Keepers' Diaries, July 2005

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Two wild bulls have again been regular nocturnal visitors to the Orphans’ Stockades, rumbling to the orphans whilst taking water from the trough. We wonder whether one of these bulls is our Imenti, who has brought along his BigWild Friend to meet the orphans and share their supply of fresh water. We believe that this is probable, since a dread of human scent would be sufficient deterrent for any lone wild bull.

01 July 2005

It was a cool morning, and the elephants left the Stockades in a happy mood, swinging their trunks from side to side. Since the weather was cool, they declined the mudbath. In the evening an altercation broke out between Olmalo and Tomboi when Tomboi tried to snatch a root from Olmalo’s mouth. Olmalo sensed defeat and ran towards Yatta, who stopped Tomboi in his tracks, throwing dust at him!

02 July 2005

Today was an important day, for we expected the new arrivals from Nairobi, so the orphans browsed close to the Stockades. The first to arrive were Galana and Sunyei followed shortly by Ndomot and Madiba in the second truck. During the journey Sunyei’s ear somehow suffered a tear, which will always make her very distinctive, like Kinna. Yatta’s group exploded from the thicket in a high state of excitement to greet the new arrivals, which at first they found very alarming, with bellowing, trumpeting and rumbling, the Ithumba elephants following the new arrivals closely, and Wendi focusing on Ndomot, delighted to find him again. Olmalo managed to entwine her trunk with that of Galana, whilst Napasha and Tomboi had to be restrained from mounting on the babies, eager to demonstrate dominance. The Keepers intervened to prevent them bullying the newcomers.

03 July 2005

For the new babies, it was a very long night, all together in a large enclosure and no longer in a stable covered with a blanke. Also they had to learn about the electric fence, something that is always an unpleasant experience for newcomers. Yatta was at first with the four babies in the enclosure abutting that used by the others, but during the night she became unsettled and wanted to return to her unit. Nasalot and Wendi then took her place, and both showered the newcomers in a great deal of tenderness, comforting them by placing their trunks on their backs, and rumbling gently. Wendi was particularly caring of Ndomot and Madiba, having been their Matriarch in the Nursery when they were very young, and as recognition dawned on them, they responded warmly. When they left in the morning to the browsing fields, only Madiba and Galana fed alongside the older elephants, whilst Sunyei and Ndomot were uneasy and kept close to the Keepers, watched over by Wendi and Nasalot.

04 July 2005

On this, the second day at Ithumba for the Nairobi Nursery inmates, Ndomot, Sunyei, Madiba and Galana showed positive progress, emulating the older elephants about the techniques needed to cope with the dry vegetation. At the noon mudbath, the four babies had a very joyful time and were much more settled than yesterday.

05 July 2005

At the mudbath, Galana refused to give up her bottle once she had drained all the contents carrying it around and eventually tipping it into one of the water barrels. Minutes later Napasha spotted a squirrel, which he charged and sent down a nearby hole.

06 July 2005

Sunyei, Madiba, and Galana appeared very comfortable today, happily following Nasalot, and sometimes Yatta. Only Ndomot kept hovering around the Keepers, with Wendi returning periodically to check up on him and place her trunk across his back in an attempt to reassure him.

07 July 2005

During the morning, Napasha and Yatta had a wonderful play pushing game, which began as fun, but deteriorated into a brawl when Yatta realised Napasha was challenging her dominance. She prodded him with her tusks and put him into a bellowing retreat! In the evening Olmalo had a busy time teaching Sunyei pushing tactics, an indication that the new babies were becoming much more comfortable with the older group.

08 July 2005

It was a chilly morning, so Ndomot, Galana, Sunyei and Madiba, who had been used to having blankets on them in the Nursery, crowded close together for warmth closely monitored by Wendi. Soon it became warmer, so they began to disperse and begin feeding. At the mudbath Madiba and Sunyei bathed, whilst the rest enjoyed a dust-bath.

09 July 2005

At around l0 a.m. Madiba spotted two dikdiks, which he courageously charged, gambolling towards them and feeling visibly proud when they took to their heels. He returned to the others swinging his trunk from side to side.

10 July 2005

It was drizzling with rain when the orphans left the Stockades in the morning, so they crowded under trees to shelter. When it was over, Sunyei, Ndomot and Madiba lay down to play in the damp soil whilst Nasalot and Wendi kept watch over them. Shortly before mudbath, Napasha tried to mount Galana in full view of Yatta and Mulika, which angered Yatta and Mulika who went for him, and sent him packing!

11 July 2005

The orphans arrived at the mudbath to find a flock of birds drinking and bathing. Madiba sent them off by gambolling towards them, whilst the others took their milk. Having dealt with the birds, he returned to take his share.

12 July 2005

Although the morning was chilly, the orphans were more active feeding that previously, having learnt some valuable lessons from the others about how to tackle the new vegetation. The babies now know how to dig up roots with their forelegs, and shake the soil off before putting it in their mouth. Since it was too cold to wallow, they all just took their milk and water and then left again to carry on feeding.

13 July 2005

Selengai and Taita had a playful moment in the morning, pushing each other, before Nasalot intervened to separate them. At around 9 a.m., Sunyei was focused on Wendi’s movements, observing which plants she was taking. Wendi even allowed her to take a root tuber from her mouth, something that is usually not tolerated. She just carried on digging up some more. In the evening, it was Sunyei who led her four Nursery-mates back to their Stockade, whilst Wendi led the others who were following behind.

