Keepers' Diaries, September 2009

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Gripped by the severest drought in the history of the country, the water trough at the Ithumba Orphans Stockade has become a very popular venue with wild elephants trickling in to drink all day long, and every day, often mingling with our orphans who remain mainly in their three groups. Yatta is the Matriarch of the Senior Group, Wendi often separates from Yatta’s group to travel independently, taking with her anyone who would like to come along. This month, both Yatta’s group of Seniors as well as Wendi’s splinter group have met up with the Keeper Dependent youngsters almost every day, either at the Stockade water trough, out at an obviously predetermined place in the bush, or at the noon mudbath. The ex orphans usually have wild elephant friends with them, aside from the wild recruit known as Mgeni who still remains part of Yatta’s orphaned group.

01 September 2009

As soon as the Ithumba orphans left their Night Stockades, they joined a wild elephant who was drinking at the water trough. Then, led by Sian, they headed out to browse. All concentrated on feeding, since it is now very dry, and it takes the orphans all their time to find sufficient food for themselves, which means that there is not much time for playing. Just before 11 a.m. the Independent orphans led by Yatta and Wendi joined the Juniors and all headed to the mudbath together where they were joined by two wild elephants. Afterwards, the ex orphans left the Juniors with their Keepers, and headed out with their wild friends.

02 September 2009

Soon after leaving their Night Stockade, and whilst enjoying their usual Compound activities, a wild elephant emerged to drink at the stockade trough. Makena then led the Juniors out to browse along the slopes of Ithumba hill until it was time for the mudbath, when she again led the way. Upon arrival at the mudbath, they found two wild elephants enjoying a wallow, so the orphans drank from the drums first, where they were joined by the two wild visitors. All then returned to the mudbath, where they enjoyed a spectacular wallowing with their wild friends.

03 September 2009

The orphans left the Stockade compound on a cool morning without bothering to take water before leaving. They browsed energetically until noon until heading for the noon mudbath. Later on, at 3 p.m. Challa, Rapsu and Ol Malo showed up at the Stockade water trough on their own, without the rest of the herd, and having taken water, they headed westwards. At 4 p.m. the Juniors were joined by the ex orphans along the Kalovoto dry riverbed, and shortly after 5 p.m. Wendi led the Juniors back to their Night Stockades. The ex orphans had not been seen yesterday, and were obviously very thirsty.

04 September 2009

Makena led the Juniors out to browse. Kamboyo tried to mount onto Makena briefly, but soon returned to feeding. Meanwhile, Yatta, her recruit named Mgeni plus 2 wild elephant friends came to drink at the Stockade trough, and Wendi and her group checked in a little later. Missing from both groups were Ol Malo and Challa who often join up with Rapsu to form a third Splinter Group, mainly because these three orphans prefer to walk more slowly and take their time.

05 September 2009

Thirty minutes after the Juniors had left in the early morning, Yatta and her group (including Mgeni) turned up for a drink, accompanied by another wild elephant. Meanwhile the Juniors (known as Naserian’s group) had settled to browse along the Kalovoto watercourse, until it was time for the mudbath, when Makena again led the way. At the mudbath, all three groups joined up to enjoy a wallow all together, but soon afterwards they separated again, Yatta and Wendi taking the Senior orphans west, while the Juniors headed in the opposite direction, eastwards. In the evening Yatta’s and Wendi’s groups came to the Stockades, accompanied by the wild bull known as Rafiki. Challa and Ol Malo were missing from the Senior Groups all day, not showing up at either the mudbath or the stockades in the evening.

06 September 2009

At dawn, before the Juniors were let out, Challa came to the Stockades accompanied by 3 wild elephant friends. After the usual scratching rituals, the Juniors took water, and headed out, Challa leaving his wild friends to join the Juniors. At 9 a.m. Ol Malo turned up to drink at the Stockades, leaving having drunk. At noon Wendi’s group came for a mudbath at the Stockades, whilst the Juniors were doing the same at their usual bush mudbath. Yatta’s group did not show up today. Challa and Naserian’s group of Juniors spent the afternoon feeding along the slopes of Ithumba hill before returning to the Stockades in the evening. When the Juniors were in their Night quarters, Challa remained outside, and was collected by the ex orphans, both groups turning up and leaving with him.

