Keepers' Diaries, June 2006

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

An exciting event for the Ithumba elephants was, of course, the arrival of Challa, Sidai and Orok from the Nursery on the 10th. Amazingly, with that mysterious elephant intuition, the Ithumba Elephants seemed to be able to anticipate this event, although how, no-one can explain. Unusually, on that particular day, they refused to move far from the Night Stockades, but instead hung around until the vehicles carrying the newcomers drew in. First to greet Challa, Orok and Sidai were Sunyei, Rapsu, Naserian and Buchuma, followed by Wendi, who surprised everyone by appearing rather aloof and disinterested. However, the greeting extended by the Big Elephants, Yatta, Nasalot, Mulika, Kinna and Napasha made up for this. Yatta spearheaded the group by moving in immediately to embrace the newcomers with much trumpeting, urinating and general excitement. Receiving such a jubilant welcome from such big strangers must have been somewhat daunting for the babies, but little Orok, who is by far the smallest, proved that he was no push-over by immediately giving Rapsu, who towered over him, a rude shove!

An exciting event for the Ithumba elephants was, of course, the arrival of Challa, Sidai and Orok from the Nursery on the 10th. Amazingly, with that mysterious elephant intuition, the Ithumba Elephants seemed to be able to anticipate this event, although how, no-one can explain. Unusually, on that particular day, they refused to move far from the Night Stockades, but instead hung around until the vehicles carrying the newcomers drew in. First to greet Challa, Orok and Sidai were Sunyei, Rapsu, Naserian and Buchuma, followed by Wendi, who surprised everyone by appearing rather aloof and disinterested. However, the greeting extended by the Big Elephants, Yatta, Nasalot, Mulika, Kinna and Napasha made up for this. Yatta spearheaded the group by moving in immediately to embrace the newcomers with much trumpeting, urinating and general excitement. Receiving such a jubilant welcome from such big strangers must have been somewhat daunting for the babies, but little Orok, who is by far the smallest, proved that he was no push-over by immediately giving Rapsu, who towered over him, a rude shove!

Within just half an hour, everyone had settled down, and the entire group, led by Matriarch Yatta, headed off into the bush to feed with Nasalot being particularly attentive to little Orok and Sidai, while Challa clung to the Keepers. That night Sunyei, Naserian and Nasalot kept the newcomers company in the Night Stockade. Of the big elephants, it is Nasalot who has assumed guardianship over little Orok and Sidai who are now her “special babies”, usurping the privileged position previously held by Buchuma. The only newcomer who has had problems integrating into the unit is Challa, who kept close to the Keepers throughout the rest of the month, although Madiba has made a special effort to accommodate him, engaging him in a gentle and friendly pushing bout. Yatta has spent time consoling and encouraging him, as has both Naserian and Sunyei. On one occasion poor Challa found himself hunted around the thickets by Ndomot, who would have liked to mount him, but wisely Challa sought protection from Kinna, who punished Ndomot for being so pushy.

It is very usual for the young bulls to try and demonstrate rank and superiority by “mounting” onto the others, something that is never popular with the under-dog. However, the older cows are always nearby to intervene and discipline the boys, who are very competitive and obsessed about their standing within the group. Pushing bouts between age-mates such as Rapsu and Buchuma, or Taita and Tomboi, are usually tolerated, but the big females will immediately discipline anyone who steps out of line and “bullies” a smaller member of the unit. When Taita tried to mount onto Challa, it was Wendi who bravely confronted him, something that developed into a tough fight that drew the attention of Mulika who drove Taita off and punished him by keeping him isolated from the others for a time which is the usual “punishment” meted out to offenders.

Strangely, Napasha does not feature as a prominent player in the June Diary, which is unusual. Obviously he has been well behaved in sharing responsible caring of the youngsters. We are confident that it is only a matter of time before Challa teams up with the others and finds the elephants more stimulating than his Keepers. Contrary to the aggression he displayed towards humans straight after rescue, he has turned into a very loving and somewhat retiring character who will probably befriend Madiba, who is not as pushy as the other boys within the group. Orok will become a force to be reckoned with, already far more comfortable being with the Big Elephants, than the younger set, and as the smallest, he is adored by all.

June 2006 day to day

01 Jun

It was a cool morning, so the orphans concentrated on feeding, except for Buchuma, Rapsu and Sunyei who kept running around in a warm up exercise. After mudbath, the orphans ran into a lesser kudu, which scared the younger elephants, so Yatta and Mulika trumpeted to see it off, whilst all the others raised their trunks in the air, before proceeding with the journey.

Rapsu playing

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