Keepers' Diaries, June 2006

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!

01 June 2006

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.

02 June 2006

The orphans concentrated on feeding today, with the usual activities such as play pushing, until it was time for the mudbath. In the evening Sunyei led the younger group back to the Stockades, whilst the older elephants came along later.

03 June 2006

When the orphans left in the morning, Sunyei and Wendi hung back waiting for the Keepers. By 10 a.m. it was a very hot day, prompting Madiba and Ndomot to draw water from their stomachs to spray over themselves. At the mudwallow, all the orphans splashed themselves from the drinking drums, before enjoying a wonderful mudbath. Wendi lay on Madiba, which made him bellow, bringing Yatta to the rescue, who pushed Wendi away.

04 June 2006

Sunyei was the leader today, until Yatta decided to take another route, leaving Sunyei alone. Suddenly realizing that she was alone, she trumpeted and began breaking the bushes, but since all the orphans have become used to Sunyei’s scaring game, none of them took any notice. In the end, she ran to catch up with them. In the afternoon Galana and Wendi had a disagreement over a particularly succulent branch, a contest won by Wendi.

05 June 2006

It was too cool for the mudwallow today, so the orphans concentrated on feeding. In the evening Ndomot and Rapsu enjoyed an exciting pushing match which was disrupted by Tomboi, who chased them both away.

06 June 2006

It was another cool day. Out in the feeding area, the orphans came across some rowdy baboons in the trees. Yatta and Mulika trumpeted and charged, trying to disperse them, but they merely jumped from tree to tree and continued their chattering. This prompted Wendi to lead the younger elephants back to the protection of their Keepers.

07 June 2006

Yatta led her group to a rocky hill where Sunyei dislodged a hyrax from the rock upon which she was scratching herself. She charged the little hyrax which disappeared into another crevice and then made a loud screeching sound which scared Sunyei, sending her rushing back to the Keepers.

08 June 2006

The sky was clear today, promising a hot day, as the orphans left in the morning, jostling one another playfully. Sunyei, who was leading, trumpeted and ran back as though scared by an eagle flying overhead, which had the desired affect, leaving the youngsters apprehensive. Meanwhile Yatta and Mulika raised their trunks to test the air for scent, and having decided that nothing was amiss, continued feeding.

09 June 2006

It was a warm day, but the orphans concentrated upon browsing. Rapsu and Buchuma had a pushing contest, which was broken up by the intervention of Nasalot, who pushed Rapsu away, because she favours Buchuma. All the elephants enjoyed the mud-wallow today.

10 June 2006

Surprisingly, and very unusually, Yatta and her herd refused to move far from the Night Stockades this morning, as though conscious that something unusual was about to take place, i.e. the arrival of the three Nursery inmates. As Challa, Sidai and Orok were unloaded, first to arrive on the scene was Sunyei, Rapsu, Naserian and Buchuma. Amazingly little Orok, who is much smaller than all the others, immediately gave Rapsu a hard shove, which surprised both him and the Keepers. The Keepers warned him not to retaliate. Wendi arrived in the second group, but showed little interest in the newcomers, but there was enormous excitement of trumpeting and urinating when Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna came. To begin with the babies seemed overwhelmed by such a jubilant welcome from such big strangers, but within half an hour they had all settled down, and went off as a group to feed. In the evening it was Sunyei, Naserian and Nasalot kept the new babies company, Nasalot being incredibly caring and attentive to them.

11 June 2006

On this, their first morning at Ithumba, Challa, Orok and Sidai were first to come out closely accompanied by Nasalot, Sunyei and Naserian who escorted them to the water trough in order to have a drink. Sidai and Orok were happy to remain with the big elephants, but Challa chose to remain close to the Keepers all day. At midday the new babies enjoyed their first mudbath at Ithumba along with Sunyei, Naserian and Wendi. Tomboi approached, but Nasalot and Kinna drove him away, knowing his habit of wanting to mount on them. By the evening Orok and Sidai seemed completely settled, but Challa remained uneasy.

12 June 2006

It was a cool day, so the orphans concentrated on feeding with Nasalot, Wendi and Naserian guarding Orok, Sidai and Challa, all walking alongside them. At l0 a.m. Orok was showed that he was no push-over when Rapsu tried to mount him and he responded angrily, despite being so much smaller! In the evening Orok and Sidai remained close to Nasalot, but Challa wanted to be close to the Keepers.

