Keepers' Diaries, October 2006

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

A highlight for the Ithumba group, was the arrival of Kora and Lualeni from the Nairobi Nursery on the 30th September, instantly recognized by Naserial, Sunyei, Wendi, Challa and Sidai, and also Buchuma, all of whom knew them in the Nairobi Nursery. Lualeni was Naserian’s Nursery favourite, and Kora Buchuma’s best Nursery friend. Kora settled in immediately, but Lualeni was a little displaced for a day or two, obviously feeling the absence of Makena, and also having to step down in rank. The older females, namely the Matriarch Yatta, Nasalot, Mulika and Kinna were delighted to welcome two more into their herd, with Kinna paying special attention to Kora.

01 October 2006

The four big females kept a close eye on the latest arrivals, and demonstrated how to deal with the dry vegetation. Naserian, Wendi, Challa and Sidai have shown positive recognition of their erstwhile Nursery peers. Lualeni and Kora spent a long time in the mudbath, obviously feeling the heat, and Sunyei performed for the BBC Camera, rolling towards it, and as she moved off, kicking out at it with a back leg.

02 October 2006

Mulika, Selengai, Yata, Olmalo and Kinna sandwiched Lualeni and Kora between them as they headed for the water trough as soon as they were all let out of the Stockade. At the mudbath, Lualeni was the only one who went into the water, all the others thinking that it was too cold.

03 October 2006

All the elephants converged on the newcomers to greet them with loving rumbled and excited trumpets as soon as they were let out. As they headed to the grazing area, Kinna, Wendi, Sunyei and Naserian stuck close to Lualeni and Kora. The Keepers wondered whether Kinna would take one of the newcomers as her ‘special’ baby, since she is the only one of the Big Girls who doesn’t seem to have a favorite. Rapsu tried to take on Kora in a pushing game, which didn’t last long because Tomboi and Buchuma joined in, and were warned off by the Keepers.

04 October 2006

This morning Madiba and Lualeni locked trunks and enjoyed a tender moment until Naserian and Kora intervened to take Lualeni away. At mudbath Naserian, Kora, Lualeni, Madiba, Sunyei and Challa were reluctant to leave.

05 October 2006

It was a cool day, so all the orphans, led by their Matriarch, Yatta, went off happily to feed, bumping into the big elephants playfully. They were all in a playful mood. Tomboi challenged Challa, and because his tusks are longer, had the edge. Napasha again tried to challenge Nasalot, as Orok looked on in disbelief, but as usual Nasalot won the contest. Then Rapsu pursued Naserian around the thickets, which brought Kinna to the rescue, who chased off Rapsu. Later on, Kinna and Kora had a tender pushing play.

06 October 2006

Once out in the feeding grounds, something startled the youngsters, who trumpeted and charged back to the Keepers, Sunyei, Kora, Lualeni, Tomboi, Madiba and Naserian leading the retreat. At the mudbath the orphans were pleased to welcome Daphne Sheldrick and the US Friends Board members, who had flown in especially to see all the developments the Trust has made in the North. The party flew out after lunch at the Ithumba Camp, and a shower fell during the afternoon, which was much enjoyed by all the elephants.

07 October 2006

It was a drizzly morning, so the orphans enjoyed an early dusting which was especially enjoyed by Lualeni, Kora and Naserian. Kinna came to join them, showing special attention to Kora. The orphans thought it was too cool to wallow, so they enjoyed a dustbath instead, the youngsters enjoying rolling on the bigger elephants.

08 October 2006

This morning Sunyei and Ndomot spotted two dikdiks, which initiated charging and trumpeting. This drew the attention of the bigger elephants who came to investigate, but meanwhile the dikdiks had made themselves scarce.

09 October 2006

Just before ll a.m., Taita, Wendi, Olmalo, Tomboi and Naserian enjoyed a soil bath at the entrance to a warthog burrow. Rapsu tried to mount on Naserian, but was warned off by the Keepers. In the evening Naserian learned some pushing skills from Kinna.

10 October 2006

It was a cloudy day, which was ideal for browsing. Kora and Lualeni wanted to walk with the Keepers, obviously still in Nursery mode. The recent rainfall has brought on fresh greens, which all the orphans greatly enjoy.

