Garzi, Vuria and Ziwa Discover Ithumba

Following shortly after the move of Orwa, Bomani and Teleki, another three of the Nairobi Nursery’s orphans were chosen to make the same journey down to Ithumba in northern Tsavo East

Following shortly after the move of Orwa, Bomani and Teleki, another three of the Nairobi Nursery’s orphans were chosen to make the same journey down to Ithumba in northern Tsavo East. Three more bulls including Garzi, Vuria and Ziwa had been practicing the moving routine daily on the Trust’s elephant-mover truck in the lead up to the big day, receiving their milk from the keepers on board the stationary transporter to allow them to get used to the compartments which will accommodate them during their long journey south. These three bulls were chosen as they are now ready and of the right age to join the other keeper-dependant orphans in Tsavo during the next stage of their rehabilitation back into the wild.

Watch the video of their move to Ithumba.

Ziwa was rescued as a two year old bull from Amboseli National Park, himself and his mother having been known by the researchers of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, who had named his mother Zombe. Sadly Ziwa’s mother Zombe died leading to Ziwa’s rescue in 2013. He was a big and robust calf, typical of Amboseli elephants, yet he tamed down incredibly fast, with an insatiable lust for his milk bottle. Ziwa means waterhole, and given that his old life ended at a waterhole and his new life began there it seemed fitting, also keeping the Z from his mother’s name. 

On the 31st of July 2013 Vuria was rescued within the Tsavo-Taita area on Lualenyi Ranch. He was monitored for several days in the hope he would re-join his herd yet he soon became detached from any wild elephants and had to be rescued. Just twelve months old on arrival at the Nairobi Nursery it was good to see Vuria was in a healthy condition, despite obviously being without his mum for some time. He was named after the beautiful Taita Hill's tallest peak, in the shadow of which he was found and rescued.

In July 2013 Garzi was rescued, not long after Vuria’s rescue having been sighted by members of the community near Kaluku, the DSWT field HQs, wandering alone along eastern shore of the Athi River. After several days of searching for Garzi, the community having lost sight of him, he was finally located and brought to the Nairobi Nursery. At eighteen months old he was named Garzi after the area in which he was found.

So after completing their nursery period in Nairobi, having prepared for several weeks for their journey, on the 2nd June 2014 everything and everyone was in place for the move to the Ithumba Rehabilitation Stockades. Early in the morning under clear dark skies the Keepers stirred at 3am, preparing the truck and the travellers for the long day ahead. At 3.45am all three elephants were safely and comfortably in their travelling compartments on the truck. All of the bulls trustingly following their keeper and their milk bottle into the truck before the gates were closed behind them and the truck lurched to life, leaving the Nairobi Nursery by 4am with calls and farewells.

As with so many translocations before the elephant-mover truck followed the same route, keeping to time through the sleepy Nairobi roads, soon cruising south down the Nairobi-Mombasa road for over 200kms to Tsavo East National Park. During the journey the customary greens stop was made at 6.45am along the side of the road to give the elephants some tasty fresh cut vegetation and milk, before the truck quickly got on the road again with the sun rising high in a vast blue cloudless sky where Mount Kilimanjaro loomed clearly in the distance to the east. 

Without any hitches the travellers arrived at their destination of Ithumba after a smooth 6 hour journey. The Ithumba keepers were eagerly awaiting their arrival, as were the dependant orphans who were being kept at a distance to give the new arrivals some space to get their bearings. Garzi was especially keen to get out of the truck, pushing the gates impatiently with his foot whilst eyeing his fresh milk bottle. Let out first he checked on his other travelling friends before dashing to his milk. Vuria then followed without hesitation whilst Ziwa contemplated his new surroundings cautiously, reluctant to leave the safety of his compartment. Yet with loving calls from the keepers all the orphans were soon following attentively, keeping close to their human family for reassurance.

The new arrivals were led to the water trough at the stockades, before Bomani, Teleki and Orwa, the three bulls to arrive just one week before, came rushing up to greet their Nursery friends, already greyed by the soils of Ithumba and no longer their rusty red Nairobi colour.  Three by three more orphans were released from their grazing on the hill overlooking the stockades to meet the new arrivals. All the orphans were very well behaved and quietly said their hellos, meandering around the stockade compound and surrounding the newbies.

Laragai and Kainuk were especially attentive to Ziwa, sensing he was uneasy, so they showed him the way, where to browse and where to get their milk, although on their first day in Ithumba they didn’t stray far from the stockades, the keepers keeping them close by so they don’t exhaust themselves. Although there wasn’t a huge elephant party, as there sometimes is on these translocation days, Suguta’s group was browsing nearby the stockades and slowly making their way to meet the new arrivals.

That evening there was much more of a gathering as Chaimu, Kiliguni and most of Suguta’s group once again showed up followed by Yatta and Mulika’s groups and six wild bulls totalling 37 elephants. One of the reasons Suguta’s group has been spending more time close to the stockades is that one of her members, Sabachi, has been unwell and has been spending nights in the stockades for extra care and receiving milk for extra strength.

The following morning after a peaceful first night’s sleep within the stockades the new arrivals from Nairobi were let out at day break to begin their first full day in Ithumba. Vuria, Garzi and Ziwa where then led by their friends and the Keepers out to browse for the day, slowly making their way to the mid-day mudbath where they received their milk and had a chance to get nice and muddy before covering themselves in soil and spending time with some of the independent orphans who were hanging around at the waterhole.

The Ithumba Keepers were happy to see all three of the orphans settle in well. This is an important phase for these still-dependant elephants as they learn from their elephant peers how to live in this environment during a stage in their lives which will one day, when they are ready, see them joining an independent herd with wild elephants.