Keepers' Diaries, November 2006

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.

01 November 2006

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.

02 November 2006

The vegetation is very green following rain, so the orphans are making the most of it. This morning Kora, Naserian and Lualeni had a wonderful time mudbathing in a wallow they found whilst out feeding, when Lualeni buried her head in the water. However, Challa spoilt the game by creeping up and trying to mount onto her as she was kneeling. At 4 p.m. Ndomot and Tomboi had a tough battle, which was settled by the intervention of Kinna.

03 November 2006

Soon after leaving the Stockades two dikdiks streaked through the group, leaving the elephants highly disturbed. They rushed around the dense thickets rumbling, bellowing and trumpeting. Whilst Nasalot concentrated on calming the young group, Yatta, Mulika and Kinna put on a convincing performance of aggression against the dikdiks until the Keepers calmed them all down. Kora and Madiba enjoyed a pushing game at the mudbath, but none of the orphans were interested in going into the mud after taking their milk.

04 November 2006

Mulika and Selengai led the group out today, in single file, with Yatta and Olmalo guarding the rear of the column. The orphans are in Paradise, with puddles of water everywhere, mudwallows everywhere, and food aplenty at every turn. Sunyei, Sidai, Challa, Kora, Lualeni, Naserian and Orok had a lovely time in a deep pool of water, splashing it up with their trunks. Nasalot had a busy time keeping abreast of Orok, who was rushing here and there in amongst the others.

05 November 2006

All the orphans greeted each other before heading out, touching trunks, and rumbling. Wendi and Ndomot enjoyed a pushing match, whilst Madiba pursued Challa around the compound until the Keepers signaled that it was time to head off. At 11 a.m. the orphans split into two groups. Naserian, Kora, Lualeni, Madiba and Sidai browsed together whilst Yatta took the rest of the group to the Kalovoto seasonal river, where they enjoyed sliding up and down the slippery banks. Both groups joined up to go to the mudbath, but because it was cloudy, it was not conducive to much wallowing.

06 November 2006

Heavy clouds promised yet another downpour, so the orphans entered the feeding grounds in a high state of anticipation. Napasha did his best to engage Yatta in a pushing match, but she was intent on keeping an eye on all her charges, and refused to be drawn. A while later, something scared the orphans in the thick bush, and there was mayhem as they all rushed about bellowing until the Keepers calmed them down. The cause of such commotion was obscure. By noon, it was very hot, so the mudbath was popular and saw a great deal of activity. At 4 p.m., the heavens opened, so the orphans had fun playing in the puddles and running through the rainwater splashing it high into the air, expressing their joy. The rain continued until nightfall.

07 November 2006

The morning was very wet and chilly following yesterday’s downpour, and the orphans were eager to head out, Yatta taking the older orphans far afield to enjoy the green variety. Challa, Tomboi, Ndomot, Galana and Taita had enormous fun taking a mudbath in a bush wallow they happened upon, spending a long time there after the others had continued to browse.

08 November 2006

Again the orphans were eager to head out without wasting time at the Stockades. En route to the feeding area, Nasalot and Orok had a lovely time rubbing themselves against an anthill, which tempted Yatta to join them. At 11 a.m., Sidai, Kinna, Kora, Tomboi, Wendi, Madiba, Ndomot and Selengai enjoyed soil bathing in the fallout from an aardvark burrow. The others left after a while, leaving Sidai on her own. She suddenly bellowed, and instantly all the elephants, plus the Keepers, rushed to ascertain what was her problem. Within seconds, Sidai was caressed by Yatta, Kinna and Mulika as Nasalot and the rest watched. In the evening Tomboi challenged Sunyei to a shoving bout, but Nasalot intervened to part them.

09 November 2006

At 8 a.m., Buchuma, Challa and Sunyei had a busy time charging and knocking down bushes having been frightened by 2 dikdiks that dashed amidst them. This commotion attracted the attention of all the others, who followed suit, until the Keepers calmed them all down. Just before the mudbath Buchuma and Challa had a tough test of strength, which was won by Buchuma, who is much bigger than Challa. At the mudbath, Yatta’s group enjoyed swimming in floodwaters near the actual mudbath, actually submerging themselves in the pool, but when Yatta’s favourite calf, Olmalo, submerged herself in the water, Yatta hurriedly lifted her up, fearing that she might not emerge!

