Keepers' Diaries, December 2004

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Rain in the Northern Area has brought on a veritable “jungle” in the North, and with it, the tse tse flies, which have plagued both men and elephants this month. Tsavo’s tsetses do not carry the human “Sleeping Sickness”, but do carry trypanosomiasis which is deadly do domestic animals, so conservationists understand that these insects are a vital, if irritating necessity for the preservation of wildlife and wild places, inhibiting the intrusion of hordes of herdsmen and their domestic cattle. In fact, it is the tsetses that were mainly responsible for Tsavo being gazetted a National Park in the first place, since low rainfall precludes agriculture, and the tsetses, ranching.. The orphans have learnt that by plastering themselves with mud, they can limit fly attacks somewhat, but when the dry season comes, we plan to instal tsetse traps around the Night Stockade.

01 December 2004

Wendi was in the lead on the way out today, but Tomboi tried to overtake her. She grabbed his tail to pull him back, but he managed to disengage himself and ran forward. There were dozens of mudbaths today, all along the route, due to recent rain.

02 December 2004

Just before heading to the mudbath, Tomboi tried to tease Napasha, who responded by driving Tomboi far away. Tomboi could not believe this, and took revenge on Olmalo, by pushing her instead.

03 December 2004

The day began well, but then the tsetse flies descended on us all, en masse. Selengai ran towards Mulika for help, and the Keepers tried to keep them at bay by beating them with bushes. Napasha squeezed himself into some thick bush. At the mudbath, they all plastered themselves in mud, which kept the flies off.

04 December 2004

The sky was clear as the Keepers opened the gate for the orphans to emerge. The sun was emerging from the East in a red ball, and the sound of singing weaver birds welcomed the day with joy. However, this was short lived because the tsetse flies had also woken up. Led by Yatta, the orphans were not deterred from browsing, swinging their tails to rid themselves of the flies, and smearing mud over their bodies. Led by Tomboi, the orphans headed towards Ithumba Hill where the flies were not so bad.

05 December 2004

Wendi led the orphans out today, and led by Tomboi, having smeared themselves with mud, they again headed for Ithumba Hill to browse.

06 December 2004

It was drizzling with rain this morning when Yatta led her group out. The Tsetse flies were still plenty, but the orphans browsed normally, and smeared themselves with mud. Then they heard the sound of a tractor, and the three boys, led by Napasha ran towards the mudbath to wait for the tractor bringing their milk!

07 December 2004

At around 9.50 a.m., Wendi, who was grazing apart, realised she was alone, and rumbled with her trunk raised. Yatta answered her, and she joyfully gambolled towards her fellow orphans. Napasha walked briskly to welcome her back. Later Tomboi initiated a game, playing with the raindrops, whilst Olmalo decided to take a nap, but woke hurriedly when she heard the footsteps of Napasha approaching.

08 December 2004

It was an unbearably hot day, so the orphans sought shade under trees early on, Napasha initially sharing a tree with Taita, but later wanted it all to himself, and sent Taita off to look for another.

09 December 2004

It was a sunny day, and the orphans were in a jovial mood. Olmalo’s one eye was weeping, so the Keepers administered eye drops, after which she lay down to play. In the evening the Keepers led the orphans back to the Stockade.

10 December 2004

As a result of the current rainfall, the entire area has become shrouded in very dense vegetation, so the orphans have had to open up their normal routes again. At around 10 a.m. they encountered a family of chattering baboons, which Tomboi, Taita, Yatta and Mulika dispersed

11 December 2004

In the afternoon Olmalo and Wendi left the group to graze apart, but became anxious when they realised they were alone, running and trumpeting in the wrong direction. The Keepers called them back, because the others had gone towards Ithumba Hill. In the evening Tomboi and Wendi led the group home.

12 December 2004

Shortly before l0 a.m., Napasha took a nap. Mulika went to scratch herself against him, and then Tomboi lay down, imitating Napasha. When none of the others took notice of him, he got up and began feeding.

13 December 2004

After mudbath Wendi and Selengai were left behind. Wendi, who is always a prankster, decided to play a trick on the others, and with raised ears and a loud trumpet rushed towards the others, as though being chased. Olmalo rushed towards the Keepers. Yatta and Nasalot, knowing Wendi’s character well, merely stood and watched the drama!