07 September 2009

Having arrived at the feeding area of the day, Kenze and Kamboyo engaged one another in a test of strength, which deteriorated into a fight. Naserian immediately came in to separate the boys, who needed to concentrate on feeding. In the evening, Makena led the Juniors back home.

08 September 2009

The Juniors left the Stockades early as usual, heading for the Kalovoto river area to browse for the morning. At l0 a.m., Challa, Rapsu and Ol Malo came to the Stockade accompanied by l0 wild elephants, all of whom took water. Challa, Rapsu and Ol Malo then left the wild elephants at the stockade to head east. At 3.30 p.m. Wendi and Yatta brought their respective Senior groups to the Stockade for water, joined by wild elephants, who began trickling in also to drink from the Stockade trough. When the ex orphans had taken their fill, they left the wild elephants and headed eastwards. Meanwhile the Juniors returned, passing by all the wild elephants who were congregated at the Stockade trough.

09 September 2009

The Juniors left in a jovial mood after Loijuk and Chyulu spotted two dikdiks engaged in a fight, and went to chase them off. This drew the attention of all the others, who joined in the chase, trumpeting and knocking down bushes. Makena and Loijuk continued long after all the others had calmed down, so the Keepers called them to order since it was time to head out to feed. The Juniors enjoyed their usual mudbath, Makena leading the way again, whilst all the ex orphans enjoyed a mudbath at the Stockades, but without Ol Malo, who turned up at 3 p.m. for a drink. At 6 p.m. the Stockade compound turned into a Meeting Place for all the wild elephants. Three wild bulls came first, followed by a family unit comprised of 2 cow elephants plus their 2 small calves and 2 older youngsters the size of Rapsu. More and More trickled in until there were 25, soon joined by all the ex orphans from Yatta’s and Wendi’s groups. As darkness closed in, all the elephants, including our ex orphans were still there, taking water.

10 September 2009

The ex orphans obviously spent the night not far from the Stockades, because at first light they were there waiting for the Juniors to be let out. Tomboi and Ndomot engaged one another in a test of strength, but when the Juniors emerged Ndomot singled out Loijuk with whom he played for a while until Kenze challenged him to a pushing match. Yatta led the entire orphaned herd out into the field to feed today, and all spent the day together.

11 September 2009

It was a cool day. The orphans lingered at the Stockades, scratching their bodies against the unloading bay, taking water, and playing until Sian led the group out to feed at the Kanziku area. At 9.30 a.m. a family of four elephant cows with 2 small calves came to the Stockade for a drink, having gained enough confidence to drink during daylight hours, hitherto having only come lat at night under cover of darkness, then only in the late evening. Perhaps in time they will join our orphans at the mudbath. Meanwhile, at the noon mudbath, the Juniors enjoyed a dustbath rather than the mud, because it was still cool. Thereafter the day was spent browsing along the slopes of Ithumba hill.

12 September 2009

At 5.30 a.m. in the morning, 2 wild elephants accompanied by all the ex orphans came to the Stockade trough, where they waited for the water to be turned on. This happened at 6 a.m. when the Juniors were let out of their Night Stockades. Shortly afterwards, a known group of 4 wild elephant cows and their 2 small calves also came to drink. Lualeni tried to play with one of the calves, but was warned off by its mother. The Juniors then left the Stockade compound for the browsing field, leaving the ex orphans and their wild friends behind.

13 September 2009

Just before 8 a.m. in the morning, the family unit with the 2 small calves came for a drink at the Stockades. Once out in the field, the Juniors were joined by all the ex orphans briefly, but the Senior group did not linger long. The day turned very hot, so after the mudbath the Juniors had to shelter under shade, continually flapping their ears to cool their bodies. Once temperatures had dropped a little, they headed out again to feed for the rest of the day.

