Keepers' Diaries, September 2013

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

But for one very light drizzle of rain during the month, hot and extremely dry conditions prevailed, so the Juniors have spent a great deal of time in the company of both the Ex Orphan herd now living wild and also the wild elephant friends that always accompany them. They, and hordes of wild elephants have been regular almost daily visitors at both the Stockade compound each morning, as well as at the Juniors’ mudbath venue to drink at the concrete trough provided for the Orphans. The Ex Orphans have enjoyed sharing the Juniors’ daily Lucerne handout, and this month, the Big Bull with one tusk known as “Pembe Moja” (an old friend), has also acquired a taste for it!

But for one very light drizzle of rain during the month, hot and extremely dry conditions prevailed, so the Juniors have spent a great deal of time in the company of both the Ex Orphan herd now living wild and also the wild elephant friends that always accompany them. They, and hordes of wild elephants have been regular almost daily visitors at both the Stockade compound each morning, as well as at the Juniors’ mudbath venue to drink at the concrete trough provided for the Orphans. The Ex Orphans have enjoyed sharing the Juniors’ daily Lucerne handout, and this month, the Big Bull with one tusk known as “Pembe Moja” (an old friend), has also acquired a taste for it!

Many huge wild Bulls having taken their cue from the Orphans and become trusting of the human Orphans’ Keepers as well as visiting foster-parent supporters at both the Stockade Compound and the mudbath venue, perfectly comfortable within just a few paces of human “friends” at both venues. These Bulls are known as “The Old Guard” and continue to introduce newcomer colleagues to both safe places and the friendly humans they find there, especially during the dry season when the only water available is either stagnant highly saline pools on the Tiva River, or less saline water exposed by the elephants themselves beneath the sands of the Tiva Sandriver bed.

One huge Bull newcomer with just one very large tusk, turned up at the mudbath on the l0th, sufficiently awesome to deserve special mention in the Diary. Other Old Guard Regulars are the dominant Bull known as “Rafiki” (first to expose himself in daylight to humans at the Stockade compound upon the arrival of the first Ex Nursery orphans many years ago), Mshale (the Big Tusker who has had poisoned arrows removed and his wounds treated by our Mobile Veterinary Unit on three separate occasions), the huge Bull who fathered the wildborn calves of both Yatta and Mulika, (known as “The Dad”, Half Trunk (who obviously lost the other half to a Poacher’s snare), “Pembe Moja” the one Tusker, and Yatta’s two wild teenaged recruits “Kijana” and “Mgeni” who now often peel off from Yatta’s Ex Orphan herd to accompany the Big Boys. This month there has been no shortage of Big Boy sightings as well as hordes of wild Elephants at both venues throughout the month, but there have been interesting developments involving the Ex Orphans and those that remain Keeper Dependent, and who are housed at night within the Stockades.

On the 5th Kandecha was selected by the Ex Orphan herd at the Stockade compound in the early morning to experience a day “out” living as a wild elephant with them, but was returned by them to the Stockade compound at 4 p.m., there to await the return of his Junior peers and their Keepers who always arrive back for the night round about 5 p.m. On the 6th it was the turn of Juniors Kitirua, Ishanga and Naisula who joined Kandecha for his second wild outing in the custody of the Senior Ex Orphans. The four were duly escorted back to the Stockade Compound by a Splinter Group of Ex Orphans, there by 4.30 p.m. to await the arrival of the Juniors. (The rest of the Ex Orphan herd had been at the Juniors’ noon mudbath that day (without the 4 Junior abductees). The very next day (7th) Kandecha was up to another Ex Orphan wild outing, this time taking with him Murka and , both escorted out by the entire Ex Orphan herd and some wild elephant visitors. On this occasion he was obviously trusted to return Murka without the usual Ex Orphan escort, turning up with her at the Stockade Compound by 4.30 p.m. to await the Juniors’ evening return. (That particular day three wild elephants with arrows embedded in their bodies turned up to drink at the Orphan Stockades at 11 a.m. but have not been located since)

On the 8th the Ex Orphans took Kandecha again and this time with Kilaguni and Kitirua for a wild outing. The three Juniors were escorted back that evening.

There was a very pleasant surprise for the Keepers on the 14th when little Ithumbah (who has long made the transition from Keeper Dependency to a wild life) turned up amongst a large group of Big Wild Bulls to drink at the Stockade compound, a miniature in amongst so many Big Boys. Amongst the Big Boys were Rafiki, Mshale and 34 others. Although all the Ex Orphans joined them at the compound soon afterwards, Ithumbah chose to leave rather with the Bulls than with the Ex Orphan group – something that is surprising. She returned to the Stockades with more wild elephants that evening but it must be remembered that Ithumbah is an orphan from the Ithumba, extracted from the mud of the drying black cotton dam. She remained Keeper Dependent to complete her milk dependency but made the transition to a wild life sooner than usual, obviously since she was very familiar with her surroundings and probably also many of the wild residents, including the Big Boys. Soon after leaving the Junior orphans, for a while she was in the habit of turning up at their noon milk and mudbath venue where she was given a ration of milk, but had no inclination to return to permanent Keeper Dependency again).

The regular Junior/Senior Ex Orphan go-between, faithful Lualeni, has again been active in that role this month. She joined the Juniors at their mudbath on the 9th, and was with them for the rest of the day, escorting them to the Kalovoto dry water course to browse during the afternoon and bringing them back to their Night Stockades in the late evening. She was back at the compound with the Ex Orphans the next morning, and decided again to remain with the Juniors all day. With best friend Kora she passed by to drink at the Stockades on the 12th, and was with him again on the 14th after which the two left in the direction taken by the Juniors.

The entire Ex Orphan herd met up with the Juniors out in the bush on the 16th and spent the entire day with them escorting them back to their Night Stockades in the evening. And the next day Lualeni was with another wild elephant when she came to join the Juniors at their noon mudbath after which she persuaded Ololoo to accompany her for a wild outing, returning him back to the Stockades at 6.30 p.m.

On the l9th the “Dad” of Mwende and Yetu, along with Rafiki and 9 other Bulls were at the Stockade compound with the Ex Orphans when they selected Ishanga for a wild outing, returning her after dark at 8 p.m. when the Keepers opened up the Gate to her Stockade to allow her back in! Lualeni was back to join the Juniors out in the bush on the 21st for the afternoon browsing session, escorting them back in the evening as usual. On the 26th Kandecha was treated to another wild outing by the Ex Orphans who returned him to the Night Stockades that evening

On occasions there have been so many wild elephants drinking at the mudbath trough that our orphans have had difficulty getting a look in. After Kilabasi got roundly trounced by a Bull for rudely pushing through a crowd, Turkwel learnt that she must await her turn when she was desperate for a drink! When there is not such a thirsty crowd of Big Boys around the drinking mudbath drinking trough, the wild Elephants are usually tolerant towards the Juniors sharing water, Kandencha, Kanjoro and Chaimu being particularly bold in this respect.

The September Diary ended on the 30th as it being a very hot day with both the Stockade Compound and the Juniors mudbath “flooded” with wild elephants!

September 2013 day to day

01 Sep

Having enjoyed their morning Lucerne and taken a drink of water from the trough, Sities led the Juniors out into the field. At the noon mudbath venue they were joined by Rafiki and l0 other wild elephants. Kandecha and Kilaguni enjoyed sharing water in amongst all the Big Bulls before joining the others in the wallow. After the mudbath, Lualeni came to join the Juniors, and spent the remainder of the day with them, escorting them back to their Stockades in the evening.

Sities leading

Kilaguni and Kandecha with wild bulls

Lualeni with the juniors

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