Keepers' Diaries, September 2007

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

September is always an extremely hot time of the year in Tsavo, and particularly so up at Ithumba. The orphans usually always drink their fill at the Stockade water trough before heading out to browse, but on the 3rd Napasha arrived first to find the trough almost dry, a wild herd having drained it during the night. Rumbling a complaint, he was soon joined by the others, who in unison marched back to alert their Keepers who opened up the Gate Valve to allow the inflow of more water, but Napasha then tried to refuse access to the others. He was soundly disciplined by the four older females, namely Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna, who drove him away so that the youngsters could drink, establishing that selfishness is something else that breaches good elephant behaviour! Another lessen came when Napasha and Tomboi put their front legs into the water trough, muddying the orphans’ drinking supply. This angered Mulika, who along with Kinna drove the two out of the compound, and denied them access until all the other orphans had drunk their fill and left. Driving recalcitrant youngsters into “purgatory” is the way growing youngsters are disciplined, for elephants are very fearful of being alone when young, and indeed are extremely fearful of the unknown.

01 September 2007

Yatta, followed by Olmalo led the way to the Kalovoto river where the orphans settled down to browse. As noon approached, temperatures were very high, so the orphans walked slowly to their mudbath when Orok, Buchuma and Olmalo forwent their milk ration for the mud. Having cooled off, they returned for their milk. All participated fully in the mudbath, except Kora, who only splashed water over himself before leaving to wait for the others at a safe distance!

02 September 2007

The orphans split into two groups before entering the feeding area, one led by Sidai and Kora, and the other by Kinna. However Yatta thought otherwise, and wanting her herd to remain intact, rounded them up again and led them as one out again. At the mudbath Kinna, Nasalot and Mulika supervised Orok as he took his share of milk, leaving for the wallow only after he had finished and Yatta did the same for her favourite Olmalo, to make sure that she had her three bottles uninterrupted. After all had enjoyed the mudbath, it was Nasalot who led the group back to browse.

03 September 2007

Soon after the gates of the Stockade had been opened, Napasha went straight to the water trough only to find very little water left in it. He began to rumble loudly whilst circling the trough in an attempt to alert the Keepers. The others joined him, only to discover the same, so they all marched back to the stockades to inform the Keepers. The Keepers hurried to the trough to investigate and found that although the trough had been filled the day before, a herd of wild elephants had drained it during the night, so the Gate Valve was opened for more water to flow in. Napasha then selfishly tried to block the others from having their turn, so Kinna, Nasalot, Yatta and Mulika ganged up to force him awayin order to allow the youngsters access.. Napasha was angered by this and decided to move far away, returning only when all the others had already left and having satisfied his thirst, he caught up with them later.

04 September 2007

Having passed by the water trough to drink, it was a hot morning when the orphans headed out today. Rapsu, Kora, Naserian, Sidai and Lualeni left ahead of the others for the field confident that the rest would follow, but when the five realized that they were alone, Sidai screamed and ran back towards the Stockade. Yatta head Sidai scream and went to investigate, after which she shepherded the rest back to the main group still at the compound so that they could all leave together. Since it was a very hot day, all the elephants enjoyed the mud wallow.

05 September 2007

Kinna led the orphans to the foot of Ithumba hill today, where they all fed peacefully until it was time for the mudbath, when the youngsters took their milk ration whilst the older elephants took water. All then left without wallowing.

06 September 2007

As the orphans were quenching their thirst at the Stockade water trough, five wild dogs emerged from the bush, scaring them all. Kinna, Mulika, Natta, Nasalot and Napasha grouped together and attempted a concerted charge, but the dogs defied them and simply continued drinking before leaving for the bush, by which time all the elephants had congregated at the Stockade Gates. As soon as the elephants saw the dogs leaving, they gained courage, and charged trumpeting towards the direction the dogs had taken. Having satisfied themselves that the dreaded canines had disappeared completely, they fed calmly for the rest of the day.

07 September 2007

As dawn broke on a clear day, the orphans headed for the water trough to drink, where Napasha and Tomboi got a rude shock when they were pushed aside by Mulika having put their front feed into the trough, and thereby muddying the drinking water! Mulika and Kinna drove them from the trough, and refused to allow them access until the entire group had taken their fill and headed out to the feeding area. Only then were they allowed to take a drink. Kenze and Orok, as Nasalot’s favourites, walked alongside her whilst Olmalo walked close to Yatta. The orphans browsed calmly until it was time to head for the mudbath when Sian, Loijuk, Naserian and Challa led the way.

08 September 2007

The orphans gathered together to decide on which direction to take today. Eventually, with the matter settled, Sian, Loijuk and Naserian led the way heading in the direction of Kone. Upon arrival at the feeding area, Yatta and Orok enjoyed a dustbath which drew the attention of Kora, who joined in. At mudbath time only Sunyei, Lualeni, Sian, Nasalot and Yatta went into the mud, after which Yatta steered the group back to the area they had occupied during the morning. In the evening, the orphans encountered two buffaloes that were hiding in a thicket. The four older elephants soon dispersed them.

