Keepers' Diaries, March 2006

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

An exciting development in this month’s Diary is that the wild elephants are beginning to seek more contact with our orphans. On the 28th February, a lone bull turned up at the Stockades under cover of darkness, and hung around all night communicating with the orphans inside the Stockade, departing only at 6 a.m. That night he returned with 4 other wild elephants who enjoyed a drink from the Stockade water trough. A herd of wild elephants again came to the Stockades for a drink just before dawn on the 25th March.

01 March 2006

Heavy cloud obscured the sun today, so the orphans left in a jovial mood, swinging their trunks and bumping into one another. Yatta and Mulika led the group the same route as before, hoping to encounter a wild friend, but sadly they were disappointed. By mudbath time, it had turned hot, so the orphans enjoyed a prolonged wallow. On the way back to the Stockades Madiba and Buchuma drew stomach water to cool themselves down.

02 March 2006

The orphans left the Stockade again in a happy mood, seinging their trunks from side to side and bumping into one another. There had been light rain during the night, so Madiba, Buchuma, Sunyei, Ndomot and Naserian enjoyed soil bathing against an anthill whilst Tomboi and Rapsu challenged each other to a shoving march. In the end Kinna intervened to warn Tomboi and get him away from Rapsu. Since it was cool, the orphans enjoyed soil bathing rather than a mudbath.

03 March 2006

The orphans headed out in single file today, heading to the East of Ithumba hill, the big elephants resting their trunks along the backs of their particular favourites. Mulika broke down a green branch, which Naserian tried to snatch, only to find herself pushed away by Mulika’s favourite, Selengai. Naserian felt unhappy and went to browse away from the others, where she was joined by Buchuma, who comforted her by putting his trunk into her mouth. Soon after 3 p.m. Wendi, Ndomot, Galana, Sunyei, Tomboi and Madiba were scared by a running kudu giving the alarm bark. The five babies rushed through the thicket wailing and rumbling trying to trace the others. Nasalot and Kinna immediately turned up to see what was amiss, and rounded up the babies, taking them to the others.

04 March 2006

The orphans had a splendid day following a heavy downpour overnight. They rolled around in the mud, drank water from puddles and pools, and played joyfully throughout the day, enjoying the plentiful browse washed with rainwater.

05 March 2006

Wet conditions still prevailed, which the orphans enjoyed to the full, wallowing in the rain puddles when they felt the need. At the mudbath, Yatta kept vigil over Olmalo as she took her milk, whilst Mulika stood behind her favourite, Selengai. There was no need to wallow or take a drink of water, because there were wallows and rainwater pools everywhere. Shortly before 43 p.m., Buchuma spotted some fuinea fowl ahead and gambolled towards them, trumpeting. This game attracted Wendi and Tomboi who happily joined in until the birds took to the air.

06 March 2006

The orphans hurried to the feeding area today, without pausing to drink from the Stockade trough. They enjoyed the vegetation softened by rain. At around 2 p.m. they came across a large dam which had filled with rainwater, and the entire group plunged in. Buchuma rolled against Kinna, whilst Galana, Ndomot, Selengai and Olmalo played by dipping their heads underwater and then thrashing it with their trunks. In the evening Taita and Tomboi had their usual bout testing their strength against each other which ended in a draw.

07 March 2006

The orphans went to play with the water in the trough. Napasha put his two forelegs into the trough, dirtying the water, and got disciplined by Mulika, who drove him out and kept him from the trough until all the elephants had left. Shortly after 9 a.m. Sunyei, Tomboi and Madiba spent time charging and trumpeting around the bushes having been scared by a couple of dikdiks. In the afternoon, whilst the orphans were resting under shade, Rapsu and Wendi spotted two warthogs with 6 piglets, and immediately ran towards them, putting them to flight. The dust raised by the retreating warthogs disturbed the other youngsters who had not seen them and who ran to their Keepers for protection.

08 March 2006

Having reached the feeding grounds, Ndomot and Galana found a large rock to scratch themselves against, but were pushed away by Napasha, who wanted to do the same. In the evening, after a full day feeding, Buchuma and Ndomot enjoyed a pushing game. Rapsu led the column home today.

