Keepers' Diaries, November 2004

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

The build-up of cloud (and heat) at the end of the dry season and before the rains break to bring relief, is always a very trying time for both humans and animals in Tsavo, and this month’s Diary clearly illustrates this fact. The Ithumba elephants have felt the heat acutely, and when the rains eventually broke on the 25th, it must have been a welcome relief - a time for joy, playing in the puddles and plastering themselves in red mud – a great treat since their dry season mudbath is a natural depression of black cotton clay, which, incidentally, they also enjoy very much. The short sharp downpours that characterise the main Tsavo rains are usually accompanied by huge claps of thunder and daunting forked lightening, and this has obviously been a frightening experience for the ex Nairobi orphans, who are not used to electric storms of such intensity. However, the aftermath of fresh new greens of every conceivable variety will bring on a veritable banquet, the likes of which they have never experienced before, and this will be a very pleasurable experience for them, for when the rains break in the low country, the earth is transformed into a veritable Garden of Eden and resembles a tropical jungle.

01 November 2004

At around 11 a.m. Napasha heard the tractor which prompted him to rush off ahead of all the others to get his milk. After the mudbath, the orphans browsed, and on the way back to the Stockades, Napasha led the others back through the mudbath so that they could drink and cool themselves.

02 November 2004

Yatta led the group back to the Stockade today. In the evening Tomboi had an altercation with Taita and Mulika intervened to separate them.

03 November 2004

The day was spent just browsing without any funny incidents.

04 November 2004

Kinna and Mulika led the orphans towards the East of Ithumba Hill, where the browse is better.

05 November 2004

The day was very cool and in order to warm up Napasha began a shoving game with Nasalot and then took on Yatta. Only he went into the mudbath, but exited quickly because it was so cold!

06 November 2004

Yatta wanted Taita to take the lead, and tried to coax him forward, but he was reluctant. During the mudbath Napasha shoved Taita

07 November 2004

Heading for the mudbath, the orphans went in a straight line and today Tomboi was Leader. In the evening Napasha tried to mount Yatta, and for that, got into trouble.

08 November 2004

In the morning, Wendi happened upon a pair of dikdik sleeping and was scared, so trumpeted. This woke them up, and before Wendi could gather sufficient courage to chase them, they ran off. It was hot today, so the orphans enjoyed their mudbath.

09 November 2004

Mulika and Wendi led the others into the bush today. At noon Wendi and Napasha tested their strength, but Wendi could not withstand Napasha, so ran away. In the evening, because she was so thirsty, Kinna led the orphans back through the mudbath before proceeding to the Stockade.

10 November 2004

A wild elephant visited the Stockade at around 1 a.m. The orphans all raised their trunks to test his scent, but when the wild elephant heard the Keepers’ voices, he left. In the morning Yatta led the others, following the visitor’s tracks, but they never caught up with him.

11 November 2004

Although the day was very hot, the orphans enjoyed a game, chasing each other around their Keepers. Only Olmalo and Selengai didn’t participate. At the mudbath, Yatta pushed Napasha in first to test the temperature, and when he lay down, the others joined him.

12 November 2004

The day was hot, like yesterday, with no sign of rain. At the mudbath Olmalo and Taita went straight in, before taking water, and having cooled themselves returned to drink water. As usual Napasha was first to roll in the mud giving Tomboi, Taita and Selengai a rare opportunity to lie on top of him taking turns, whilst Mulika, Nasalot, Olmalo and Wendi occupied the other side to roll in the mud.

13 November 2004

Having left the Stockade, Selengai and Olmalo went to drink in anticipation of a long hot day in search of food. At around l0 a.m. Tomboi, who doesn’t see eye to eye with Napasha, snatched a piece of greenery that Napasha wanted. This led to a fight, over which the Keepers had to intervene. Napasha had moved a step backwards and was going to charge Tomboi and knock him down, but the Keepers warned him by pointing fingers at him, so he reluctantly moved away “swearing in his heart” to teach Tomboi a lesson when the Keepers were not looking!

14 November 2004

Mulika and Selengai were first to leave the Stockade and lead the others into the bush. It was very hot, with heavy cloud, so we expected rain, but it did not come. Because of the heat, the orphans went to the mudbath early.

15 November 2004

The orphans left early to browse near Ithumba hill. By 1 p.m. the heat was unbearable, so Nasalot led the orphans (and the Keepers) to shade.

16 November 2004

Clouds began to gather at around 9 a.m. Taita and Olmalo spent most of the day browsing near Yatta whilst Tomboi isolated himself until it was time for the mudbath. However, before the end of mudbath, the clouds evaporated.

17 November 2004

There was light rain in the morning, which made the orphans very happy. Kinna led the group, leaving Olmalo and Taita behind playing with the damp soil. Just before crossing a small valley, Kinna turned rapidly and ran back to the Keepers, making the other orphans to do the same. Listening carefully, the Keepers could hear the sound of running hooves and upon investigation, found that it was a buffalo.

18 November 2004

Today was like any other, with no rain.

19 November 2004

For the first time ever, little Olmalo was the Leader, but after a while, stood aside to allow Napasha and Taita to overtake her. By l0 a.m. it was so hot that the orphans moved from tree to tree, seeking shade and flapping their ears. They had a wonderful mudbath, all rolling in the mud as though in competition, but, as usual, Napasha emerged the winner. At around noon, the Vet arrived to inject Mulika, Selengai, Olmalo, Wendi and Taita as a precaution against rabies.

20 November 2004

Again heavy clouds gathered on a calm day, and everyone hoped for rain, but the day ended without a drop

21 November 2004

The day passed as usual, with the orphans browsing next to their Keepers, and no rain.

22 November 2004

Nothing unusual happened today. The day passed as usual

23 November 2004

At the mudbath, Yatta was scared by a warthog who was coming to drink, but when the warthog spotted the Keepers, it ran away, prompting Yatta to chase it, trumpeting.

24 November 2004

Olmalo and Taita enjoyed a game, scooping up soil with their trunks, and throwing it over themselves. Wendi and Napasha joined in, but Napasha spoilt the game by trying+to rough up Wendi. At mudbath Olmalo tried to entice Tomboi in to play, by lying in front of him, but he ignored her.

25 November 2004

Finally, the long awaited rain arrived at about 2 a.m. and continued throughout the morning. At first Olmalo, Selengai, Tomboi and Wendi were very scared of the thunder and lightening, and squeezed together whenever the lightening struck. When the rain subsided, the orphans had a wonderful time playing in the puddles. Shortly before 11 a.m. Olmalo came across a moving crab which “mesmerized” her, prompting the Keepers to go and take a look!

26 November 2004

The orphans again enjoyed playing in the puddles and smearing themselves with red mud

27 November 2004

At the mudbath Napasha pushed Wendi as she was taking her bottle. Later Yatta led the group to the bush, but Olmalo remained behind with her Keepers. After 4 p.m. Napasha and Taita played a game of breaking the vegetation around them, whilst Wendi lay down to play and allowed Tomboi to roll on her. Yatta and Olmalo stood aside to watch with their trunks down.

28 November 2004

The morning was cloudy but the afternoon became hot, making the orphans flap their ears to remain cool. Tomboi took a nap, but stood up when he noticed Napasha homing in on him. On the return to the Stockades, Selengai and Tomboi had a fight over who would lead the other, which Tomboi won, prompting Selengai to go and join Mulika.

29 November 2004

It drizzled with rain in the early hours of the morning. After mudbath Wendi and Tomboi browsed close to one another while Mulika fed close to her favourite, Selengai. On the way back in the evening, we passed by the mudbath for a drink.