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Bush Telegraph Newsletter

April / May 2014 Part 2 of 2


Governors Camp, Masai Mara, Game Report
March/April 2014

Weather and grasslands

Over the last month we have had generally overcast days with some amazing coloured sunrises of red and purple bringing stunning starts to the day. There was heavy rain and winds in the last days of the month bringing the temperatures down with a total rainfall of 153.9mm. Early morning temperatures were 20C and midday temperatures were as high as 28C. The grasslands of Musiara, Bila Shaka and Topi Plains are looking very fresh and green, the rain we earlier in the month brought on the initial green flush, this in turn brought in large numbers of zebra that had moved down from the Masai Conservation areas where they have to compete with livestock for grass. Large columns of them could be seen moving down from the North East and into the Musiara environs. Heavy hail storms with strong winds also wrecked havoc with trees being blown and leaves and fruit being stripped off the trees. Diospyros abyssinica and Warburgia Ugandensis all suffered from these high winds. The fruit of the Warburgia have been disappointing this year with very little fruit. Water levels in the Mara River have dropped considerably and only rose a little with rainfall patterns.

Photo courtesy of Holger Franke 

General game

News: White storks were seen in large numbers within the marsh

Elephant continue to be seen within the Marsh and riverine woodlands. Cows with calves can be seen early mornings and evenings. Blossom the male Elephant was in musth early on in the month.

Photo courtesy of Holger Franke

Later on in the month we received a reasonable amount of rain and this in turn raised the water level in the Marsh. Hippos here were very happy as water levels had turned from silt and mud to flowing water.

Masai Giraffe are often seen within the woodlands of the camps grounds, there are many young calves some newborn. Large solitary males still roam great distances in search of oestrus females; there is one dark chocolate coloured male that is often seen within the Marsh environs and also as far as the Masai conservation areas. Warthogs are abundant and at are the staple diet of the resident lion prides. The breeding Buffalo herd are still within reaches of the Bila Shaka and Marsh areas. The herd of Bull Buffalo are resident within the Marsh grasslands. Dwarf mongooses and Banded Mongooses are prevalent in the camp grounds and also between termite mounds in the grasslands, they are also prone to martial eagle attack so they have to run fast between resting places and sentries are stationed to raise the alarm.

Photo courtesy of Holger Franke

On the 11th of this month large numbers of common zebra were seen passing through the Musiara, and Bila Shaka areas. Many of these zebra crossed the river opposite the Kichwa Tempo airstrip and into the trans Mara Conservancy.

Photo courtesy of Holger Franke

Martial eagles are playing havoc with lion cubs, Jicho lost one female cub to a Martial eagle on approximately the 18th of this Month.

Olive Baboons and impala are habituated to the Marsh and Woodland areas. Lately the Baboons have been eating lots of young grass shoots and sedges although insects also form part of their diet, within these maternal troops there are many young infants some of them have just recently been born and are of much attraction to other closely related females. There are two large breeding herds of impala between the camps with many ewes who look heavily pregnant.

Topi in good numbers on Topi plains and Rhino ridge. Wildebeest calves have been seen near Topi Plains and in the Masai conservation areas, many of these calves are only weeks old. In the first week of March calves were seen being born. Hippos are still being seen grazing in the early hours of morning indicating that grasses are short, Hippo crop grass with their lips so prefer grasses with reasonable leaf structure.


Jicho initially had three cubs, the smaller female was taken by a martial eagle within the Marsh area, on the 28th she remained with two and these are a little over two months old. Jicho was seen on the 30th sunning herself with one cub after a heavy downpour the evening before, by the 31st only one cub now is being seen.

