Keepers' Diaries, July 2013

Ithumba Reintegration Unit

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.

01 July 2013

The orphans left the stockade early as usual and settled for Lucerne before heading to the browsing field. Out in the bush the juniors were joined by Lualeni who later escorted them to the mud bath followed by the ex-orphans and wild elephants, among which were the elephant called Half Trunk and Mshale. After mud bath the juniors under the command of Lualeni, headed to the slopes of Ithumba hill where they settled to browse.

02 July 2013

The wild elephant Half Trunk reported at the stockade early in the morning today before Mutara led the first group to the mud bath where the juniors were joined by Rafiki who shared water with them before disappearing.

03 July 2013

Ten wild elephants and the ex-orphans joined the orphans at mud bath. In the evening the same older group was at the stockade. There was a drama when Kandecha secretly joined the wild elephants outside the stockade as his group was coming from the field. Makena also secretly tricked the keepers by joining the orphans just as they were a few meters from the stockade. Since Makena is almost the same size as the orphans, the keepers didn’t notice as she entered the stockade. They only counted up to six not knowing Kandecha was not amongst them. Later when all the wild elephants and the ex-orphans left, Kandecha came near the gate. There was much confusion until the keepers found out that Makena was impersonating Kandecha. Immediately the gate was opened and Makena left without being forced. She was happy as she had eaten Kandecha’s coconut.

04 July 2013

In the morning the juniors joined a wild elephant at the stockade water trough for water. At mud bath time, the orphans were joined by the ex-orphans, Mshale and other wild elephants. Soon after mud bath, the orphans returned back to the browsing field. In the evening again Makena pretended to be one of the orphans by leading the way and hurrying up so as to get into the stockade before every one. This time, the keepers were smart enough and noted Makena’s intentions.

05 July 2013

The orphans left the stockade in a jovial mood and settled for Lucerne just outside the stockade. Later, Kanjoro led the way to the field. Mshale and Half Trunk soon turned up for water in the company of twenty wild elephants.

06 July 2013

The juniors settled to browse within the Kalovoto area up to mud bath time when Shukuru led the first group to the mud bath. Later in the evening the ex-orphans in the company of wild elephants showed up at the stockade for water.

07 July 2013

The orphans at mud bath were joined by a few wild elephants and the ex-orphans. Soon after taking water, Kasigau engaged Kibo in a strength testing exercise that lasted for a few minutes before Kasigau surrendered.

08 July 2013

The day kicked off with 11 wild bulls reporting for water early in the morning. Shortly after they were then joined by the ex-orphans for Lucerne. At mud bath time, over 25 wild elephants and the ex-orphans were present. Later in the evening, Mshale closed the chapter of the day when he reported for water at the stockade together with 4 wild elephants.

09 July 2013

It is becoming drier in the area, evident as more and more wild elephants continue to come to the stockade for water. It is the only place where they can trust and be sure of their safety.

10 July 2013

The ex-orphans were at the stockade early in the morning where they were joined by the juniors for the feeding of Lucerne. Later the group parted ways; the juniors heading to Kone while the ex-orphans headed to Kalovoto. The group met again at mud bath where they wallowed together and later were joined by wild elephants.

11 July 2013

Today on the way to the mud bath, Mutara led the way but later she was overtaken by Shukuru. Soon after mud bath, the ex-orphans headed on their own way leaving Zurura and Lualeni to attend the juniors. In the evening Kibo led the way as Lualeni escorted her favorite Ololoo from behind.

12 July 2013

Lualeni and Kamboyo had spent the night just outside the stockade before being joined by the orphans in the morning for Lucerne. Shortly after the juniors’ feeding the ex-orphans showed up with 20 wild bulls.

13 July 2013

Shortly before the orphans finished their Lucerne, the ex-orphans led by Madiba arrived followed by fifteen wild elephants. Today Sabachi and Ololoo had a strength testing exercise that didn’t last for long. At mud bath the wild herd joined the orphans. Only Ololoo wallowed with the ex-orphans and the wild elephants.

14 July 2013

15 wild elephants as well as Mshale, Yatta, Yetu, Galana, Meibai, Kora, Lualeni, Loijuk, Challa, Napasha, Ithumbah, Mgeni, Kijana and Makena joined the orphans at mud bath. Only Ololoo and Kasigau wallowed in the mud together with the ex-orphans. At one o’clock in the afternoon Mulika led the remainder of the ex-orphans at the stockade to drink water.

15 July 2013

30 wild elephants reported for water in the morning. After the juniors finished their Lucerne, Kanjoro led the way to the field. It was cold during the mud bath so none of the elephants dared to get into the mud. Later after getting enough water, the herd headed to the slopes of the Ithumba hill where they browsed till late in the evening.

16 July 2013

20 wild elephants in the company of the ex-orphans reported for water early in the morning at the stockade, suddenly Kalama fainted; she made a strange noise having fell to the floor and rose up quickly not knowing what had happened but thankfully resumed feeding and later led her colleagues to the bush. Ololoo joined the wild elephants in wallowing in the mud while, Kainuk, Turkwel and Shukuru joined the big wild boys in drinking water. In the evening Rafiki, Mshale and 10 wild bulls showed up at the stockade.

