A dramatic and disastrous event involving the Ithumba ten took place during the early hours of the morning of the 21st, when a rabid dog forced its way through the electric wires of the Night Stockade, and before being despatched by the Keepers, bit Wendi, Olmalo, Taita, and Selengai on a foot and jumped up onto Mulika’s ear, nicking it in one place. Whilst the vaccine was being sourced, and information sought about how we should now procede, the Mobile Veterinary Unit and our Vet, David Ndeereh, made haste to Mombasa to procure enough vaccine to inoculate the five elephants that had been bitten, and the Senior Warden took the decision to isolate them from those who had escaped harm, fearing contamination through saliva. The information we needed was sourced from our friends in the Indian Wildlife Trust, where rabies is very prevalent, and who had experience with captive elephants having been exposed. We understood full well how much extra distress would be inflicted by separating the group, and this concerned us deeply, so having been able to establish that the risk by exposure through saliva was minimal, we immediately gave instructions that the two groups must be re-united. Meanwhile, the five who had escaped being bitten were given an immunisation vaccine, and those that had, are set to receive the same regimen as an exposed human which involves a 28 day course of weekly injections, plus two boosters given a month apart.
As usual, Napasha features prominently and almost daily in the Ithumba Diary, being a forceful character who loves his food. All little bulls are competitive, so he, Tomboi and Taita enjoy the usual male tussling, when one of the older females usually has to intervene to keep the peace, more often Mulika, Nasalot or Yatta. Selengai is extremely attached to Mulika, and it is intriguing that she decided to remain close to Yatta on one day. Encounters with wild species involve warthogs, the usual baboon interludes, a tortoise and being scared by the alarm call of dikdik at night, which is not surprising following the terrifying dog incident that will always remain a very unpleasant event in the long memory of the Ithumba orphans.
A lone wild elephant spotted some distance away was an exciting event. Thinking this could be Imenti, the orphans and their Keepers cautiously approached, but the elephant fled, so it was obviously not Imenti. Other than this one encounter, only the spoor of wild elephants are recorded in the Diary. Daphne Sheldrick and Robert Carr-Hartley were at a noon mudbath with the DSWT US Trustees on the 18th, when Wendi entertained us with a spirited display of “showing off”, as she used to do during open Visiting Hours in the Nairobi Nursery. All the orphans were delighted to have an audience on this day and happy to mingle in amongst the visitors.
Apart from the dog incident, the orphans’ days at Ithumba remain somewhat uneventful, but all the orphans look very well, quite obviously thriving on the rich browse which is much more plentiful in the North. Added protection to the Stockades has been added, so that now even a rat would have difficulty entering! Nevertheless, the dog incident is most unfortunate, and although our Indian friends have re-assured us, we will have an anxious wait before we can be sure that our orphans have come through this ordeal without serious consequences.