Marsh pride of 30 lion all together, with their 9 sub adult cubs of varying age groups of 18 months and 21 months of age, Bibi, Siena, Musiara, Charm and the four musketeers. Siena and her three cubs that are three months old now are being seen mainly in the Bila Shaka region and they are becoming very mobile now. Jicho and her two cubs are being seen in the wooded areas close to the BBC campsite, on the 26th they had killed a warthog near Governors camp. On the 14th Musiara one of the breakaways that stays with the core lionesses was treated by the KWS vet for what we thought was a hernia in fact it turned out to be a streptococcal infection caused by perhaps an antelope horn that had already started to drain itself. She was also stitched some months ago from a spear wound and the stitch scarring was hardly noticeable. Later that afternoon the vet team treated another lioness who was part of the first breakaways on the Silanga river bed, this lioness had been scratched up and also had lost the use of her right eye which looked like it had been swiped by the force of a paw from a lion that of another pride and we think the Marsh pride. Sila, Kini and particularly Lippy who are with the three cubs that are six months old, they will frequent the Marsh, Culvert and woodland areas close to the marsh. They have been feeding off waterbuck, warthog and reedbuck. On the 18th they killed a young Hippo near the main camp and were chased off by many Hyena. On the 25th they had killed and were eating a warthog near to the Marsh culvert. Scar is progressing daily although the left shoulder looks like excess tissue build up; he is extremely active and plays a strong roll in his pride. Latterly he is being seen down in the paradise region and near to the mortuary crossing points. He has helped pull down two hippo and one buffalo bull. Earlier on in the month Scar tried to chase a Spotted Hyena, the hyena got the better of him and was much quicker off the mark. Hyena and Lion are constant competitors; a lions attitude is not too work with its competition but to eliminate its threatening competition.

Photo courtesy of Holger Franke

On the 28th at 4.00pm there was much excitement in Governors Camp as Lippy had hidden her three 6 months old cubs into the thicket behind tent 37 as she went out hunting. These cubs are very mobile and their mother Lippy moved them out under the cover of darkness at 2.00am.

The dark mane of the Paradise male lions was seen on Rhino Ridge on the 16th mating with one of the madomo pride females. He made a hasty retreat after a few days when he started roaring in the territory of four other prime males, this was a big mistake on his behalf although this is typical agnostic behaviour of lion. The paradise females who are three lionesses and their four cubs, two of which are 13 months old and the two are 18 months old. They are being seen in the Paradise region and also as far the western fan of Rhino ridge.


'Latterly we have had good sightings of Leopard both in the Musiara area and Paradise Plains'

Romi and her 17 month old male cub are still being seen near the BBC camp site and towards the Little Governors crossing. She was last seen in the late afternoon of the 30th near Governors Camp. The male has ventured out on his own although they can still be seen sharing the same home range.

The large male close to the mortuary crossing point has been seen a few times this month and was seen on the 14th mating near the Serena pump house. The young male that often frequents the Serena pump house area has also been seen near Malima tatu and towards the mortuary crossing point. He was seen again on the 29th relaxing high up a Warburgia tree. on the 30th two leopards were seen 100 meters apart, the female Leopard had a young Impala kill up the Boscia tree, at the foot of the tree were six Black Back Jackals!! One of the Jackals was yapping consistently perhaps hoping vocally to get the Leopard to drop what she had.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

The female leopard with two 10 month old cubs have been seen seldom this month, this time they were seen quite a ways upstream. River water has risen latterly with that game drives don't venture generally this way.


The two brothers have been seen near Topi plains and Bila Shaka again. On the 19th a single female was seen near Rhino ridge when two Thomson Gazelles males managed dangerously to lock horns and were subsequently a few minutes later eaten by three hyena, In these incidences cheetah have to look in awe but they are powerless to do anything. The female cheetah 'Amani' with one cub who is six months old was seen earlier in the month in the in the Masai conservation area she was seen latterly again near the double crossing.

Photo courtesy of Holger Franke

Walking in the Mara North Conservancy.

A few walks this month with the weather being very favorable. Many elephant in the Acacia Gerrardii woodlands with Musth bulls passing through. Good numbers of buffalo are also being seen, there are three bulls of which one of them has a dislocated hip probably from a fracas with another male. Good numbers of wildebeest with their calves, the fly over plains and the eastern plains are good places to see them. Many of the common zebra had moved out to the western Mara reserve with rainfall patterns being more consistent. On the Olare Orok River there is a salt lick which draws in Giraffe and Zebra.

Spotted Hyena are very active particularly on the northern plains, on the 18th hyena and lion were squabbling over the remains of a wildebeest more than likely killed by the hyena in the early hours of the morning. In the Mara/Serengeti 85% of what is eaten by Spotted Hyena is perhaps killed by them. There is a precarious balance between Lion and Hyena in all given conservation areas.