09 September 2007

Today it was Kenze, Nasalot’s favourite, who led the group out to feed. Suddenly two lesser kudus ran past, which sent all the orphans scrambling for safety. After the Keepers had calmed them down, they trumpeted and charged in the direction taken by the fleeing kudus.

10 September 2007

In the dead of night a pack of hyaenas visited the Stockade drinking trough, disrupting the peace of the orphans with their noise. The Keepers intervened by shouting at the hyaenas who then disappeared into the bush making a laughing noise which left the elephants very uneasy for the remainder of the night and still nervous in the morning. That day they fed close to their Keepers at the foot of Ithumba Hill without splitting into smaller groups as usual.

11 September 2007

Kora led the group out today, and they settled down to feed on the eastern slopes of Ithumba hill. As the orphans spread out to feed, the Keepers heard them making a noise, so moved to higher ground to ascertain what was happening. It turned out to be 2 buffaloes, and as the youngsters fled back in the direction of the Keepers, the older elephants, led by Yatta who had Sian with her, followed the buffaloes only to come face to face with 2 wild elephant bulls. The bulls were scaring Sian, so the Keepers called ber back, and as soon as the wild elephants heard that, they immediately fled. Yatta, Mulika and Nasalot followed them for a while, but could not keep pace, so they returned, disappointed, back to their Keepers.

12 September 2007

Surprisingly, today the orphans appeared tired, and all save Napasha seemed reluctant to leave the Stockade compound. Napasha was angered by this, and returned to shove all the others, even the older females. Eventually the Keepers took control of the situation and led the orphans out. At the mudbath the youngsters enjoyed themselves, before the older elephants led them back to the browsing area.

13 September 2007

Yatta and Mulika led the orphans half way up Ithumba Hill to feed, where they fed calmly until it was time for the mudbath. Since it was a very hot day, they all enjoyed the water.

14 September 2007

Having arrived in the browsing area, the orphans split into two groups, one led by Sian and the other under the leadership of Naserian. The division came about after Sian decided to walk far and was followed by Nasalot, Yatta, Mulika, Kinna and Napasha, who tried unsuccessfully to turn her back. Those younger orphans who found the pace too much turned back and returned to the Keepers, who led them in the direction Sian and the others had taken. It was a long walk before we caught up with the advance party of Sian, which made us 2 hours late for the mudbath. After mudbath, all the orphans were so tired that they spent the rest of the day nearby.

15 September 2007

Heavy clouds obscured the sun as the orphans headed out this morning. Once in the feeding place, a sharp shower fell, which lasted for just l0 minutes. The orphans thoroughly enjoyed this brief respite, dusting themselves with damp earth, and playing in the puddles, but once the rain ceased, they resumed feeding. Since mudbath hour was still cool, the babies took their milk while the others took water or merely looked on before they all headed out to feed again.

16 September 2007

Mulika, Selengai and Tomboi decided to take a certain direction, but Yatta had other ideas, which prompted the three to turn back and join Yatta and all the others. Surprisingly, the orphans decided to climb the hill just behind the Stockades. Kenze, Loijuk and Sian were first at the top. The orphans fed up the hill until it was time for the mudbath when they came down to take water at the Stockade trough. After the mudbath, under the leadership of Yatta, the orphans decided to head for the Kalovoto area where they fed for the remainder of the day.

17 September 2007

the orphans browsed on the slopes of Ithumba Hill until it was mudbath time where different activities dominated. Orok, Kenze and Kora chased one another around whilst Mulika, Yatta and Challa enjoyed a dustbath and Taita and Sian engaged one another in a test of strength and Wendi led the rest rolling about in the mud. In the evening, two warthogs rushed past the orphans, scaring the elephants who took off in two groups. Yatta led one group heading to the Keepers whilst Kora and Sian led the rest eastwards. The Keepers, in conjunction with the group led by Yatta, followed the direction in which Sian and Kora had taken the others, but failed to find them, having walked a very long distance. Since by now it was too dark for the Keepers to follow foot prints, Yatta was left to go on with the search, and shortly before 9 p.m., she reported back with the entire group intact.

18 September 2007

The orphans showed signs of weariness following the previous days’ long walk, so they settled in to feed close to the Stockades and thus the day passed without any unusual incident.

19 September 2007

Another day, and this time it was the Keepers who selected the programme for the day, an unusual event, since the elephants normally make such decisions and the Keepers merely follow the elephants. This time the Keepers steered their charges towards the dam near the Ithumba airfield, which was still holding some water. En route, betwixt the Imenti waterhole and the dam, all hell broke loose when the orphans suddenly found themselves confronted by two very large wild bull elephants, who startled them. Mulika bellowed loudly when one wild bull held her with his trunk, following which the drama began! As the orphans ran towards the Keepers, the Keepers were doing their utmost to try and avoid both the orphans and the wild bulls following as they all scattered in every direction amidst a great deal of trumpeting and bellowing. Only Napasha was brave enough to stand his ground and later he followed the wild bulls, but returned when he noticed that he was on his own. The bulls headed Northwards leaving Napasha and our orphans to continue their journey to the dam

20 September 2007

The day promised to be a hot one, so the orphans quenched their thirst before heading for Ithumba hill to feed, where they remained throughout the morning. All enjoyed the mudbath, and having spent the afternoon also feeding, returned to the Stockades for the night.

