Keepers' Diaries, September 2006

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.

01 September 2006

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.

02 September 2006

It was a hot day, but this did not deter the orphans from feeding. Napasha’s limp has disappeared. At 8 a.m. Challa, Naserian, Sidai and Madiba enjoyed a soil bath before joining the rest browsing. Taita launched himself on top of Rapsu, and remained there for a minute before Yatta turfed him off! In the evening Buchuma and Tomboi had a challenging pushing match, which was won by Tomboi as usual.

03 September 2006

In a display to all that he had now fully recovered, Napasha led the group out today, swinging his trunk from side to side in happiness. Olmalo enjoyed a dustbath whilst waiting for Yatta to escort her to the mudbath, whilst Challa and Wendi led the others. All participated fully, because it was hot, after which Kinna led the group back to the feeding grounds.

04 September 2006

Sunyei led the group out this morning, and was soon up to her usual trick of ‘crying wolf” to frighten the others by pretending to spot something ahead. The Keepers had to call the group to order since the youngsters were already retreating back to the Stockade. Challa and Naserian chose to feed close to the Keepers, rather than risk being scared again by Sunyei. In the evening it was noticed that the milk dependent youngsters had worms, so they were given a dose of de-worming drug.

05 September 2006

While the others were drinking water at the trough, Sidai and Madiba welcomed each other by having a fun pushing match. At l0 a.m. light drizzle fell, which made the group very active, throwing damp earth on themselves.

06 September 2006

The day’s activities began with Tomboi and Ndomot enjoying a pushing match whilst Rapsu rolled on the ground which attracted Madiba, who came rushing along to mount onto him. However, this game didn’t last long because Mulika led the group off to feed. Just before 11 a.m. Madiba, Challa and Ndomot enjoyed a prolonged pushing game which lasted until it was time to leave for the mudbath. The dung of the youngsters contained dead worms, showing that the drugs had the desired affect.

07 September 2006

After the usual morning greetings and rumbles, Sunyei led the group off to feed. At around l0 a.m. Challa, Wendi and Galana allowed the rest of the group to pass them as they headed deeper into the bush. As it was very hot, the orphans sought shelter under trees and enjoyed a lively mudbath after which Tomboi and Challa challenged each other to a test of strength. At one point Challa was so annoyed that he knelt down and dug his tusks into the ground showing Tomboi what he would like to do to him! Tomboi simply looked on waiting for Challa to get up and begin again, but Mulika intervened to part them.

08 September 2006

Having quenched their thirst at the Stockade trough, Sunyei, Wendi and Challa ran off, each trying to take the lead. At l0.30 a.m Ndomot decided to take a rest, but Madiba took advantage of this and came to mount onto him. Ndomot struggled to disengage himself and was very annoyed, but decided against taking revenge. At the mudbath, Sunyei, Rapsu and Wendi enjoyed a prolonged session, but it was so hot at 2 p.m. that the orphans had to seek shade again, and continue feeding when it was a bit cooler.

09 September 2006

Soon after leaving the Stockade, Sunyei and Wendi engaged in a pushing game which came to a halt when a Dikdik passed by. Both then charged, trumpeting and running after the Dikdik, which beat a hasty retreat. When the orphans arrived at the mudbath, they found a flock of guinea fowl there, so Buchuma undertook to disperse them, but the birds were in no hurry to leave. Tomboi then had a go, also without success. Seeing that their colleagues were not about to provide backup, they surrendered and went to enjoy the mudbath, leaving the guinea fowl alone.

10 September 2006

Sunyei led the group out this morning. Tomboi began the boy activities by mounting onto Naserian and was joined by Buchuma, Rapsu and Ndomot. Naserian wisely ran to join Yatta and Mulika, leaving the boys who dare not risk the ire of the Big Girls.

11 September 2006

Sunyei, Sidai and Challa led the group out today. There was pandemonium when the orphans heard a dog bark within the thickets, but Yatta and Kinna took control of the situation, scouring the bush, charging and trumpeting. They found nothing, so the group soon settled down.

