Keepers' Diaries, April 2005

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

April has been a somewhat uneventful month for the Ithumba unit, with just one wild herd of elephants passing by the Stockades in the dead of the night of the 20th. Desperate to make contact when the orphans left the Stockades in the morning, the older females led the orphans, following the wild herd’s tracks, lifting their trunks to test the air every now and then, but to no avail, because the wild elephants were out of range. This is the second occasion that wild elephants have visited the Stockades during the night, so no doubt the word will be passed around!.

01 April 2005

Yatta, and her favourite baby, Olmalo, trailed the group, which seems to be the pattern these days. Napasha teamed up with Nasalot, Kinna and Mulika whilst browsing whilst Selengai and Taita remained near the Keepers. Yatta, Olmalo, Wendi and Tomboi formed their own little group and grazed their way towards the mudbath. In the evening Tomboi was very happy to be allowed to lead the way back home.

02 April 2005

Napasha engaged Yatta in a pushing game, but after a while Yatta placed her trunk gently on his head, as if to tell him that he is not yet big enough to win such a match! Selengai, Olmalo and Nasalot watched this little drama closely from the shade, where they had taken refuge from the scorching sun. After a while Yatta joined the group in the shade.

03 April 2005

At 11 a.m. Mulika decided it was time to head for the mudbath, but the younger orphans, headed by Tomboi had other ideas about who should be leader. They rushed forward, and Wendi and Tomboi took charge. Whilst taking their milk after mudbath, troublesome Napasha upset Selengai and Olmalo approached, demanding some of their milk. Yatta immediately intervened, and Napasha went back into the mudwallow.

04 April 2005

For the first time ever, it was Olmalo and Selengai who led the group from the Stockade in the morning, and headed Westwards. At 11 a.m. Napasha, Tomboi and Wendi took over leadership from Olmalo and Selengai and the youngsters headed for the mudbath, leaving Yatta, Kinna, Mulika and Nasalot behind. In the evening, Napasha led the group back to the Stockades.

05 April 2005

It was a cool day today, and out in the bush the orphans encountered many dikdiks. Nasalot was the only orphan to chase them off. At the mudbath, some warthogs were enjoying themselves, but the orphans did not mind, because it was too cold for them.

06 April 2005

It rained during the night which left puddles everywhere, so the orphans had a marvellous time playing in these puddles, rolling in the mud, and digging the damp earth with their short tusks. Kinna and Mulika lay down to roll about in the mud and were soon joined by Olmalo, Nasalot and Wendi, whilst Taita and Yatta enjoyed digging the damp earth using their front legs.

07 April 2005

The temperature was pleasant today. The Orphans Matriarch, Yatta, led the orphans across a plain, browsing as she went, with her group doing the same.

08 April 2005

The morning was cool and cloudy. On the way to the mudbath, Taita and Tomboi got left behind. The Keepers heard rumbling from behind, and noticed that these two were missing, so the column halted, as we called their names. The two came running.

09 April 2005

A troupe of chattering baboons mesmerized the orphans this morning, and scaring Olmalo, who ran to the Keepers for protection. Seeing this, the three boys, Napasha, Tomboi and Taita plucked up enough courage to scatter the noisy baboons, driving them out of sight.

10 April 2005

It was drizzling with rain this morning when the orphans left the Stockade, which excited them very much. The day was spent playing in the mud, in between feeding, Wendi playing a key role in these games. Mulika took the opportunity to lean on Napasha as he was lying down.

11 April 2005

It was very hot by 2 p.m. today, so the orphans had to take refuge in the shade. Napasha, Wendi, Taita and Tomboi were sharing a tree, but Napasha decided that he needed more room, so chased Taita to another shady spot, where Yatta and the other elephants were sheltering.

12 April 2005

Today, Yatta led her group to the East side of Ithumba hill. Napasha and Taita enjoyed a pushing game whilst Wendi and Selengai engaged each other in shoving at the noon milk feed.

13 April 2005

Kinna and Napasha had a wonderful pushing game, which looked serious, but was just a game. Napasha surrendered eventually and decided to try and climb on Taita. They all enjoyed the mudbath today.

