Keepers' Diaries, February 2014

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

The huge tusker named “Mshale”, one of the many large wild Bulls to have befriended the Ithumba Orphans, again managed to get back to the Ithumba Stockades on the 3rd. He was wounded with suppurating spear wounds in his shoulder and neck. He was extremely weak and was with Ex Orphan Wendi at the time. Immediately Dr. Poghorn, who heads the trust’s Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit, was flown to Ithumba, where Mshale was immobilized. His wounds, which were serious, were cleaned and dressed with green clay before he was revived with a long lasting antibiotic injection to help his healing. On this occasion, being too weak to get up without help, the tractor had to be mobilized to help him back onto his feet, after which he slowly limped away.

The huge tusker named “Mshale”, one of the many large wild Bulls to have befriended the Ithumba Orphans, again managed to get back to the Ithumba Stockades on the 3rd. He was wounded with suppurating spear wounds in his shoulder and neck. He was extremely weak and was with Ex Orphan Wendi at the time. Immediately Dr. Poghorn, who heads the trust’s Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit, was flown to Ithumba, where Mshale was immobilized. His wounds, which were serious, were cleaned and dressed with green clay before he was revived with a long lasting antibiotic injection to help his healing. On this occasion, being too weak to get up without help, the tractor had to be mobilized to help him back onto his feet, after which he slowly limped away.

We have saved Mshale’s life on 3 previous occasions when returned to the Ithumba Stockades with poisoned arrows imbedded in his body. He had obviously been targeted from a high vantage point – possibly a Shooting Platform above a distant waterhole. Sadly the poisoned arrow and poisoned spear poaching shows no signs of letting up, despite new draconian penalties in place. Again, we all silently cursed those that fuel the demand for elephant ivory in the Far East and also those who would take the life of such an iconic bull simply for a trinket. Mshale has managed to survive half a century of poaching, and we pray for his recovery on this, the fourth time round. Although he has not been seen again, intense aerial surveillance has found no evidence of his body, so we pray that he will again survive yet another evil and brutal attack.

Exciting news is that Ex Orphan Kinna is now obviously heavily pregnant, so we anticipate a new Ex Orphan wildborn baby arrival in the coming months.

Suguta’s group, (comprised of Melia, Tumaren, Chaimu, Murka, Kitirua, Naisula, Ishanga, Olare and Kalama along with bulls Kilaguni, Sabachi, Kibo and Chemi Chemi), (all now independent of milk) feature prominently in this month’s Ithumba Diary. They are obviously becoming more independent often returning late at night and leaving at the crack of dawn. They spent the night of the 4th away all night, having left before dawn that day and returned the following morning escorted back by Ex Orphan Kamboyo. On the 6th Suguta’s group again returned late, escorted by Kamboyo who remained in the compound partaking of the Lucerne hand-out. When they left he was joined by recent graduates Kilabasi and Kasigau from Yatta’s main Ex Orphan herd. Missing this month from Ex Orphan Splinter Groups and the main Ex Orphan unit have been the Trusts Big Ex Orphan Bulls, Napasha, and Buchuma. Tomboi, who also had not put in an appearance for some time, turned up on the 19th with Ex Orphan Bulls, Kenze, Meibei, Kamboyo and Madiba. Later a visiting wild female unit, who had a small 4 month old baby joined. Now of an age when the Bulls naturally become more independent of the family, (yet never out of touch) they often separate from the main female unit to travel independently or with wild male company. Napasha (the biggest Ex Orphan Bull) often spends long periods away and probably has Buchuma and wild friends with him. It is always a relief when he turns up again, sometimes back amongst Yatta’s main unit, and sometimes with wild friends.

Another Junior Keeper Dependent Boy who is also showing signs of becoming self sufficient and independent is “Bongo”. He slipped away from the mudbath, and after an hour’s search, was found browsing happily on his own. That day he also did a disappearing trick on the way back to the Stockades in the evening, forcing the Keepers again to go in search of him once they had settled the Juniors in their Night Stockades. They found him browsing happily at the foot of Ithumba Hill. Before being rescued Bongo spent a long time on his own, and is something of a loner by nature. Being a Mt. Kenya elephant, he loves water, and seldom misses a chance to wallow whenever the opportunity permits. Laragai is another Junior who is keen on bathing often when the others prefer a dustbath instead, now that the main mudbath of gluey black cotton mud is not as enticing as during the wet season! Even on the 18th Bongo tried to sneak off with the Ex Orphans after they had joined the Juniors at the noon mudbath and had to be retrieved by the Keepers. He obviously enjoys the company of the bigger orphans and is a very peace-loving elephant who, despite having one long tusk as a weapon, is easily pushed about at the Lucerne handout by Sities.