11 October 2006

This morning Sunyei took the lead to the feeding area, with Yatta and the Keepers guarding the rear of the column. At the feeding area, Lualeni, Kora, Sunyei, Challa and Naserian split themselves from the main group to feed on their own. Sidai and Orok have warts on their forehead and trunk, so Thuya medication is being applied with positive results. In the evening a leopard visited the stockade trough to drink. Yatta and Nasalot, in different Stockades, sensed its presence and both gave a very high trumpet which sent the leopard off, as all the elephants raised their trunks, and were a bit jittery.

12 October 2006

Sunyei was up to her usual ‘crying wolf’ game this morning, which sent the youngsters scampering back to their Keepers. In the afternoon Lualeni tried to take a root from Tomboi who retaliated by knocking her down, which drew the attention of Wendi and the Keepers who warned Tomboi off, leaving Lualeni and Wendi to enjoy the roots. Tomboi is a naughty boy.

13 October 2006

The orphans warmed themselves up by playing around the water trough as they waited for their Keepers to accompany them to the browsing area. Soon after they had left, a thirsty group of wild dogs visited the Stockade to drink, and on their way out, passed by the orphans, which brought a lot of tension. All the elephants charged trumpeting and knocking down bushes and Yatta remained nervous for sometime afterwards. Later Napasha challenged Yatta to a pushing game, and came off second best!

14 October 2006

Mulika and Kinna led the group out today. Orok walked alongside his “mother”, Nasalot until mudbath time. After the mudbath, Rapsu and Tomboi engaged one another in a pushing match, which Kinna broke up.

15 October 2006

Mulika led the group out today. Kora had a lesson in pushing from Taita, until Wendi intervened. Meanwhile Rapsu and Tomboi had a fierce battle, Rapsu taking revenge on Tomboi for pushing him around when he first joined the group.

16 October 2006

Light showers in the morning brought welcome relief and a playful mood to all the elephants, who enjoyed rolling around in the damp soil and splashing in the puddles.

17 October 2006

Sunyei led the group out today, with Lualeni and Kora in the middle of the herd, and Yatta bringing up the rear with the Keepers. Challa led the way to the mudbath at noon, with Yatta and her favorite, Olmalo, at the back.

18 October 2006

Sunyei again led the group out to the browsing fields, but at 9 a.m. their feeding was interrupted by a pack of wild dogs which sent them running for dear life. Lualeni, Kora, Challa, Naserian, Wendi, Ndomot, Rapsu and Madiba thought the only safe place was to return to the Stockade, and led by Rapsu, that is where they ended up. Mulika led the rest in another direction, and only Yatta stood her ground with the Keepers to chase off the wild dogs. After the dogs had disappeared, Yatta ran to the Stockade to fetch the babies to find that some of the Keepers had done the same, while other Keepers followed Mulika’s group. It took 20 minutes to reunite everyone, rumbling and trumpeting filling the air until the tension died down and the orphans’ normal activities resumed.

19 October 2006

Orok was glued to Nasalot for most of the day until it became too hot for him, and he sought shade, waiting for Nasalot to take him to the mudbath. After mudbath, Mulkia took the orphans eastwards to the plains and in the evening it was Madiba who led the herd back to the Stockade for the night. Yatta kept putting up her trunk to test the air and make sure no dogs were around.

20 October 2006

Sunyei led the group out, after they had all greeted one another and spent a short time playing around the Stockade. Yatta walked with Olmalo, Kora and Lualeni at the back. Just before heading for the mudbath, Challa and Naserian played a pushing game, and all had a wonderful mudbath before heading back to feed until the evening.

21 October 2006

Showers followed by a heavy downpour made the orphans very playful, as all enjoyed mudbathing, with Madiba, Lualeni, Kora, Sunyei, Challa and Rapsu enjoying the muddy soil most. The entire day was spent by intermittent mudbaths, so only the milk dependent babies went to the usual venue for their milk at noon.

22 October 2006

Like yesterday, the orphans’ time was spent playing in the mud and the puddles left by yesterday’s downpour. Taita managed to mount on Naserian, but not for long, because she ran to Kora and Lualeni. Challa and Madiba spent time playing, Challa lying down, and Madiba trying to push him up! Rapsu enjoyed a soil bath while Mulika rested in shade under a tree.