14 December 2004

In the evening the orphans encountered a herd of buffalo, which scared the smaller babies. Yatta, Mulika and Napasha lined up in front of the rest to protect them, but when the buffaloes kept coming, the Keepers changed direction, to give them right of way.

15 December 2004

It was a cool day, which the orphans enjoyed, remaining calm all day..

16 December 2004

In the evening Yatta led the group to the foot of Ithumba Hill where they browsed happily and played from time to time. Olmalo, Tomboi and Taita lay down while the rest remained standing, but later all joined in the fun.

17 December 2004

Having left the Stockade, Napasha and Taita walked past the Keepers, determined to head towards Ithumba Hill, where the vegetation is so appetizing for them. At 11 a.m. they seemed to have forgotten about the mudbath, so the Keepers reminded them, and took them along. Later they continued browsing.

18 December 2004

It was a very hot day, so Napasha led the orphans to the mudbath early to take water and bathe. Napasha noticed that Taita was drinking faster than him from the drum, so pushed him off to another bin. In the evening, shortly before 5 p.m., Napasha began to think about his milk, quitting browsing and mobilizing the other orphans to join him on a journey back to the Stockade. The Keepers merely waited and watched from a distance, which made Napasha complain bitterly because they were not joining him. Only when the Keepers began to walk forward, did Napasha take the lead back home.

19 December 2004

It was another very hot day, so the orphans sought shelter beneath large trees. Kinna was the one to lead them to the mudbath today.

20 December 2004

Two mating squirrels attracted Tomboi’s attention. After a while he plucked up enough courage to chase them, forcing them to disappear down a hole.

21 December 2004

During the noon milk feed, Taita downed his ration fast, and then demanded more, trying to usurp Olmalo’s share. Nasalot, who was nearby, intervened, chasing Taita to the water drums to fill the gap in his stomach with water instead!

22 December 2004

In the evening Tomboi tried to pull a branch which Kinna was feeding on. This annoyed Kinna, who caught him by the leg, but fortunately he managed to escape. He ran off, leaving Kinna wondering how “the guy managed to escape!”

23 December 2004

before 11 a.m. Wendi went to stand under shade. Mulika joined her, scratching her neck against the same tree. At mudbath, Napasha and Taita lay down to play together in the mud. The orphans browsed peacefully for the rest of the day.

24 December 2004

It was cloudy and cool today. On the way to the mud, Kinna and Olmalo found themselves left behind, which was unnoticed by the Keepers for a time. The journey to the mudbath was halted, whilst the Keepers went back to look for the two, calling them by name, until they came running to join the others.

25 December 2004

The orphans left the Stockade in a very happy mood, swinging their trunks from side to side joyfully. The day was spent calmly feeding on the lush pastures.

26 December 2004

Out in the bush today, the orphans split into two groups, one led by Yatta and the other by Kinna. Kinna led Mulika, Nasalot and Napasha; Yatta took Olmalo, Selengai, Wendi, Taita and Tomboi. The Keepers brought the two groups together to take them to the mudbath Natumi’s group spent the morning alone, feeding along the Eastern slopes of the hill. Upon arrival at the mudbath, they were joined by Emily, Aitong and Sally who came from a different direction. At 3.15 p.m. they were joined by Edo, who

27 December 2004

After mudbath, a blue bird landed on Olmalo’s back, and was dislodged by her trunk. It then landed on the ground just ahead, and Wendi gambolled towards it to chase it away.

28 December 2004

On the way out into the bush, Tomboi got left behind and complained loudly. This brought Yatta and Nasalot who welcomed him warmly, and took him back to the others, where he received another very warm greeting from them all.

29 December 2004

At around 9 a.m. an eagle passed above the orphans, which scared them, causing Selengai and Olmalo to run towards the Keepers. Tomboi and Taita fled in the opposite direction, so the Keepers had to call them back. They did a quick U turn and were soon reunited with the rest of the group.

30 December 2004

Selengai and Tomboi played very well before the mudbath. Yatta and Kinna led the others to join a group of 4 wild elephants. They stayed together for about 1 hour until it was time that our orphans went to the mudbath.

31 December 2004

Kinna led the others to the mudbath ahead of time. Napasha had a lovely time wallowing, and then the elephants went to the bush to browse. Olmalo and Wendi wanted more milk at noon.