14 September 2009

On another new day, and having taken water, Makena led the Juniors out to feed in the Kanziku area, all the rest of the group streaming behind her. Chyulu led the Juniors to the mudbath today where they were joined by all the ex orphans, plus 3 wild elephant friends. There was rumbling and the intertwining of trunks as the groups greeted one another warmly. All enjoyed a joint mudbath, before the Juniors left, leaving the Seniors and their wild friends behind at the mudbath, relaxing under shade.

15 September 2009

As the youngsters were heading out in the morning, a wild herd comprised of females and babies came to drink at the Stockade trough. Lualeni turned back to have a word with the babies, but having been warned off by the mother a day or two earlier, she just extended her trunk and sniffed them. Once the wild herd had taken water, they were led out by their Matriarch.

16 September 2009

Today, it was Kamboyo who led the Juniors deep into the thickets to feed. At around l0 a.m., Chyulu, Makena, Lenana and Loijuk split from the main group to browse separately, but all soon had to take to shade, because it was such a hot day. At the noon mudbath Kamboyo and Zurura (old sparring partners) threw themselves into the ring to engaged one another, but the bout didn’t last long, because Kora intervened. Having wallowed, they all enjoyed a dustbath.

17 September 2009

Having missed a day, the familiar wild herd and their young showed up at the Stockade water trough for a drink early in the morning. As soon as the Juniors were let out of their Night Stockade, they ventured close, but were wary of being too familiar since the wild mothers were possessive of their young. Only Lualeni, who has been showing a great interest in the wild calves, plucked up courage to extend her trunk and sniff the babies. Later, the Juniors left the compound heading for the slopes of Ithumba hill. In the evening all the ex orphans showed up at the Stockade for a drink after the Juniors were in their Night Stockades. They left having taken enough water.

18 September 2009

The Juniors left early, as usual, having greeted one another by touching trunks and rumbling. They settled down to browse, their feeding interrupted only by the mudbath. In the evening Kenze and Kamboyo became very active, charging around and knocking down bushes, finally coming together to challenge one another to a Pushing Match.

19 September 2009

Early this morning, Nasalot, Rapsu, Orok, Challa and Taita were at the Stockade compound waiting for the youngsters to emerge. Having all had enough water, Nasalot led the herd to the Kalovoto area to browse until it was time for Makena to lead the way to the mudbath. Naserian and her small splinter group enjoyed the mudbath with the juniors, and remained with them for the rest of the day, accompanying them back to the Stockades in the evening. It appears that the familiar wild herd and their small calves only come to drink every other day. They turned up soon after the Juniors had left in the morning, took water and then left. Ol Malo turned up alone at 9 a.m., took water and then headed eastwards. She returned to the Stockades in the evening where she met up with Nasalot’s gang, and joined them to head out for the night.

20 September 2009

Wendi and her group, accompanied by a wild elephant friend, joined the Juniors at the mudbath today. Later the wild friend headed out in a westerly direction, but Wendi’s group remained with the Juniors for the remainder of the day, feeding at the Kanziku area until it was time to head back for the night.

21 September 2009

Soon after the Juniors had left this morning, Yatta and her group, including Mgeni, turned up for a drink. They then joined the Juniors who were browsing at the Kanziku area. At around 10 a.m. they were joined by a wild elephant and all browsed together until it was time for the noon mudbath. All attended the mudbath, after which the ex orphans and the wild elephant departed, heading north, whilst the Juniors went east. Before the Juniors had returned in the evening, all the ex orphans came for a drink at the Stockades and then left.

22 September 2009

It was a hot day, but the Juniors were not deterred by this. At 11 a.m. Kamboyo, Zurura, Kenze and Sidai formed a separate small group and found some loose soil to play in before joining the rest of the herd who began heading for the mudbath. It was a very hot day, so all the orphans were enjoying a prolonged mudbath when Wendi and her group emerged to join in. In the evening, on the way back to the Stockades, the orphans, including Wendi’s group, were joined by Yatta’s group of ex orphans, who again were without Ol Malo. She simply does whatever suits her best, irrespective of the others!

23 September 2009

The Juniors joined 3 wild elephants who were drinking at the Stockade trough when they emerged in the morning. Later the orphans headed out to feed along the Kalovoto riverbed, leaving the wild elephants at the compound. As usual, Makena led the way to the mudbath, after which the orphans scratched themselves against trees, or took a dustbath until it was cool enough to resume browsing. Naserian led her group back in the evening.

