Keepers' Diaries, August 2016

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Tsavo remains gripped in the dry season, which has kept everyone busy with much coming and going of wild elephants, along with our orphans who are all remaining close because of the water. It has not been unusual to have up to 120 thirsty elephants within the Ithumba stockade compound this month. Aside from our orphans, these have included many wild elephant families, along with the faithful bulls who turn up year on year. Wendi’s wild born calf Wiva has enjoyed a number of wild play mates her age this month.

Tsavo remains gripped in the dry season, which has kept everyone busy with much coming and going of wild elephants, along with our orphans who are all remaining close because of the water. It has not been unusual to have up to 120 thirsty elephants within the Ithumba stockade compound this month. Aside from our orphans, these have included many wild elephant families, along with the faithful bulls who turn up year on year. Wendi’s wild born calf Wiva has enjoyed a number of wild play mates her age this month.

This presence of large numbers of wild elephants throughout the month, however, has been stiff competition for our resident dependent orphans and on such busy mornings, they always pick up their share of lucerne to enjoy in seclusion without competition, allowing their seniors to eat their fill in the main feeding area. The orphans understand the need to give way in respect of their seniors in order to avoid a standoff which they would certainly lose. The dry environment has meant that the orphans often have to dig for tubers and acacia roots which are succulent and nutritious. Shukuru showed signs of being poorly this month once again, but responded well to the parasite medication she was given. She has also enjoyed her fill of nutritious acacia seed pods during these harsh months, whilst the others browse on lucerne laid out for them in the compound. A short shower on the 9th and the 16th brought brief respite from the dry, windy conditions, turning hard ground into a thick layer of slippery mud which made the orphans slip and fall. Nevertheless they thoroughly enjoyed rolling in the wet soil and coating their dry skin. The hot weather also meant that our little water lover Bongo spent almost every waking minute in the mud wallow!

It was amusing on the 7th to witness the dependent bull orphans becoming irritated and chasing some thirsty guinea fowl birds who turned up to share their waterhole. Bongo initiated this game, but the birds were determined to remain because they were thirsty and needed water. However, Bongo persisted so the birds went round and round in order to avoid him! It was only then that fellow bulls Orwa, Bomani, Barsilinga, Lemoyian and Vuria provided reinforcement to expel the birds, until the persistent warthog-chaser Vuria managed to see them off!

This month a wild female orphan of around 9 years of age, too young to be without a family, who first joined up with our Ex Orphans a few months ago before disappearing again, appeared again, this time in Mutara’s herd and later in that of Olare and Makireti’s. We are not sure how she lost her family but we are delighted that she can find company and solace within our own Ex Orphaned herd. She has completely tamed down and is comfortable with the routine of the orphans and their Keepers. In fact, to the untrained eye, one would be unable to tell that she was not one of our own orphans, but rather a completely wild elephant who has found a new and welcoming family.

Mutara’s herd first showed up on the first day of the month, having been absent for some days, and in these hot conditions they looked very thirsty! Ex Orphan Kainuk turned up a few days later in the company of a wild Mum, her two daughters and another older female. Although Kainuk usually belongs to Mutara’s herd, she chose to remain closer to home, probably because Mutara’s herd had been away for so long! Over the next couple of days Kainuk remained with the dependent juniors and didn’t join up with any of the Ex Orphan herd until she was again able to join Mutara’s herd again, comfortable that they are unlikely to roam far again given limited water resources at this time of year.

Yatta’s group, comprised of Yatta, Yetu, Sidai, Loijuk, Chyulu, Meibai, Ololoo, Lualeni, Kinna, Nasalot, Wendi, and her baby Wiva, plus Ishanga, Kenze, Madiba and Sunyei frequented the mud bath area and the stockade water trough often this month. Orwa is always delighted to meet the older orphans, anxious always to test his strength in a Pushing Match on every occasion! Older Ex Orphan bulls Rapsu, Buchuma, Madiba, Ololoo, Zurura and Tomboi as well as frequent visitors One Tusker, Half Trunk and Limpy (whom we treated a few months ago for a snare wound) have all been frequent visitors this month, especially at the mud bath and the stockade water trough. Limpy’s wound has almost completely healed and he can now walk without much evidence of a limp.

Makireti’s wound has also healed completely now. Her group has chopped and changed again this month - at the beginning it had eight members instead of the usual three - herself, Kilabasi and Kasigau. The extra additions were Chaimu, Kilaguni, Kitirua, Naisula and Murka, who appear to have left their usual herd headed by Olare. However, later in the month Chaimu returned to Olare’s herd whilst Kilaguni settled down, for the time being at least, within Makireti’s group.

August 2016 day to day

01 Aug

Shortly after settling for lucerne in the morning, the juniors were joined by Mutara’s group. Mutara and her group had been away for several days and appeared to be very thirsty. They spent a lot of time drinking water. Orwa walked towards Turkwel and had a brief chat by entwining their trunks and putting their trunks in each other’s mouth. Kenze emerged on his own from the south eastern side of the stockade and joined the juniors to feed on lucerne. Teleki quit talking to Kainuk and walked towards Kenze as if to find out why he was on his own. Teleki and Orwa interact more with their friends living in the wild since now they are in the process of making up their mind when to join them. After feeding on lucerne, Mutara’s group escorted the juniors to the browsing field. Teleki engaged Kanjoro in a pushing game that ended when Teleki decided to surrender. Boromoko settled to browse close to Orwa and from time to time Boromoko could be seen stretching his trunk towards him to chat. Bomani and Olsekki disagreed over something we were not sure about, which resulted in a pushing game that saw Olsekki lose to Bomani. Bomani went to the extent of mounting on Olsekki as a show of dominance. At mud bath time, the orphans were joined by Olare’s group. Missing from the group were Murka and Naisula. Orwa engaged Olare in a pushing game while Narok played Kibo. Orwa lost to Olare and later moved to play with Chemi Chemi. Boromoko spent some time scratching against the nearby acacia trees. After mud bath, the herd soil dusted before heading back to the browsing field. In the afternoon, the sun was still hot and Shukuru, Siangiki, Bongo, Kithaka and Teleki spent some time relaxing under trees, only resuming browsing when the temperature dropped later in the afternoon.

Mutara in the compound

Orwa plays with Turkwel

Kenze with little Teleki

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