Keepers' Diaries, February 2006

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

There has been a great deal of wild elephant activity around Ithumba during the month of February, but our orphans’ contact with these wild herds still remains elusive, although the orphans are very eager to try and meet up with their wild kin, following their scent trails, and enjoying all signs of their presence. With the wild herds coming ever closer to the Orphans’ Stockades, and following visitations from the bull scouts, we are confident that an exciting event is not far off.

01 February 2006

Light drizzling rain dominated the morning, which made the orphans very happy. Taita and Olmalo enjoyed a pushing game which ended when Olmalo suspected that Taita wanted to mount her. She sought shelter with Yatta.

02 February 2006

Another cool day, so again the orphans enjoyed their feeding activity out in the bush. Rapsu and Tomboi indulged in a game of hide and seek, chasing each other around the bushes. Later Buchuma, Rapsu, Naserian and Madiba got startled by a dikdik and made the most of it by trumpeting and charging around, which prompted Wendi and Kinna to come and investigate what had disturbed them.

03 February 2006

This morning, before following the older orphans, Wendi and Sunyei enjoyed a game of hide and seek. Later, whilst feeding underneath a tree, Buchuma and Naserian were scared by some baboons up the tree. The ran back to the older orphans for safety, bellowing, which made Nasalot and Kinna rush to rescue them. Kinna trumpeted loudly after meeting the two babies, which sent all the baboons fleeing.

04 February 2006

It was another cool day, which made the orphans happy as they left the Stockade in the morning. Selengai and Rapsu had a busy time push playing, whilst Mulika, who is Selengai’s Guardian, watched events closely. At the noon mudbath, a troupe of baboons arrived to quench their thirst, and were seen off by Yatta and Mulika. The baboons took to the trees, protesting loudly.

05 February 2006

Again, light showers fell during the morning, which left the orphans very playful and happy. Soon after eight, a male lesser kudu stepped daintily from the thickets, and scared Sunyei, Madiba, Buchuma, Naserian and Wendi, who were at the head of the column. They retreated to the big orphans, trumpeting their alarm, and were met by Yatta and Mulika. Mulika knelt down on her forelegs and poked her tusks into the ground several times, demonstrating to the babies that she could protect them and that they had nothing to fear. At mudbath only Sunyei, Madiba and Rapsu went in, whilst the others continued browsing, until it was time for the large orphans to round up their group and take them back for the night. Meanwhile Napasha and Taita were engaged in a test of strength, and had to run to catch up.

06 February 2006

The youngsters were all eager to head the column when the orphans left the Stockade in the morning. Sunyei, Buchuma, Naserian and Madiba all did their best, but Sunyei won, since she knew the trails better. Rapsu and Buchuma were enjoying a pushing game that was interrupted by Tomboi. At the mudbath, only the mudbath stars went in, and later Yatta lagged behind all the others as they headed back, to keep Olmalo company, since she was busy feeding in a thicket. At first the Keepers had not noticed that Olmalo was not amongst the orphans, and wondered why Yatta was waiting. Yatta bellowed loudly, and Mulika came to join her, and help her round up Olmalo. Having found her, Yatta and Mulika sandwiched her between them, and marched her back.

07 February 2006

The Keepers took the orphans eastwards today to feed along a watercourse where there was a lot of fodder. The orphans were very happy and Taita expressed his joy by rolling on the ground. Soon he was joined by Tomboi and later Selengai, whilst Mulika kept a close eye on events to ensure that there was no mounting of her favourite. Then Mulika joined in the game, which made Selengai very happy.

08 February 2006

The orphans were frightened when they encountered two jackals. Yatta and Kinna went ahead and very aggressively drove the jackals away, whilst all the other orphans remained stock still and silent. They then went along the Northern side of Ithumba hill, where there was a lot of evidence of wild herds. Sadly, they never met up with them, but were happy to know that they had been there. After mudbath Napasha challenged Nasalot to a pushing contest but was no match for her, being much younger.

09 February 2006

A troupe of baboons scared Buchuma, Naserian and Rapsu this morning, after a youngster made a loud fuss, having been disciplined by his mother. They began to run back to the bigger elephants, and were intercepted by Kinna and Nasalot, who came to ensure that all was well. Buchuma ran into a flock of vulturine guineafowl, being first at the mudbath to get his milk, sending the guineafowl into the air. This scared the others, who ran back to their Keepers for protection, who accompanied them to get their share of the milk.

10 February 2006

It was a very hot morning, which prompted Kinna to lead the group for an early mudbath, which was greatly enjoyed. Wendi, Tomboi and Taita enjoyed charging a flock of guineafowl, forcing them to wing off.

11 February 2006

Today the orphans headed westwards to feed, and then Naserian, Buchuma, Rapsu and Ndomot peeled off from the main group and went to feed on their own, a long way from the rest. At mudbath time, the Keepers called them, and immediately they came to join the others on the way to the mudbath.

