Keepers' Diaries, October 2004

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

A dramatic and disastrous event involving the Ithumba ten took place during the early hours of the morning of the 21st, when a rabid dog forced its way through the electric wires of the Night Stockade, and before being despatched by the Keepers, bit Wendi, Olmalo, Taita, and Selengai on a foot and jumped up onto Mulika’s ear, nicking it in one place. Whilst the vaccine was being sourced, and information sought about how we should now procede, the Mobile Veterinary Unit and our Vet, David Ndeereh, made haste to Mombasa to procure enough vaccine to inoculate the five elephants that had been bitten, and the Senior Warden took the decision to isolate them from those who had escaped harm, fearing contamination through saliva. The information we needed was sourced from our friends in the Indian Wildlife Trust, where rabies is very prevalent, and who had experience with captive elephants having been exposed. We understood full well how much extra distress would be inflicted by separating the group, and this concerned us deeply, so having been able to establish that the risk by exposure through saliva was minimal, we immediately gave instructions that the two groups must be re-united. Meanwhile, the five who had escaped being bitten were given an immunisation vaccine, and those that had, are set to receive the same regimen as an exposed human which involves a 28 day course of weekly injections, plus two boosters given a month apart.

01 October 2004

Napasha led the other orphans out into the bush today, all having taken water early. At mudbath, only Napasha went in.

02 October 2004

It was a cool day. Selengai led the orphans to the mudbath, where Napasha pushed Tomboi about.

04 October 2004

Before proceeding to the mudbath, Napasha contested the lead with Yatta, but could not withstand her strength, and surrendered the leading position.

05 October 2004

Taita and Tomboi spent most of the morning in a test of strength, without an obvious winner. In the end Nasalot came in to separate them.

06 October 2004

The orphans were in a very jovial mood today, running here and there breaking bushes. At mudbath Napasha had a wonderful time, after which he dusted himself.

07 October 2004

It was a hot day, so all the orphans enjoyed their mudbath, Yatta, Wendi and Napasha rolling around as though in competition. At around 2.30 p.m. we spotted a lone wild elephant some distance away and mistook it for Imenti. We tiptoed towards it, but the wild elephant detected our presence and fled, which puzzled the orphans, all of whom raised their trunks to try and scent him.

08 October 2004

It began drizzling with rain at 8 a.m. Olmalo and Tomboi ran to the Keepers for shelter, so they were taken under a nearby tree.

09 October 2004

At mudbath 2 warthogs and some baboons were drinking when we arrived. The warthogs fled when they saw the elephants, but the baboons just sat down and watched. It was too cold for the elephants to feel tempted to go in.

10 October 2004

Mulika and Selengai led the orphans out of the Stockade to the bush today, with Olmalo remaining close to the Keepers. In the evening, Wendi took the lead back.

11 October 2004

In the morning Napasha had an altercation with Taita, so Yatta intervened to restore order. On the way to the mudbath the orphans came across baboons, which Yatta and Nasalot chased off.

12 October 2004

Before leaving for the mudbath Taita decided to test his strength by pushing Nasalot, who did not retaliate, but simply kept on browsing.

13 October 2004

Kinna and Napasha were the first to leave the stockade. It was a very hot day, and all the orphans had to fan their ears to keep cool.

14 October 2004

Close by the Stockade, Napasha came across a tortoise which mesmerized him, because it retreated into its shell! Napasha stretched out his trunk to smell it, and then tried to kick it, but the Keepers prevented him from doing this.

15 October 2004

Light rain fell this morning, which excited the orphans. Tomboi and Olmalo played happily in the damp soil, rolling around together.

16 October 2004

It was a cool day. At 11 a.m. Napasha amazed the Keepers by setting off at a brisk pace towards the mudbath to check whether his share of milk had arrived. The rest of the orphans decided to follow.

17 October 2004

Selengai, who seldom leaves Mulika, spent most of today browsing close to Yatta. Shortly before returning to the Stockade, Napasha held and pulled Tomboi’s tail, which made him yell, drawing the attention of Mulika, who ran to rescue him.

18 October 2004

At mudbath, the orphans were very excited to have visitors – Dr. Sheldrick, Robert Carr Hartley and the Sheldrick Trust US Directors, who came with the Senior Warden, Daniel Woodley. All the orphans spent time intermingling with the visitors, especially Wendi, who began to show off, sitting down in a funny way and rolling on the ground in front of the audience. Meanwhile, Napasha, who is always very greedy, took to overturning the water bins, hoping to find more milk!

19 October 2004

On the way into the bush today, we came across the spoor of wild elephants. All the orphans were very interested, but the spoor was heading South. It was a cold day, so there was no mudbath.

20 October 2004

The orphans took water shortly after leaving the Stockade, and then headed out to browse.

22 October 2004

As an initial precaution the orphans were seperated into two groups – those bitten by the dog, and those not bitten. Yatta led Kinna, Nasalot, Napasha and Tomboi, whilst Mulika led the bitten elephants i.e. Selengai, Taita, Olmalo and Wendi. Mulika was very distressed without Nasalot, and kept on screaming and running in search of Yatta’s group, whilst Taita rumbled in distress for his friends, Taita, Olmalo, Wendi and Selengai.

23 October 2004

For the second day, the orphans remained separated and were still very unhappy at being separated. At noon the Vet ame again and vaccinated the unbitten five i.e. Yatta, Kinna, Nasalot, Napasha and Tomboi. In the evening the orphans were re-united and allowed to mix freely. Yatta placed her trunk on the backs of Selengai, Taita, Olmalo and Wendi, welcoming them back into the family. Nasalot on the other hand welcomed Mulika, who rumbled lovingly and flapped her ears.

25 October 2004

Olmalo and Tomboi appeared tired in the morning, due to insufficient sleep. Two dikdiks had passed the Stockade during the night, “whistling”, which scared them, the encounter with the dog still very fresh in their minds.

26 October 2004

The orphans browsed together quietly throughout the day.

27 October 2004

Napasha pushed Taita during the noon bottle milk feed. In the evening Mulika led the orphans back to the Stockade.

28 October 2004

Kinna led the group out today. At mudbath, Napasha and Wendi engaged in a playful shoving game.

29 October 2004

At around 4 p.m., Mulika, Taita, Wendi, Olmalo and Selengai receied another injection from our Vet.

30 October 2004

The day was very hot, so the orphans browsed under the shade of trees throughout the day.

31 October 2004

The day’s events for the 31st will be incorporated into the November Diary