Keepers' Diaries, December 2005

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

The Northern Area has benefited from much more rain that the Southern part of the Park, so the vegetation was looking rich, with all the greens of nature’s palette when Robert Carr-Hartley and Daphne Sheldrick arrived to host the V.I.P.’s from Nairobi “branding” of Tsavo on the 9th. It was a treat indeed to spend two nights in the Trust’s newly built Guest Camp which is, in fact, a donation from the Trust to KWS and the beginning of opening up the Northern Area to tourism. All the elephants were looking wonderfully well, and we got an enthusiastic welcome from both elephants and Keepers when we called on them in the evening at their Night Stockade. The next morning dignitaries from KWS, the N.G.O.’s and the Ministry of Tourism and Environment flew in and having inspected a Guard of Honour mounted by Rangers, officially opened the Guest Camp before inspecting the Orphans’ Stockades, the Tracker Dog Section at the Park Headquarters and the mountain of snares collected by our Ithumba de-snaring Unit. They then went to the mudbath, and were overwhelmed by the orphans, (the Ministry officials never having had contact with an elephant before) who greeted them fondly. The Permanent Secretary, who was the Guest of Honour, fed Wendi her bottle, and was thrilled to be able to do so. Everyone enjoyed watching the orphans as they enjoyed a soil bath, since it was too cold to wallow, before flying to Voi for the main “branding” ceremony.

01 December 2005

The sound of a plane preparing to land at the nearby airfield scared Madiba and Olmalo. Yatta, who was some distance away, spotted the two running and rushed to calm them down. Later, two hungry baboons passed by chasing a dikdik, which ran towards the elephants for shelter, whereupon Yatta, Mulika and Kinna drove the baboons off amidst trumpeting and joy from the rest of the group, whilst the dikdik escaped, helped on its way by Tomboi and Taita.

02 December 2005

This morning the group split into two; Yatta, Kinna Mulika and Olmalo headed to the water trough to drink whilst the rest of the group led by Nasalot went on ahead to the feeding grounds. Shortly afterwards, Yatta rumbled and recalled the others, wanting to lead them to the opposite direction. The orphans fed quietly until mischievous Sunyei scared the youngsters, by emerging from a thicket. However, the older elephants who know her pranks paid no attention!

03 December 2005

There was a heavy downpour during the night, so the orphans left the Stockades swinging their trunks in happiness as they skidded along the wet ground. Out in the field they enjoyed every moment, playing in the puddles, wallowing in the mud, rubbing against anthills and plenty of food everywhere, so they returned in the evening with full rounded bellies and satisfied expressions.

04 December 2005

The orphans emerged early from the Stockades and went to drink at the trough. Sunyei and Wendi, however, were determined to lead the column and headed straight out until they realised they were alone. With ears out, Sunyei bellowed, whilst Yatta and Mulika rumbled informing the two truants where they were. Kinna, however, went to fetch them and brought them back to join the others who were still at the water trough.

05 December 2005

It was a cool morning. Napahsa, Wendi, Mulika, Selengai and Kinna spent some time soil bathing on the banks of a small stream. None of the elephants went into the water at mudbath time, and later Yatta took the group eastwards to feed at the slopes of Ithumba hill.

06 December 2005

Shortly after leaving the Stockades, the orphans exercised, warming up, running hither and thither before heading out to browse. There they enjoyed wallowing in a wild elephants’ mudbath where Madiba, Sunyei and Galana spent a very long time having fun. The big elephants escorted the youngsters to take their milk feed. Napasha, who is in the process of being weaned off milk had only barley in his bottle, and was not best pleased.

07 December 2005

The elephants streamed behind their Keepers, swinging their trunks in happiness. At 9 a.m. Madiba, Tomboi and Wendi enjoyed a game of hide and seek, running around bushes, and surprising each other. At the mudbath, Napasha, Olmalo, Nasalot and Ndomot had a wonderful time, Ndomot putting his head right under the water. In the afternoon Napasha challenged Kinna to a pushing game, and got roundly defeated!

08 December 2005

Shortly before 8 a.m., Madiba and Sunyei enjoyed chasing a pair of dikdiks who were enjoying the morning sunshine . The elephants trumpeted triumphantly. At 5 p.m. we were treated to a visit by Daphne Sheldrick. Funnily enough both Kinna and Natta were excited to see her and reluctant to go into their Stockade having recognised her. They only settled after Dr. Sheldrick said “Hi” to them.