14 July 2005

Sunyei has been paying a great deal of attention to Madiba. The two spent the morning browsing beside one another. Since it was a hot day, all the orphans enjoyed the mudbathand then went to rest under shade until it became a little cooler. In the evening, Sunyei, who has mastered all the routes within the dense bush, rumbled to round up her colleagues to go back to the Stockade, and immediately Ndomot, Galana and Madiba stopped feeding and responded, following Sunyei, who obviously still looks upon herself as their Leader.

15 July 2005

Sunyei and Tomboi had a wonderful game, chasing each other around the bushes, until Sunyei tired, when Tomboi tried to mount her. The Keepers warned him off. At the noon milk feeding time, Selengai tried to snatch Madiba’s bottle, but again the Keepers intervened. As the sun faded, turning the sky to red, Sunyei again rumbled to call Ndomot, Madiba and Galana and led them back to the Stockade.

16 July 2005

It was a very hot day, so all the orphans took to shade early. Kinna placed her trunk on Sunyei’s back, closing her eyes in bliss, as though so happy to have the Nairobi babies join the herd. In the evening Ndomot lay down to rest, but moved off when Sunyei came to climb on him.

17 July 2005

Having left the Stockade, Nasalot, Napasha and Wendi led the rest of the orphans East of the Stockade. Towards 11 a.m. Sunyei decided it was time for the mudbath and led her group to it, after which they all browsed happily together until it was time to return.

18 July 2005

The orphans took water from the trough before leaving for the bush. The older elephants went to feed slightly apart from the little ones, who remained near the Keepers. At around 10 a.m., Tomboi chased Madiba before trying to mount him, which drew Yatta’s attention. She rushed to push Tomboi away and thereafter remained close to Madiba to ensure that Tomboi did not misbehave again!

19 July 2005

Today, Sunyei led the group from the Stockade, but became confused about which direction to take, so stood aside for Wendi to take over. At bottle feeding time Ndomot tried to take Madiba’s share, but the Keepers sorted out the altercation.

20 July 2005

The orphans were so busy feeding today, because it was cool, that they forgot about the mudbath. The Keepers had to remind them when it was time, but only Sunyei, Ndomot and Madiba went into the mud before returning to feed.

21 July 2005

On the way to the mudbath, the orphans, led by Yatta, came across the spoor of about 5 elephants. All the orphans sniffed the footprints, then lifted their trunks to test the air. Yatta, Mulika, Kinna and Nasalot rumbled for a long time with their trunks still up as they followed the footprints, which led towards the fence line. Sunyei and Wendi diverted the group’s attention by opting to trumpet and run towards the mudbath, so the rest followed.

22 July 2005

The sky was sullen, and the day cool, so the orphans refused to bathe today. In the afternoon, after the milk feed, Yatta led the group towards Ithumba Hill.

23 July 2005

In the evening a troupe of chattering baboons scared Sunyei, Ndomot, Madiba and Galana. The four, led by Madiba, ran to the Keepers, where they started urinating with fright. Shortly afterwards Yatta and Nasalot came running to see where the babies were, touching them with their trunks to ensure that they were all alright. Later, Yatta took the babies to feed, once they had calmed down.

24 July 2005

It was a bight morning. Yatta led the group towards Ithumba Hiull. The weather then turned cool, so the orphans did not bathe at noon. In the evening Sunyei led the babies back, whilst Nasalot led the second group.

25 July 2005

On a cool morning, Yatta led the entire group towards the slopes of Ithumba Hill. The day was spent browsing, too cold for the mudbath today.

26 July 2005

During the morning, Wendi lay down, inviting the smaller elephants to play, but Napasha saw his chance, and arrived first. Wendi kicked him with her back legs, but this did not deter him. He mounted onto her. The other orphans then joined in the game, rolling on the ground, dusting themselves with soil sprayed from their trunks. In the evening Taita and Tomboi enjoyed a pushing game until Napasha intervened and broke it up!

27 July 2005

Sunyei led the group out today to browse, and all were so intent on feeding, that silence reigned. At the mudbath Sunyei, Madiba, Ndomot and Galana were more interested in a dustbath than the mud. They all took a rest under shade afterwards.

28 July 2005

A light drizzle fell during the morning, so the orphans all felt very happy as they left to browse, swinging their trunks from side to side. At mudbath only Mulika, Sunyei and Wendi went into the mud, whilst the rest dusted themselves with red soil. Madiba thrashed the water twice with his trunk before following the others after mudbath.

29 July 2005

A chattering troupe of baboons, jumping around in the branches of a tree, scared the smaller orphans, who ran to the Keepers bellowing, Ndomot in the lead. The Keepers assured them that all was well. Since it was cold, none of the elephants took a mudbath today.

30 July 2005

Another chilly day. Ndomot, Sunyei, Galana, Tomboi and Wendi warmed themselves up by rushing around the thickets. During the noon milk feed Ndomot pushed Madiba to try and take his share, and was warned by the Keepers. Sunyei led the way back to the Stockades in the evening.

31 July 2005

After the mudbath, Yatta prevented a tragedy from happening. The orphans were strolling along, browsing, with Sunyei, Olmalo and Wendi in front, when suddenly Yatta rushed forward and pushed the three babies backwards forcefully, trumpeting. This drew the attention of the Keepers, since it is very unusual for Yatta to push the babies, especially her favourite, Olmalo. The Keepers went to investigate, and could not believe their eyes, for there before them was a huge puff-adder that had an injury on its tail, poised to strike. The Keepers called the orphans and took them to a different location. Yatta had scented the snake, and recognized the threat to her group. As the group left for a different area, she followed behind, rumbling, to ensure that no harm came to the babies.