Keepers' Diaries, November 2005

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Rain showers commenced in the North on the 5th November, and continued intermittently throughout the month, which has brought on a feast of abundant green vegetation which the orphans have thoroughly enjoyed. They have also spent quality time playing with each other, charging around knocking down small shrubs, splashing in the puddles, rolling in the dampened earth, and plastering themselves with the red soil of Tsavo until they look like moving anthills as they browse within the dense green thickets. Natural pools and mudwallows have taken precedence over their artificial one, so it has been a very happy month for all the Ithumba elephants, the only downside of the wet season being the prevalence of tsetse flies, which make life for both the Keepers and the elephants unpleasant, particularly at dawn and dusk when these “guardians of the wilderness” (which keep domestic stock at bay), are most active.

01 November 2005

It was cool and the orphans enjoyed fresh green vegetation brought on by recent rain showers. Selengai, Tomboi, Wendi and Sunyei had an interesting game of rushing around and knocking down bushes to demonstrate their satisfaction. Because it was still cloudy, none of the orphans wanted to have a mudbath today.

02 November 2005

Just after 10 p.m., 2 wild elephants visited the Stockade water trough to drink, after which they moved nearer the Stockade where Yatta and her group were rumbling in low tones. Yatta, Kinna and Mulika bellowed loudly with excitement, which prompted the wild visitors to retreat. Yatta and her group held their trunks in the air for a long time, trying to scent the wild elephants. At first light, Yatta led her group following the same route as the wild elephants, but unluckily did not meet up with them. At mudbath, Madiba, Galana, Sunyei, Ndomot and Wendi enjoyed a game of putting their heads under water and splashing water around with their trunks!

03 November 2005

It was a clear, sunny day, so the elephants concentrated on feeding. Selengai and Olmalo engaged in a pushing contest, but Yatta moved in and gently pushed Olmalo away from Selengai. She loves Olmalo better than all the others. The orphans had a wonderful mudbath because it was so hot.

04 November 2005

It was a clear day with no clouds in the sky. The elephants concentrated on feeding until Taita and Wendi decided to have a dustbath in the loose earth of an aardvark burrow. Whilst Wendi was lying down, Taita took the chance of climbing on her. Napasha challenged Mulika to a pushing game, which he lost, because Mulika is much stronger, but he likes to try his luck!.

05 November 2005

The day began with light showers, which the elephants greatly enjoyed as they slid about in the mud on their way to the feeding grounds. There they all had a mudbath, and looked like red anthills in the thickets! The entire day was a mudbath day, so at the artificial mudbath, they were not interested to go in. They had a lovely day today.

06 November 2005

There were light showers again, and so it was a day of mud bathing and playing. In the late afternoon Napasha and Taita had a tough pushing match, during which Taita tried his best but was out-done by Napasha, who is much bigger and stronger.

07 November 2005

It was a very wet morning following a heavy dawn downpour. The elephants were very happy and playful, enjoying playing in the puddles, and plastering themselves with mud. The orphans are loving the fresh green vegetation brought on by the rain

08 November 2005

At around 7 a.m., Yatta’s herd was scared by a sprinting male kudu who passed right through them, and scattered them, bellowing, in all directions. The Keepers rounded them up, and calmed them down. It was a spectacular mudbath with Galana, Napasha, Olmalo, Sunyei, Selengai and Madiba had a prolonged time in the mud, remaining after the others had left. Kinna instructed Taita in pushing tactics in the evening.

09 November 2005

At midnight a wild bull elephant once again visited the Stockade compound and took a drink from the orphans trough, after which he spent time resting near the perimeter of the Stockade and greeted the orphans before leaving. In the morning Taita and Selengai spent time rolling and playing on the ground, until Napasha arrived and tried to mount Selengai. She screamed, and Mulika and the Keepers rushed to the rescue, warning Napasha.

10 November 2005

After leaving the Stockades, the orphans were frightened by a troupe of baboons who were chasing a jackal. The elephants fled, trumpeting, but calmed down when the Keepers communicated with them. Napasha and Taita engaged each other in the usual pushing game, which is a favourite practice of the young bulls.

11 November 2005

It was a cloudy morning, and the sound of singing birds merrily welcomed the orphans as they went to feed in the morning. Taita found a good rock to scratch his genitals on, and rid himself of a troublesome tick. By mudbath time it was very hot, so the elephants thoroughly enjoyed a long session, after which they took a rest under shade.

12 November 2005

Sunyei enjoyed charging a flock of guinea fowls this morning. Later on Tomboi chased Madiba around the thickets, laying his trunk on Madiba’s back in an attempt to mount him. Madiba ran to Nasalot, who protected him. It was another wonderful mudbathing session at noon.

13 November 2005

It was a hot morning, so having fed for a while, Madiba and Sunyei contested a shady spot. Wendi then moved in, and took Sunyei’s place. All the orphans enjoyed another prolonged mudbath to cool themselves.

14 November 2005

The day began with showers, which made the orphans very happy. The older elephants broke down branches, whilst some of the younger ones indulged in pushing games and others in playing in the puddles and mud. They did not need a mudbath today, since the entire day had been one long mud session!

15 November 2005

There was rain again in the morning, and the orphans enjoyed feeding in the rain, because it was still warm. In between feeding, all enjoyed mudbaths out in the bush, so there was no need to visit the usual artificial one.