09 December 2005

Heavy clouds filled the skies soon after the elephants had left in the morning, and light rain fell for about l0 minutes. At mudbath, the orphans were excited to see Dr. Daphne Sheldrick again, who had come with KWS dignitaries and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism & Wildlife for the “branding” of Tsavo. The most memorable moment was when Yatta walked from amidst the orphaned herd and headed straight for Daphne, greeting her before turning back to join the group. Wendi, who loves visitors, was fed milk by the Permanent Secretary who had touched an elephant for the first time, and was overjoyed by their friendliness. Wendi, was very reluctant to leave when the time came to go, always returning to where the visitors were standing, wanting to be with them. After the visitors left only Napasha, Olmalo and Nasalot managed to put their legs into the water but found it too cold to wallow.

10 December 2005

Whilst browsing, feeding was halted when Wendi and Sunyei burst from the thickets, running. The Keepers, who know Wendi and Sunyei’s pranks, reassured the group, who then continued feeding. It was a very hot day, so the orphans had to seeks shade after the mudbath, when Tomboi attempted to mount Madiba. This angered Nasalot who chased Tomboi away from the shade in punishment. He went to join his friend Taita who was resting under another tree.

11 December 2005

It was a cloudy morning, so the orphans left the stockades happily. Wendi, Tomboi, Sunyei, Madiba, Ndomot and Galana had fund playing on an aardvark burrow and when Tomboi lay down, Madiba got his own back by mounting onto him.

12 December 2005

On a cool early morning, Yatta led her group out into the Park where the big orphans enjoyed rubbing themselves against rocks and the little ones had pushing games, Tomboi bent on mounting Sunyei. It was very hot at noon, so they all had an extensive wallowing session. Later Tomboi and Taita played a game of chase around the thickets and shortly before 5 p.m. Wendi and Nasalot had a pushing game.

13 December 2005

The orphans drank before heading out, since the sky was clear. At around 9 a.m. Ndomot and Tomboi spent time pushing one another, Ndomot learning tactics from Tomboi. The day had turned hot when Sunyei led the way to the mudbath, keeping to shade insofar as possible. In the evening Mulika and Napasha engaged each other in a pushing game, as did Sunyei and Wendi, but the games ended when they reached the Keepers. Trumpeting they headed back for the night.

14 December 2005

Having taken water and left, Tomboi and Taita chased behind Sunyei, bent on mounting her. Sunyei could not challenge both boys, so sought shelter near Nasalot. Nasalot warned the two boys, and threatened to knock them down, but they escaped by taking to their heels. Later in the afternoon Wendi and Ndomot played until Tomboi, who was watching from afar, came in a pushed Ndomot away in order to take on Wendi. A fierce fight ensued and Wendi saw him off. Only Olmalo, Napasha and Sunyei went into the mudbath today whilst the rest enjoyed soil bathing.

15 December 2005

Wendi led the orphans out today to the singing of birds. Madiba, Sunyei and Ndomot, along with Wendi, warmed themselves up by running around the thickets. At about l p.m. the new babies from the Nursery arrived – namely Naserian, Buchuma and Rapsu. Wendi welcomed the three very warmly, greeting Rapsu first, then Buchuma and lastly Naserian. Yatta, Kinna and Mulika bellowed excitedly as they mingled with the newcomers, touching them softly with their trunks. Out in the Park, Yatta paid more attention to Rapsu, who had not met any of the Ithumba group before, but Rapsu appeared un-interested, so she returned to her favourite, Olmalo. The Keepers were amazed at how easily the three newcomers were assimilated into the group. Whenever any of them went close to the hot wire of the Stockade, Wendi gently steered them away, as though warning them not to touch it.

16 December 2005

Taita and Tomboi were very happy to have Naserian, Buichuma and Rapsu as their juniors, thinking that they could bully them whenever they wished, but this was not to be! The Keepers kept a close watch on the two big boys, whilst Naserian, Buchuma and Rapsu spent most of the day browsing close to Wendi. It was a hot day, so Wendi encouraged the newcomers to spend a long time in the mudbath before following the join up with the rest.

