Keepers' Diaries, May 2005

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

With plentiful green browse at Ithumba, brought on by odd showers of rain during the month, the Ithumba group have enjoyed the month of May, especially as temperatures fell. However, contact with wild elephants remains elusive and has yet to be made. The wild elephants remain extremely fearful of any hint of human presence, but we hope that this will change with time, and that they will gain confidence from the orphans. The Orphans’ days are dominated by who will have the privileged position of Leader, either from the Stockades, to the mudbath at noon, and back home again in the evening; who is dominant to whom, etc., etc.. The older elephants, namely Yatta (the Matriarch), Nasalot, Mulika and Kinna indulge the smaller elephants by allowing them to take the lead, but it would appear that Wendi and Napasha seem to get the lion’s share of this privilege, although Taita and Selengai have had their turns during the month.

01 May 2005

Yatta with her favourite, Olmalo, close beside her, led the group from the Stockades heading South of Ithumba Hill. At the mudbath hour Napasha, as usual, led the young ones for their milk, whilst Kinna and Nasalot went to quench their thirst. When Selengai had finished her milk, she went to join Mulika under the shade of a nearby tree.

02 May 2005

Leadership to the mudbath changed today, Wendi heading the group. At mudbath, Tomboi held his bottles without assistance from the Keepers. After the mudbath, Selengai teamed up with Nasalot, and the two went off on their own, whilst Napasha remained behind, dreaming of more milk, but instead picked up a stick to suckle!

03 May 2005

Nasalot led the team today, closely followed by Wendi and Tomboi. At mudbath the orphans were joined by Robert Carr-Hartley, so they put on a good display.

04 May 2005

The sky threatened rain today, but gradually cleared to become hot and sunny. Since it was cool, the orphans refused the mudbath today. At around 2 p.m., two sprinting dikdiks raced past, scaring the orphans and prompting Yatta, Kinna, Nasalot and Mulika to rush around trumpeting and breaking branches. Wendi led the youngsters to their Keepers for protection.

05 May 2005

Yatta spotted and charged a lesser kudu as she led the group today. Napasha and Kinna trumpeted whilst Selengai remained close to her “mother”. Mulika. Later the entire group had fun rushing around breaking vegetation.

06 May 2005

At around 7.30 a.m. Kinna, Nasalot, Yatta and Olmalo came across a warthog with 2 babies, who fled before the orphans could take action, leaving a dust trail. Since it was a hot day, the orphans had a wonderful mudbath today.

07 May 2005

Taita and Tomboi spent most of the morning testing their strength in a pushing game, which came to an end when Kinna intervened.

08 May 2005

The orphans, led by Yatta, browsed along the rocky hills adjacent to the Stockades. The sky clouded over at 11 a.m., so it was a bit too cool for the mudwallow. Instead Nasalot scratched herself against a nearby rock.

09 May 2005

After leaving the Stockades, Napasha challenged Yatta, which annoyed her, so she pushed him with all her strength, which proved adequate deterrent. After the mudbath Selengai and Taita had a playful time, before Selengai walked away.

10 May 2005

Another cloudy morning. Just before 7 a.m. a jackal crossed ahead of Wendi and Tomboi, which scared them, so they ran to the Keepers, rumbling and trumpeting. This drew the attention of the entire group, so Yatta went to investigate. Wendi and Tomboi remained very nervous for some time. In the evening Wendi led the group back to the Stockade.

11 May 2005

Yatta, Olmalo, Tomboi and Napasha had a wonderful mudbath, whilst the others just paddled. In the evening Napasha tried to mount Taita, which Taita resisted courageously, until Mulika appeared and drove Napasha away at high speed!

12 May 2005

It was a cool day, so the orphans just browsed peacefully, and decided to forego the mudbath. A strong wind came in the evening, which disturbed Wendi and Olmalo a little, who raised their trunks to sniff the air.

13 May 2005

Two warthogs were at the mudbath taking water when the orphans arrived. The warthogs took to their heels, hotly pursued by Yatta, Napasha , Kinna and Mulika.

14 May 2005

Kinna and Napasha enjoyed a pushing game in the morning at 10 a.m. At mudbath time, Yatta escorted Olmalo, whilst the others raced ahead to take their milk. Yatta stood by Olmalo whilst she took her share, and then they both joined the others in the mudbath.

15 May 2005

Tomboi held Wendi by the tail, and then tried to mount her, but was pushed aside by Taita, who was following behind. Taita then tried to jump on Tomboi, but Mulika interrupted the game.

16 May 2005

Taita led the group westwards today towards the slopes of Ithumba hill, but Selengai wanted to take the lead, so an argument ensued. Napasha then pushed both aside and took the lead, taking them to the mudbath later in the day.

