On the 27th November, the Abu Team celebrated the much-anticipated arrival of a female calf born to Kitimetse. She was named Naledi, which means “star” in Setswana as she was born on a beautiful starry night. Naledi was doing well until a tragic event occurred. It is with heavy hearts that we are informing you that on the 11th of January 2014, our beloved Kitimetse sadly died.
Dr. Mike Chase, who oversees the Abu Elephant Programme, explains: “Kiti, as she was affectionately known, whilst grazing with the Abu herd, suddenly started showing signs of discomfort, and a pronounced swelling was noticeable under her tail. A helicopter was immediately chartered and our veterinarian was flown into camp.
“Kiti was a caring and affectionate elephant. She was adopted by the Abu Family in 2000, after being mauled by crocodiles and hyaenas. Famous for her blowing kisses and gentle demeanour, she was the first elephant our handlers trained with. She was special. We are all grateful for her patience and allowing our research team and guests to spend many hours watching her in the field. She provided our researchers and guests with important data and appreciation of the animal kingdom as a whole.
Kiti, we will miss you. Your legacy lives on at Abu Camp in Lorato and Naledi.
Such a young calf being suddenly orphaned meant that immediate action had to be taken. Initially, it was thought that Naledi could be nursed by either Shirini or Cathy, who were both lactating. However, neither of them was able to provide enough milk for Naledi; despite their robust appearance, young elephants are extremely fragile and their health can waver from day to day. The decision was made to move Naledi to a safe and comfortable space away from the herd where her elephant handlers could provide love, care and attention around the clock. Since then, the elephant handlers have never left her side and they have successfully managed to start bottle feeding her.
This sudden change has affected the dynamics of the herd, but they are adapting and coping very well. It does mean however that there is now a maximum of four riders and six walkers. We ensure that all guests experience walking and riding during their stay and special visits can be arranged with prior permission from the Elephant Manager to see Naledi between 08.00 and 09.00 in the morning and between 18.00 and 19.00 in the evening.
On a lighter note, the fishing season is over so the fish can rest easy for a while! The lagoon in front of the camp is still filled with hippo, while the odd crocodile can be seen in the distance. Having experienced a significant amount of rain in January, opportunities to mokoro have improved and guests have been enjoying the tranquillity and serenity of the channels. The water levels are still fairly low – at about one metre – but our polers, Tops and Mothusi, are always a hit with our guests. They are meticulous at pointing out wildlife, birdlife and plant life as they pole through the Delta. Guests have enjoyed learning from them about reed and long reed frogs, African jacanas, squacco herons and reed cormorants. Other sightings include day and night lilies, shining water buttercups, double-banded dragonflies and water skaters.
January brings great bird viewing and the pratincoles are nesting next to Maribu Pan. The foliage is plentiful and beautiful flowers have appeared. Listening to the sound of birds and insects is soothing as ever and the sunrises at breakfast have been stunning. January has also brought with it a certain degree of humidity, rain showers and spectacular thunder and lightning displays.
Tall grass has made it more of a challenge to see our predators but everyone at Abu was thrilled to see the return of wild dogs to the area. A pack of 17 has been seen in and around camp. Lion and leopard have also been featuring, with regular sighting of a coalition of five male lions. Then there was the amazing spectacle of a male leopard killing a kudu right next to the airstrip. A female leopard has also featured with her two sub-adult cubs much to the delight of everyone. Other sightings have included large herds of buffalo, plentiful wild elephants, tsessebe, giraffe and zebra.
Until next month, all the best from the Abu herd.
Managers in Camp: Liz, Nathan and Claire
Guides: Thaps, BT and KG