23 October 2006

It was an extremely hot and humid day, so the orphans kept to the shade for most of the day, but participated fully at the mudbath, with Challa the star, who remained in the mudbath for 20 minutes, and refused to get out. Kinna and Yatta tried to call him out, but he refused, and only emerged when he felt like it, following the others a lot later.

24 October 2006

As the orphans were heading out today, Galana turned back to have another drink at the water trough. Her absence was immediately noticed by Yatta and Kinna who returned to find her and greeted her with rumbles and the intertwining of trunks in elephant kisses. They escorted Galana back to the feeding area where they joined the main group. In the evening, soon after the orphans were back in their Stockades, a group of 7 wild dogs arrived to drink at the trough. Their appearance was immediately sensed by Nasalot, Orok, Ndomot and Wendi, who raised their trunks. Nasalot made a high trumpet that scared the dogs away, but nevertheless, all the elephants remained nervous for quite a long time.

25 October 2006

At 6 a.m. soon after the orphans had left the Stockades, Sunyei Wendi, Tomboi and Buchuma, who were in the lead, had a confrontation with the wild dog pack again. They rushed back to join the other orphans, and then all headed back to the Stockades, and the Keepers had difficulty trying to round them up. When they had calmed down, they headed off in a different direction to the dogs. Nowadays the wild dogs are regular visitors to the Stockade water trough where they drink. The orphans enjoyed an early mudbath out in the bush in a puddle. Nasalot escorted Orok to his bottle, and watched over him until he had finished, after which she escorted him to the water bins for a drink, and took him back to join the others.

26 October 2006

The orphans enjoyed their usual early morning trunk intertwining greeting having quenched their thirst. Buchuma engaged Challa in a wrestling match, overpowering Challa. Just before 11 a.m., Napasha, Kinna and Taita enjoyed a mudbath in a muddy bush wallow until Kinna ousted Taita and Napasha and took over the wallow. Taita bellowed in protest, which alarmed Yatta and the others, who came to investigate the cause. Having communicated in low rumbles, they dispersed again and continued their browsing.

27 October 2006

Sunyei led the herd out today, with Yatta guarding the back. Once out in the feeding area, the orphans split into groups, with Orok attached to Nasalot, Selengai to Mulika and Ol Malo to Yatta. Kora and Lualeni are good leaders back to the Stockades in the evening. Because it was hot, they had a wonderful mudbath today.

28 October 2006

Light rain fell during the night, so it was a chilly morning, which made them very playful, some playing charging games, and others pushing games. Out in the feeding area, heavy rain fell again, so the orphans enjoyed rolling on the ground. Challa and Ndomot were having a dramatic rolling game until Tomboi intervened, trying to mount onto Challa. During the milk feed, Ndomot head butted Madiba and was reprimanded by the Keepers. The orphans are enjoying the green pastures brought on by the rain.

29 October 2006

Sunyei, supported by Wendi and Ndomot, urged the group out into the feeding grounds, where they fed with great zest. Challa and Kora enjoyed a pushing contest, and all had a wonderful mudbath before returning to feed for the rest of the day.

30 October 2006

The morning began with a heavy downpour which the orphans welcomed. Kinna surprised everyone by kneeling down and poking her tusks into the softened mud, closely watched by Kora, Lualeni and Naserian. Later Tomboi engaged Sunyei with the hidden agenda of mounting her, but he was thwarted when Sunyei took shelter next to Wendi. Because it was cool, none of the orphans wanted to mudwallow, but Lualeni, Naserian and Kora enjoyed a lovely dustbath in the evening before heading back home.

31 October 2006

Another heavy downpour threatened, so the orphans were in a playful mood. When the rain came, the orphans all enjoyed mudbathing, there being no need to go to the usual mudbath today, since there were mudbaths everywhere. At 3 p.m. two fighting male baboons scared the group by passing through them in thick bush. Yatta’s group charged, trumpeted and knocked bushes to demonstrate their anger at the baboons, and remained in this frame of mind for some time to beef up security for the entire group. In the evening Napasha and Kinna engaged each other in a pushing match, but Yatta intervened to break it up. She would have liked to take on Napasha, but he was not interested, and walked away.