21 September 2007

As the orphans emerged, they swung their trunks, which is a sign of happiness. Naserian went to inspect the Stockade currently under construction before taking a drink at the trough. At the mudbath Kora went to inspect all the empty milk bottles, hoping for a drop, but left disappointed, rumbling. Yatta took her herd to the Kalovoto area to feed during the afternoon.

22 September 2007

Once out in the field, Kenze left Nasalot’s side to join Yatta and Olmalo. Yatta pulled up grass and gave it to him, something he enjoyed greatly. By l0 a.m. it was too hot for Ol Malo, who took to shade. Challa led the first group to the milk venue and mudbath area whilst Sidai led the second batch. At the wallow, since it was very hot, all enjoyed a soaking, Taita being first in. Later Kora led the group back to feed.

23 September 2007

Madiba, Sian and Kora led the group out on another bright sunny day. On the way out Ndomot and Sunyei engaged one another in a pushing bout, which was interrupted by Rapsu. Out in the field Napasha and Taita saw off some warthogs who were feeding close by. After mudbath Mulika led the group to the Kalovoto area where they all fed for the rest of the day.

24 September 2007

Sunyei, Selengai and Napasha opened up the day’s activities by scratching their bodies against the loading bay whilst the rest were busy taking water. Buchuma was seen heading out with Kora which surprised the Keepers, because Buchuma had been transferred to Yatta’s Stockade having tried to bully Kora. Since elephants are known to harbour grudges, we though Kora would never accept Buchuma as a friend again but in fact they fed together calmly throughout the day, demonstrating forgiveness.

25 September 2007

It was another day that the orphans headed for the airstrip dam but upon reaching the now dry Imenti waterhole, Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot, Kinna, Napasha, and Wendi were seen raising their trunks into the air to determine whether everything ahead was safe. Within a short time they retreated back to the Keepers and we heard the wild elephants trumpeting from the western side of the dam. When the orphans eventually felt sufficiently confident to approach the dam, they found a herd of buffalo busy wallowing so Napasha and Yatta led the orphaned herd in a trumpeting charge, scaring the buffalo herd off. The orphans spent a very long time wallowing, since it was extremely hot, and it was only when the shadows lengthened that Yatta led her group back home.

26 September 2007

In the morning Npasha, Yatta and Mulika led the way to the browsing field and settled down to feed along the Kalovoto seasonal watercourse. Shortly before l0 a.m., two warthogs emerged from the thickets, scaring the elephants. Kora, Loijuk, Sian, and Naserian ran towards the Keepers as Napasha, Mulika, Yatta, Kinna and Nasalot charged the intruders and sent them on their way in a cloud of dust watched by all the others.

27 September 2007

The dawn of another beautiful day with a gentle breeze swaying the trees and butterflies fluttering as the sun glared down on the orphans as they snaked their way out to the browsing field. Like a one-eyed monster, it melted away every stubborn cloud, mercilessly scorching the already parched landscape and all that it harbours. Hence the orphans were forced under shade early for the heat became unbearable. All enjoyed a wonderful mudbath that left them refreshed as they resumed the serious business of feeding.

28 September 2007

Naserian was first out of the Stockades today, heading to the water trough, closely followed by Rapsu and Kenze. As the orphans were taking a drink, 2 jackals arrived to drink at a puddle nearby, their presence detected by Kenze, who alerted all the others. Then the drama began! The jackals tried to scare the elephants by standing their ground and barking, but this did not deter Yatta, Nasalot, Mulika, Napasha and Kinna, who joined forces to charge in unison. After the jackals fled, the youngsters rushed up to join their seniors, who were still in charging mode and when the situation returned to normal, they snaked their way out to the feeding grounds. In the evening Loijuk led the group back home.

29 September 2007

Having taken water in the morning, Sidai, Loijuk and Kora led the way out. Soon Yatta seemed troubled by something, the cause of which was not determined by the Keepers, but it transpired that her favourite, Olmalo was missing. She ran back towards the Stockades, and later returned with Olmalo in tow. Olmalo is always a slow coach! After the younger orphans had taken their milk, they enjoyed wallowing with the older ones in the mudbath.

30 September 2007

Having emerged in the morning, Sunyei spotted some guinea-fowls drinking nearby, and approached them in charging mode. They took to the air, after which she and the other youngsters enjoyed rushing about in threatening mode. Today Sian and Loijuk led the group to the feeding area and following a noon mudbath, returned back to the Stockades for the night.