17 July 2013

30 wild elephants showed up at the mud bath today, where they were joined by the ex-orphans and later by the juniors. The juniors headed towards the slopes of Ithumba Hill while the wild elephants split into two groups with one group heading towards Kanziku while the other group together with the ex-orphans headed towards Imenti dam.

18 July 2013

The orphans woke up in a jovial mood and settled for Lucerne before deciding on which route to take. Mshale and a few wild elephants joined the juniors at mud bath.

19 July 2013

At the time of going to the mud bath, Melia, Suguta, Sabachi, Kitirua, Tumaren, Chaimu and Olare had been snatched by the ex-orphans and were nowhere to be seen. Shukuru led the milk group to the mud bath, where they were joined by Mshale and 9 other wild elephants. Thankfully at four o’clock in the evening the missing juniors were brought back to the stockade by the ex-orphans.

20 July 2013

The juniors were joined by Kijana in the morning. At mud bath time the weather was chilly and the group only took water and had a soil bath before returning back to the field. Mshale with ten wild elephants also came for mud bath.

21 July 2013

At mud bath Kasigau tested his strength with Chaimu but Chaimu was tougher as she made Kasigau surrender. Later he then turned on Kibo for more practice. Ten wild elephants also met the juniors at mud bath. Mshale, Half Trunk, Kijana, Mgeni, Buchuma and Napasha in the company of eight wild elephants reported at the stockade late in the evening.

22 July 2013

The seniors joined the junior group at Kanziku area. At the time of going for their mud bath, Kandecha had disappeared with Yatta’s group. Only Kitirua, Ololoo, Lualeni and Kasigau participated in mud wallowing, the rest took water with the wild elephants, and then returned back to the field. Kandecha was brought back to the stockade shortly before five o’clock in the evening by the ex-orphans. Ten wild elephants reported at dawn and waited till day break to get water. Soon after getting water, the group left. At nine o’clock in the morning, another group of fourteen wild elephants showed up at the stockade and later at mud bath.

23 July 2013

Kilaguni spent the better part of the morning browsing with the ex-orphans. Even at mud bath time, Kilaguni reported late with the ex-orphans and joined his colleagues. Nine wild elephant were at mud bath and shared water with the juniors.

24 July 2013

It was a quiet day as the orphans went on their browsing business as usual. At ten o’clock in the morning the juniors were joined by Lualeni who stayed with the juniors for the entire day. Thirty five wild elephants were at the stockade in the morning. Soon after getting enough water, the group left and returned later in the evening in the company of the ex-orphans.

25 July 2013

It was a quiet day for the juniors as they went on their browsing exercise as usual with no wild elephant joining them in the bush. At mud bath time, the sun was shining but no orphan partook of the mudbath. They had a drink of water before returned to the browsing field.

26 July 2013

As the orphans were busy feeding on Lucerne, thirty wild bulls reported for water. At mud bath time there were no wild elephants joining the juniors. The juniors settled to browse at Kanziku area till it was time to return to the stockade in the evening.

27 July 2013

It was a cloudy and quiet morning with no wild elephants visiting the stockade which is unusual. Later at the mud bath, Mulika in the company of other ex-orphans and three wild elephants showed up in a hurry and in a nervous state. On closer inspection Mulika had a cut along her belly inflicted by a sharp object. It appears that it was an arrow. The group didn’t stay for long as they left the mud bath in a hurry heading to Kanziku. Missing in the ex-orphans group were Napasha, Kora, Naserian, Lualeni and Chyulu. The nervous state of the elephants was a clear indication that they had an encounter with poachers and this is the reason why no wild elephants visited the stockade since the morning.

28 July 2013

Early at dawn 25 wild elephants were waiting for water at the stockade. Napasha, Kora, Lualeni, Naserian and Chyulu were in the company of these wild elephants. Later on Yatta and a few ex-orphans joined the herd. Missing in the ex-orphans group were Challa, Mulika, Mwende, Galana, Meibai and Kenze. At mud bath time, it was cold and no orphan dared to wallow. It was also quiet with no wild elephants visiting, which is an indication that poachers still have a presence in the area. At around five o’clock in the evening, Mulika, Challa, Napasha, Kenze, Pembe Moja, Lualeni, Mgeni and two wild elephants emerged from the eastern side in a hurry. On a closer look, Challa had an arrow lodged in his face. We pulled the arrow head out but a piece remained inside. We held him into the stockade to wait for the vet.

29 July 2013

Mulika and Challa had spent the night in the stockade waiting for the vet. The vet started with Challa and after successfully removing the arrow, he turned to Mulika. Mulika’s arrow was so deep yet the vet managed to remove the arrow and treat the wound. Soon after the two elephant’s treatments Wendi, Kina, Sidai, Naserian, Chyulu, Kina, Mwende and Napasha came to comfort her. Yatta and her group didn’t show up anywhere.

30 July 2013

It was a cold morning as the orphans left for browsing. Mshale with a group of wild bulls checked in at the stockade for water. In the bush the juniors were joined by Kora and Madiba. Towards mud bath time the weather changed as the sky opened and light rain showers were received over the local area. Due to the chilly weather, the juniors only took milk and water before returning back to the field.

31 July 2013

The orphans left the stockade early as usual and settled for Lucerne before heading for browsing. Mulika showed up at noon with her group and was given dairy cubes together with her baby. In the evening only a few wild elephants that checked in at stockade due to the chilly weather experienced throughout the day.