Keepers' Diaries, August 2006

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.

01 August 2006

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!

02 August 2006

As the orphans gathered around the Stockade Water Trough at 6 a.m. Rapsu and Tomboi had a tough encounter after Tomboi tried to bully Rapsu who was scratching himself against a tree. Wendi moved in to separate the warring parties. Later Sidai, Orok and Nasalot enjoyed a soil dusting session, overseen by Nasalot. Since it was cloudy, at mudbath all the orphans just had a dust bath.

03 August 2006

After the usual joyful greeting of each other, the orphans headed out. Yatta shook an Acacia tortilis tree so that the dry pods rained down upon which all the orphans enjoyed feasting. During this feast Buchuma annoyed Madiba by trying to prevent him from picking up his share, but Wendi moved in to keep the peace between them. They enjoyed a mudbath today because the weather was warm.

04 August 2006

The orphans were taken to the Eastern slopes of Ithumba hill to feed today. Selengai and Buchuma had a pushing match which was closely monitored by Mulika, who has Selengai as her special baby. En route to the mudbath, Challa joined Sunyei in her usual “scaring” game, which left all the others wailing and rushing to the Keepers for protection! They all needed a drink before taking a mudbath because they had over-heated.

05 August 2006

Upon emerging in the morning, Challa, Sidai, Madiba and Naserian rushed to the nearby trees to enjoy a scratching session before heading to the trough. Challa and the Keepers headed the column to the feeding area today. Before setting off for the mudbath, Ndomot and Rapsu had a busy pushing match, which was won by Rapsu who has longer tusks. The orphans had a wonderful dustbath at the mudwallow, the tractor having brought a pile of fresh red earth for them.

06 August 2006

The Keepers led the group eastwards along a river line valley where there is plenty of edible browse, with Yatta acting as the rear guard. Besides feeding in the valley, the youngsters enjoyed sliding down the banks until it was time for the mudbath. However, the weather had turned cool, so they enjoyed a soil bath instead.

07 August 2006

The older elephants greeted the youngsters this morning with low rumbles, and by touching each one on the head with their trunk. Whilst taking water at the Stockade trough, Rapsu pushed little Orok, which angered Nasalot, who rushed in to push Rapsu away from the water. Today the Keepers took the orphans westwards where there was a better chance of meeting some wild elephants, but all we found were fresh footprints and dung. Naserian, Sunyei, Madiba, Sidai and Challa found an aardvark burrow and enjoyed a dustbath at the entrance. The Keepers noticed that both Sidai and Olmalo had watery eyes, so eye ointment was administered.

08 August 2006

Having emerged in the morning, Yatta was very anxious to lead the orphans westwards without the Keepers who joined them a little later. She came upon the fresh footprints and dung of a wild elephant and bellowed loudly. Spearheaded by Yatta, Mulika and their adopted special calves, the orphans browsed along the trail used by the wild elephant, with high expectations of meeting him. During this exercise they ended up at the Imenti waterhole and the entire group enjoyed a fabulous mudwallow, immersing themselves fully in the water. Orok dived deep into the pool, closely watched by Nasalot and in the evening Madiba and Sidai enjoyed a pushing game.

09 August 2006

The orphans headed back to the Imenti Waterhole this morning, and browsed beyond it in an area often utilized by wild herds. As it was hot, Orok, Nasalot, Sidai, Sunyei and Napasha led the others to the Imenti Waterhole where again they all enjoyed a swim, rolling and submerging in the water like fishes. Later Challa and the Keepers led the group back to the Stockades.

10 August 2006

Early in the morning a silver backed jackal appeared near the water trough, sending the entire herd fleeing for safety, trumpeting, wailing and charging, Sunyei, Wendi and Challa leading. The jackal ignored the elephants’ commotion, and had a drink!

11 August 2006

It was a cool morning conducive to play. Yatta and Napasha enjoyed a pushing match while Sunyei, Tomboi, Wendi, Challa and Sidai scampered around the bushes, trumpeting and charging through small shrubs. They headed westwards to feed today. At l0 a.m. there was a light shower, which the orphans enjoyed immensely, and instead of a mudbath, they concentrated on a dustbath instead.

12 August 2006

Kinna led the orphans out to feed today, after the usual morning greetings and a drink at the trough. Rapsu and Buchuma led the group to the mudbath today.

13 August 2006

The day began hot, so after a drink at the Stockade trough, the orphans headed out, led by Kinna and Mulika. Later Sunyei, Galana, Challa and Kinna separated from the rest of the group and went to feed far away, but returned to join the others at the mud wallow, which all the orphans greatly enjoyed.

14 August 2006

Sidai enjoyed leading the group out to the feeding grounds today. The orphans browsed calmly all day, interrupted only by the mud wallow at noon.

15 August 2006

Suddenly, Selengai began trumpeting within the thicket because she found herself alone, the others having moved forward. Her alarm brought Yatta and Mulika back at the run, and a little while later they returned escorting Selengai who was greeted warmly by all the others.