17 December 2005

All the established orphans kept following the three newcomers wherever they went. Since it was cool, none of the elephants felt like going into the mud.

18 December 2005

A pushing match between Taita and Tomboi was interupted when Napasha intervened and pushed the two boys apart, which left them feeling angered, but there wasn’t much they could do about it!

19 December 2005

Galana led the group out today. Out in the Park Wendi and Rapsu intertwined trunks as a sign of good friendship. Madiba and Galana spent some time scratching against nearby rocks whilst the rest of the group concentrated on feeding.

20 December 2005

At 7 am the orphans were scared by a troupe of baboons who were chasing a dikdik. This left them charging and trumpeting in the thickets until the Keepers calmed them down

21 December 2005

Naserian and Wendi enjoyed a rolling game together today. Taita crept up and mounted on Naserian, before being warned by the Keepers. He left grumbling at not being allowed to do what he wanted to do.

22 December 2005

It was a cool day, which inhibited mudbathing. At 3.30 p.m. Rapsu and Ndomot had anb exciting pushing match which was interrupted by Taita, who chased Ndomot all round the thickets, trying to mount on him. His demands were short-lived because the Keepers warned him off.

23 December 2005

At 6 a.m., having left the Stockades, Rapsu, Naserian and Buchuma were scared by two dikdiks who were at the water trough. They returned to Yatta, who led the entire group to the trough only to find that the dikdiks had disappeared. (

24 December 2005

Whilst the youngsters were taking a drink in the early morning, they became aware of the presence of 2 dikdiks. They immediately began to charge around, which attracted Wendi and Tomboi, who joined in, and took to knocking down bushes long after the dikdiks had disappeared. The day turned very hot, so the orphans relished the mudbath, with Naserian, Rapsu, Buchuma, Olmalo, Madiba and Wendi reluctant to leave it! They felt more comfortable in the pool!

25 December 2005

It is Christmas day, and the Keepers and orphans shared a feeling of joy as they headed out in the morning, with Yatta leading the column. Whilst climbing up a steep embankment, Kinna and Nasalot helped Buchuma, supporting him with their trunks and pushing him with their heads. During the rush to the mudbath, Sunyei suddenly colleded with a Ground squirrel, which she unwittingly tossed into the air with her trunk, leaving her very shaken and surprised!

26 December 2005

On the way out this morning Yatta and Mulika were passed by a sprinting mother warthog with her 4 piglets which left them confused and afraid. Just before mudbath, Galana, Napasha, Rapsu and Kinna spent time enjoying a soil bath at the entrance to the warthog burrow. Since it was a cool day, the orphans did not take a mudbath, but in the evening Buchuma had a lesson in pushing skills from Selengai, until Taita and Tomboi intervened and stopped play!

27 December 2005

Yatta and Mulika were annoyed when a troupe of baboons invaded the mudbath, and forcibly ejected them, forcing them to take to the trees.

28 December 2005

It was another cool morning, so the orphans entered their feeding grounds playfully. Tomboi decided to challenge Galana, but Galana took advantage of her short tusks and saw him off!

29 December 2005

Rapsu and Tomboi enjoyed a hide and seek game around the Stockades once they were out in the morning. Later on Madiba and Rapsu had a joyful pushing match, which was interrupted by Wendi, who promises to be a very caring Matriarch when older. Later Sunyei encountered two dikdiks, whom she charged, but this scared Rapsu, Naserian and Rapsu who ran to the Keepers for shelter.

30 December 2005

This morning the orphans found fresh elephant tracks westward of the rocky hills. Yatta, Mulika, Kinna and Nasalot bellowed loudly, which attracted the attention of the entire unit. Wendi, Selengai, Sunyei and Tomboi chased off 2 dikdiks on their way to the mudbath and soon the entire unit was involved in the show of aggression! They calmed down after the Keepers politely communicated to them!

31 December 2005

It promised to be a very hot day, so the orphans took a drink before leaving the stockade. Taita and Wendi warmed up with a pushing game, which was interrupted by Napasha, who chased Taita off, trying to mount him. Kinna saved him. Just after 8 a.m. Sunyei mobilized Rapsu, Madiba, Buchuma, Ndomot and Naserian to help her see off a troupe of baboons, which all the elephants greatly enjoyed.