Showers of rain between the 8th and 11th brought relief from the heat of February, when the Juniors thoroughly enjoyed playing in the puddles, taking numerous mudbaths out in the bush. Suguta’s group having again been escorted out by Kamboyo on the 8th spent the nights of the 9th – 18th away from base, not seen again until the 19th when they were spotted passing by the Stockades in the company of a wild herd. However, they were back on the 20th, coming late as usual and leaving early the next day, again with Ex Orphan bull Kamboyo as their escort.

The Juniors have had daily contact with the Ex Orphans, who have been in the habit of arriving early in order to be at hand for the Lucerne handout, where they tend to be a bit pushy. Food is always a priority during the long hot dry seasons in Tsavo, especially when it is difficult to find a green leaf anywhere. Wendi and Kijana (Yatta’s wild recruit) set the ball rolling by joining the youngsters on the 1st, with Kijana back again on the 4th with 4 wild friends. Ex Orphan Splinter Groups have been frequent visitors, this month, Naserian, Chyulu, Makena and Zurura enjoyed spending time browsing with the Juniors out in the field on the 11th and remained with them to share the noon mudbath before parting company. In the evening of the 7th all the Ex Orphans came to drink at the Stockades and then on the 12th 22 Ex Orphans and 4 wild bulls also came to drink. The Ex Orphans were back for the Lucerne handout the next day, where the Juniors left them to it to avoid being shoved about! Splinter Groups turned up on the 14th and on the 16th comprised of Mulika and her calf, Mwende, Naserian, Loijuk and bulls Kora, Zurura, Challa plus 2 wild friends. The next day Ex Orphans accompanied by Kijana and 3 wild Bull friends joined the Juniors at their noon mudbath where Kanjoro (the Junior with an attitude) enjoyed Pushing Tuition from Ex Orphan Bulls Rapsu and Madiba.

When Suguta’s group reported back late on the 20th, Kamboyo decided to remain behind with Kilaguni and Chaimu to enjoy the Lucerne handout. Things again turned somewhat pushy, with Sities pushing Bongo away and Ex Orphan Kanjoro shoving little Laragai around. The Keepers intervened to restore good behavior, simply by tone of voice and sending the Pushers to spend time out with the wave of the arm! Shukuru then led the Juniors out to browse while Kilaguni, Chaimu and Ex Orphan Kamboyo headed off in another direction, no doubt to catch up with Suguta’s Group again somewhere in the bush. That day Suguta’s group returned only to drink, and then headed off again to spend another night out in the bush. The Ex Orphans (again minus Buchuma and Napasha) came to the Stockades both in the morning and also in the evening. When Suguta’s group returned during the evening of the 22nd again just for a drink, unusually their escort was an Ex Orphan female, Lenana. On the 25th Kilaguni, Kilabasi, Kasigau and Chimu joined the Juniors at the noon mudbath, and in the evening Tomboi turned up at the Stockades, joined later by Kilabasi and Kasigau, who left with him.

Yatta and the Ex Orphans were spotted passing by the Stockades heading for the Kalavoto area on the 26th and that evening Lualeni turned up alone and decided to spend the night in the compound. She was joined at 9 p.m. by Suguta’s group who left later. Lualeni remained to join the Juniors in the morning, and led the Juniors to browse the Kone area, spending the entire morning with the Juniors, which made the Keepers somewhat suspicious of her motives since Lualeni has been in the habit of befriending Keeper Dependent Juniors and enticing them away! However, on this occasion, having shared the noon mudbath with the Youngsters, she left them to head back out into the bush.

The month ended with another Lucerne visit by the Ex Orphans in the morning who came to join the Keeper Dependent Juniors (Narok, Laragai, Bongo, Sities, Kainuk, Turkwel, Shukuru, Mutara, Kilabasi, Kanjoro, and Makireti). Having browsed happily throughout the day, the Juniors were met at the Stockades in the evening by an Ex Orphan Splinter Group amongst whom were Kibo and Ololoo. Suguta’s group then arrived with a wild herd who had a small baby and whilst awaiting their turn to drink, Ololoo had a wonderful time playing with the small wild baby, who was just a few months old.

The wild dogs have again been visitors who have come to drink at the Stockades this month. They turned up on 4 different occasions.

February 2014 day to day

01 Feb

The sky was clear as the orphans settled down to eat some Lucerne just after leaving the stockade. Sometime later, Wendi and Kijana joined the juniors briefly before disappearing back into the bush. Shukuru had a great time scratching on one of the nearby rocks before Sities led the way to the browsing field. At ten o’clock in the morning, the sun turned out to be very hot forcing the orphans to feed under shady trees. On the way to the mud bath Makireti led the group.

Shukuru scratching

Makireti leading the others

Wendi and Kijana with the orphans

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