Monday, June 16, 2008

May Elephant Orphan Update

From the David Sheldrick Foundation:

Nursery:- The 27th May, 2008 saw the arrival of 3 week old Kimana orphaned at the Kimana Springs at the foothills of Kilimanjaro, where the Masai landowners have leased out land to immigrant agriculturalists who are now planting crops. Consequently the Springs which have long been a traditional watering place for all wildlife, is now a hot-bed of human/wildlife conflict and baby “Kimana” is obviously a victim of this. He arrived in reasonable condition, so could not have been without his mother for long, and being so young has been spared the usual emotional trauma, too young to fully understand events. So far, he is doing well, sharing a stable with Shimba.

It has been Kenia who has given us cause for concern this month, who remains lethargic and obviously grief-stricken at the sudden loss of her mother and elephant family. She and Siria have formed a bond of friendship, empathizing with each other about a common predicament. We welcomed Sandy Griffiths to the Nairobi Nursery at the beginning of the month who specializes in the use of the Bach Flower Remedies and who spent l0 days here instructing our Keepers in the use of these subtle natural essences that are emotional aids. These have definitely helped Kenia enormously and we shall certainly be using them extensively in the future. Many kind folk have donated them to us for the elephants, and we thank all who have done so wholeheartedly. We are also very grateful to Sandy for traveling to Kenya at her own expense, and for so patiently and lovingly treating the Nursery elephants and teaching our Keepers.

Yet again, the lions have been a factor this month, hunting the warthogs that habitually hang around the compound where they feel safer, and also around the elephants, for the same reason. One skinny old lioness positioned herself for many hours at our entrance gate, hungrily eyeing some warthogs within the fenced compound who were oblivious to her presence. Whilst she ambushed the Gate no-one could pass on foot in or out, until she finally gave up the vigil, strolled nonchalantly past Maxwell’s Stockade within full view of everyone, and disappeared into the bush below the mudbath. Yet again most of the prey species have moved out of the un-fenced boundary of the Park onto the Kitengela dispersal plains where the grass has been burnt by Masai tribesmen following the rains.

Ithumba Elephants:- Our Ithumba elephants continue with the routine they have established for themselves to suit the special circumstances in which they find themselves in Northern Tsavo where the wild elephants view all humans as anathema! The older orphans regularly separate from the youngsters in order to travel further afield unencumbered by the presence of the human Keepers. Three known contacts are recorded in the May Diary – on the 11th with 2 large bulls were feeding in thick bush abutting the Imenti waterhole where the orphans gathered to bathe. On this occasion Kora plucked up enough courage to investigate, but soon came flying back. On the 23rd the youngsters encountered a large wild bull prompting a rapid retreat back to the Stockades, with the bull in pursuit, the Keepers taking a different route home. However, the wild bull heard a passing vehicle, and in turn retreated back under cover. And on the 29th Yatta and the older elephants heard a wild herd breaking branches as they fed some way off, and went in search of them, again leaving the youngsters. When Yatta’s group returned to the Night Stockades, a large wild bull turned up a short while later, rumbled a greeting, and helped himself to a drink from the Stockade trough.

The dry season is beginning to take hold again in Tsavo, the vegetation drying rapidly. June, July and August are the coolest months of the year, when 3 of our Nursery elephants will be moved to join the Ithumba Unit, namely famous Makena, Lenana and Chyulu bring the number of orphans in the Ithumba unit to 30.

Voi Orphans:- Emily and her group were absent for the first half of the month, but Natumi’s group paid a visit to the Voi Stockades on the 3rd May, when they entertained the Keepers with their old Stockade games. They appeared again, but only briefly on the 4th and 6th. On the 12th they were spotted feeding East of Mazinga Hill with a wild bull recruited into their unit and on the l7th they returned to the Stockades with another wild bull recruit, who was uneasy around the Keepers but settled down when he observed that the orphans were unconcerned.

Emily’s group was observed on the 14th at a waterhole with a wild herd approaching, whom Emily went to welcome and who then mingled comfortably with all the orphans, Natumi’s group having been with that of Emily on this occasion. On the l8th the two orphaned groups were again together and had the friendly wild boy still in tow and on the 21st Laikipia tried to block the approach of a wild herd probably because at the onset of the dry season water was becoming a scarce commodity. However, one wild bull insisted on joining the orphans and paid a great deal of attention to Loisaba.

All the Voi orphans continue to thrive, remaining as one large affiliated family, which separates into two on occasions, the break-away unit led by Natumi and a lot of comings and goings of the younger elephants between the two Matriarchal units. On many occasions the two groups are together forming one large herd which intermingles happily and comfortably with their wild peers. We are truly proud of this successful reintegration of 36 elephants originating from different populations who have grown up as one large orphaned FAMILY.

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