Keepers' Diaries, January 2006

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

It has been another pleasurable month for the Ithumba orphans, and one that has seen Galana and Ndomot forming a strong bond of friendship, both being gentle in nature and hence very compatible. Madiba has taken to suckling Wendi’s ear, objecting loudly when she disapproves. The month has seen an influx of wild elephants into the area, with fresh signs at the orphans’ mudbath, so we are confident that it won’t be long until the orphans manage to meet them. Once again, a lone wild bull came to the Stockade on the night of the 24th, and spent a long time “chatting” to the orphans, but left as dawn broke. He was back just before dawn the next day, and although Yatta and the older females followed his trail for a long time on both days, he proved elusive! The Northern Area is still tinged with green, having enjoyed light showers of rain during the month, so food is abundant still, and all the orphans are in prime condition, the latest arrivals, namely Madiba, Rapsu and Naserian now well settled and very happy in their new home. Wendi and Sunyei share mini Matriarchal responsibilities, under the overall care of Yatta, Nasalot, Mulika and Kinna, Kinna still being the main disciplinarian, always at hand to punish any of the young bulls who are guilty of bullying the younger set. On one occasion when Tomboi climbed on Madiba in the mudwallow, making him yell, Kinna rushed in to drive Tomboi out of the pond and into exile as a punishment, refusing to allow him back! It would appear that she is particularly fond of Buchuma, who often browses close to her, and enjoys being caressed by Kinna’s trunk. Wild encounters, which have alarmed the orphans, especially the younger set, are running kudus, the usual dikdiks, a flock of vulturine guineafowl on two occasions, two hyrax incidents, one when a hyrax called at close quarters from a cave, and again when a hyrax dropped from a branch on which the orphans were feeding! However, the youngsters enjoyed seeing off a warthog who wanted to share their wallow! When alarmed, the youngsters rush back wither to their Keepers, or the older elephants, for protection, and the older elephants combine forces and come up front to deal with the threat. However, none of the orphans were anxious to take on a lone jackal, still very fearful of anything canine!

01 January 2006

The orphans were very playful having left the Stockades, enjoying the first day of the New Year, the youngsters playing pushing games around the water trough. Selengai and Naserian had an interesting time monitoring a turtle they spotted crawling in the muddy, trying to toss it out of the water using their hind legs! The Keepers were also in high spirits as they led the elephants out. Ndomot and Rapsu were enjoying a pushing match which was interrupted by Tomboi. At the muidbath the orphans were disturbed by the barking of a dog baboon, and rushed to their Keepers for protection.

02 January 2006

It was a cool and drizzly morning, so the orphans enjoyed soil bathing in the dampened earth. Further showers fell before mudbath, so there was no need to actually take a mudbath, since there were puddles everywhere.

03 January 2006

It was another cloudy morning, which the orphans enjoyed. Rapsu, Buchuma, Sunyei, Madiba, Naserian and Tomboi enjoyed playing in the loose soil of an aardvaak home, when Tomboi took advantage of Naserian and mounted her whilst she was lying down.

04 January 2006

The orphans were in a playful mood as they left the Stockade. Yatta knelt down and pierced the ground with her tusks, which interested Olmalo who was a spectator. There was no mud bathing today, because it was too chilly.

05 January 2006

Light showers dominated the morning, which the orphans thoroughly enjoyed. Tomboi targeted Olmalo to try and mount, but she took refuge with Yatta, so he had no chance. Instead he joined Galana who was scratching herself against a rock. At the mudbath Sunyei and Tomboi had an altercation about who was to lead the group, which was won by Tomboi.

06 January 2006

Yatta led the group towards the slopes of Ithumba Hill which was shrouded in mist. Sunyei and Olmalo showed their love of one another by entwining their trunks. It was a cool day, so none of the orphans was inclined to bathe at mudbath time.

07 January 2006

It was another cool morning, so the orphans were exuberant. Taita and Tomboi enjoyed rushing about in the thickets, followed by Rapsu. Wendi wanted to join in, and made her presence known by knocking Taita, which angered him. He pushed her down, pressing her into the ground, which made her bellow. The Keepers intervened. After the mudbath Napasha and Rapsu had an interesting tug of war game, with intertwined trunks, each pulling backwards!

