Keepers' Diaries, November 2006

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

What a joyful and wonderful month it has been for the Ithumba orphans, with rain, rain and more rain on a daily basis, turning the countryside into an emerald Garden of Eden, filled with flowers, and almost every shrub shrouded with the pure white blossoms of Ipomoea Mombassa, which, aside from its beauty, is in itself a favourite food source for all browsers. It is, indeed, heart-warming to read of elephant days filled joy, playful fun and games in between feasting, hours spent romping in rainwater puddles and swimming in rainwater pools, rolling around in the red terracotta earth of Tsavo, so that they resemble walking red anthills moving through a kaleidoscope of greens. It is particularly pleasing to read of the contentment and joy of Orok, who was so disturbed in the Nursery, and of Sidai, whom we so nearly lost, and who was so far gone on arrival, that for 6 weeks she could not get up from a recumbeng position unaided; how Challa has now settled in as one of the boys, no longer feeling an outsider; but perhaps the very best news of al, in this month’s Diary is the fact that Kora’s jaw wound has closed completely, with no sign of opening to exude sepsis now for a full month. How glad we are that we made the right decision in his case.

What a joyful and wonderful month it has been for the Ithumba orphans, with rain, rain and more rain on a daily basis, turning the countryside into an emerald Garden of Eden, filled with flowers, and almost every shrub shrouded with the pure white blossoms of Ipomoea Mombassa, which, aside from its beauty, is in itself a favourite food source for all browsers. It is, indeed, heart-warming to read of elephant days filled joy, playful fun and games in between feasting, hours spent romping in rainwater puddles and swimming in rainwater pools, rolling around in the red terracotta earth of Tsavo, so that they resemble walking red anthills moving through a kaleidoscope of greens. It is particularly pleasing to read of the contentment and joy of Orok, who was so disturbed in the Nursery, and of Sidai, whom we so nearly lost, and who was so far gone on arrival, that for 6 weeks she could not get up from a recumbeng position unaided; how Challa has now settled in as one of the boys, no longer feeling an outsider; but perhaps the very best news of al, in this month’s Diary is the fact that Kora’s jaw wound has closed completely, with no sign of opening to exude sepsis now for a full month. How glad we are that we made the right decision in his case.

Again the compassion and caring for one another features strongly in the Diary. Yatta is a very caring Matriarch of the group, and it is interesting that when her favourite, Olmalo, submerged herself in a pool, Yatta immediately pulled her up, obviously fearful that she might stay under too long! She, along with the Keepers, usually diligently guards the rear of the column whilst the youngsters are allowed the privilege of leading the group to and from the feeding grounds.

There was another nocturnal visitation from a wild bull during the night of the 16th, who came to the Stockades, took a drink, and returned the rumbled greeting of the 4 Big Girls before heading off before daylight exposed his presence. Yatta, eager to meet up with him, led the group following the route he had taken, but were unable to catch up before it was time for the youngsters to have their noon milk. However, the fact that he came to the Stockade at a time when water and food is plentiful everywhere points to the fact that he came there for a specific purpose in order to monitor and assess the situation. No doubt, he will be returning to do so again from time to time and one day, when he can be sure that the human scent on our elephants is not something sinister, curiosity will give him and other “scouts” the courage to initiate contact.

Because the bush is now so thick, with every twig covered in leaf, there have been several scarey alerts during the month, more often than not caused by something as harmless as a dikdik but which nevertheless trigger panic followed by rushing about knocking down bushes in a demonstration of aggression aimed at deterring an unwanted intruder. Every time the alarm is sounded, the big elephants rapidly arrive to protect the youngsters and usually at such times, it is the Keepers who have to reassure and calm down their charges. This month the orphans have managed to avoid running into the resident pack of wild dogs, although the Suzuki came across 4 members of the pack resting in the middle of the road one morning “looking calm and relaxed”.

On several occasions, the orphans have split into two groups, when Yatta takes the older orphans further afield, and either Nasalot or Mulika remain with the youngsters, all meeting up again either somewhere out in the bush or back at the Night Stockades in the evening. As usual, the boys have enjoyed their usual daily pushing bouts in tests of strength, and to determine rank within their peers, with Rapsu emerging victorious over Tomboi, which must make him feel very proud. Orok remains the treasured “baby” basking in the constant care and attention of Nasalot, whilst Olmalo retained her privileged status as Yatta’s favourite, and Mulika still adores Selengai. Kinna retains the title of Chief Disciplinarian who can always be counted upon to deal with any unruly behaviour amongst boys who overstep the mark of what is acceptable. All the young girls know that in order to avoid being “mounted” by one of the boys, all they have to do is seek out Kinna, and feed close to her. And woe betide anyone who wants to mount little Orok, for this brings strong retribution from Nasalot, Buchuma being one such culprit.

Despite being comprised of orphans with very different backgrounds, the Ithumba unit is a very united and happy elephant family of 22, each and every one a living miracle literally dragged from the Angel of Death, and today enjoying an unequalled quality of life, a life of caring and compassion, of protecting one another, and enjoying every hour of every day to the full, rejoicing in the good things of life. The relationship that the elephants have with their human Keepers, entrenched for life in their remarkable elephant memory, is truly something beautiful and touching to behold. There are so many attributes of elephants that are, indeed, an example for humankind, so many of whom are cruel and evil.

November 2006 day to day

01 Nov

Heavy rain pounded down during the night, so the morning began cool. Out in the feeding area, Madiba, Challa, Selengai, Kora, Lualeni and Naserian enjoyed an early bush mudbath, there being no need to head to the usual venue. In the afternoon Olmalo and Kora enjoyed a pushing game watched by Naserian and Lualeni, but Challa intervened, wanting to play with Kora, but Kora was not interested.

Galana preparing to mudbath

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