Keepers' Diaries, August 2015

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

The month of August has been full of action with our orphans remaining close to home and around 300 wild elephants relying on the same watering points, the mud bath and stockades, and this is a trend we have seen over the years in the peak of the dry season. Each year more congregate as the word spreads that reliable water makes this area viable. The presence of so many elephants is wonderful for the dependent babies as they are able to enjoy valuable interaction from the older elephants. At times this can be daunting for them, because Ithumba is a sought after location for many magnificent bulls, and it is not unusual to find herds numbering 30 which is extremely imposing. This is an intimidating spectacle for the babies, but that said the orphan boys watch their every move, awe inspired by these spectacular creatures. Their wisdom will be vital for our orphans for their future.

The month of August has been full of action with our orphans remaining close to home and around 300 wild elephants relying on the same watering points, the mud bath and stockades, and this is a trend we have seen over the years in the peak of the dry season. Each year more congregate as the word spreads that reliable water makes this area viable. The presence of so many elephants is wonderful for the dependent babies as they are able to enjoy valuable interaction from the older elephants. At times this can be daunting for them, because Ithumba is a sought after location for many magnificent bulls, and it is not unusual to find herds numbering 30 which is extremely imposing. This is an intimidating spectacle for the babies, but that said the orphan boys watch their every move, awe inspired by these spectacular creatures. Their wisdom will be vital for our orphans for their future.

Mutara has developed a trick of undoing her stockade door at night even with the electric fence live which has had us baffled! She sometimes lets her group out in the early hours, but is never much later in the morning when the others are let out to face their day too. The wild dogs have been close at hand, relying on the same watering points as the elephants, which has proved challenging for them. On one occasion Zurura was determined to keep them from drinking by charging them repeatedly until they hatched a plan to surround him ominously; this finally unnerved him enough to turn and take off down the hill, aware that alone in this situation he could be vulnerable.

We have had a couple of mornings this month where more than 40 of our ex-orphans have been sleeping flat outside the stockades completely content while they wait for the dependent babies to wake. Here they know they are safe and take the opportunity to really have a complete rest. This is not something you would normally see and only happens when elephants are completely confident that they are absolutely safe. On one morning there were 25 wild elephants standing vigil over the sleeping herd – quite a sight for our Keepers to behold.

On the 6th of August a wild bull came to drink at the mud bath and he had a large swelling on his hip. Angela was called and the Sky Vet scrambled from Nairobi in the absence of our Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit which was off duty. Once the Vet arrived he was provided with aerial support by the DSWT pilot in a supercub to relocate the elephant. This proved challenging as he simply vanished. After over four hours flying he was finally sighted once again. It was clear he was making his way in the direction of the stockades so the veterinary team waited there for his arrival. He was treated on open ground not far from the stockades and actually ended up with a second treatment two weeks later. We were delighted to witness his wound healing well, and with a follow up treatment, by months end his wound has almost totally healed.

We now have irrefutable evidence that wild bulls in trouble know where to come for help. The dry seasons throughout the Tsavo Conservation area is when cases are amplified, and this month was no different with a number of wild bulls converging here with two to three week old poisoned arrow wounds. One of them was Mwende and Yetu’s dad, who majestically arrived unannounced on the 9th of the month. An incredibly handsome bull who had been absent for over year. This day the wound was not obvious because he was caked in mud and his visit was brief but it was spotted a few days later. Thankfully we were able to treat all of them with the support of the DSWST funded Tsavo and Amboseli Mobile Veterinary Units, and support from the Trust’s airwing, with both the supercub and helicopter. All of them will make a full recovery because their wounds were thankfully not too severe, and in some cases the arrow head no longer present. Where they had been shot remains a mystery but we think they were obviously all together when shot from a shooting blind. As their wounds worsened they knew where to head to receive help. Having been operated on the bulls remained close for the rest of the month returning for water regularly which enabled us to keep an eye on their injuries; in all the cases they have healed beautifully.

Throughout August we extensively patrolled the region of northern Tsavo, 3,000 square kms in size, and in that time the DSWT KWS antipoaching teams have arrested six poachers.

On the 10th of August a female with just one tusk with her tiny newborn baby came to drink at the stockade. This was lovely to see as the baby was fresh from the womb, and could only just reach into the trough she was so small.

The partially independent group consisting of Olare, Melia, Tumaren, Kibo, Kandecha, Naisula, Murka, Chemi Chem, and Kalama managed to snatch dependent orphans Vuria, Barsilinga, Kithaka and Suguta one day and whisk them away from their Keepers. Later, probably with much persuasion from the youngesters themselves, Olare’s group brought them back to the stockades for the Keepers to retrieved them; all but Suguta who opted to remain with her herd of old now that she has made a 100% recovery from her injury. Suguta later returned in the evening to rejoin the juniors and placed herself back in the stockades of her own free will. Clearly she is enjoying being a dependent orphan again!

On the 29th a herd of wild elephants came and a couple more had some injuries. Thankfully we were able to arrange for Dr. Njoroge to be based at the Ithumba stockades for four days and he was able to treat them all as they returned for water. The prognosis for them all is excellent.

More details of individual orphans is captured in the daily Keepers Diaries.

August 2015 day to day

01 Aug

The partially independent group spent the night just outside the stockade and joined the juniors soon after they had settled for Lucerne. Orwa tests his strength with whoever he comes across and today challenged Murka who passed near him. Murka didn't take it lightly as she saw it as lack of respect for a small boy to challenge a big girl like her. Murka pushed Orwa out of the way and continued to feed on Lucerne. When the ex-orphans arrived they disrupted the existing calmness as they took over the venue and started taking the Lucerne away from the juniors. Lualeni played with Kenze and at the end of the game Kenze got a free ride from Lualeni. The juniors heeded the saying of giving way to the strong so as to avoid trouble and they started leaving one by one whilst the ex-orphans remained at the stockade compound. At around 10am, the juniors were joined by the ex-orphans and wild elephants as they slowly started advancing towards mud bath. The presence of the ex-orphans at the mud bath, encourages the juniors as when they all went into the mud, the juniors joined them and imitated what their seniors were doing. After mud bath, Sities took her friend Garzi and went to roll on the dry soil. Bongo was the last one to leave the mud bath after spending too much time wallowing with the bulls. In the evening, 20 wild bulls flooded the stockade compound accessing from water to Lucerne left overs while relaxing including water which is a precious commodity. Shortly later, the ex-orphans checked in and added the number up to sixty. Shortly before dark, the elephants started leaving one by one after getting enough water.

Orwa plays with Murka

Kenze mounts Lualeni

Barsilinga after soil bathing

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