Keepers' Diaries, November 2013

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

But for a light shower of rain on the 8th, the first half of November remained unusually dry when normally November should be a wet month, with lush vegetation at every turn. This year’s main rains were extremely late, only sporadic mid-month thunderstorms relieving what had been an unusually long, hot dry season for the Ithumba orphans. Up until the 19th there had only been 4 days (11th, 13th, 14th and 15th) that the Keeper dependent Juniors were not joined by the Ex Orphans accompanied by varying numbers of wild elephant friends, either at the Stockades in the mornings or at the noon mudbath and sometimes just by a Splinter Group from the main herd. For instance on the 9th Mulika and her calf, Mwende, came with Galana, Sunyei and Taita and that evening 12 Ex Orphans came to the Stockades. On the l0th 16 turned up, but after the Juniors had left in the morning, and on the 16th Lualeni came with her best friend Kora, Naserian, Rapsu and Ololoo, a recent graduate to the Senior Group. After the heavier rain storms that filled natural depressions, the Ex Orphans and the wild elephants moved further afield as from the 19th and remained absent for the rest of the month.

01 November 2013

A light drizzle of rain did not deter the orphans from their usual routine. Today they browsed the Kanziku area, and meanwhile no Ex Orphans or wild elephants turned up at either the Stockade water trough or the mudbath.

02 November 2013

The orphans were joined at the Stockades by the Ex Orphans this morning, who shared the Lucerne handout, until Mutara led the Juniors out. Ishanga opted to remain with the Ex Orphans but later joined the Juniors at the Kanziku area. Since it was a cool day, none of the Juniors wallowed. A few wild elephants came to drink at the Stockades.

03 November 2013

The Ex Orphans accompanied by a few wild friends turned up at the Stockades soon after the Juniors had left.

04 November 2013

The Ex Orphans and some wild friends joined the Juniors as they were taking their Lucerne supplement until Shukuru led the Juniors out, leaving the Ex Orphans and the wild elephants browsing around the compound, where they spent the entire day.

05 November 2013

A few wild elephants came before dawn to drink from the Stockade trough. The Juniors headed to the Kone area to browse, after taking their Lucerne handout. They are joined at the mudbath by the Ex Orphans and many wild elephants, who shared water with them and also wallowed with the Juniors. In the evening a Splinter Group of Ex Orphans with some wild elephant friends came to the Stockades

06 November 2013

A Splinter Group of Ex Orphans joined the Juniors at their Lucerne today, and accompanied the Juniors to the Kone area where they parted ways. A couple of wild dogs came to drink at the Stockades this morning. No wallowing at the mudbath since it was too cold, Kasigau leading the Juniors back to browse during the afternoon. Back at the Stockades a Splinter Group of Ex Orphans turned up and left just before dark.

07 November 2013

The Ex Orphans and their wild friends were at the Stockades at dawn to share the Juniors’ Lucerne. The Ex Orphans and their wild friends joined the Juniors again at their noon mudbath and remained when the Juniors left to browse during the afternoon. Kilaguni and some of the older Juniors parted from the Younger set during the afternoon, but returned to the Stockades to rejoin them in the evening.

08 November 2013

Having taken their Lucerne, the Juniors joined a wild herd that was drinking at the water trough to take their fill. Murka then led them out to browse. During the afternoon there was a light shower of rain (5 mls).

09 November 2013

It was a cool morning and today only Ex Orphans Mulika, her baby, Mwende, Galana, Sunyei and Taita joined the Juniors at the Lucerne. Later the Ex Orphans left and the Juniors headed to Kone. There was no wallowing today because it was cool. In the evening 12 Ex Orphans came to the Stockades.

10 November 2013

Mist covered the top of Ithumba hill as the Juniors enjoyed their morning Lucerne before heading out to the Kanziku area. 16 Ex Orphans showed up soon after the Juniors had left.

11 November 2013

It was a quiet day for the Juniors, since no Ex Orphans or wild elephants showed up. The Juniors went about their daily routine uninterrupted.

12 November 2013

After taking their Lucerne, Kitirua led the Juniors out to browse, and Turkwel led them to the mudbath at noon, although none wallowed. During the afternoon browsing session Kilaguni and others who have been weaned parted from the Younger Orphans, but turned up to rejoin them in the evening at the Stockades.

13 November 2013

Again the Ex Orphans and the wild Elephants were absent. The Juniors browsed the Kone area and at the noon mudbath only Kandecha, Kanjoro, Kitirua, Kalama and Kilaguni wallowed. In the evening Kilaguni and his group of weaned Youngsters were tempted to remain out for the night, but the Keepers persuaded them otherwise. It is obvious that Kilaguni and his weaned colleagues will soon upgrade themselves to the Senior Ex Orphan Unit.

14 November 2013

Again, no Ex Orphans or wild elephants showed up this morning, so the Juniors had the compound to themselves. At noon Shukuru led the milk dependent group to their milk ration while Murka took the others to the mudbath.

15 November 2013

Another quiet day for the Juniors, when they concentrated on browsing and only Kitirua decided to bathe at noon.

16 November 2013

Lualeni and Naserian and bulls, Kora, Rapsu and Ololoo joined the Juniors in the morning and having shared Lucerne, the five then left while the Youngsters headed towards the Kanziku area to browse.

