Keepers' Diaries, August 2006

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

August has been another very happy month for the Ithumba elephants, clearly illustrating the progress that Sidai, Orok and Challa have made, who are now happily settled, and very much an integral part of the unit. Orok still basks in the privilege of being Nasalot’s special and adored baby, from which Sidai, as his Nursery friend also benefits.. Wendi remains the extravert member of the group, who is always delighted to pay special attention to any human visitors by performing many tricks to get their attention. The fact that both she and Galana have decided that they no longer need milk is very interesting, and, indeed, unusual. Both frequently forego their noon and evening milk feeds, but since Wendi celebrates her 4th birthday on the 11th September, and Galana is also in her fourth year, they are ready to be entirely weaned off milk. Sunyei has again been up to her favourite pranks, rushing out of a dense thicket trumpeting alarm to scare all the others, and on one occasion included Challa in this trick, with very satisfying results because all the others fled to the Keepers for protection, and the four big females remained alert and silent for many minutes, analysing the cause in case Sunyei and on this occasion, Challa, were not just “crying wolf”!. Challa and Madiba are close friends, as are Buchuma and Rapsu, who are also very competitive, and enjoy indulging in tests of strength. Rapsu, with longer tusks, has the advantage over Buchuma who also hero worships Tomboi, evident because the two entwine trunks in an act of friendship. Sunyei and Naserian have renewed their Nursery love of one another, both viewing themselves, along with Wendi, as Matriarchs in the making. However, the undisputed Matriarchs of the Ithumba unit are Yatta, as Leader, with Mulika (who, in fact is larger than Yatta, but a little younger) as runner up. Nasalot ties with Mulika in ranking, and Kinna remains the disciplinarian of the group, respected by all the boys.

August has been another very happy month for the Ithumba elephants, clearly illustrating the progress that Sidai, Orok and Challa have made, who are now happily settled, and very much an integral part of the unit. Orok still basks in the privilege of being Nasalot’s special and adored baby, from which Sidai, as his Nursery friend also benefits.. Wendi remains the extravert member of the group, who is always delighted to pay special attention to any human visitors by performing many tricks to get their attention. The fact that both she and Galana have decided that they no longer need milk is very interesting, and, indeed, unusual. Both frequently forego their noon and evening milk feeds, but since Wendi celebrates her 4th birthday on the 11th September, and Galana is also in her fourth year, they are ready to be entirely weaned off milk. Sunyei has again been up to her favourite pranks, rushing out of a dense thicket trumpeting alarm to scare all the others, and on one occasion included Challa in this trick, with very satisfying results because all the others fled to the Keepers for protection, and the four big females remained alert and silent for many minutes, analysing the cause in case Sunyei and on this occasion, Challa, were not just “crying wolf”!. Challa and Madiba are close friends, as are Buchuma and Rapsu, who are also very competitive, and enjoy indulging in tests of strength. Rapsu, with longer tusks, has the advantage over Buchuma who also hero worships Tomboi, evident because the two entwine trunks in an act of friendship. Sunyei and Naserian have renewed their Nursery love of one another, both viewing themselves, along with Wendi, as Matriarchs in the making. However, the undisputed Matriarchs of the Ithumba unit are Yatta, as Leader, with Mulika (who, in fact is larger than Yatta, but a little younger) as runner up. Nasalot ties with Mulika in ranking, and Kinna remains the disciplinarian of the group, respected by all the boys.

Eager to make contact with the wild elephant community, whose footprints and dung litter the roads not far from the Stockades, Yatta rounded up her charges on the 8th and headed out in a westerly direction ahead of, and without, the Keepers, who had to catch up later. When they did they found that she and the others were following the spoor and scent of a lone wild bull. All four of the older females were quite obviously excited by the prospect of meeting him, but became diverted by the Imenti Waterhole, which proved an enticing distraction. All plunged in, immersing their entire bodies in the water and rolling around “like fishes”, according to the Keepers with them. Many wild elephants frequent the Imenti waterhole, usually drinking only by night. Sadly, as the dry season progresses, this beautiful natural depression that holds water will eventually dry completely, so the wild herds will be forced to retreat back to the Tiva to drink, or, with any luck, take to coming to the Stockade trough.

Napasha, rather unwisely, has been challenging both Kinna and Mulika in a test of strength, and has come off second best on both occasions! And encounter with a Dikdik thrilled Sidai and Challa, who were brave enough to charge and send it on its way! But, apart from that, it has been a very peaceful time for the Ithumba orphans, all of whom are in prime condition growing up in peace and seclusion in Tsavo’s Elephant Heaven, enjoying the rich mineral content of both the browse and the water in this area.

The BBC crew who went to film the Ithumba orphans for “Elephant Diaries II”, came across the pack of resident wild dogs devouring a Dikdik en route to the Ithumba Camp. However, the only canine encounter the orphans have had to endure this month has been the arrival of a lone silver-backed jackal who came to drink at the Stockade trough, them all witless!

August 2006 day to day

01 Aug

This morning, after a joyful morning greeting amongst all the orphans, Nasalot and Orok led the group to quench their thirst at the Stockade trough before leaving for the feeding area. This they did in a very sprightly mood, running and trumpeting as they knocked down small shrubs. Eventually, they settled down to feed. It turned very hot, so they had a wonderful mudbath, Orok, Sidai, Challa, Wendi, Madiba and Naserian proving the best bathers of the day!

The orphans enjoying the mudbath

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