Keepers' Diaries, October 2010

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Loijuk, who has long been the Junior Matriarch of the Keeper Dependent babies recently upgraded herself to the Senior Set of Ex Orphans led by Yatta who has Splinter Groups peeling off from time to time to chaperone the Keeper dependent Babies either individually, or in pairs or small larger groups.. These Splinter Groups are usually led by orphans who have acted as Junior Matriarchs in their time and obviously separate from the main Ex Orphans Group with the agreement of Yatta and the other Senior Ex Orphans. The elevation of Loijuk to the Senior Set left Lenana, Chyulu and Makena overseeing the Keeper Dependent/Milk Dependent Youngsters still based at night in the Stockades, including two more recent new comers, “Ithumbah” and “Salaita” who were flown directly to Ithumba rather than come to the Nairobi Nursery, both calves being 2 years old. They joined Kilaguni, Chaimu, Meibai and Sabachi who were already in situ. “Ithumbah” was retrieved from the mud of the drying Ithumba dam and “Salaita” was a poaching victim from Tsavo West National Park.

Loijuk, who has long been the Junior Matriarch of the Keeper Dependent babies recently upgraded herself to the Senior Set of Ex Orphans led by Yatta who has Splinter Groups peeling off from time to time to chaperone the Keeper dependent Babies either individually, or in pairs or small larger groups.. These Splinter Groups are usually led by orphans who have acted as Junior Matriarchs in their time and obviously separate from the main Ex Orphans Group with the agreement of Yatta and the other Senior Ex Orphans. The elevation of Loijuk to the Senior Set left Lenana, Chyulu and Makena overseeing the Keeper Dependent/Milk Dependent Youngsters still based at night in the Stockades, including two more recent new comers, “Ithumbah” and “Salaita” who were flown directly to Ithumba rather than come to the Nairobi Nursery, both calves being 2 years old. They joined Kilaguni, Chaimu, Meibai and Sabachi who were already in situ. “Ithumbah” was retrieved from the mud of the drying Ithumba dam and “Salaita” was a poaching victim from Tsavo West National Park.

Loijuk’s leadership was felt initially, since Lenana, Chyulu and Makena were obviously undecided as to who should take over the Leadership role of the Babies. However, this was resolved when Wendi turned up leading a Splinter Group of Ex Orphans on the 15th, and took Lenana and Chyulu off with her group to join the other Senior Ex Orphan Set,, leaving Makena behind. Since then Makena’s role as Leader of the Juniors became clear, and she has received a great deal of support from members of the Senior Set, who turn up almost daily to meet up with the Youngsters and chaperone them out to feed, or join up with them at the mudbath venue, meet up with them on their return journey in the evening, or wait at the Stockade compound for their arrival.

The two newcomers, “Ithumbah” and “Salaita” were allowed out of the Stockades for the first time on the 6th having been stabilized and tamed down. Initially, both were confused, not conversant with the usual daily routine, but they soon slotted in and by mid month were often leading the Youngsters out to browse, or to and from the noon mudbath. Meibai, Kilaguni, Sabachi and Chaimu were at first somewhat resentful of the newcomers, inclined to push them around a bit, probably jealous of all the close Keeper attention they enjoyed from the Ithumba Keepers. However, by the end of the month, relations in this respect had definitely improved, Sabachi even playing with Salaita in the mudbath. Whenever Yatta is with them, she immediately homes in on little Ithumbah , while Kinna lavishes attention on Salaita, Loijuk still loves Sabachi, and Nasalot is fixated on Kilaguni, and he on her.

Loijuk left the Main Yatta Group at the beginning of the month, returning alone to escort the Babies out at to browse as before, and spend the day with them, returning them to the Stockades in the evening where she met up with Yatta’s Group, and having seen the Babies safely into their Night Stockades, left again in amongst the main herd.
The next day it was Mulika and Galana who turned up to take the Youngsters out for the day, Galana paying particular interest to Kilaguni, and the following day Naserian arrived along with some members from the main Ex Orphaned herd. Almost invariably chaperone duty entails taking the Babies to meet up with the Ex Orphans and the wild elephant friends with whom they regularly consort. Seldom a day has passed this month when the Babies have not spent time with the Seniors Set. On the 4th Yatta’s group joined them at the compound and due to the presence of so many wild elephants with the Ex Orphans, the Keepers had to trail far behind the column as they headed out. All the elephants were together until after the noon mudbath when the Ex Orphans and their wild friends separated. There has been a lot of wild interaction this month - 10 wild bulls drank at the Stockade water trough on the 7th and that day the Babies joined a wild bull in the compound as soon as they emerged in the early morning. Yatta’s group also came to drink that day in amongst a group of wild elephants. On the l0th the Babies were again joined by a wild elephant at the Stockade trough, and by another 4 wild elephants at their new mudbath drinking water pond.

Ex Orphans and their wild friends were with the Babies at their noon mudbath on the 5th, the 12th the 13th, 15th, 20th 24th, 26th and 31st and on each occasion Yatta gave little “Ithumbah” special loving, on one occasion standing next to her as the took her noon milk feed, joined later by Chyulu and Sunyei who came to escort the new baby to the mudbath. Obviously “Ithumbah” has been singled out by the Seniors as “special” and according to the Keepers has the makings of a future Matriarch, often now taking the lead of her small group. Very apparent is the extremely close affiliation the Ex Orphans all have with the Keeper Dependent Juniors.

On the 15th it was Wendi who came with a Splinter Group of Ex Orphans to chaperone the Babies and on that occasion singled out Lenana and Chyulu for promotion to the Senior Set, heading off with them, which left Makena as the only “older” orphan of the Junior Set in charge. Lenana and Chyulu obviously approve of their new status, because whilst they returned for a drink at the Stockades in amongst the main Ex Orphan herd, for two days following their elevation, they have not chosen to return to the Junior fold. Meanwhile, Makena has slotted into the leadership role in a positive way.

On the 22nd, it was the turn of Lualeni to escort the Babies for the day, rejoining the rest of the Senior group who were waiting back at the Stockades in the evening. She was back again to be with the Babies on the 26th , meeting up with all the Ex Orphans at the mudbath on that occasion when Nasalot took over from her, remaining with the Babies when Lualeni left with all the others. Kilaguni was delighted to be with Nasalot again, spending the entire afternoon by her side and walking close by her when it was time to return to the Stockades in the evening. Nasalot returned alone to the Stockade compound first thing on the morning on the 28th and again spent the day with the Youngsters, much to Kilaguni’s great joy. On the 30th all the Ex Orphans were at the compound to greet and chaperone the Babies. As soon as the Keepers opened their Stockade, Yatta, Nasalot and Kinna went inside to bring them out. The next day at month end all the Ex Orphans again joined the Juniors at their noon mudbath, so it has been a month filled with interaction for the Babies who have enjoyed the companionship of the now wild group as well as a lot of wild elephants as well.

October 2010 day to day

01 Oct

Another new month and the babies left their night Stockades without their usual Matriarch, Loijuk, who has been spending time out as an Ex Orphan. However, she arrived first thing in the morning, along with some wild friends, to escort the Youngsters to take a drink at the trough, and then out to browse, closely followed by Sabachi, who adores her. They enjoyed the noon mudbath, and took another in passing on the way back in the evening. Back at the Stockades, they encountered Yatta’s group drinking at the trough, and the Youngsters joined the Ex Orphans briefly before going back into their Stockades. Loijuk went off with Yatta’s group when they left later.

Loijuk & Sabachi

Yatta leading the ex orphans

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