Keepers' Diaries, May 2012

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

Sadly, the rains have all but failed at Ithumba as well this year, just one heavy storm of some 2 inches greening the vegetation briefly, so the elephants face another very tough dry season bar un-seasonal rain. The next rains are not due until November.

Sadly, the rains have all but failed at Ithumba as well this year, just one heavy storm of some 2 inches greening the vegetation briefly, so the elephants face another very tough dry season bar un-seasonal rain. The next rains are not due until November.

Mulika and her baby “Mwende” have been the focus of concern this month. Mulika returned to the Stockade compound with her calf on the 20th, and unusually just remained standing under the lone tree in the compound, as though wishing to draw the attention of her Keepers. Upon closer inspection, they noticed that she her right ear had been pierced by a sharp object, with tell-tale blood on the shoulder behind. Having puffed antibiotic powder in the hole, the Keepers ushered her back into her erstwhile Stockade so that she could be monitored, thinking that the ear injury could be as a result of a poisoned arrow. However, she showed no ill affects the next morning, so assuming it had been a poisoned arrow, obviously very little poison had entered the bloodstream.
Mulika then left the Stockades along with the Juniors, joined by Lualeni on the way out, who appeared unexpectedly out of the bush.

Six days later, Mulika and her baby were amongst all the Ex Orphans who came with some wild friends to join the Juniors at their mudbath. The Keepers then observed that little “Mwende” looked “ tired” and that she had also lost condition. Concluding that Mulika’s milk might be failing, they reported the matter to Trust H.Q. in Nairobi who organized that supplements be flown to Ithumba on the Caravan aircraft that would be bringing the U.S. Board to Ithumba. ( Meanwhile, that day Ex Orphan Chyulu was hatching a plot that portrays Elephant forethought! She opted to remain with the Juniors after her Senior group departed so that she could dash into the Junior Stockades in the evening and grab some delicious cut Grewia branches for herself, which she managed to do before being expelled by the Keepers!)

The next day (27th) Mulika brought her baby back to the Stockades, accompanied by Galana and Lualeni as the Nannies and enjoyed a handout of Dairy Cubes and Lucerne to try and stimulate her lactation, which could have been compromised by stress surrounding the ear incident. It was touching that the rest of the Ex Orphaned herd turned up that afternoon and were particularly attentive to Mulika and the baby taking the two off amongst them when they departed. However Mulika was back in the evening, when she was ushered into her erstwhile Stockade to enjoy the supplements provided for her, after which she and the calf again left the compound.

The next morning (28th) all the Ex Orphans returned to the Stockade compound to drink, without Mulika and her calf. On this occasion Wendi gave Kilaguni a lesson in wrestling techniques whilst there. The Ex Orphans happened to meet up with Mulika and her baby on their way out, who in the process of returning again to the Stockades. Wendi and Galana peeled off from Yatta’s main herd in order to return with Mulika and her calf to the Stockades where again Mulika feasted on the supplements. The Keepers reported that the calf looked much livelier, so obviously the supplementary feeding of the mother was having the desired affect. (We had to do the same for Emily and Edie during the drought of 2009 in order to save their respective wild-born babies).

The next morning Mulika was back early to take her supplements, pushing open the Stockade Gate once she had taken her fill to join the Juniors who were still finishing their Lucerne handout. (They were in the habit of lining up outside the Lucerne store to wait for the wheelbarrow load which was their daily ration, then escorting the wheelbarrow to where the Lucerne was off-loaded for them.) Mulika left with the Juniors for the bush, but returned again to the Stockades at l p.m. that day for another handout, and yet again that same evening for yet another, on this occasion accompanied by Ex Orphan Makena who was also hatching a forward thinking Elephant plot! She opted to spend the night actually inside Mulika’s stockade enjoying the leftovers, and joined up with the Junior group the next day obviously planning to link up with Mulika and her calf later on their return. Unfortunately for her, however, Mulika came earlier than expected, this time accompanied by Yatta’s wild recruit “Mgeni”, who remained at the Stockade water trough while Mulika and the baby went into the Stockade to feed. Makena turned up only to find the Stockade Gate closed so she had to wait outside with Mgeni until Mulika and Mwende emerged again and she could go in and hoover up the leftovers! That day Mulika and baby were in no hurry to depart, but waited under the Stockade tree, greeting the Juniors who returned to take a Stockade mudbath, and later joining up with the Ex Orphan group, who filtered back in groups throughout the day.

Hardly a day passes when best friends, Kilaguni and Kandecha don’t enjoy Pushing Matches, which, on one day was rudely disrupted by two running dikdiks! Sabachi sometimes also indulges in this favourite sport of young Elephant boys. The Juniors have enjoyed Ex Orphan company frequently this month, joined either by all of Yatta’s now wild group, and at other times just by some, either at the mudbath as on the 1st when Chyulu lined up with the Youngsters, opening her mouth to try and persuade the Keepers to give her a bottle of milk as did Ithumbah on another occasion! The Seniors spent half an hour with the Youngsters out in the bush on the 5th, met up with them again at the Stockades on the 6th when Yatta’s baby “Yetu” shoved Melia who punished her for doing so (un-noticed by Yatta and the Nannies, who was busy taking a dust-bath at the time). Lualeni came alone to join the Youngsters out in the bush on the 16th, when she paid particular attention to Ololoo before departing again. He has obviously found favour with her. On several occasions wild Boys “Mgeni” and “Kijana” have been part of the Ex Orphan herd as have wild elephant friends.

Murka showed her mettle on the l0th when she dispersed yipping wild dogs who came to drink at the Stockades, despite Kandecha losing his nerve and opting out of what began as a joint charge! Murka is no shrinking violet, having no liking for anything that resembles a hyaena who obviously hounded her when she was orphaned with a spear lodged l0 inches into her forehead!

It has been an action packed month for the Ithumba Unit Elephants and their Keepers, but thankfully by month end Mulika’s baby was much healthier, the supplements having stimulated the milk bar. All our Ex Orphans were apparently present and correct, seen by the Keepers either all together as one large herd, or in Splinter groups led by Junior Ex Matriarchs, whenever meeting up with the Keeper Dependent Youngsters. All will be assisted through the coming dry season with supplementary Lucerne should they need it.

May 2012 day to day

01 May

Chaimu led the orphans out to browse on a hot day while Kitirua was the leader to the mudbath at noon, where the Juniors were joined by all the Ex Orphans. They all bathed together, but separated later.

Chaimu at the mudbath

Ex orphans and orphans wallowing

Kitirua leads followed by Kibo