Keepers' Diaries, March 2005

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

The Ithumba group have again not been able to meet up with members of the wild elephant community, who continue to avoid human contact as a result of the three decades of rampant poaching that drove them out of the Northern Area in the mid seventies. The elephant herds are, however, returning en masse now, and since the bulls are the elephant “scouts”, who explore and determine whether an area is safe for the cow herds, we hope that the message will soon get out. Several bulls have explored the Orphans’ Night Stockade under cover of darkness over the past few months, leaving telltale footprints. In any case, the Ithumba ten are a very happy and self sufficient little herd, who have plenty of fun with each other and their share of excitement with other animals in the course of their travels. March is a very hot time of the year, but our ex Nursery elephants have acclimatised well to the heat and now huddle together for warmth on cool and cloudy days which would be of a usual temperature in Nairobi. Rain is always the catalyst for celebration and joy amongst all animals, and the Ithumba ten have made the most of light showers in mid-month and a very heavy downpour on the night of the 22nd.

01 March 2005

Today, the orphans were led by their Matriarch Yatta, assisted by Mulika and Wendi, and headed westward. After half an hour they happened upon a natural mudwallow, where they quenched their thirs. Wendi and Taita lay enjoyed bathing, whilst Yatta and Mulika led the rest to dust themselves with red soil. Selengai and Tomboi lay down and rolled around, after which Napasha led them all to the shade of a Baobab tree to shelter from the heat.

02 March 2005

Today Wendi and Taita had an altercation, interrupted by Tomboi, who came to Wendi’s aid.

03 March 2005

Yatta led the orphans from the stockade, browsing towards the mudwallow. Af it approached mudbath time, Napasha and Wendi struggled over who was to lead, but since Napasha is stronger, he won this contest easily, Wendi following hot on his heels. During the mudbath two warthogs appeared, scaring Selengai and Tomboi who abandoned the mudbath. Yatta then chased the intruders off by charging, knocking and kicking bushes and also throwing sticks. After the warthogs had left, all the orphans resumed their mudbath.

04 March 2005

Shortly after 8 a.m. Wendi and Napasha separated from the other orphans, but ran back yelling when 4 baboons emerged from the surrounding thicket. Upon hearing their distress bellows, Yatta and Mulika ran to see what was amiss, sending the baboons on their way, after which Mulika comforted Napasha, touching his mount gently with her trunk.

05 March 2005

Today it was two sprinting lesser kudus that frightened the orphans, and prompted the intervention of Yatta, Mulika and Nasalot, as the younger elephants ran to their Keepers. After mudbath, Napasha enjoyed scratching himself against a rock, whilst Mulika selected a tree on which to scratch herself.

06 March 2005

Today, Napasha stepped out of line by testing his strength against his Matriarch, Yatta, who gave him a sharp prod with her long straight tusks. He fled in case he got a second punishment!

07 March 2005

Yatta led the group eastwards from the Stockade. Shortly before 8 a.m. Tomboi and Olmalo spotted some guinea fowl ahead and gambolled towards them, prompting them to fly away, a mini victory greatly relished.

08 March 2005

The day was cool and cloudy, suggesting heavy rain, but only a light shower fell. Because it was cool, the orphans did not take a mudbath today. In the evening Taita bit Olmalo’s tail, which made her yell, drawing the ire of Yatta, who has Olmalo as her favourite calf. She punished Taita by chasing him away. Olmalo always browses very close to Yatta, and also sleeps beside her, so any insult to Olmalo is taken seriously by Yatta.

09 March 2005

In contrast to yesterday, the day was very hot, so the mudbath was particularly welcome, Napasha lying deep in the water whilst Kinna lay over him.

10 March 2005

Napasha always knows when it is milk time, and on the dot of ll a.m. leads the group to the milk and mudbath rendez-vous! In the evening Taita attempted to mount Selengai who managed to push him away.

11 March 2005

The morning was cold, so the orphans crowded close for warmth. After 9 a.m. the sun broke through, and the orphans became playful and active. During a noon siesta under a tree, Napasha again stepped out of line by trying to mount Olmalo, and was disciplined by Yatta, who chased him away.

12 March 2005

The orphans left the Stockade early and headed westwards along the foot of a rocky hill, happening upon two fighting male baboons making a lot of noise. This scared the younger orphans, who ran to their Keepers, whilst Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna followed, breaking down vegetation on the way to scare off the baboons. Having achieved this, the orphans resumed their normal daily activity. During the mudbath Yatta enjoyed a pushing game with Mulika, which was interrupted when Napasha tried to join in.

