With rainfilled inland waterholes drying out, yet again the wild elephants and our own Ex Orphans began drinking on a daily basis at both the mudbath water trough and the one at the stockades. This year’s month of July throughout Tsavo and Kenya generally has turned into what can only be described as a disturbing nightmare. Poisoned arrow poaching has escalated throughout the ecosystem, and Ithumba has not been immune to this threat. Regular reports of arrowed elephants began to come in from all over the Tsavo ecosystem with others incapacitated by cable snares around their feet – the only positive being that the KWS/ DSWT Mobile Veterinary Unit has been able to respond and save most of these injured elephants. On the 27th, unusually, no wild elephants turned up to drink at the Stockade trough until Mulika accompanied by some of the Ex Orphans and 3 wild companions arrived in a rush, all visibly nervous. Missing from the Ex Orphan group were Napasha, Kora, Naserian, Lualeni and Chyulu and on closer inspection the Keepers noticed that Mulika had a cut in her lower abdomen where, they surmised, perhaps an arrow had nicked the skin. She and her friends snatched a quick drink, and then left. The matter was reported to us and relayed to the KWS authorities who were urged to send more Rangers to the area to investigate. The Trust also dispatched a second anti-poaching De-Snaring team to reinforce the one already there.
The very next day, Napasha, Kora, Naserian, Lualeni and Chyulu were amongst 25 wild elephants who came to drink at the Stockades in the morning, followed later by Yatta accompanied by other Ex Orphans, but minus Challa, Mulika and her calf, Mwende, Galana, Meibai, and Kenze. Being a cloudy overcast day, none of the Keeper Dependent orphans wallowed at the mudbath that day, and unusually none of the Ex Orphans or other wild elephants joined them there. However, that evening at 5 p.m., Mulika and her calf, Mwende, were with Ex Orphans Napasha, Lualeni, Yatta’s wild attachment named Mgeni , the wild bull named “Pembe Moja” (One Tusker) and 2 other wild elephant friends and Ex Orphan Challa, who had a poisoned arrow sticking out of his face! The Keepers were able to pull out the shaft, but the arrowhead remained embedded, so clearly this was a case for the KWS/DSWT Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit. The Vet hurried to Ithumba, the Keepers having taken the precaution of enclosing both Challa and Mulika and her baby in one of the Stockades, so that they would be at hand when he arrived. Both were immobilized and the arrowhead removed from Challa’s face which was a relatively simple matter. However, it transpired that Mulika’s wound was surprisingly more serious than at first thought as there was an arrow embedded in her which had penetrated deep, but fortunately bounced off a rib. The arrow was removed and Mulika was treated and both elephants were given long acting antibiotics and the magical green clay smeared into and onto their wounds before being revived.
Increased antipoaching presence has been installed in Northern Tsavo to try to stem the escalating poisoned arrow poaching which has escalated sharply of late to a National crisis situation, with numerous other cases reported through the region. As Richard Leakey said, “It is not the Chinese who are kiling our National heritage, but local Kenyans corrupted by money and greed, something that the new Kenyatta government needs to get under control urgently”.
Aside from this very distressing development, the days at Ithumba have been a marvel with sometimes in excess of 90 – 100 elephants coming to join the Orphans and Ex Orphans either at the mudbath or to drink at the stockade water trough. Seldom a day has passed when there has not been a regular gathering, the wild elephants taking their cue from the Ex Orphans, among them our Old Friend, Mshale, whose life has been saved on two occasions by the Mobile Veterinary Unit summoned to extract poisoned arrows from him. The orphans’ first wild friend named “Rafiki” has also been a regular visitor, as has “Half Trunk” and “Pembe Moja” in amongst numerous other big wild Bulls who habitually come to drink at both venues, and fraternize freely with both the Ex Orphan herd as well as the Keeper Dependent Youngsters. Lualeni has also again been in regular attendance to the Youngsters, still obsessed by Ololoo, her favourite Junior. There have been many occasions when she escorted by several other Ex Orphans have joined the Juniors out in the bush, escorted them to the noon milk and mudbath venue, remained with them browsing throughout the afternoon and taken them back home in the evening. On the 12th she and Kamboyo slept in the Stockade compound abutting the Juniors’ Night Stockades, in order to be with them first thing the following morning.
On the l9th Melia, Suguta, Sabachi, Kitirua, Tumaren, Chaimu and Olare were “snatched” from the Junior group by the Seniors and their wild friends for a wild “outing” as part of their initiation to a normal wild life again leaving Shukuru to assume leadership of the Juniors to their noon mudbath where they were joined by Mshale and 9 of his Big Wild Bull friends. The Snatched orphans y were returned to the Stockades by the Ex Orphans that evening. And on the 22nd it was the turn of Kandecha for a wild “outing” who, similarly, was returned to the Stockades at 4 p.m. The very next day Kilaguni spent the better part of a full day out with the Ex Orphan herd and their accompanying wild friends, but likewise was returned to the Stockades in the late evening.
It would appear that Kalama fainted on the 16th, suddenly falling to the ground with a strange sound that alarmed the Keepers. However, she was immediately up again, and resumed feeding as though nothing untoward had happened. Since humans sometimes faint, and since elephants are essentially very “human” in many respects, they obviously do as well, but we will nevertheless be keeping a close eye on Kalama in the days and months ahead.
Light showers, most unusual for July, fell towards the end of the month, something that is always celebrated by all the elephants. But then July has been an unusual month in other respects as well, but one that has been action packed, especially for the Ithumba Juniors. Junior boys Ololoo, Sabachi, Kilaguni, Kasigau and Chemi Chemi regularly challenge one another in Pushing Tests of Strength, this month mainly uninterrupted by the Big girls who have had other distractions amongst the many wild visitors to both the Stockade compound and their Mudbath venue. Chaimu challenged Kasigau on one occasion, and won. All the orphans are in good health, thoroughly enjoying a daily hand-out of Lucerne to help them through the tough dry season, while Mulika and little Mwende are having extra rations of Copra Cake, Dairy Cubes and Lucerne, segregated from all the others to feed in peace within one of the Stockades whenever they appear. The Ex Orphans also enjoy the morning hand-out, as do Yatta’s wild attachments, but the others wild elephants are not used to the taste of artificial offerings, and are quite happy just spending time at the water trough.