13 June 2006

It was a cloudy day so the new babies could enjoy the cooler weather. At 11 a.m. Wendi confronted Taita, who wanted to mount onto Challa. The battle became quite heated, so Mulika intervened, chasing Taita off. Yatta and Mulika then spent time comforting Challa and encouraging him to move away from the naughty big boys. At mudbath the Nairobi babies enjoyed the wallow, but it was too cold for the others.

14 June 2006

There were light showers in the morning, so the orphans enjoyed skidding in the mud and soil bathing. Because it was cool, they forwent the mudbath today, while Yatta led them further afield to browse.

15 June 2006

Upon leaving the Stockade, Sidai enjoyed rubbing herself against Nasalot, whilst Orok awaited his turn to do so. Up until now Buchuma has been Nasalot’s favourite, but it looks as though he will be usurped by Sidai and Orok in her affections. Meanwhile Challa is still more attached to the Keepers.

16 June 2006

Yatta headed East today to show the newcomers a different feeding area. Ndomot and Madiba engaged each other in a pushing match, which was won by Ndomot. Sunyei led the youngsters to the milk and mudbath venue today, and in the evening Orok chose to accompany the big Elephants, refusing to go along with the baby group. He wanted to cling to Nasalot.

17 June 2006

Naserian spend the entire morning browsing close to Challa, trying to persuade him to leave the Keepers and join the others. Sidai and Orok were alone in enjoying the mudbath at noon, it being too chilly for the others to join in.

18 June 2006

Nasalot, Naserian and Yatta left along with Orok and Sidai in the morning, but Challa decided to remain behind with the Keepers. At mudwallow time Kinna, Nasalot and Yatta escorted Sidai and Orok to the mudbath. When they began rolling around in the mud, Kinna and Nasalot decided to join them. In the evening Yatta, Mulika, Selengai, Orok, Olmalo and Sidai had a busy time soil bathing awaiting the signal from the Keepers to begin the journey back home to the Stockades.

19 June 2006

It was a cool day, heralding the onset of our Winter months, so the orphans concentrated on browsing. In the evening Orok engaged Madiba in a gentle pushing match, Madiba very conscious of the fact that Orok is still small and inexperienced.

20 June 2006

On the way out this morning Orok and Sidai followed Yatta closely, but then diverted to Nasalot until Buchuma decided it was time to go to the mudbath. As usual, Challa remained behind with the Keepers. Sunyei noticed this, and dropped back to keep him company. All the female elephants seem concerned about Challa being so reclusive.

21 June 2006

Out in the field, Sunyei attempted her scaring tactics again, drawing the attention of all the younger elephants, although the older set paid no attention to her antics. The mudbath was invaded by baboons, which were treed by Yatta and Nasalot, but continued their rude chattering from the top of the tree.

22 June 2006

Challa continues to be very attached to the Keepers, bellowing loudly if he finds himself separated from them, but Orok and Sidai are very much an integral part of the herd now, both firmly attached to Nasalot. Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna are very concerned that Challa is still so unsettled, and all spend time trying to coax him to join them. Orok – the smallest of them all – has achieved wonders and sees himself now as part of the Big Elephants, refusing to return with the advance group of babies, but coming instead last along with the four Big Girls and Napasha.

23 June 2006

At 11 a.m. Ndomot began to chase Challa through the bush, laying his trunk along his back as though to mount onto him. Wisely, Challa sought the protection of Kinna, who was close by, and who chased Ndomot off. All the orphans enjoyed the mudbath today because it was a hot day.

24 June 2006

It was a cool day, so the orphans could concentrate on browsing. Madiba and Ndomot had another contest of strength when Nasalot intervened on the side of Madiba, who is not as strong as Ndomot.

25 June 2006

The Keepers took the orphans Southwards along the Eastern slopes of Mazinga Hill where there is a lot of fresh pasture. The Big elephants broke down branches for the youngsters to enjoy. Rapsu and Buchuma became embroiled in a tough fight during a test of strength, which was broken up by the intervention of Yatta.

26 June 2006

Yatta and Mulika led the orphans Eastwards today. Later at l0 a.m., Kinna, Nasalot, Orok, Sidai and Challa spent a short time enjoying a soil bath. During the mudbath, which was enjoyed by all, Rapsu, Taita and Tomboi put on an amusing display, charging through the mud and splashing it with their forelegs.

27 June 2006

The orphans followed their usual routine – a drink at the Stockade trough upon coming out in the morning, browsing out in the Park, heading for the milk and mudbath venue at 11 am, feeding again during the afternoon, when Challa was again attached to the Keepers, and beginning the journey back to the Night Stockades at about 3 p.m.

28 June 2006

This morning Rapsu and Tomboi had a busy time testing their strength against one another and in the afternoon Tomboi and Taita did the same.