13 March 2005

The day was still and hot, threatening rain, so all the orphans flapped their ears a lot to cool their bodies. At the mudbath Kinna and Napasha enjoyed rolling around in the water.

14 March 2005

Another cloudy day, which prompted Nasalot, Kinna and Napasha to lie down and play. Napasha took advantage of this game by trying to mount on Kinna, who doesn’t stand any nonsense. She rose immediately, and drove him far off, where he remained for a long time, far from Kinna.

15 March 2005

Obviously still harbouring a grudge against Kinna, Napasha attempted to push her. She warned him by pointing her trunk at him and he took the hint! Wendi led the way to the mudbath today, but since the weather was not conducive, the orphans declined to wallow.

16 March 2005

Clear skies today. Shortly after 7 a.m. a hyaena emerged from a nearby thicket scaring Yatta, Olmalo, Mulika, Selengai and Nasalot, who were browsing nearby. Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna then joined forces to charge the thicket into which the hyaena had retreated,, breaking down vegetation and trumpeting. The others watched the drama as it unfolded, but thereafter all the orphans remained nervous for some time.

17 March 2005

Yatta led the group East this morning. Whilst waiting for the milk feed, Napasha, who is the greediest of them all, began sucking on a stick before rushing for his bottle, holding it himself. Later, Kinna, Wendi, Mulika and Nasalot enjoyed dusting themselves with soil. Kinna lay down and Mulika rubbed herself against her.

18 March 2005

It was a cool and misty day, but nevertheless the orphans enjoyed their usual playful routine.

19 March 2005

Again Yatta led the group Eastwards. At around 7 a.m., Selengai and Tomboi spotted a pair of dikdik, and greatly enjoyed seeing them off, charging with outstretched ears. In the evening Taita and Tomboi had a pushing tussle, which ended when Tomboi surrendered.

20 March 2005

Another cloudy day with moderate temperatures. At l0 a.m. Napasha again decided to test his strength against Yatta, but discovered he needed more kilos! Mulika ended the game by coming between Yatta and Napasha. On the way back to the Stockades, Tomboi was the Leader.

21 March 2005

Today Napasha decided to take on Mulika instead, and was surprised to find himself severely trounced. This prompted him to keep his distance all day!

22 March 2005

There was a heavy downpour during the night. The orphans were very happy, and started skidding around just a few metres from the stockade. They spent the entire day alternatively feeding, and then romping in the wet soil and puddles. Napasha chose to tussle with Tomboi today!

23 March 2005

It was a cool day, and the orphans thoroughly enjoyed browsing and playing all day.

24 March 2005

In the evening, Mulika, Kinna and Napasha were started when two mating warthogs dashed by, prompting the orphans to retreat to the Keepers, who calmed them.

25 March 2005

Another cool and cloudy day, so only Napasha had a lively time at the mudbath. In the afternoon he chased Taita and Tomboi with the intention of mounting them, but the rest of the group joined in, running to and fro within the bushes, trumpeting and throwing up dust, which distracted him.

26 March 2005

At 9 a.m. Tomboi and Taita played a game, pushing each other around a small bush. On the way to the mudbath, Wendi spotted a snake retreating down a hole, which made her retreat to the Keepers for safety. Olmalo and Tomboi had a great time at the mudbath, playing together.

27 March 2005

Napasha and Taita enjoyed a playful moment in the morning, pushing each other. Olmalo and Selengai also played for a while, but Nasalot intervened to interrupt their game. Wendi happily led the orphans home today, swinging her trunk to show her pleasure being Leader. (The remainder of the Ithumba Diary month will be in April)

28 March 2005

Yatta led the group to the foot of Ithumba Hill where they browsed happily and played from time to time, Olmalo, Mulika, Selengai and Taita lying down whilst the rest joined in the game later.

29 March 2005

After mudbath, Mulika lay down to take a nap, which was interrupted by Napasha, who ran to climb on her. Nasalot joined Napasha whilst Kinna monitored what was going on. Wendi spent the day browsing near the Keepers, and Napasha was the Leader on the way home.

30 March 2005

The Keepers led the orphans from the Stockade in the morning, but Mulika, and her favourite, Selengai knew exactly where they planned to go, and overtook the Keepers leading the other orphans to Ithumba Hill. At mudbath time the Keepers had to remind the orphans it was time to go, and after the mudbath Napasha led the orphans back to the bush to browse.

31 March 2005

It was a fine morning that turned hot by l0 a.m., forcing the orphans into the shade. They rested there, flapping their ears to cool themselves, until mudbath time, when Kinna took the lead.