Keepers' Diaries, February 2005

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

The month started off with cool cloudy days, which inhabited the midday mud bath, but was a welcome relief for the Keepers. For the rest of the month the February sun was relentless. February and March are the hottest months in Tsavo, but the Ithumba orphans very quickly found a routine, and a siesta in the heat of the day under shady tree has become common practice. Yatta is still very much the matriarch in charge of the Ithumba ten, with Olmalo being her favourite calf, singled out for preferential treatment. Taita and Tomboi cannot resist constantly sparring, and Wendi has her own little ‘thing’ going where she always takes the lead in the evenings walking the orphan’s home.. She and Tomboi continue to be very close, with Tomboi coming to Wendi’s rescue when ever she is having a hard time from any other of the orphans. Kinna is respected by all of them, including Napasha, who doesn’t respect much, but Kinna the disciplinarian ensures that they are all kept in line! Selengai and Olmalo are very close, seldom far from each other, but always under the watchful eye of Yatta. Nasalot and Mulika are always close at hand to comfort and protect the babies, and Nasalot also enjoys sparring time with Naspasha, sometimes with tremendous determination, prompting Yatta to intervene.

01 February 2005

The day was cloudy and cold, on their way to browse Olmalo as usual remained behind with her keepers. Yatta who loves Olmalo more than the rest waited for her and walked side by side while browsing. At mud wallow, none of the orphans took a mud bath due to the cold weather. After mud wallow time, napasha who likes testing his strength with the bigger orphans turned to Nasalot for a pushing game. Shortly afterwards Nasolot surrendered, an indication that Napasha will one day be the male to dominate the group.

02 February 2005

For the second day running, Napasha and Nasolot locked in a sparring contest until Yatta came to intervene by pushing them away from each other. Taita and Tomboi were watching keenly the techniques applied by Napasha and Nasolot in fighting, so as to apply them in future to counter their enemies. After mud bath Napasha picked a stick to play with but it was snatched from him by Taita. In revenge Napasha climbed on top of Taita while the rest of the orphans stood around watching as if on guard. On the way back to the stockade as is the case most days Wendi led her fellow orphans home.

03 February 2005

At nine o'clock Taita and Wendi pushed each other around for as long as twenty minutes. After a while Yatta became exhausted by this naughtiness and came to seperate them. After the seperation each of them went to browse in different areas as if sulking. On the way to the mudwallow Taita led the orphans, and then after the mudwallow Napasha who most of the time thinks of milk, picked up a stick and used it like a dummy suckling it for hours. Taita then sidled up to Napasha and bit his trunk, which prompted Napasha to fight back in relatiation.

04 February 2005

The sky was clear and the sun shone brightly, and it slowly but surely became very hot indeed. The orphans led by Mulika today took a different route to the normal route. At first this met with protesting, and they all refused to follow Mulika but when they realised they were being left behind the fell into line. In the heat of the day the orphans took a siesta under the trees.

05 February 2005

As mudbath time approached Napasha came close to the Keepers and started throwing soil all over himself and them as if to let them know that it was time for the mudwallow, as he loves both the milk at that time and the water. Yatta escorted Olmalo to the mudwallow as they were really taking their time, and by the time they finally arrived there all the other orphans had finished their milk. Yatta ensured Olmalo had her share of milk, and waited by her side as she finished her three bottles. Then the two of them went and joined the others in the mudwallow.

06 February 2005

The sky was overcast today, as the gate opened to the stockade. Kinna took the lead and Napasha remained in the stockade begging for more milk. He is now so fat, and his stomach hangs close to the ground! Kinna, Selengai and Mulika waited patiently for him to come out, and then showed him where Yatta and the others had disappeared to. Later in the day Napasha pushed Kinna, who does not tolerate bad behaviour from any of the orphans. She went wild with anger. Napasha stood his ground for a few minutes then sensibly retreated after Kinna's display of anger completely unnerved him.

07 February 2005

Shortly before eleven O'clock, Wendi and Tomboi who were walking ahead of the rest and were startled by a male Lesser Kudu who lept out of the bush in front of them. This freaked them out and they fled back to the safety of the Keepers, screaming and shaking. All this was observed by Baboons from the safety of nearby tree tops and caused them to start screaching their alarm calls too.

08 February 2005

Early in the morning on the way to browse, Yatta and Kinna chose to walk behind the babies to protect them from any external danger. At around 8 o'clock Taita playd pushing games with Napasha, while Olmalo and Selengai enjoyed their own more gentle pushing games. At midday they all gulped down their milk before spending time in the wallow.

09 February 2005

Today was an exceptionally hot day, so way before time, led by Wendi, the orphans made a direct route to the mudwallow to cool off. After a long mudbbath Yatta led the group away, but Napasha, the waterbaby, along with Tomboi and Taita refused the move, and they continued to splash and roll around in the mud for much longer. After realising that the three naughty boys were not ready to go any where Yatta calmly waited flapping her ears to keep cool and there they remained patiently as if in a trance until the boys eventually had enough and followed them.

10 February 2005

Shortly after the oprhans left the stockade in the morning the orphans led by Wendi came running back to the Keepers and huddled around them. After they investigated what the cause of this way, they discovered that 2 tiny Dikdiks had been the cause of this. Once the Dikdiks saw the Keepers they darted off into the undergrowth, and slowly the babies calmed down. Despite their size the baby elephants can be so easily spooked.