17 May 2005

Mulika and Yatta led the orphans westwards from the Stockade, Kinna, Nasalot, Napasha and Taita pausing to take water from the trough first. Selengai, Tomboi, Wendi and Olmalo walked with the Keepers. At the mudbath, Taita rolled onto Olmalo, but Yatta spotted this and immediately came to rescue her baby.

18 May 2005

Just after 7 a.m., the orphans were frightened by the alarm sound of a lesser kudu, prompting them to race to their Keepers, Wendi, Tomboi and Napasha being the front runners. Yatta, Mulika, Kinna and Nasalot led the rest trumpeting and knocking the shrubbery. The Keepers calmed them all down.

19 May 2005

Tomboi, Wendi, Selengai and Taita had a wonderful game running about chasing one another. Later Taita laid his trunk on Tomboi before trying to mount him, but Tomboi resisted and shoved him away. At the mudbath Mulika and her favourite, Selengai, decided to take a dustbath rather than the mud. Later, they all rested for a while before resuming feeding.

20 May 2005

At 2 a.m. in the morning, 2 hyaenas came to the Stockade, laughing and making a lot of noise, which disrupted the peace of the orphans, prompting them to wake. Kinna, Yatta, Nasalot and Mulika trumpeted and charged towards the hyaenas who just stood outside, staring at the elephants. The Keepers, armed with clubs and pangas shouted at the hyaenas, who ran off. By morning, the orphans were still very nervous, but the Keepers remained close by them all day, assuring their safety. By noon, the elephants had relaxed again.

21 May 2005

Having left the Stockades, the orphans encountered a group of baboons who were heading to the Stockades in search of water. Yatta charged them, which made them all take to the trees, after which the elephants passed calmly.

22 May 2005

At 7.30 a.m. Yatta and Kinna chased the mother warthog and her 2 babies who shot down a hole, leaving Yatta and Kinna wondering what to do next! They gave up the quest. In the afternoon, Tomboi and Olmalo had fun chasing dikdiks whenever they came across them.

23 May 2005

Again Napasha challenged Yatta to a shoving match, and again he was overcome! Since it was a cloudy and cool day, the orphans enjoyed a dustbath instead of the mud.

24 May 2005

It was another cool morning, so the orphans enjoyed browsing. There were light showers in the afternoon, so the orphans, led by Kinna, enjoyed rolling in the wet soil. At 3 p.m. Napasha and Taita had a pushing game, with Napasha trying to mount Taita, but Taita managed to resist.

25 May 2005

The orphans with Kinna and Nasalot in the lead, came across a flock of guinea fowl, which flew away as the orphans gambolled towards them. Tomboi and Wendi ran ahead of all the others to be first at the milk. Napasha downed his share very fast, and then came to stand near Selengai with a hidden agenda. Before the Keepers could intervene, he snatched Selengai’s bottle and downed it hurriedly as he ran away. Having finished it, be brought the bottle back and dropped it at the Keepers’ feet. Whilst they stood aghast, he walked “majestically” away!

26 May 2005

Yatta led the orphans from the Stockades, heading East. It was too cool for the mudbath, so Napasha challenged Yatta again to a shoving match, hoping to win this time, but was disappointed. The other elephants watched the contest with interest. In the afternoon, chattering baboons scared the orphans, prompting Wendi and Napasha to lead the babies running to the Keepers whilst Yatta and Mulika lagged behind, trumpeting, charging and knocking down bushes in defence of their “family”.

27 May 2005

It was a cool day, so the orphans just browsed happily. They did not go into the mud today. Napasha tried to hijack some of Taita’s milk, but Taita defended his rights gallantly.

28 May 2005

Wendi and Tomboi were the leaders from the Stockade this morning. Olmalo got bogged in the mudbath, and bellowed for help, which brought Yatta at the run to help her up.

29 May 2005

During the mudbath Selengai tried to persuade Olmalo to play. Eventually, when Olmalo refused the invitation, she placed her trunk across Olmalo’s back in a loving gesture, after which Olmalo went to rest under shade.

30 May 2005

Taita and Wendi enjoyed a morning pushing game. Olmalo intervened by pulling Wendi’s ear, which annoyed Wendi, who pushed Olmalo away.

31 May 2005

Upon arrival at the mudbath, the orphans discovered that baboons had taken it over. Olmalo and Selengai retreated to the Keepers, whilst Yatta, who was behind, strode forward to lead her group in re-gaining their territory. Backed by Mulika, Kinna, Nasalot and Napasha, with Tomboi and Taita interested spectators, the elephants went wild, charging and trumpeting, which made the baboons abandon the mudbath and take to the trees.