08 January 2006

Today the orphans gambolled happily as they headed Eastwards where there is plenty of pasture upon which the entire herd feasted. At l0 a.m. Ndomot, Galana, Naserian and Selengai enjoyed rushing around in the bush trumpeting and knocking down bushes to display their strength. By mudbath time it was hot, so the orphans had a wonderful mudbath.

09 January 2006

The day was humid, prompting Wendi, Rapsu, Olmalo and Nasalot to have a dustbath at an aardvark burrow while Sunyei and Buchuma were busy browsing together when they were suddenly stareled by a flock of vulturine guineafowls. They retreated backwards with ears out, and then plucked up enough courage to charge, sending the guineafowl into the air, and knocking down small shrubs in the process. At the mudbath, only Rapsu, Buchuma and Naserian ventured in, because it was chilly.

10 January 2006

It turned out to be a very hot day, which made the orphans retreat into shade early, flapping their ears to cool their bodies. They enjoyed the mudbath when Rapsu, Buchuma, Naserian and Madiba stayed in for a long time, since they are adapting to the hot climate. It has been observed that Galana and Ndomot are becoming great friends. Both have a gentle character that is compatible.

11 January 2006

Yatta took her herd westwards today to feed along a trail blazed by the fresh passage of wild elephants. The 4 older females had high aspirations of meeting their wild counterparts, but were disappointed. Taita and Tomboi, as usual, challenged each other to a shoving match, which became too rough, so Nasalot intervened, whereupon Taita challenged her! Napasha joined them, swinging his trunk threateningly, which prompted Taita to retreat. The orphans enjoyed a wonderful mudbath today.

12 January 2006

The day began with showers, which made the orphans very happy, dustbathing and rolling in the dampened earth. Tomboi, Rapsu, Sunyei, Naserian and Madiba happened upon the flock of vulturine guineafowl again. Tomboi and Rapsu saw them off, after which they celebrated their success with a pushing match! In the evening Buchuma and Selengai sparred together, whilst Mulika, who is Selengai’s guardian, watched closely. Wendi is very concerned with any visitors that come to see the Ithumba group, insisting upon greeting each one personally.

13 January 2006

Yatta and the Keepers headed southwards today to an area with unexploited pasture. Olmalo enjoyed teaching Madiba some pushing tactics, keenly watched by Yatta. Whilst breaking down tasty branches, the orphans were disturbed by a sprinting kudu, which prompted the babies to run to their Keepers. However, Yatta, Mulika, Kinna and Nasalot remained in the thicket, ready to take care of any intruder but the kudu had long gone!

14 January 2006

Another very hot day, which sent the orphans under shade rapidly. Whilst resting under a tree, Galana, Ndomot and Buchuma were scared by a dikdik making a whistling sound to locate its mate. Buchuma advanced in a determined fashion, and saw the dikdik off. It was a lively mudbath, due to the heat, after which the orphans rested under shade until 2.30 p.m.

15 January 2006

In the early morning, at 6.30 a.m. Sunyei and Naserian were enjoying a dustbath when they were scared by a jackal. They trumpeted loudly, causing alarm amongst all the others who rushed to the rescue to chase off the intruder. Taita was then bent on mounting Naserian this morning, chasing her around the bushes, but she wisely took cover with Nasalot, which made Taita give up his chase. At the mudbath Tomboi mounted onto Madiba in the mud, causing him to bellow which brought Kinna along at the double. She chased Tomboi off into the bushes, and refused to let him wallow as a punishment for bullying Madiba.

16 January 2006

Madiba and Buchuma were scared by a hyrax which came down the tree against which Mulika was rubbing herself. It was a hot, sullen day, and in the evening there were light showers, which made the group very playful and happy.

17 January 2006

Rapsu and Tomboi opened the day’s activities by challenging each other. Rapsu lost to Tomboi, being less experienced. At the mudbath the orphans encountered 2 warthogs which Sunyei and Rapsu chased off, being very used to doing so back in Nairobi. In the evening Napasha and Nasalot had a friendly pushing match, which Nasalot won Napasha enjoys challenging the Big Girls, hoping one day to be the victor!

18 January 2006

Selengai, Olmalo and Tomboi were interrupted by the call of a hyrax as they were feasting on shrubbery near some rocky caves. They rushed to the Big Elephants for safety, who welcomed them tenderly, reassuring them that all was well. It was a very hot day, so the elephants enjoyed their mudbath. Madiba has taken to suckling one of Wendi’s ears these days, and should Wendi deny him this pleasure, he yells!