12 September 2006

Out in the field, the orphans split into two groups, one led by Yatta, and the other by Sunyei. The orphans had a wonderful mudbath because it was so hot.

13 September 2006

Challa and Sunyei again led the group out this morning to an open area. Nasalot, Orok and Kinna fed close to one another whilst Yatta, Mulika, Selengai and Napasha formed a second group with Sunyei and Wendi forming the third set who browsed well removed from the others.

14 September 2006

The orphans met outside the Stockade, rumbling and touching one another in greeting. Sunyei, Challa and Buchuma happily led the entire herd to the field and settled into browsing. Soon after the elephants had left, a pack of wild dogs visited the Stockade water trough to drink before heading back into the bush again. In the evening, Tomboi and Selengai enjoyed knocking down bushes, charging and trumpeting, ending up challenging each other to a shoving match.

15 September 2006

Sunyei led the group confidently out this morning, with Yatta and the Keepers striding behind. Having settled down to feeding, the herd grouped themselves into their usual gangs. Wendi, Sunyei and their group fed apart from Nasalot, Orok, Challa and Buchuma while Mulika and the rest headed to another section to feed. The herd only joined up to journey to the noon mudbath.

16 September 2006

It was another hot day, but the orphans were not deterred from feeding. Just before 11 a.m., Sunyei, Wendi, Rapsu and Ndomot browsed apart from the others, and found an aardvark hole where they playfully enjoyed a dustbath before heading off to the mudwallow. All thoroughly enjoyed the mudbath because it was hot.

17 September 2006

The orphans gathered around the water trough, intertwining trunks and greeting one another after the night. Taita and Rapsu began their day with a shoving match which caught the interest of Napasha, who wanted to join in, but neither of the smaller boys were interested in taking on Napasha! Later on, at l0 a.m. Wendi and Napasha engaged one another which became quite heated, because Napasha was the victor.

18 September 2006

Sunyei led the orphans out today, all swinging their trunks from side to side in a display of joy to welcome another day which became unbearably hot, so they confined their browsing to shady places beneath big trees. Challa led the herd to the mudbath at 11 a.m., which they all enjoyed, after which they again sought shade until temperatures dropped and it was comfortable to continue browsing.

19 September 2006

Soon after leaving the Stockades, Buchuma took advantage of Rapsu who was busy rubbing his rear end on the ground. Buchuma came to mount on to him, and this angered Rapsu, who forced him to take shelter next to Nasalot. Out in the feeding grounds Challa decided to stick close to the Keepers for some unknown reason until Galana arrived to escort him back to the main herd. Because it was extremely hot, the orphans went early to the mudbath, which they enjoyed greatly. On their way back after the mudbath, Sunyei, tomboi, Wendi and Madiba enjoyed charging a flock of guinea fowl who happened to be in their way, and made such a big deal of it that it drew the attention of the entire herd. All the elephants then entered the fray, charging, trumpeting, knocking down bushes and putting the birds to flight until the Keepers cautioned their charges about being too rough on the environment!

20 September 2006

There were showers during the night, so the orphans woke up joyfully to welcome a cooler morning. Once in the field, they had a wonderful time throwing earth over themselves and playing in the puddles, Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna playing a prominent role digging up earth with their tusks for the youngsters to enjoy. At 9 a.m. Ndomot, Rapsu and Madiba had fun playing a game of hide and seek, running into a thicket, charging and trumpeting, until they came together when a pushing match took over. Their game was interrupted only when the others moved on towards the feeding area.

21 September 2006

It promised to be a hot day today, but nevertheless the orphans began the day playfully. Buchuma and Ndomot became embroiled in a pushing match, and found themselves left behind all the others. Realizing this, they followed at high speed bellowing as they trailed the scent of the others. Later Sunyei and Sidai were scared when a Dikdik ran past them, and they in turn scared all the others, who began charging and trumpeting, until Yatta settled down and the Keepers calmed the others. All the orphans enjoyed a spectacular mudbath, it being a very hot day.

