Keepers' Diaries, August 2004

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Ithumba Unit:- From the Diary, it would appear that Yatta and Mulika share the Matriarchal role, Sungelai being very close to Mulika in particular, and Olmalo a great favourite of all the older females. Tomboi and Taita are very competitive, whilst Napasha has been busy trying to mount everyone, but concentrating on Taita in a show of dominance. It was whilst attempting to mount Taita, that he fell onto a stump and got a piece of wood deep into his left foreleg, which entailing a mini op undertaken by our mobile Vet who was sent to Ithumba to sort out the problem. For this Napasha had to be immobilized, but once the operation was over, he was soon up again, and within a day or two once more targeting Taita, whom he obviously blames for the mishap! However, the older females keep him in line and won’t tolerate too much “mounting” behaviour which is what all young bulls enjoy. On two occasions the orphans have come across the spoor of wild elephants, but have not yet made contact with a wild herd. Encounters with other species include being scared by guineafowl, chasing ground squirrel and a dikdik, and a frightening encounter with a puff adder when everyone beat a hasty retreat. All the elephants look well, and seem very happy in their new home. The Diary mentions that they often swing their trunks from side to side, which is a sign of wellbeing and joy. Conditions are very dry at Ithumba at this time of the year, but even the dry brush is exceedingly nutritious, so there is plenty of food available within walking distance of the stockade. Gradually, they are becoming accustomed to drinking the saline water of the area, which they seem to enjoy, and which seems to do them no harm, although our large Bowser brings in fresh water for the milk mixing and to dilute the salinity of their drinking water at the stockade.

01 August 2004

Selengai and Tomboi had an altercation about who should be the Leader when the Keepers changed route and led them into a new area. Selengai won, and followed the Keepers, leading all the others.

02 August 2004

At mudwallow Olmalo wallowed alone whilst the others splashed water onto themselves. In the evening Napasha played a pushing game with Mulika, but gave up when he found that he could not resist her strength.

03 August 2004

At around 9 a.m., Yatta, Kinna, Nasalot and Mulika separated from the young ones to browse further afield, leaving the youngsters near the Keepers. Olmalo decided to lie down to play near the Keepers, but when she realized that Napasha intended to mount her, she went to join Yatta for protection.

04 August 2004

Early in the morning, the orphans walked out of the stockade swinging their trunks from side to side in happiness. Tomboi trumpeted, gambolling towards the bush and the rest followed him.

05 August 2004

At l0 a.m., Selengai mistook Yatta for Mulika and tried to suckle Yatta’s ear. Yatta pulled herself away and warned Selengai by pointing her trunk at Selengai. Shortly before 4 p.m. a low flying aircraft scared the group, who ran to the keepers screaming. The Keepers calmed them.

06 August 2004

In the afternoon, the orphans were taken to a new mudwallow which they enjoyed greatly. Napasha rolled around showing the others all his mudwallowing tactics.

07 August 2004

The orphans were taken to a new area today. Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna showed a great deal of interest, as did Napasha, but Taita, Olmalo, Selengai and Tomboi were nervous and chose to remain close to the Keepers all day.

08 August 2004

The day started early, as usual, but after crossing the valley, which is just a stone’s throw from the Stockade, the Keepers saw fresh footprints of a lone bull elephant heading to the mudbath. Yatta sniffed the footprints, then raised her trunk to test the air, but decided that the wind carried nothing overly exciting.

09 August 2004

At 7 a.m., Taita lost track of the others, prompting him to bellow for help. Yatta responded rapidly, running to the direction of his cry, and in less than a minute, she appeared with Taita happily swinging his trunk sideways.

10 August 2004

After mudbath, the orphans rested under the shade of a tree because it was very hot. Later on Mulika led the orphans out of the shade to browse towards the stockade.

11 August 2004

After mudbath, the orphans rested under the shade of a tree because it was very hot. Later on Mulika led the orphans out of the shade to browse towards the stockade.

12 August 2004

During feeding time, Selengai, who is very attached to Mulika, didn’t run for the milk like the others, but instead chose to follow Mulika to the mudbath. Later on, Mulika escorted her to take her milk.

13 August 2004

At around 4 p.m., Napasha challenged Yatta to a pushing game but again Napasha surrendered and Yatta rested her trunk across his back in an act of friendship.

14 August 2004

After mudbath, the orphans led the Keepers and having walked ahead for about 500 metres, Selengai, who was leading, did an about turn, scaring the rest. The Keepers went ahead and found l0 baboons sitting under a tree, which ran off.

15 August 2004

Early in the morning, Mulika led the orphans out of the stockade to the bush. In the afternoon Wendi kept on running here and there, scaring Selengai, Tomboi, Taita and Olmalo, who ran to the Keepers for protection, but in fact Wendi was just having fun!

16 August 2004

In the morning, Tomboi surprised the Keepers when he decided to suckle Wendi’s ear. Wendi seemed very taken by this, standing still as would a mother cuddling a small baby, then after a minute Tomboi left. Napasha and Taita browsed near the Keepers in the evening.

17 August 2004

IU At 11 a.m. the orphans were in a very jovial mood. Selengai trumpeted whilst Napasha tried to mount Taita. Taita did not like this, dislodging Napasha, who fell on a tree stump and in the process got a piece of wood stuck deep in his left foreleg. The Keepers tried unsuccessfully to remove it, so applied Calendula gel and Sulphur powder as best they could, reporting the matter to Nairobi. Nairobi contacted the Trust’s mobile Veterinary Unit which happened to be in Amboseli at the time, removing two spears from the head of one of the Matriarchs. Dr. Ndeereh was asked to motor to Ithumba on his way back and remove the splinter from Napasha’s leg.

18 August 2004

Napasha’s leg had swollen overnight. The orphans could not go far because Napasha was dragging the injured leg, so all the orphans remained near the stockade. At mudbath Napasha kept splashing water on his aching leg.

19 August 2004

Napasha was still limping heavily. At noon, the Vet arrived and sedated Napasha in order to remove the stick. This entailed a small operation, after which he was woken up and got back on his feet again, left with just a small wound to heal.

20 August 2004

Napasha’s condition is stable, although he is still limping, dragging the treated leg and also limping a little on the left hind leg following two injections given before and after the splinter of wood was removed.

21 August 2004

Napasha led the other orphans out of the stockade, feeling better today. Before noon he again attempted to mount Taita, but Taita ran off and again dislodged him.

22 August 2004

At mudbath, the orphans wallowed happily, showing their tactics to Robert and his visitors, who had flown in to see them. At around 4 p.m. Olmalo spotted a dikdik and gambolled towards it, sending it on its way; something Olmalo greatly enjoyed.

23 August 2004

The day was hot and the orphans kept flapping their ears to cool themselves. At around l0 a.m. the Keepers came across footprints of 2 wild elephants heading to the mudbath, but by the time we arrived, the wild elephants had already left.

24 August 2004

Olmalo and Kinna browsed close to one another all day, joining the rest of the group on the way to mudbath.

25 August 2004

Napasha led the group out to browse today, but having reached the browsing place, he began to give Taita a hard time, trying to mount him. Mulika disapproved of this behaviour and came to Taita’s rescue, chasing Napasha off.