10 November 2006

Today the orphans headed westwards to feed on the abundance of green vegetation that resembles the Garden of Eden. Rapsu and Tomboi engaged in pushing play, a bout that was won by Rapsu, much to Tomboi’s embarrassment. Later Tomboi challenged Rapsu again, hoping to retain his title, but again Rapsu emerged the winner, since his tusks are longer than those of Tomboi. Taita and Wendi then had a pushing bout, which was won by Wendi, leaving Taita nonplussed! The mudbath was greatly enjoyed, because it is now an extensive pool.

11 November 2006

Heavy rain during the night heralded a chilly morning. Once out in the feeding area, the orphans expressed their joy by rushing around trumpeting, kneeling down to dig their tusks into the earth, in a very playful mood. After the mudbath, another heavy downpour began, which prompted the entire group to wallow vigorously all over again, Tomboi, Rapsu, Napasha, Wendi, Madiba, Buchuma and Challa emerging as the best players. The orphans had a wonderfully joyous day today.

12 November 2006

Before leaving the Stockade compound, Tomboi and Rapsu engaged each other in another bout, which was interrupted by Wendi. Out in the feeding area, something scared Sunyei, Kora, Lualeni, Madiba, Naserian and Sidai who rushed around the dense bush searching for their Keepers. The Keepers cautioned them, and all fell silent, listening intently for a few moments, before beginning to browse again. Later Challa and Kora engaged each other, which attracted Naserian and Lualeni who were interested spectators until the Keepers signaled that it was time to head for the mudbath. They all had a wonderful mudbath in the floodwaters and in the evening Buchuma challenged Selengai, but Buchuma’s challenge was short-lived, because Mulika intervened.

13 November 2006

It was a chilly day accompanied by rain which enhanced the orphans’ joy. Sunyei, Madiba, Kora, Lualeni, Sidai and Naserian enjoyed playing in the running waters. Just before mudbath, Napasha challenged Kinna, but Kinna proved her superiority. The mudbath was filled with fun.

14 November 2006

Mulika and Selengai led the orphans out today, whilst Yatta, Olmalo and the Keepers guarded the rear of the column. Nasalot, Orok, Sidai and Challa enjoyed an early mudbath out in the bush. Orok enjoyed scratching himself against his caretaker, Nasalot, who lay down for him. Nasalot’s group were then joined by Tomboi and Ndomot but when Tomboi tried to mount onto Orok, which angered Nasalot, who drove the two boys away. At the usual mudbath time, all the elephants had had their fill of bathing, and instead stood by watching the babies take their milk.

15 November 2006

Wendi and Sunyei led the group out this morning, with Yatta beefing up the end of the column, as usual. These days the only reason to come to the mudbath venue is for the babies to take their milk, because there are mudbaths everywhere!

16 November 2006

The orphans enjoyed a visit from a wild bull Elephant last night, who came from the same direction they had used during the day. Yatta and the older elephants rumbled a greeting to him, which he returned. In the morning Yatta, Mulika and Kinna were anxious to catch up with their visitor, following the route he had taken, but the bull had moved too far for them to make contact. After the milk run, the orphans were scared by something which prompted the usual confusion and bellowing. It took the Keepers a long time to round them all up and calm them down, but soon the elephant/human family were all reunited, and order returned.

17 November 2006

Another chilly morning. As soon as the orphans entered the feeding area, the rain began again, which prompted all to engaged in bathing activities, rolling in the mud, and rubbing their bodies against one another. Kora had a lovely time with Mulika tenderly caring for him. Again at 2 p.m. another heavy downpour occurred, so the rolling and mudbathing activities began all over again. In the evening all looked magnificent, plastered in the red earth of Tsavo, moving through the lush vegetation like walking anthills!

18 November 2006

After a drink at the Stockade trough, the orphans headed out. Sunyei and Madiba welcomed the start of another day by charging around in the thickets, but this failed to attract the others, who know all about Sunyei’s pranks! After the mudbath, the orphans split into two groups, Yatta leading the older orphans, whilst Nasalot oversaw the junior set. The two groups were reunited back at the Stockade in the evening.

19 November 2006

Today, it was Mulika, Selengai and Sunyei who led the group out. Once in the browsing area, Ndomot and Buchuma engaged each but the contest was interrupted by Tomboi, so the two contestants walked away, leaving Tomboi with no-one to play with.

