Keepers' Diaries, November 2010

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

The very sudden and unexpected death of Salaita on the 11th November stunned us all, having had no fore-warning of things going wrong. Salaita was over two years old when orphaned, and was flown directly to Ithumba on the 25th September from Tsavo West National Park to provide company in the Stockades for Ithumbah, who had been rescued from the mud of the Ithumba Dam the previous day. He and Ithumbah were allowed out and about with the other Keeper Dependent orphans to forage for themselves in the bush on the 6th October. The first sign of Salaita being unwell was when he began trembling on his way back to the Night Stockades on the l0th November, after which he collapsed and was put on life support. Tragically, he passed away the next morning. The postmortem undertaken by the Trust’s Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit revealed the dreaded pneumonia to have been the cause of his death.

The very sudden and unexpected death of Salaita on the 11th November stunned us all, having had no fore-warning of things going wrong. Salaita was over two years old when orphaned, and was flown directly to Ithumba on the 25th September from Tsavo West National Park to provide company in the Stockades for Ithumbah, who had been rescued from the mud of the Ithumba Dam the previous day. He and Ithumbah were allowed out and about with the other Keeper Dependent orphans to forage for themselves in the bush on the 6th October. The first sign of Salaita being unwell was when he began trembling on his way back to the Night Stockades on the l0th November, after which he collapsed and was put on life support. Tragically, he passed away the next morning. The postmortem undertaken by the Trust’s Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit revealed the dreaded pneumonia to have been the cause of his death.

The Northern Area of Tsavo has been blessed with plentiful rain in November, unlike most other parts of Southern Tsavo and many parts of the country generally. Heavy thunderstorms fell at Ithumba throughout the month, turning the vegetation lush and filling the natural depressions with rainwater, so both food and water have been plentiful for our Northern Area Orphans throughout the month. The Keeper Dependent and Milk Dependent Juniors (Kilaguni, Chaimu, Sabachi, Ithumbah and Meibai under the Matriarchship of Makena) have enjoyed a lot of interaction with the Ex Orphans this month, Yatta and her entire group (accompanied by two wild elephant bulls) joining them for the morning and mudbath hour on the 1st, while a Splinter Group led by Lualeni came with Kora and Challa to the Stockade compound on the 7th and later met up with the Juniors out in the bush, separating only after having shared their noon mudbath. Yatta and her satellites, including the wild recruit “Mgeni” again spent time with the Youngsters on the 8th leaving them after the noon mudbath and on the 13th Sidai and Galana, both ex Junior Matriarchs led a Splinter Group comprised of Napasha, Madiba and Ndomot. All the Ex Orphans arrived with Yatta the next day first thing in the morning, but only spent a brief time with the Juniors before heading off towards the Kalovoto area. On the 21st it was the turn of Wendi to bring a Splinter Group to wait at the Stockade Compound first thing in the morning, running to greet the Juniors the moment they emerged. And on the 24th Yatta’s group met up with the Youngsters out in the bush after they had left the Stockades and again spent a few hours with them, leaving them at l0 a.m. Part of Yatta’s Group turned up at the Stockades on the 29th, this time accompanied by a large bull with only one tusk, and on the 30th Yatta past by the Stockades, scooped up Makena and Meibai and left with them. She failed to return them to the usual noon mudbath as expected, and the two Juniors were still absent that evening leaving Kilaguni and Sabachi in the care of Junior females Ithumbah and Chaimu and, of course, their anxious Keepers!. (However, Makena and Meibai returned a few days later).

Nasalot remains besotted by Kilaguni whenever the Senior Ex Orphans join the Youngsters. She immediately seeks Kilaguni out, giving him special loving. Chaimu and Ithumbah often lead the Juniors out in the mornings with Meibai and Makena bringing up the rear. All the Ithumba orphans, both Keeper Dependent and those living wild, have had a marvelous month, playing endlessly in the rain filled puddles, rolling in the mud and feasting on lush browse at every turn. Wild elephants have been conspicuous by their absence this month within the Stockade compound, since water is plentiful throughout the area. The only bleak spot in the month has been the death of Salaita, which shocked everyone, especially the Ithumba human Keepers and little Ithumbah, who was his special friend, having been there for him in the beginning when both were learning to trust their surrogate human family prior to being allowed out to forage in the bush along with the others.

November 2010 day to day

01 Nov

The orphans left their Night Stockades as usual, and led my Makena, headed out to browse at the Kanziku area where they were joined by the Ex Orphans at l0 a.m. Amongst the Ex Orphans were two wild elephants. Yatta chose to browse near Ithumbah while Nasalot chose Kilaguni, as usual. Yatta led the entire herd to the mudbath, where they had a wonderful time, since the day was very hot. Later, Yatta and her entourage separated from the Keeper Dependent babies, who browsed along the slopes of Ithumba Hill until it was time to return. On their way back, they enjoyed a second mud and dust bath.

Makena leading the group out

Yatta's group joins the orphans

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