16 August 2006

Because it was very hot, the youngsters came early for their milk feed and took a mudbath ahead of the older elephants, who joined them later

17 August 2006

Out in the feeding area Nasalot took Orok and Buchuma to a green tree, and plucked leaves and branches off for the two to eat. Meanwhile, Challa, Wendi and Sunyei enjoyed a pushing game until Kinna saw this as a waste of feeding time, and came to break it up. Since it was a cool day, none of the orphans wanted to wallow.

18 August 2006

The orphans left the Stockades this morning in a jovial mood, swinging their trunks from side to side, and bumping into one another. At 9 a.m. Sunyei, Challa, Rapsu and Buchuma had a playful time running and charging around the thickets. At the mudbath Naserian, Rapsu, Olmalo and Napasha had a wonderful wallowing session, Rapsu putting his head under the water. Later Napasha challenged Kinna to a bout of pushing and was defeated, running away as fast as his legs could carry him!

19 August 2006

Orok and Nasalot led the group out after the usual early morning greetings and a drink of water. Out in the browsing field Naserian, Orok, Sidai and Challa enjoyed soft branches that Nasalot broke down for them. They enjoyed only a brief mudbath before heading out again to feed.

20 August 2006

As the orphans quenched their thirst this morning, they were rumbling to one another and swinging their trunks. Sunyei led the group to the mudbath today, but only Sunyei, Rapsu and Challa partook, since it was chilly.

21 August 2006

Early in the morning, the orphans were joined by the BBC Filming Crew, and as always, the flamboyant Wendi welcomed the crew on behalf of the entire herd, moving forward eagerly to sniff them one by one. Wendi has decided to wean herself off milk, as has Galana. Both elephants now often refuse their milk, leaving the Keepers stunned!

22 August 2006

Mulika, with Selengai walking beside her, led the orphans out to feed today. Because all the trees are now leafless, the orphans stripped the bark, dug up roots using their forefeet and ate the tender shrub tops. Yatta led the orphans to the mudwallow to cool themselves, and all enjoyed this wallowing activity fully.

23 August 2006

It was a very hot and cloudless day, so the orphans moved frequently into shade. Today Dame Daphne Sheldrick and her daughter Angela joined the orphans at the mudbath, and all partook fully. Wendi recognised Daphne and came to greet her, touching her face with her trunk. In the evening she again came to greet Daphne, who was seated on a chair to watch all the orphans go to bed in the evening.

24 August 2006

Nasalot and Orok led the group out this morning. In the field Tomboi and Buchuma intertwined trunks in an act of friendship, despite their competitiveness when it comes to determining their ranking within the group. Sunyei and Naserian enjoyed scratching themselves against the same tree.

25 August 2006

At around 10 a.m. Rapsu and Wendi spent time playing on the ground, rolling around and soil bathing. Buchuma, on seeing this, came slowly to join them and all enjoyed the game until they joined the rest of the elephants who were feeding. It was an active mudbath today because it was so hot.

26 August 2006

Buchuma and Tomboi had a pushing contest today. It was a very hot day, so the orphans sought shade as they made their way to the mudbath, where the youngsters went straight to splash water over themselves and take a drink from the bins before going into the wallow. In the evening Napasha and Mulika were enjoying a pushing game until Sunyei and Wendi passed by, trumpeting and heading for the Keepers.

27 August 2006

It was another hot day. Out in the bush, Sunyei was up to her usual trick of rushing out of the thickets to scare the others, which brought the feeding activity to a halt as the babies ran to the Keepers and the older elephants kept silent with outspread ears to determine whether anything posed a threat! The Keepers reassured the orphans that it was just a hoax. After the mudbath it was so hot that the elephants sought shade under a tree.

28 August 2006

It was a cool morning, so the orphans enjoyed feeding. Just before 9 a.m. Sidai, Sunyei and Challa spotted a Dikdik and gave chase, but the Dikdik soon disappeared. Just before returning in the evening, to pass time, Tomboi, Galana, Taita, Napasha, Wendi and Madiba had fun sliding down the sides of a mall valley.

29 August 2006

The orphans headed out joyfully, the large females walking beside their favourite calves – Yatta with Olmalo, Mulika with Selengai and Nasalot with Orok. Once in the feeding area Buchuma and Rapsu engaged in their usual test of strength, a bout won by Rapsu who has longer tusks than Buchuma. Later on Napasha challenged Mulika and found himself driven out of the vicinity of the other orphans for being so presumptuous!

30 August 2006

After the usual morning activities around the Stockade, such as soil dusting and playing with each other, the orphans headed out to feed. During the morning Rapsu and Tomboi took time off for a pushing game which deteriorated into a battle and brought Kinna along to separate the warring duo. Each fed in a different place to the other.

31 August 2006

Yatta took her unit eastwards to a rocky hill where the orphans enjoy scratching themselves against the rocks. Buchuma and Ndomot enjoyed a pushing game, which was interrupted by Tomboi who wanted to join in, so Buchuma and Ndomot opted out. After mudbath Mulika led the orphans to a valley that has tall trees so that the orphans could shelter from the sun. In the evening, Challa had the privilege of leading the group back home.