22 September 2006

Today Yatta and the Keepers led the orphans northwards across a valley where there was dung and footprints of wild elephants. Sunyei led the youngsters to their milk and mudbath venue, but as they were running for their bottles, they were scared by some noisy baboons. Yatta and her satellites turned up for the mudbath at 11.30, not having met up with their wild friends, but having enjoyed investigating signs of their presence.

23 September 2006

It was a cooler day, so the orphans went off in a jovial mood. At l0 a.m. Galana and Rapsu engaged each other in a tight pushing match which deteriorated into a fight when Rapsu tried to mount Galana. Galana won this round and sent him off to join the other boys. Since it was too chilly for a mudbath, the elephants enjoyed soil dusting instead. On the way back home Naserian and Challa enjoyed a fun pushing game, with Sidai, Orok and Nasalot, as an audience, who abandoned feeding to watch the game. During the night at around l0 p.m., the Keepers encountered a leopard within the Stockade compound. Upon spotting one of the Keepers, the leopard jumped over the electric fence and hid in the huge rocks before walking along the fence line near Nasalot’s Stockade. Nasalot notified the Keepers by trumpeting, and within seconds we were on our feet making a lot of noise to scare away the leopard, who disappeared into the darkness, leaving a great deal of tension amongst the elephants. The Keepers joined the orphans within the Stockade to calm them down.

24 September 2006

It was hot again today, so the orphans enjoyed a prolonged mudbath when Sidai and Orok playfully pushed each other in the wallow. However, Nasalot stepped in to take her precious adopted baby, Orok, which upset Sidai. She joined Naserian, who welcomed her warmly.

25 September 2006

Just before the mudbath, Galana, Napasha, Rapsu and Buchuma spent time enjoying soil bathing on a warthog hole. Napasha knelt down to loosen the earth with his tusks provided a convenient rub for Naserian and Rapsu. Buchuma then came and tried to mount onto Rapsu, but the Keepers warned him and made him desist. In the evening he learnt some pushing skills from Wendi until Tomboi and Taita intervened to spoil the lesson!

26 September 2006

Early in the morning Buchuma and Tomboi enjoyed chasing each other around the water trough and adjoining thicket. Later Ndomot and Rapsu enjoyed a pushing match, which was broken up by Wendi who felt that they should concentrate on browsing rather than playing!

27 September 2006

It promised to be another very hot day, so the orphans all took a drink before leaving the Stockades. Tomboi and Buchuma had a warm up pushing bout that was interrupted by Napasha. All the elephants enjoyed the mudbath today, even Challa and Tomboi who are not overly fond of water.

28 September 2006

It turned out to be an extremely hot day, so the orphans went to the mudbath early. Sunyei, Sidai, Orok, Olmalo, Madiba and Challa were all reluctant to leave. In the evening they all browsed along a river valley, where the babies enjoyed sliding down the riverbank.

29 September 2006

The orphans split into two groups this morning at 9 a.m., one wandering off towards the mudbath, and the other, led by Kinna making a brief stop at a huge rock, before following, where Taita enjoyed a lengthy soil bath. Later Napasha engaged Nasalot in a pushing match, which was won by Nasalot, so, unwisely, he went to have a go at Kinna, who trounced him!

30 September 2006

There was heavy rain last night, so the morning was chilly, which the orphans enjoyed, spending time playing in the mud. At midday, we were expecting the arrival of Kora and Lualeni from the Nursery. They were all thrilled to meet the newcomers, Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna trumpeting happily as they went to introduce themselves. Lualeni and Kora were fascinated. Naserian recognized Lualeni immediately, and Naserian, Kora. Buchuma was overjoyed to be reunited with his main Nursery pushing mate, Kora, and immediately attempted to mount him.