:- September has been one of the driest months on record over the entire Tsavo region, the Park having received just one rainstorm during the April/May rains, until a very light shower towards the end of the month created a few puddles to tempt our Ex Orphans further afield for a few days, rather than being a permanent presence at the Stockade compound every morning to partake of the Lucerne supplementary hand-out provided for the Younger Keeper Dependent orphans based at night at the Ithumba Stockades. Our Ex Orphans were not seen only on the 12th, 15th, 16th, 20th, 23rd, 24th, 27th, 29th and 30th. On every other day of the month they came to the Stockades each morning for both water and Lucerne, and we were relieved that they did and to be able to check on them, because the poaching of elephants throughout the country has now reached unprecedented levels. At least the drought conditions have kept our Ex Ithumba Orphans closer to home.
Northern Tsavo East borders the Wakamba tribe who are notorious for poisoned arrow poachers, over the years having taken a very heavy toll of Tsavo’s elephants, so much so that all the elephants abandoned the 3,000 sq. mile Tsavo area North of the Galana river for close on three decades during the late 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s when Tsavo’s elephant population fell to just 6,000. Currently it stands at about l0,000, but is under pressure again due to the appetite for Ivory amongst the populous Nations of the Far East, particularly China and Thailand. It was the presence of our Orphans in the North that tempted wild elephants to return to this part of the Park again, wild bulls (who are the scouts of Elephant society) having visited the Orphans’ Stockades many months under cover of darkness to communicate with them. Today wild elephants have again re-populated the Northern Area of the Park, relieving the pressure on the South.
Our Keeper Dependent orphans, (currently numbering 15) have enjoyed a great deal of wild contact during the month. Aside from being able to meet and mingle with the older Ex Orphans each morning at the Stockade Lucerne pile who are usually accompanied by wild friends (no less than 15 on the 4th and in numbers flooding the compound on the 7th!) they have also shared the mudbath with both Ex Orphans and wild elephants during the month. Wild elephants come daily and in numbers to drink at the mudbath trough as well as at the Stockades, so hardly a day has passed this month that the Juniors have not had wild elephant company over and above that of our Ex Orphaned herd. On the 11th “Chaimu” who is within the Keeper Dependent group, was fascinated by Yatta’s wild-born calf, “Yetu” at the mudbath, following the tiny calf around as it meandered confidently amongst a sea of huge legs, “kissing” it on the mouth with her trunk. An interesting incident took place on the 14th when a less than friendly wild herd turned up at the mudbath and one of their number, having spotted the Keepers, charged. Noticing this, all the Juniors instantly vacated the mudbath, and hurriedly moved away along with the Keepers!
Wild elephants have learnt that it is the Trust’s Water Bowser that provides the Stockade trough with water, and sometimes has to make several sorties a day to supplement the regular borehole supply. On the 29th 16 wild elephants were patiently awaiting the arrival of the Bowser since the trough is usually drained of water by wild visitors overnight. On one occasion a Splinter group comprised of Sunyei, Mulika and her baby Mwende, Sidai, Lenana and Chyulu came separately to the mudbath whereas on other occasions the Ex Orphan herd was intact..
The Keepers were happy to see the huge bull named “Mshale” again on the 2nd, when he turned up with 2 wild “askaris” and also when he again came alone on the 13th . (Had our Mobile Veterinary Unit not been able to extract a poisoned arrow from this magnificent Bull, he would certainly have died from the affects of the poison – hence his name, which is the Swahili word for “arrow”).
Three wild dogs, hoping for a drink, came to the Stockades on the l8th as the Juniors were taking their Lucerne. Naisula decided to expel them, but the dogs merely dodged around her. She was then backed up by Suguta, Sabachi and Kilaguni, and together they succeeded in forcing the dogs further away until the dogs “barked”, This triggered an undignified retreat, with Suguta proving the fastest runner. The panic un-nerved all the other orphans at the Lucerne pile, who also fled back to their Keepers for protection!
Temperatures in Tsavo climb towards the end of August, until the October/November rains break. Being relative newcomers to the region, Ishanga, Makireti and Kasigau have felt the heat and taken to the shade during very hot days, fully participating in the noon mudbaths to cool their bodies down. Ishanga who was a force to be reckoned with in the Nursery, bravely barged in amongst a group of visiting adult females who were drinking at the mudbath trough! As a Junior this breaches elephant protocol, so obviously Ishanga has some elephant manners to be learnt! However, it is very heartening to see how well she, and her Ex Nursery peers, Makireti and Kasigau have settled into the Keeper Dependent herd and become familiar with all the Ex Orphans, so much so that the three newcomers have even led the Junior group to the noon milk and mudbath venue on occasions, when usually it is one of the more established girls – either Murka, Chaimu, Tumaren, Kalama, Suguta, Melia or Naisula with Kandecha sometimes taking it upon himself to be the mudbath leader rather than wait for one of the girls.
All eagerly await on the onset of the next rains, to relieve what has been a very challenging month for both the Orphans, and the Trust’s resources.