14 April 2005

It was another unbearably hot day, so the orphans sought shade early on. Shortly after 11 a.m. it began to rain, so only Olmalo was interested in the mudbath, thrashing the water with her trunk. In the evening Napasha again mounted on Taita, whilst Olmalo watched.

15 April 2005

The orphans browsed slowly towards the mudbath during the morning. Yatta and Olmalo isolated themselves from the rest, and rejoined the group later when it was time to return to the Stockade.

16 April 2005

Another hot day, so the orphans went to the mudbath early, led by Mulika and Selengai. They all had a very joyful mudbath, after which they again sought shade.

17 April 2005

Chattering baboons again scared Olmalo who ran to Yatta, her adopted mother and Matriarch. Yatta consoled her, and they all watched the baboons passing by with interest.

18 April 2005

A lone lesser kudu ran past the orphans, scaring Wendi, who ran to the Keepers for protection. Yatta followed Wendi to see what was amiss, calming her down before returning to her favourite, Olmalo. Wendi spent the rest of the day near the Keepers.

19 April 2005

On the way to the mudbath, Selengai fell behind, and rumbled, bringing the group to a halt. Nasalot went back to collect her, and when everyone was together, they proceeded to the mudbath. At milk time, Yatta came to Olmalo, placed her trunk gently on Olmalo’s head, and when she had finished her milk, led her away to browse.

20 April 2005

A wild herd passed near the Stockade during the night. In the morning, Yatta led the orphans following the tracks of this wild herd, testing the air for any hint of their presence. However, to the orphans’ disappointment, they could not catch up with the wild herd, so Mulika took over from Yatta and led the orphans back to Ithumba hill. During the mudbath Yatta played with Kinna whilst Selengaei played with Olmalo.

21 April 2005

Nasalot and Kinna came across a dikdik on their way out this morning, and chased it off. On the way to the mudbath Taita mounted Tomboi, but Yatta, who was behind them, pushed Taita away, something that made Tomboi very happy. In the evening Napasha took on Nasalot, and after a few moments, Nasalot gave up, which made Napasha very happy for having won the contest with a bigger adversary.

22 April 2005

Yatta played with Napasha just before Wendi led the group to the mudbath. Napasha was the only one to roll around in the mud, whilst the others just sprayed it over themselves. Later on Taita was very frightened by a warthog which was running towards the orphans. He fled to the Keepers for protection.

23 April 2005

In the afternoon Taita, Selengai and Tomboi went to graze some distance from the rest, who had been led by Yatta towards Ithumba Hill. The three panicked when they found they were left behind, running around trumpeting and crying. The Keepers called them and they rejoined the group. In the evening Wendi led the orphans back home.

24 April 2005

Tomboi has been trying very hard to learn how to hold his bottle of milk like his friend, Napasha. Finally, he succeeded and proceeded to dance, by swinging one front leg! Yatta stood by Olmalo, waiting for her to finish her share, before leading her away to feed.

25 April 2005

The orphans left the Stockades, happily swinging their trunks from side to side. Selengai and Tomboi took a soil bath today, instead of the usual mudbath.

26 April 2005

Yatta led the group out to another very hot day. Taita and Tomboi spent a long time in the shade, playing with one another, testing their strength until Kinna intervened to separate them.

27 April 2005

A strong wind suddenly began to shake the trees, which alarmed the orphans. Yatta raised her trunk to test the air for any hint of danger, but finding none, calmed the group, who all settled down to feed again.

28 April 2005

The day was sunny, so the morning was spent browsing towards the mudbath, to which the orphans went early, led by Wendi, because the day became scorchingly hot.

29 April 2005

When the orphans were close to the mudbath, Napasha raced ahead, followed by Wendi, Taita and Tomboi. Kinna raced around trumpeting, which prompted Yatta to come running to Olmalo, to protect her special baby from any danger.

30 April 2005

Yatta led the orphans browsing peacefully throughout the day. Occasionally, Napasha, Tomboi and Selengai stood motionless, closing their eyes, as though savouring the “sweetness” of the vegetation. In the evening Kinna led the way back to the Stockades.