Keepers' Diaries, February 2009

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

There was concern over what appeared as a growth on Sian’s left hind foot as well as for her teeth, which the Keepers said were worn flat. David Ndeereh, the Vet attached to our Mobile Veterinary Unit, went to Ithumba to immobilize Sian on the 22nd in order to examine both the foot and her teeth. It turned out that the foot problem was not a growth, but a condition known as “hyperkeratosis of the skin of the foot at the junction of the pad, caused by prolonged irritation of the skin that stimulates deposits of extra keratin resulting in thickening”. As cracks were appearing round the thickening, he was optimistic that it would fall away if softened with oil on a daily basis. Sian’s current molars were unusually worn, but since each molar in use is replaced by another moving in from the back 6 times during the life of an elephant, he felt that this disability would be only temporary. In the meantime, all the medication needed for Sian’s foot (T Tree oil mixed with Coconut oil) was hurriedly sent up to Ithumba for Sian, along with horse cubes to supplement her natural diet and assist in maintaining her health and condition until another replacement molar is in position.

There was concern over what appeared as a growth on Sian’s left hind foot as well as for her teeth, which the Keepers said were worn flat. David Ndeereh, the Vet attached to our Mobile Veterinary Unit, went to Ithumba to immobilize Sian on the 22nd in order to examine both the foot and her teeth. It turned out that the foot problem was not a growth, but a condition known as “hyperkeratosis of the skin of the foot at the junction of the pad, caused by prolonged irritation of the skin that stimulates deposits of extra keratin resulting in thickening”. As cracks were appearing round the thickening, he was optimistic that it would fall away if softened with oil on a daily basis. Sian’s current molars were unusually worn, but since each molar in use is replaced by another moving in from the back 6 times during the life of an elephant, he felt that this disability would be only temporary. In the meantime, all the medication needed for Sian’s foot (T Tree oil mixed with Coconut oil) was hurriedly sent up to Ithumba for Sian, along with horse cubes to supplement her natural diet and assist in maintaining her health and condition until another replacement molar is in position.

At the beginning of the month, as in the Nursery, there was a change in the sleeping arrangements at Ithumba. Galana and 7 of the oldest still dependent orphans moved into the Stockade vacated by Yatta’s group of Seniors, who are no longer Keeper dependent, while Lualeni and her 4 colleagues moved into Galana’s previous quarters and Sian, Lenana, Chyulu and Makena shifted to what used to be Lualeni’s stockade.

As usual, Yatta and her entourage of Seniors have kept in regular contact with the still dependent Junior orphans, now known as Galana’s group, Galana appearing to be the main Junior Matriarch of late, assisted by Loijuk and Sunyei, Loijuk often leading the group out to feed in the mornings while Lualeni, Chyulu, Sian or Sidai bring them back to the Stockades in the evenings, although Madiba undertook that role one evening. Galana, sometimes assisted by Rapsu, has been the peace-maker this month, separating, Ndomot and Kora, who often challenge one another as do Kamboyo and Zurura, pushing partners from their Nursery days.

After an absence of several days, Yatta and her group turned up to join the youngsters for the first time this month on the 2nd when she remained with them until noon, before separating, on this occasion going off with Challa, but leaving Wendi, Tomboi and Rapsu behind with the Youngsters. With the natural rain-filled waterholes now drying out as the dry season progresses, activity at the Stockade water trough has inevitably increased with wild elephants and buffalo coming regularly for a drink. Two adult wild elephant cows and their calves came to drink during the early evening of the 8th, followed by a group of buffalo who refused to be deterred by additional elephant visitors who came filtering in until the buffalo had quenched their thirst. Two wild bulls came to drink at the Stockades on the 13th and five turned up on the 26th.

On the 5th a wild bull was waiting for the Keepers to switch on the water at the Stockade trough first thing in the morning and another turned up that day at the Juniors’ mudbath, welcomed very warmly by Rapsu, so he was obviously known to Yatta’s group, where Rapsu has been of late. This bull then accompanied the Juniors when they left the mudbath venue to resume browsing when they again met up with Yatta and the Seniors. All then headed for the Stockade water trough for a drink, the Keepers keeping well behind in order not to scare the wild visitor. After having taken a drink, Yatta and her group then headed back out with the wild bull, leaving the youngsters to browse near the Stockades until nightfall.

Yatta was with the Juniors again on the 9th, joining them out at the Kanziku area and escorting them back to the stockades in the evening. She joined them again at the mudbath on the 12th and also on the 13th remaining with the youngsters for the afternoon browsing session when they were joined briefly by 2 wild bulls who fled the moment they got a whiff of human scent! The 14th saw Yatta’s group coming to drink at the Stockades this time accompanied by 2 wild bulls and later joined by a third. All then left together once the youngsters were settled into their Night stockades.

The 21st was an interesting day for the Youngsters who were joined out in the bush by a wild 15 year old bull and shortly afterwards again by Yatta and her satellites. All then fed as one herd, before heading back to the stockades for a drink, the Keepers again keeping well clear of the herd in order not to scare the teenaged visitor. On the 23rd Yatta’s group came to the stockades with a wild friend after which she and her group joined the Juniors at their noon mudbath and a day later the youngsters just missed 4 wild bulls who turned up at the mudbath to dowse themselves with water from the drinking drums soon after the orphans had left.

On the 26th Yatta joined the Juniors out in the bush and accompanied them back to the stockades in the evening when 5 wild bulls came to drink soon after she had left.
Yatta and her group were again at the stockades with a wild friend very early on the morning of the 28th, waiting for the youngsters to be let out, but again the wild friend fled upon seeing the Keepers. Yatta remained to greet the Juniors, but then left, heading off in the direction her wild companion had taken.

February 2009 day to day

01 Feb

Today it was Loijuk who led the Ithumba Juniors out to feed. At l0 a.m. Zurura challenged Loijuk to a test of strength, but Galana ran to separate the two, and at 11 a.m. led the group to the mudbath. In the evening the Keepers decided on a change of the sleeping arrangements - Galana and 7 of the older elephants were transferred to the Stockade once occupied by Yatta and the Seniors while Lualeni and her 4 colleagues were transferred to that vacated by Galana and her group. Loijuk, Sian, Lenana, Chyulu and Makena were then moved to Lualeni’s former stockade. Yatta’s group has been absent for several days now.

Chyulu feeding

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