19 January 2006

The orphans went to feed eastwards today when Ndomot and Galana found themselves far behind the others. Both bellowed loudly, which brought Nasalot and Kinna rushing back to collect them. The mudbath was spectacular because the weather was hot. There were footprints and the dung of wild elephants who have moved into the area. Rapsu and Buchuma now enjoy challenging the older boys, particularly Tomboi and Taita to earn rank amongst the boy society.

20 January 2006

Yatta led the group westwards today, hoping to make contact with wild elephants whose signs are very much in evidence. Sadly, although the orphans encountered this evidence, contact again eluded them.

21 January 2006

It was a cool, drizzly day, which is always enjoyable for the elephants, who love wallowing in the puddles, and rolling in the damp earth. Madiba, Ndomot, Rapsu, Buchuma and Selengai had a wonderful time together whilst Wendi enjoyed scratching against Taita as he was lying on the ground. The orphans declined the mudbath today because it was too cold.

22 January 2006

Yatta again headed eastwards from the Stockade. Buchuma browsed close to Kinna, who touched him tenderly from time to time with her trunk. They took just a brief mudbath, because it was cool.

23 January 2006

Once again, Yatta and Mulika steered the orphans to a route that was used by wild herds the previous night, although they did not make contact. At mudbath time Naserian, Buchuma, Rapsu, Sunyei, Ndomot and Wendi had a prolonged session, submerging their heads under the water!

24 January 2006

In the dead of night, a lone wild bull visited the Stockades and chatted with the orphans for a long time. He left as dawn broke, and the orphans followed his trail, which went to the orphans’ mudbath where he had a wallow. The orphans again followed his footprints for some time, but eventually Yatta did an about-turn, and returned to the mudbath.

25 January 2006

For the second day running, as dawn was breaking the lone wild bull visited the stockades briefly and then left. Later Yatta and Kinna led the orphans in the direction taken by the bull, but when the mudbath hour approached, Yatta turned around and returned, all the other orphans following her.

26 January 2006

There was a light drizzle when the orphans left the Stockade for the feeding area, the dewy grassing rustling against their legs. Buchuma, Naserian Rapsu and Ndomot were very cheerful, having fun sliding on the wet ground and piling on top of one another. Because it was a cold day, none of the orphans went into the mudwallow. In the evening it was Sunyei who led the group back to base.

27 January 2006

It was another cool morning. Kinna led the orphans Eastwards to an area with abundant pasture. Rapsu and Ndomot had a pushing match, but Ndomot had better pushing tactics, and was the winner. During the muidwallow, only Rapsu, Buchuma, Sunyei and Madiba went into the water, while the others had a drink and continued browsing.

28 January 2006

In the morning, Yatta and Mulika led her group westwards, very fast, hoping to meet up with a wild herd who had passed that way the previous day, but the wild herd had moved too far off. Galana and Ndomot enjoyed a shared dust-bath on a warthog burrow, and because the day was cool, at the mudbath all the orphans only took a dustbath.

29 January 2006

Soon after leaving the Stockade in a jovial mood, Yatta, Mulika and Kinna raised their trunks, sensing something unusual, and sure enough suddenly a group of wild African hunting dogs,( a very rare and endangered species these days) emerged from the thicket in pursuit of two dikdiks. Very frightened, all the elephants retreated back into the Stockade, but when the Keepers ran in the direction the dogs had taken, Yatta and Mulika moved ahead of us, and charged aggressively in the direction the dogs had taken. The orphans remained very close to the Keepers for the rest of the day, highly traumatised by the sight of the dogs. At the mudbath, Sunyei, Rapsu, Madiba, Naserian and Buchuma are the mudbath super-stars, normally wallowing for a longer period than the others, who are more acclimatised to the heat. During afternoon browsing, the orphans were much more relaxed.

30 January 2006

The morning was clear, and promised to be hot. Rapsu and Ndomot enjoyed a pushing challenge, won by Rapsu, who has long tusks. The youngsters were nervous in the bush today, after the scare of the hunting dogs yesterday.

31 January 2006

It was cool today, so the elephants made the most of browsing, interrupted when Taita and Tombo had a game of hide and seek around the bushes, which ended when Napasha arrived and threatened to mount them. Because it was cloudy, the orphans tested the temperature of the water with the tips of their trunks, and opted to take a soil bath instead. Naserian and Buchuma seem to have formed a strong bond of friendship these days.