11 February 2005

On this day Wendi and Taita began a fight. It started to get quite heated, and looked like Taita was getting the upper hand. Tomboi then came to Wendi's rescue and between the two of them they were able to make Taita retreat and abandon the game. When they went to the mudbath all the elephants except for Napasha chose not to enter the water. napasha on the other hand thrashed around in the mud for at least one hour.

12 February 2005

The orphans all copied each other emerging from the thicket holding the branch of a tree and chewing on it. Then Naslaot rolled over for a sleep, and was later followed by the others. Because of the hot day all the elephants loved their mudbath today, and then later spent ages tossing red earth all over their bodies, they ended up looking like they had elaborate body painting done to them. The dull grey of the clay mud sharply contrasting against the red earth of most of Tsavo.

13 February 2005

The orphans rested up lieing in the shade in an effort to escape the heat. At mudbath time there was great excitment when two warthogs were spotted drinking at the mudbath. All the orphans charged them, and then a troupe of baboon were spotted and the all gamboled towards the baboons. Everybody ran in all directions, with dust flying. It was most entertaining.

14 February 2005

Naslaot and Kinna led the group from the stockade. Napasha, Wendi and Tomboi were left behind sniffing at the BBC crew who were up at Ithumba. The Keepers tried to drive them away to join Yatta but Wendi being naughty refused to move. Instead she decided to lie down in front of the cameras for a short while. When she woke up she tried to force her way through the camera, but the Keepers pointed their fingers at her, warning her and at the same time showing her which direction to head off in. On the way to the mudbath today Tomboi and Napasha and Selengai all competed with Yatta for the lead. Yatta gave way for them to pass. They didn't go far in the lead, as something spooked them. Wendi with her future Matriarch qualities took over the lead and led them to the wallow. In the mud they spotted footprints of a leopard that had come down to drink in the night, the footprints were very fresh.

15 February 2005

Contrary to the previous days, Olmalo was the first to step out of the stockade and lead the way, and she led the group to the nearby water trough for them to all have a drink. From there on Yatta and Wendi dictated which direction to go and headed eastwards, the other orphans followed behind while the Keepers trailed them from a distance.

16 February 2005

At about 9.00am the orphans happened upon a Puffadder, this scared them and the orphans ran back to the Keepers and alerted the Keepers of the threat. Wendi led the group to the Mudwallow today before the usual time. Taita, Wendi and Olmalo spent a lively time wallowing and climbing all over each other while Nasalot and Napasha pushed each other around a distance away. After mud bath Yatta and Wendi led the orphans east of Ithumba hill.

17 February 2005

A cool day, with the orphans grazing calmly throughout the day with no major observations to report.

18 February 2005

In the evening, Kinna led the rest to the foot of Ithumba hill where they browsed happily and played from time to time with Mulika. Selengai and Olmalo lied down to play while the rest remained motionless watching. But later on they all joined in the game.

19 February 2005

Wendi, Tomboi and Nasolot led the other orphans to browse. On the way to mud wallow, Taita had a rough time leading since Wendi and Tomboi in unison pushed him out of the way. Taita gave in aware that challenging both would be foolish. At the Mud wallow, taita and Olmalo lied down rolling while Selengai stood by watching them.

20 February 2005

At mud wallow time, Selengai led the other orphans to drink water and also mud bath. On the way back home, Wendi led. Yatta seemed to guide them sensitively from behind, aware that they enjoy the feeling of leadership.

21 February 2005

In the morning, Napasha who is fond of teasing the big four, that is Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna, tried this time on Kinna. Napasha couldn't believe it when he was roughly handled by Kinna, who tolerates no nonsence from him. Napasha with his tail coiled went to browse far from the rest.

22 February 2005

In the evening when the orphans were browsing, a bunch of chattering baboons passed by scaring Kinna and Olmalo. Yatta the matriarch first calmed down Kinna, then ran to shield Olmalo from the baboons. Yatta with her ears raised charged and trumpeted, with Napasha joining in, and between the two of them they saw off the baboon troupe.

23 February 2005

In the monring, Wendi fought with Taita, after Taita unkowingly plucked some leaves that Wendi intended to pluck. The orphans enjoyed the loose red soil playing in it for a long while. Wendi and Tomboi took it in turns to climb all over Taita. The game had to end when Kinna emerged and seperated them all.

24 February 2005

Shortly before ten in the morning Yatta lay down to play. Kinna who was juat a few metres away came and tried to lift Yatta up. When Yatta failed to stand up Kinna lay down beside her. Tomboi and Taita took advvantage and climber over Yatta. When she woke up he took off fearing some repercussions.

25 February 2005

Napasha rested his trunk on Taita's head. Taita was angered by Napasha's actions and started pushing him around. Napasha left him in peace and then instead tested his strength against Mulika, but Mulika drove him away forcefully. He then gave up feeling alittle overwhelmed.

26 February 2005

In the morning the Keepers spotted Wendi and Olmalo had watery eyes. Immediately they administered eye ointment. By evening time their eyes had stopped watering and appeared perfect again.

27 February 2005

Yatta led the group to the bush in the early morning. During the noon milk time, Wendi, Tomboi and Napasha remained behind, begging for more milk, so the Keepers led them to the water instead.

28 February 2005

On the way to the mudbath, a noisy troupe of baboons scared Tomboi, who was in the lead. He turned quickly and ran to the Keepers for safey, but Yatta, who was trailing, ran forward to deal with the situation, charging the baboons, who took the trees making a lot of noise.