09 March 2006

Cool weather and light showers dominated the morning. Sunyei, Tomboi, Madiba and Rapsu welcomed the weather, rolling in the mud, until Kinna decided that it was time to do some serious feeding, and disrupted their antics. Buchuma and Kinna found a pool of rainwater that had collected in a rock, and began to take a drink but then Kinna wanted possession of the pool, and pushed them aside. None of the orphans was interested in the mudwallow today. The older elephants waited for the youngsters as they took their milk, and then they all went back to feeding and playing until it was time to return in the evening.

10 March 2006

At the Stockade in the morning, Taita and Tomboi spent time chasing and pushing one another until Yatta decided it was time to leave. Shortly after 8 a.m. the sudden appearance of two warthogs chasing one another startled the babies, who wailed and trumpeted as they ran to their Keepers for protection. The Keepers calmed them down but Buchuma, Sunyei, Madiba, Wendi, Tomboi, Naserian, Ndomot and Galana remained nervous and chose to feed close to the Keepers. The weather turned hot by noon, so the orphans enjoyed a prolonged mudbath.

11 March 2006

It was a quiet and uneventful day today, spend browsing. At noon milk feed time, Yatta and Mulika stood guard over the babies to prevent the naughty boys from trying to snatch their bottles.

12 March 2006

It was a cloudless morning, promising a hot day, but the orphans enjoyed the fresh new shoots brought on by recent rain. Just before the mudbath, Rapsu, Taita and Tomboi enjoyed rushing around knocking down small shrubs in a display of exuberance. At the mudbath napasha, Kinna, Olmalo, Rapsu, Buchuma and Sunyei enjoyed a lengthy mudbath that went on long after the others had had enough. Wendi then pushed Tomboi, Galana, and Ndomot from a scratching tree she wanted to herself.

13 March 2006

Yatta took the group westwards after they had taken a drink this morning. It was a very hot day, so they browsed under shade. Suddenly Sunyei ran to the Keepers, startling the entire group. Yatta and Mulika stood by with their ears wide out, prepared to attack any intruder, but Sunyei had played a trick on the others!

14 March 2006

There was a light shower at dawn, so the orphans enjoyed soil bathing in the soft earth once they left the Stockades. Napasha and Taita embarked on a pushing game, but Taita opted out when Napasha tried to mount onto him, going to browse close to Kinna and Mulika so that Napasha could not get him. Because it was windy and cool, only Madiba, Ndomot, Olmalo, Yatta and Galana went into the mud today.

15 March 2006

The orphans tried to rub off ticks against the walls of the trough until Sunyei, Madiba and Rapsu charged two dikdiks who passed nearby.

16 March 2006

The day turned very hot, prompting Madiba, Ndomot and Galana to draw up stomach water in order to cool themselves down. Mulika led the orphans to the mudbath earlier than usual, aware that the heat was bothering the newcomers. Madiba, Rapsu and Tomboi competed for the lead. Tomboi, who is older and more experienced won this contest.

17 March 2006

It promised to be another hot day as the orphans left in the morning. Shortly before mudbath time, Tomboi, who was feeding close to Naserian, tried to mount her. This angered Nasalot, who strode forward to discipline Tomboi, but he saw her coming, and fled before she could catch up with him.

18 March 2006

The day was cooler, with heavy cloud cover, so the orphans took advantage of this to spend the day browsing. Having taken their milk at noon, and following a browsing afternoon, Kinna led the orphans back.

19 March 2006

Having left the Stockade in the morning, Sunyei, Tomboi and Rapsu enjoyed a charging game, then knelt down to dig up soil with their stubby tusks whilst the older orphans scratched off ticks against nearby rocks and trees. Later Yatta dug up red soil so that Olmalo and she could dust themselves. Because it was cool, at mudbath time, the orphans took a soil bath instead.

20 March 2006

Two sprinting lesser kudus scared Buchuma, Naserian and Rapsu who took to their heels. Nasalot, who was some distance away, ran to comfort them. Later a bunch of hungry baboons passed nearby chasing a dikdik, but Yatta, Nasalot, Kinna and Napasha, chased off the baboons and disrupted the hunt, saving the dikdik. At first the baboons stood their ground, but when they spotted the Keepers, ran off, much to the joy of all the elephants. Rapsu and Madiba made a pretence of chasing after the dikdik.

