a rolling game which all enjoyed before being led out to browse by Naisula. With food plentiful, all soon had filled their bellies, Kilaguni, Sabachi and Kandecha splitting from the rest of the group to feed separately. Ololoo and Chemi Chemi enjoyed a rolling game which left them covered in red soil. The orphans then went to the Kalovoto watercourse where they enjoyed tucking into the long grass along the river edge.

26 November 2011

Another heavy downpour overnight gave the orphans yet another splendid morning when they enjoyed all the usual wet weather fun and games along with drinking fresh water from rock bases. At the mudbath hour the Youngsters enjoyed their milk, but had already had their fill of wallowing.

27 November 2011

At 3 p.m. the Juniors met up with Wendi’s group at the Kalovoto browsing area where they browsed together until late evening. Ithumbah then refused to return to the Stockades with her Junior peers, but opted to remain with Wendi’s group, despite the Keepers doing their best to persuade her to come back. In the end the Keepers persuaded Wendi’s group to also return with the Juniors and there Ithumbah ran in for her milk and was locked in for the night as usual. Wendi’s group then left the compound.

28 November 2011

The orphans enjoyed Stockade games this morning accompanied by the singing of the birds before Chemi Chemi led the group out to browse. After the milk and mudbath ritual, the Juniors enjoyed scratching themselves against rocks before embarking on feeding for the rest of the day.

29 November 2011

As soon as the Gates were opened in the morning, Ithumbah was the first out. Olare and Suguta scratched their bodies against the only Acacia tree left standing in the compound after which all began browsing close by, gradually wandering further afield while Ololoo climbed quite high up the rock to get some fresh shoots. At the mudbath (now a large lake) the orphans took a cooling swim.

30 November 2011

Having emerged in the morning Ithumbah, Chaimu, Kitirua and Naisula scratched against the Unloading Bay while Olare, Tumaren, Kalama and Ololoo took a drink from the stockade trough. Kilaguni chased Kandecha to punish him for pushing Chemi Chemi. Later the Orphans headed to the Kone area to browse until it was time for their milk and a mudbath, where they took only their milk, before heading back to browse, having enjoyed mudbathing throughout the morning in the natural wallows.