16 November 2005

The Keepers took the orphans southwards to the eastern foothills of Ithumba mountain where there is plenty of new browse. The babies enjoyed feeding on vegetation pulled down by the bigger elephants. Just after ten, Tomboi and Taita engaged each other in the usual pushing match, which deteriorated into a tough battle for dominance. Taita won. At the noon milk feed Ndomot tried to hijack some of Madiba’s share, but Madiba knocked him away even before the Keepers could caution him. These days Ndomot is very greedy for milk, just like Napasha.

17 November 2005

Yatta and Mulika led the orphans eastwards again where the vegetation is lushes. Kinna and Galana enjoyed a dustbath in loose earth at the entrance of an aardvark burrow. It was another wonderful mudbath, with Selengai and Sunyei trumpeting happily as they both wriggled in the mud.

18 November 2005

Just after 6 a.m., a jackal appeared as the orphans were feeding in a thicket. Yatta trumpeted as it slunk away, and all the elephants focused on the direction it had taken for a while before resuming feeding. It was a cloudy morning, and too chilly for the mudbath. Rain began to fall later, which the orphans greatly enjoyed, bothered only by the tsetse flies, which are a great menace, particularly in the evenings. Madiba and Sunyei keep close to the Keepers when the flies are most active, and the Keepers brush them with leafy branches to protect them.

19 November 2005

Yatta led the orphans northwards today, where the tsetse flies are less prevalent. They all enjoyed wallowing in rain puddles, and plastering themselves with mud to protect themselves against the flies.

20 November 2005

Today Yatta led her group eastwards to feed. They were disturbed by baboons chasing off one of the troupe. The elephants all stood still, with outspread ears, ready for action. Yatta and Kinna warned the baboons off by trumpeting and they took the hint and moved away. The orphans found a natural mudbath in the feeding area, so there was no need to visit the artificial one.

21 November 2005

Having left the Stockade, the orphans took a drink at their water trough. While the big elephants scratched themselves against rocks, the youngsters indulged in pushing games. Because of the rain showers, the orphans enjoy frequent wallows throughout the day, and the young ones love splashing the puddles with their feet.

22 November 2005

Today, Napasha and Taita enjoyed a shoving match, and later Wendi, Sunyei and Madiba charged a mother warthog and her piglets, and after the warthog family had disappeared, they enjoyed charging around knocking down small shrubs. In the evening Tomboi challenged Wendi to a pushing match, but Wendi stood firm, and would not give in.

23 November 2005

It was a cool day, with intermittent showers, so the elephants had a wonderful time, with food plentiful, and puddles for the youngsters to play in. Madiba, Wendi, Tomboi and Olmalo played a funny game of running to and fro in the running water, trumpeting as they bumped into each other, and slid around. Meanwhile the big orphans dug in the earth with their tusks to prepare a mudbath for everyone.

24 November 2005

There was rain during the night, so the orphans emerged from the Stockade very happy. Galana, Sunyei, Olmalo and Ndomot had a good mudbath made by the warthogs. More rain fell in the afternoon, so the orphans all enjoyed plastering themselves with red soil, until they looked like moving anthills in amongst the green thicket.

25 November 2005

Following the rain, the bush is brilliant green when lit by sunshine. The downside is the presence of the tsetse flies, which are a great bother to both the elephants and the Keepers and which prompts the elephants to take frequent mud plastering sessions.

26 November 2005

The orphans are in an exuberant mood these days, due to the abundance of green vegetation and the rain showers. On their way out to feed they charged about playfully, knocking down small bushes, and trumpeting. Wendi, Napasha, Ndomot and Tomboi found an old aardvark hole, and spent time wallowing in the wet soft earth of the entrance. At l0 a.m. they found a wallow recently used by wild elephants,, which they all enjoyed, and in the evening Wendi, Sunyei, Tomboi, Madiba and Selengai gambolled around, trumpeting with joy, a sign of being well satisfied.

27 November 2005

At 7 a.m. chattering baboons, who were jumping from tree to tree, scared the orphans, who ran back to the Keepers, from where Yatta trumpeted to scare the baboons off. They fed on the northern side of the hill today, and at the mudath, Olmalo, Wendi, Sunyei, Napasha and Nasalot wallowed for a long time whilst the others rubbed themselves against rocks. In the evening Napasha and Nasalot exchanged pushing tactics.

28 November 2005

There was a beautiful sunrise today as the orphans headed off, playfully, to the feeding grounds. Tomboi and Selengai enjoyed a light pushing match, which Taita interrupted, prompting Selengai to join Mulika. Taita and Tomboi then engaged each other, but the game ended when Taita began to mount onto Tomboi. They all enjoyed a spectacular mudbath today, after which Napasha engaged Yatta in a pushing match. Yatta’s long tusks proved a useful deterrent, and Napasha conceded defeat.

29 November 2005

A few minutes past 7 a.m. Yatta and Olmalo came across a male kudu. Yatta trumpeted, sending the kudu on its way, after which both returned to the Keepers in a triumphant mood, kicking the bushes and trumpeting. Today the orphans fed along rocky hills adjacent to the Stockade. At 10 a.m. Selengai, Madiba, Galana, Wendi and Ndomot had a funny game wriggling about amongst the bushes, trumpeting and knocking down shrubs, which is a sign that they are full and feel good.

30 November 2005

Having left the Stockades, Sunyei, Tomboi and Wendi were in high spirits, mock charging and digging their tusks into the ground, as the older elephants rubbed themselves against the rocks. At l0 a.m. Kinna spotted a lone baboon up a tree and attempted to knock the tree down. However, the baboon jumped into a neighbouring tree, and left Kinna pushing the wrong tree!