12 February 2006

Today, it was Madiba and Sunyei who led the group out to their feeding ground, and on the way, encountered 2 dikdiks, which they charged and dispelled. Tomboi joined the charge, but with the hidden agenda of trying to mount onto Sunyei. The Keepers warned him not to spoil the fun of Sunyei and Madiba

13 February 2006

Soon after the orphans left the Night Stockades, a domestic dog appeared from the thicket, scaring all the elephants. Yatta, Kinna, Mulika and Nasalot joined forces to charge it, reinforced by the Keepers, and trumpeting loudly. The dog soon disappeared amidst a hail of stones thrown by the Keepers, but the elephants remained very nervous throughout the day. It was a hot day, so the orphans enjoyed a lengthy mudwallow. Ever since Napasha has been weaned off milk, he is becoming more independent, often feeding away from the others, and returning last at night to the Stockade. We think he will be the first to join the wild herds.

14 February 2006

After all the orphans had left, Napasha chose to remain behind, only beginning his journey long after they had disappeared from view. However, he then became confused, following the wrong path, and when he understood that this had happened, he bellowed loudly. Mulika answered in a low rumble, directing Napasha, and after a shjort while, he found the way and joined the group, greeted with great joy by the youngsters. Mulika welcomed him back, and Selengai, Taita and Wendi put their trunks into his mouth in an elephant “kiss”.

15 February 2006

It was a cool day. Wendi and Taita enjoyed a pushing match, which went on for sometime until Wendi surrendered and proceeded to the mudbath. There a warthog and her piglets came to enjoy a wallow, but she was denied access by Wendi, Rapsu, Tomboi and Selengai, who chased her and her family off. The warthog returned later and enjoyed her wallow.

16 February 2006

Today the orphans headed eastwards, chasing dikdiks and any other wild animals they met on the way. Taita and Galana enjoyed a pushing contest, which was won by Taita, who is more experienced. At the mudbath 2 male baboons suddenly appeared, scaring the orphans, and sending the younger set, led by Wendi and Sunyei, to the Keepers for protection, whilst the older elephants charged the intruders, and sent them on their way.

17 February 2006

On the way to the feeding area, Napasha spotted a rock, and decided to remain behind to scratch himself on it. At 10 a.m. Naserian and Rapsu trumpeted and ran towards their Keepers, for they had spotted a domestic dog chasing a dikdik. Armed with stones, the Keepers ran after the dog, but it disappeared in the thick bush. The babies remained very nervous for quite a long time.

18 February 2006

Just before l0 a.m., the orphans’ browsing was disrupted by the appearance of the domestic dog, which started barking when it spotted the Keepers. Yatta and Mulika trumpeted loudly, and began rushing around knocking down bushes to demonstrate their anger, whilst Kinna and Nasalot, together with the younger orphans, remained silent and still, as events unfolded. The dog disappeared but again this incident left the elephants very nervous, but Olmalo, Napasha, Buchuma and Naserian had a much longer mudwallow than all the rest, earning the prize for best mudbathers of the day.

19 February 2006

This morning, Sunyei and Madiba competed for the position of leader, running to be first. This prompted all the other younger ones to follow their lead, which galvanized Yatta, Kinna and Nasalot into action, to investigate what all the fuss was about! They calmed the younger orphans by touching their mouths. During the mudbath, a troupe of baboons arrived to drink from the water bins. Wendi, Napasha, Rapsu and Tomboi tried to pluck up courage to chase them off, but because the baboons were many, they thought better of it, and left them alone to take a drink.

20 February 2006

The orphans left in a very jovial mood, swinging their trunks and bumping into one another. Wendi and Tombo rushed about knocking down small shrubs. Later on Galana and Tomboi had a pushing match, but Kinna intervened to separate the two. In the evening Napasha challenged Kinna to a pushing match.

21 February 2006

Whilst browsing out in the Park, Yatta encountered a male buffalo hiding in thick bush. Confidently Yatta trumpeted and charged the buffalo, and within seconds, was reinforced by the entire herd. The buffalo sensed that he was outnumbered, and fled amidst trumpeting and mayhem. The orphans settled down when their Keepers arrived. After the mudbath hour, Sunyei and Madiba competed with each other as to who would lead the orphans home.

22 February 2006

It was a calm very hot day, so the orphans had to seek shade early on. Just before mudbath, the orphans split into two groups, Sunyei and Wendi leading the babies, whilst Yatta took care of the second group. Both groups met up at the mudbath, which was greatly enjoyed by all. Wendi enjoyed scratching her back against recumbent Napasha as he rested deep in the water.

23 February 2006

Naserian led the orphans out today, and encountered 2 dikdiks, which she charged. This drew the attention of Rapsu, Buchuma, Madiba and Ndomot, who joined in the chase.

24 February 2006

Today, it was Ndomot and Galana who led the way to the mudbath, and having taken their share of milk, stood aside calmly, sucking the hands of their Keepers, whilst the others downed their milk.

25 February 2006

Today, Naserian, Rapsu and Buchuma, had a mind of their own, choosing a different direction to the one usually taken. Yatta rumbled, calling the three to return, but they continued on their way. Yatta then hurried to block their way, forcing them to return and join the rest of the group. All the orphans, except Taita, enjoyed the mudbath today. Taita went to rest under shade, and refused to go in.

26 February 2006

There was drama in the early morning when 4 Wild African Hunting Dogs appeared to drink at the Stockade, scattering the orphans in all directions. The dogs took a drink, but then ran off when they spotted the Keepers, who managed to round up all the elephants, assuring them of their safety by surrounding and touching them. The orphans soon calmed down. At around 1 p.m. it became very hot, forcing the orphans under shade, and soon rain began to fall. The orphans welcomed the rain with great joy, running about trumpeting and skidding on the wet soil.