17 November 2013

It was a day when new babies were expected from the Nairobi Nursery. As usual the Ex Orphans turned up, and did a few rounds of the Stockade yard, before leaving. The Elephant Mover with Laragai, Bongo and Narok on board pulled in at l0.30 am. received with great excitement by all the Juniors, Mutara and Kilabasi first to inspect the newcomers. Nasalot then brought her team of Ex Orphans and took great interest in Bongo. The Keepers then led the herd out to browse, the new babies feeling the heat of Tsavo after the cool climes of Nairobi, drawing on stomach water reserves to spray behind their ears and cool their bodies down.

18 November 2013

Ex Orphan Lualeni came to join the Juniors in the morning at the Stockade. Narok and Laragai remained close to her, Narok putting her trunk to Lualeni’s mouth. Lualeni then escorted the Juniors out to the field, and when she left both Narok and Laragai were very unsettled, constantly running off into the bush rumbling. At 11 a.m. Sities led the first milk dependent Juniors to the mudbath, where Laragai and Narok ran off again, followed by the rest of the orphans. The Keepers tried to follow but only traced one group, later catching up with the rest, namely Laragai, Narok, Mutara, Sities, Turkwel, Kainuk and Kilabasi, returning them to the Stockades late in the evening.

19 November 2013

Lualeni again joined the Juniors at the Stockade in the morning and escorted them to the browsing field. Narok and Laragai were still nervous and kept on running ahead with Sities, Turkwel, Kainuk, Mutara and Kilabasi. The rest of the group settled to browse as the Keepers follows the seven missing orphans, hampered by drizzling rain which obliterated their spoor. By evening the Keepers had not been able to trace the missing orphans, and returned to the Stockades empty-handed.

20 November 2013

The search for the missing orphans commenced at first light as the others settled for their Lucerne. Later a heavy downpour of 21 mm. was received, and by the end of the day the orphans had not been found.

21 November 2013

This is the third day since Laragai, Narok, Mutara, Sities, Kilabasi, Turkwel and Kainuk went missing so the search continued but only the Ex Orphans were traced, and no Juniors were amongst them. At dark the search was called off and the Keepers returned again empty handed.

22 November 2013

This was the fourth day for the missing orphans so the search commenced again at dawn, this time heading towards the fence line, the Trust plane having spotted the missing orphans near the fence line, and issued the coordinates. At 4 p.m. the Search Team came across fresh footprints and it was a joy when they managed to catch up with the missing orphans. They called them and the orphans rumbled in response and rushed up to greet their Keepers. The Keepers struggled to lead the orphans back home amidst a heavy rainstorm, mud on their boots hampering their pace, but at 7 p.m. in the evening, they arrived back safely at last, and everyone heaved a huge sigh of relief!

23 November 2013

Another heavy downpour heralded a new morning, leaving Laragai and Narok very nervous, reluctant now to be parted from the Keepers. Since there was a mudbath everywhere, the orphans enjoyed playing in puddles and rolling in fresh mud, Laragai and Narok still clinging to their Keepers. Meanwhile, Bongo could not be happier with his new home, despite also feeling the heat and having to spend a lot of time cooling himself down by spraying water over his body.

24 November 2013

It began to rain again soon after the Juniors left their Night Stockades, Laragai and Narok again keeping close to the Keepers. The orphans sheltered under a tree alongside the Keepers waiting for the rain to subside. At the browsing field the orphans enjoyed every moment, and at mudbath time, having taken milk, they bathed in a small waterhole a few meters from the main one. Kandecha and Sabachi were the last to leave the wallow.

25 November 2013

At 9 a.m. out in the browsing field, the rain began. Laragai and Narok remained near the Keepers as they sheltered under trees, but all the other Juniors loved slipping and sliding in the mud. It rained again soon after the noon mudbath.

26 November 2013

It was raining as the orphans left their Night Stockades this morning and headed for the bush having taken their Lucerne. On the way to the mudbath Laragai led the group but none of the elephants bathed, since they had done enough of that out in the bush. In the afternoon they browsed the Kone area and when it was time to return in the evening, Kilaguni and his weaned peers were reluctant to return with the others, but the Keepers insisted that they do so.

27 November 2013

On a wet morning following yesterday’s rainstorm, and having taken their morning Lucerne, Laragai and Narok led the group out to the field to browse where all fed calmly throughout the day without disturbance.

28 November 2013

Narok is much more settled now, but Laragai still appears a little nervous, but will settle shortly. It was hot at mudbath time so Laragai and Narok enjoyed a lengthy wallow. In the afternoon, again Kilaguni and his weaned colleagues were reluctant to return with the younger set, but the Keepers again forced them to do so

29 November 2013

The sky was clear in the morning, the rain having dispersed. Mutara led the Juniors out to browse after their Lucerne, and at the noon mudbath only Laragai and Narok wallowed. In the afternoon another heavy rainstorm occurred, and the orphans enjoyed playing in the running water and smearing themselves with mud. In the evening again the weaned orphans were reluctant to return with the milk dependent group, but again the Keepers managed to persuade them.

30 November 2013

After the Lucerne hand-out Kilaguni led the Juniors out to browse the Kone area. All enjoyed a bush mudbath out in the field, and only the milk dependent elephants came to the main mudbath to take their milk ration. The weaned group refused to come to the milk and mudbath venue, and again remained in the field, so the Keepers and the younger elephants caught up with them later.