24 September 2009

Just before 9 a.m., the Juniors were joined by a wild elephant, who remained with them until around 11 a.m. before parting. Kamboyo led the way to the mudbath, where the Juniors were joined by all the ex orphans and later by a very big wild bull. The entire herd left the mudbath together, heading to the slopes of Ithumba hill where they browsed until evening, when it was time for the Juniors to head back home. Kenze and Kamboyo decided to remain with Yatta’s group out in the bush, but turned up at the Stockades late at 7 p.m., obviously enjoying a trial run at being a Senior!

25 September 2009

Ten minutes after the Juniors had left the Stockade compound for the Kanziku browsing area, wild elephant cows with two tiny calves came to drink at the Stockade trough. The Juniors came for a mudbath at the Stockade, where Loijuk and Lualeni actually got into the drinking trough to splash water over themselves, Lualeni then actually lying down in the trough to cool off. They then joined the rest of the herd at the mudbath place nearby. In the afternoon Yatta’s group joined the Juniors as they were browsing, and when she left with her group, she took Kamboyo from Naserian’s group. Naserian’s group returned to the stockades without him today.

26 September 2009

The entire herd of ex orphans, minus Ol Malo as usual, but this time including Kamboyo, was at the Stockades early waiting for the Juniors to emerge. All then took water together. Then the wild elephants began trickling in. Ol Malo came to drink at the stockades at 9 a.m. the ex orphans parted company with the Juniors at around l0 a.m., but met up with them again in the evening on the way back to the Stockades.

27 September 2009

The Juniors left the Stockades in a happy mood, swinging their trunks from side to side as they followed Sidai, the leader of the day. The morning turned very hot, so the orphans had to take to the shade. They all enjoyed the mudbath, and having rested under shade, returned to browse when the heat subsided, returning as usual in the evening.

28 September 2009

It was an unusual day, after all three orphaned groups had met out in the browsing area, for out of character the three Matriarchs either formed an alliance of their own with others, or opted to remain on their own. Having browsed together for some time, Wendi, Lualeni, Naserian, Sunyei and Rapsu dodged the Keepers and headed back to the Stockades whilst members of Yatta’s group (still with Ol Malo missing) headed eastwards without Yatta, Madiba, Galana and Ndomot who decided to remain behind with the Juniors. Yatta and those who had remained with her attended the mudbath along with the Juniors, and having enjoyed it and a dustbath, peeled off and headed out. At around noon Kinna, Mulika, Buchuma, Orok, Nasalot and Selengai joined Wendi, Sunyei, Naserian and Lualeni at the Stockades to form a different and having taken water, left together to an undisclosed destination. Meanwhile the Keeper Dependent group settled to browse along the slopes of Ithumba hill, and at 4.30 p.m. began making their way back to the Stockades, joined en route by Lualeni and Sunyei. By 7 p.m. neither Naserian, nor the group she had left with at noon, had returned to the Night Stockades.

29 September 2009

Ol Malo was at the Stockades first thing in the morning with a wild companion when the Juniors were let out of their Night Stockades in the morning, without their usual Matriarch, Naserian, who had left the previous day with Wendi and some members of Yatta’s group. Ol Malo left the Stockades with the Juniors, but once out in the bush, peeled off and disappeared on her own. After the usual mudbath the Juniors browsed along the slopes of Ithumba hill until it was time to return to the Stockades in the evening and at 6 p.m. Naserian turned up, having been away from the Juniors for 24 hours. She was let into her usual stockade to join her room-mate, Sidai. Ol Malo again returned for water shortly after dark, and having taken a drink, left on her own again.

30 September 2009

The Junior group passed by the water trough to take water, before indulging in the usual Stockade activities and heading out to browse. Wendi and her group came to drink at 10 a.m. At mudbath time Wendi’s group joined the Juniors in the mudbath, all participating fully, since it was a very hot day. They then relaxed under the Acacia trees waiting for the temperatures to fall before resuming browsing.