20 November 2006

Heavy rain greeted the new day, giving the orphans an impressive beginning. They entered the browsing grounds in a cheerful mood, the youngsters tobogganing in the waterlogged soil. Later Ndomot and Rapsu engaged each other in a pushing bout, but this broke up when the others moved further afield. After the milk feed, something scared them in the thickets, prompting another commotion, but the Keepers soon settled them down.

21 November 2006

As soon as the orphans emerged in the morning, Yatta had a busy time rolling around enjoying a soil bath, closely watched by her favourite, Olmalo. Meanwhile Napasha and Tomboi were engaged in a bout, watched by Mulika and Selengai. Out in the field Buchuma and Challa had a tough contest, Challa doing his utmost to get top-sides of Buchuma, but could not succeed. Still the rains continue, and the orphans had a wonderful time feeding on the Ipomeoa creepers that shroud every bush, clothing the countryside in white blossoms.

22 November 2006

There was another downpour of rain overnight, so it was a chilly start to the day. The orphans left their Stockades in a cheerful mood, the youngsters deliberately bumping into the bigger elephants. Out in the bush Wendi, Buchuma, Rapsu and Madiba enjoyed playing on an anthill, rubbing themselves against it. Rapsu had a fun time pushing over the anthill’s pillars. As the moved further afield, they came across a beautiful pool which prompted wallowing, so at the actual mudbath venue, the youngsters only took their ration of milk and none of the elephants were interested in wallowing there.

23 November 2006

The day began with another heavy downpour of rain so the orphans were again in a very playful mood, especially Sidai, Sunyei, Madiba, Kora, Lualeni and Naserian. Intermittent showers punctuated the day, each one prompting another playful mud-wallowing session. A few minutes after four, again something scared the elephants, prompting them to rush around knocking down small bushes to threaten the culprit, but were calmed by their Keepers.

24 November 2006

For once, the sky was clear as the orphans left the Night Stockades, led by Mulika, Selengai, Sunyei and Wendi, with Yatta and the Keepers at the back as usual. Once out in the feeding area, Ndomot and Tomboi had a pushing bout. At 11 a.m. Challa, Madiba, and Buchuma were feeling so happy that they began charging around trumpeting to express their joy. A close examination of Kora’s jaw today shows that the wound has sealed entirely, so it has been a full month now with no sign of pus. Thanks to the wide variety of vegetation, amongst which must be many herbal remedies, we are hopeful that Kora’s problems are now a thing of the past.

25 November 2006

The skies were clear as the orphans left this morning. Wendi and Ndomot opened up the field activities by engaging one another in a pushing match. At l0 a.m. the orphans came across a bush mudbath, and all had a wonderful time there, so none of the elephants were interested in the usual mud venue. However, the youngsters have to congregate there for their noon milk ration.

26 November 2006

Orok and Naserian engaged one another in a gentle pushing game soon after coming out from the Stockade this morning, whilst Challa and Madiba locked trunks, pushing one another. This deteriorated into a tough fight, so Yatta intervened, parting the two warring parties, and led the way out to the feeding grounds. There Galana and Wendi enjoyed time rolling around together in the wet mud, which attracted Tomboi, who rushed up in order to mount Galana. However, her screams scared him off, knowing that this would bring reprisals from the older females.

27 November 2006

Early this morning, the young boys, namely Madiba, Ndomot, Orok and Buchuma had fun chasing each other around the water trough. At 9 a.m. Madiba and Buchuma had a pushing match, which was interrupted by the intervention of Kinna. Thereafter all the elephants fed quietly for the rest of the day.

28 November 2006

Another thunderstorm during the night, and day enjoyed intermittent showers of rain, so the orphans again had a wonderful time, wallowing in the mud, playing in the puddles and chasing each other around all day.

29 November 2006

The day began with light showers, which made the elephants playful and happy. Shortly after l0 a.m. Buchuma began chasing Naserian, hoping to mount her, but his intentions were thwarted when she took shelter next to Kinna, who is the disciplinarian of the herd. Instead Buchuma went to a nearby tree to scratch himself against it, where he was joined by Madiba. Challa and Ndomot vied with one another as to who should lead the way to the mudbath. Ndomot won this round.

30 November 2006

It was a cloudy morning as the orphans left the Stockades. Just 500 meters from where the orphans were browsing, the Suzuki carrying the noon milk ration came across 4 wild dogs relaxing in the middle of the road. They looked calm and relaxed, and did not want to make way for the car. After a while, they loped off down the road towards Kone.