Keepers' Diaries, March 2013

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Tano was returned to the Nairobi Nursery from Ithumba on the 15th, never having thrived in that environment and clearly unable to cope either with the heat of Tsavo or in keeping pace with the others who cover distance on a daily basis. She will undergo further blood tests and treatment and eventually be relocated to the Kibwezi Forest along with other fragile orphans whom poaching has left compromised.

Tano was returned to the Nairobi Nursery from Ithumba on the 15th, never having thrived in that environment and clearly unable to cope either with the heat of Tsavo or in keeping pace with the others who cover distance on a daily basis. She will undergo further blood tests and treatment and eventually be relocated to the Kibwezi Forest along with other fragile orphans whom poaching has left compromised.

The dependent Ithumba Orphans have enjoyed a great deal off contact with the Ex Orphans and the wild friends who normally are with them, especially at the beginning of the month before the onset of heavy rain later on in the month. For the Juniors it has been a very happy month, the young boys enjoying endless Pushing Matches, Ololoo emerging as a force to be reckoned with, defeating Kilaguni more often than not. Following heavy rainstorms which began on the 14th, the Juniors have had a wonderful time playing in puddles, seeking out fresh shoots that emerge almost overnight in the low country, and wallowing at will. Two wild dogs have come to drink at the Stockade water trough on several occasions during the month and Yatta’s Ex Orphans plus wild Elephants have provided almost daily excitement for the Juniors. Shukuru is already a frequent leader to and from the mudbath, while the other females take turns in leading the Juniors out each morning.

Yatta’s Ex Orphan herd and wild attachments were at the Stockades on the 1st (after the Juniors had already left), on the 2nd when the wild friends spent a long time close to the compound, in the evening of the 3rd and 4th,and the morning of the 5th. Lualeni, who is very fond of the Youngsters came alone to join them out in the bush on the 2nd and has enjoyed a second mudbath with them on hot days. On the 8th the Juniors were joined by 5 wild elephants at the Stockade trough, after which the Big Bull named “Rafiki” turned up accompanied by 10 male friends followed a while later by “Half Trunk” (who has lost half his trunk to a poacher’s wire snare) and who is sometimes with Yatta’s Ex Orphan group. He was with 6 wild elephants. To round off that day all the Ex Orphans accompanied by 4 wild Bulls also put in an appearance that evening while Rafiki returned with 8 wild friends on the 7th and again on the 10th, this time with “Half Trunk” and 20 other bulls. Rafiki and Half Trunk were amongst 28 other wild friends who joined the Ex Orphans on the 12th and all the Ex Orphans were again with the Juniors at the Stockade compound on the 13th .

The heavy rainstorm of the 14th left all Elephants overjoyed. The Juniors wallowed to their hearts’ content in rainwater puddles, and enjoyed fresh rainwater to drink. That day only Kora and Lualeni came to the Stockades but the Ex Orphans who were accompanied by 2 Big Bulls were seen again on the 17th.

“Mshale” the huge wild bull who had a poisoned arrow removed by our Mobile Veterinary Unit a while ago, turned up several times to drink at the Stockades at the beginning of the month. He is always accompanied by male “askaris”, but on this occasion was again limping from yet another large poisoned arrow wound which was already exuding a fetid smell. The Mobile Vet was summonsed to Ithumba to be on standby in order to treat this new poisoned arrow wound, which he managed to accomplish successfully on the 6th, removing two arrowheads from the fetid flesh and cleaning out the wound before reviving the Bull. Seen again several days later when Mshale returned with wild friends, and interacted with our Orphans, he was seen to be walking easier, so we are hopeful that yet again we have managed to save his life. Meanwhile several other bulls who came to drink at the Stockades also had arrow wounds. The Vet was able to treat one of them on 11th when he came top drink with 20 other wild Bulls. This Elephant was seen again the next day, and is lucky to probably be able to make a full recovery as a result, as, hopefully, will Mshale, whose wound was more advanced.

This depressing news merely highlights the seriousness of the poisoned arrow poaching within the Tsavo National Park, which is nothing new and leaves all conservationists very depressed. The Government has to address this issue if it is serious about protecting its wildlife heritage. More deterrent sentencing for the Wakamba perpetrators has to be imposed urgently, because offenders currently get away with impunity and a minimal fine which makes poaching a lucrative and worthwhile occupation!

On the l8th only some of the Ex Orphans came to the Stockade. Missing from the group was Yatta and her baby “Yetu”, and bulls Napasha, Buchuma, Rapsu, and Madiba. It was a significant day for the Juniors, 12 of whom who were over 4 years of age, being weaned off milk and instead given weak porridge! Madiba showed up alone at the Stockades on the 22nd and on the 23rd Mulika and her calf “Mwende”, plus Ex Orphan Bulls Kenze, Kamboyo, and Orok and Big Girls Wendi, Nasalot and Kinna along with , Lenana, Chyulu, and Ithumbah arrived in the morning to enjoy time with the Juniors before they headed out to browse. Later that day Ex Orphans Galana, Meibai, Loijuk, and Bulls Challa and Tomboi had fun with the Juniors at their noon mudbath.

Yatta and Mulika plus l0 of their Ex Orphan family returned to the Stockades on the 24th and came again to mingle with the Juniors the next day. But on the 27th Lualeni came early and alone to be with the Juniors, seeking out her favourite, Ololoo who was with Chemi Chemi at the time. Lualeni remained very close to both of them throughout the rest of that day and was there to join them over the next two days as well, on the 30th escorting them to browse the Kone area where all had a wonderful time playing in the mud and puddles. When Lualeni returned the Juniors to the Stockades that evening they found Kora, Loijuk, Naserian and Rapsu waiting at the compound, and once all the Youngsters had settled for the night, Lualeni left with them.

All this will illustrate the very close bonds that link all the Ex Orphans as part of a closely-knit extended family in which the young Bulls play an important role, and which incorporates all the orphans who are Keeper Dependent as well, including any newcomers whom the Ex Orphans have never met before. It would appear that the qualifying catalyst is that all are orphans who have been rescued and reared by specific humans who are also embraced as an integral part of the extended Elephant Family.

It has been an active and full month for the Ithumba Elephants and their Keepers, ruined only by the persistent greed for ivory which is taking a heavy toll o Kenya’s priceless and irreplaceable wild heritage.

March 2013 day to day

01 Mar

Before heading out to browse, the Juniors were joined and interacted with all the Ex Orphans accompanied by some wild friends at the Stockade compound. It was a very hot day prompting the Juniors to seek shade throughout the day, and all thoroughly enjoyed their mudbath. That evening the Big wild Bull named “Mshale” came to drink at the trough, limping from a fresh arrow wound.

Orphans and Ex Orphans feeding on Lucerne

Yetu at the stockade

Orphans relaxing in the shade

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