Keepers' Diaries, September 2006

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

There were two unusual events for the Ithumba orphans this month, obviously the arrival of Lualeni and Kora on the 30th, when Buchuma immediately recognized and joyfully embraced hi sold Nursery play/pushing mate. Wendi, Naserian and Sunyei all had a turn of being Nursery Matriarch, whom Lualeni loved and respected when she was tiny, but it is always difficult for an elephant who has grown up to become the Nursery Matriarch, to have to take a step down when, in the Reintegration stage, she is simply another junior member of a herd of older orphans! This is never good for an ego! Lualeni is no exception, and whereas Kora was immediately happy to be amongst old friends, Lualeni felt somewhat misplaced, obviously also missing the presence of her adored Makena. However, as were Orok and Sidai, Nasalot has taken the newcomers under her wing, and is in their section of the Stockades at night. The other exciting and unusual event was the appearance of a leopard within the Stockade compound, something that left both the Keepers and the elephants somewhat unphased. The leopard walked past close to the wire near the Stockade occupied by Nasalot and the smaller elephants, and she alerted the Keepers to its proximity with a loud trumpet cum bellow! Everyone turned out to make a noise and chase the cat away.

There were two unusual events for the Ithumba orphans this month, obviously the arrival of Lualeni and Kora on the 30th, when Buchuma immediately recognized and joyfully embraced hi sold Nursery play/pushing mate. Wendi, Naserian and Sunyei all had a turn of being Nursery Matriarch, whom Lualeni loved and respected when she was tiny, but it is always difficult for an elephant who has grown up to become the Nursery Matriarch, to have to take a step down when, in the Reintegration stage, she is simply another junior member of a herd of older orphans! This is never good for an ego! Lualeni is no exception, and whereas Kora was immediately happy to be amongst old friends, Lualeni felt somewhat misplaced, obviously also missing the presence of her adored Makena. However, as were Orok and Sidai, Nasalot has taken the newcomers under her wing, and is in their section of the Stockades at night. The other exciting and unusual event was the appearance of a leopard within the Stockade compound, something that left both the Keepers and the elephants somewhat unphased. The leopard walked past close to the wire near the Stockade occupied by Nasalot and the smaller elephants, and she alerted the Keepers to its proximity with a loud trumpet cum bellow! Everyone turned out to make a noise and chase the cat away.

It is extremely gratifying to see that Challa has now settled into the group, and indeed in this Diary is one of the main players who competes with Sunyei and Wendi to lead the group out in the mornings, or back in the evenings, or to the mudbath at noon and who interacts happily with all the boys. There were just a couple of occasions when he was a bit “clinging” to the Keepers, and then Galana came to collect him and take him into the main group. On another occasion he and Tomboi had a somewhat uneven contest, which was, of course won by Tomboi, but Challa was angered in defeat and knelt down, sticking his little tusks repeatedly into the ground, in a demonstration of how he would like to deal with his opponent! Needless to say, Tomboi remained unmoved!

Rapsu and Buchuma have had a busy month challenging the bigger boys, Taita and Tomboi, to tests of strength, something that is a preoccupation of the boys within the group who vie for dominance and constantly engage each other in pushing bouts which sometimes deteriorate into a scrap. Then the big females intervene to separate the warring parties, Kinna always ready to take the lead in enforcing discipline. The Big females are all quick to come to the rescue of anyone bullied by the bigger boys, and it is interesting that Napasha, who is the biggest of them all, seems to be far less confrontational, now secure in rank.

Sidai is more integrated now, happy to fraternize with the other smaller girls more her age, namely Sunyei, Wendi and Naserian, and one day were brave enough to chase a Dikdik something that developed into a huge scenario which was joined by Napasha. He and the three girls charged, trumpeted, downed small shrubs, and generally put on a brave show of aggression long after the Dikdik had disappeared, so much so that Napasha ended up with a limp! However, he was fine the next day. Sunyei has been up to her usual pranks, scaring all the others on the 4th by pretending to see something dangerous ahead, prompting a rapid retreat amongst the younger set, and bringing the big elephants forward to deal with whatever it was – which as usual, we just a joke!

Following an unexpected shower of rain during the night of the 19th, the orphans had a happy time playing in the puddles, when Yatta, Mulika and Kinna knelt down to loosen the dampened earth so that the others could enjoy a cooling dustbath. Nasalot is still besotted with Orok, whilst Olmalo remains the preferred baby of Matriarch Yatta, and Selengai and Buchuma enjoy preferential status with Mulika.

Apart from the usual guinea fowl, Dikdik and baboon interruptions, the orphans were scared by a bark, which sounded like a dog. However, a search of the thickets could find no trace of it. However, the wild dogs or painted wolves, were again visitors at the Stockade water trough on the 14th , fortunately on this occasion when the elephants were absent!

September 2006 day to day

01 Sep

On the way out this morning Sunyei, Sidai and Naserian enjoyed charging a Dikdik which drew the attention of the entire herd, who took to charging, trumpeting and knocking down small shrubs. Wendi, Taita, Tomboi, Napasha and Galana thoroughly enjoyed this game, and continued long after the others had quit. The Keepers called them to order for it was now time to feed. The morning activities left Napasha with a limp but the Keepers could find no thorn nor evidence of any swelling.

Sunyei taking water from the drums

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