21 March 2006

It was a cool morning. Rapsu, Naserian, Buchuma, Nasalot, Yatta and Olmalo enjoyed rolling against the banks of a small stream. None of the elephants wallowed today, so Yatta led them to the slopes of Ithumba hill to feed for the rest of the afternoon.

22 March 2006

Mulika and Kinna led the group out from the Stockade to the feeding area where a warthog and her piglets suddenly shot out of a hole, scaring the young ones. Buchuma led the retreat as the babies bolted to the Keepers, whilst Yatta, Mulika, Napasha, Nasalot and Kinna stood their ground, amused by the way the young ones had fled. Yatta rumbled, calling them and reassuring them of safety, so they returned and continued feeding happily.

23 March 2006

Soon after leaving the Stockade, Sunyei, Tomboi and Madiba warmed themselves up by rushing around before going off to feed. At 11a.m., Rapsu decided it was nearly milk time, and led the babies to the mudbath. Madiba, Sunyei and Galana spent a long time in the mudwallow, remaining long after the others had wandered off to feed.

24 March 2006

The orphans, led by their Matriarch, Yatta, left the Stockades early as usual. Suddenly, Sunyei, who is a trickster, rushed out of the bushes as though scared, frightening all the others. The Keepers went to investigate and found only a log of wood and no sign of anything untoward. The older olrphans, as usual, oversaw the babies when they took their milk at noon. Sunyei and Wendi led the column home in the evening.

25 March 2006

Just before dawn, a herd of wild elephants again paid a visit to the Stockade, and drank from the water trough. They spent some time “talking” to the Stockade inmates. When the orphans emerged at dawn, Yatta took the group following the tracks of the wild herd until they reached the Kanziko road, where they lost the tracks. They searched until 9 a.m. and then gave up, concentrating instead on browsing. At l0 a.m. two lesser kudus ran past the youngsters, scaring them and making them bellow for help.

26 March 2006

It was a cool early morning, with Ithumba hill covered in mist. The orphans enjoyed soil bathing when they reached the feeding ground, but Napasha, Taita and Wendi were scared when mischievous Sunyei rushed past them trumpeting. Realising that this was just a game, Napasha, Wendi and Taita joined in, rushing around trumpeting with joy, but when Taita accidently knocked Kinna, the game ended abruptly! Kinna dispersed them in different directions, and tried to catch up with Taita to discipline him, but he was too quick for her.

27 March 2006

On the way out to feed in the morning, Taita threatened to mount onto Madiba by placing his trunk on Madiba’s back. The Keepers warned Taita, who heeded their warning and desisted. At around 8 a.m. the orphans were scared by some chattering baboons, prompting a retreat to the Keepers, but to the Keepers’ amazement, Buchuma strode forward on his own to tackle the baboons. This initiated a hide and seek game between Buchuma and the baboons, and soon the rest of the herd joined in. This proved too much for the baboons, who eventually either fled or took to the trees.

28 March 2006

Kinna led the group to the feeding grounds today whilst Sunyei led them to the mudwallow at noon. In the evening, the group split into two. The milk dependent babies came to the Keepers, requesting to be taken back to the Stockade for their evening milk feed, whilst the older orphans continued to browse. Since it was not yet time to return, the Keepers turned down the request of the babies, and sent them back to do a bit more browsing.

29 March 2006

The temperature was comfortable today. At around 9 a.m. Tomboi tried to intimidate Napasha by charging towards him, but Napasha stood his ground. When tomboy saw that his threat had not produced the required result, he put on the breaks and just sniffed Napasha with his trunk, and then left. All the orphans enjoyed a wallow today. Other Notes:- the warts on both Tomboi and Olmalo have now disappeared, having been treated with homeopathic “Thuya”.

30 March 2006

The morning passed as usual, feeding and playing until the mudbath, when Napasha inadvertently stepped on Madiba’s trunk, which caused a disruption. Most of the younger elephants ran off when they heard Madiba yell, but Nasalot, Kinna and Yatta rushed to him, touching his mouth with their trunks to comfort him. In the evening Rapsu, Sunyei and Madiba enjoyed chasing off a bunch of baboons before entering their Night Stockade.

31 March 2006

During the morning Taita and Ndomot enjoyed pushing practice, Taita tutoring Ndomot in such skills. However, this was disrupted by Napasha, who came and tried to mount onto Ndomot. Ndomot sought shelter with Nasalot, and Taita tackled Napasha briefly.