Photo courtesy of Holger Franke

Eland in small herds are scattered across the plains, two large in breeding bulls in status indicating strong dimorphism are often seen on the northern plains. Impala and waterbuck are seen throughout the acacia woodlands. There is a resident herd of 34 giraffe and calves who move between the two acacia woodlands, giraffe being true catholic browsers will move from tree to tree. Giraffes can eat up to 60 pounds of leaves and seed pods in a day and despite this fact their food intake is less than other grazing animals because the shrubbery they eat is rich in nutrition. Their digesting system is very efficient. Like many browsing ruminants a fact concerning their eating habits is that they don't need to drink water very often and can live for up to a week without water.

The Acacia lion pride are often being seen in the Euclea Divinorum thicket near the salt lick, Euclea Divinorum is an evergreen tree or shrub and grows well on black alluvial soils it has white flowers which are visited by beetles and wasps, the fruit is black when ripe and is very much edible.

Lioness Siena receives a nasty injury from Buffalo

10 April, 2014

Lioness Siena from the Marsh Pride of lions in Masai Mara was badly injured on her left lower flank on Friday by a buffalo horn. Siena has 3 cubs that are 2 and a half months old so the lives of 4 individual lions were at stake. The wound was deep with the skin sheath being fleeced but no perforations to the stomach wall or any bone dislocation.

Governors Camp driver guides found her with the injury at 09.30am and immediately alerted the Rangers, we also made contact with the David Sheldrick Wildlife foundation that mobilized the vet in Nairobi and arranged a plane to fly the vet to the Mara.

The veterinarian Dr Njoroge from the Kenya Wildlife service's landed at Musiara airstrip at 2.41 pm and Governors guides drove the medical team directly to where Siena was resting. Treatment started at 3.50pm when she was darted. Moments later a sub-adult Lioness promptly sauntered up to Siena who was still standing while the drug was taking effect and pulled the dart out of her with her teeth.
The Narok County council officers were present and members of staff from Governors Camp who organized transport.

The lioness was treated and stitched effectively which took approximately 1.5 hours. 48 hours later we found Siena 2 kms on from where she had been treated and she was doing remarkably well, she was walking with her cubs and also squatting to pee, all good signs, we only hope that she continues to improve.


Without intervention it is certain that Siena would not have survived this injury and her cubs would also have been in jeopardy.

Sincere thanks to the effective response from the The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, The medical team from the Kenya Wildlife services, and the assistance of the Narok County Council and Governors' camp staff.

Patrick Reynolds, Governors Il Moran Camp Manager

Lioness Siena on road to recovery 

10 April, 2014

Good news! Marsh Pride Lioness Siena seems to be much better today. Her wound is healing and she does not seem to be in any major discomfort.

She is nursing her cubs which are a good sign and feeding well. The Marsh pride had killed a cow buffalo yesterday.

We will continue to monitor her on a daily basis.

Photos and update - Patrick Reynolds Governors Il Moran Camp Manager.

Governors Guide to April in the Masai Mara

10 April, 2014

Flowers, Ellies and all those Birds, Governors Guide to April in the Masai Mara

Many people think of April as rainy season and whilst this is true the rain mostly falls in the evening and overnight leaving mornings and afternoons clear to explore the Masai Mara. Typically thunderstorms build in the late afternoons, bringing dramatic skies and wonderful photo opportunities and cosy nights are spent in camp tucked up in tents with the hypnotic pitter-patter of rain on a canvas roof.

Photo courtesy of Katie McLellan

The combination of sunshine and rain brings on a burst of growth, grasses on the plains grow long and lush, the Marsh reeds begin to flower and there is a profusion of wild flowers amidst the savannah grass. Cycnium Tubolosum or the "Tissue Paper Flower" covers the grass verges and the forest edges nearby Abutilon Mauritanium, a yellow Hibiscus type flower blooms, in the gullies the beautiful blue Ipomoea Cairica bursts into flower we are treated to the magnificent sight of the flowers of the yellow and red Flame Lily (the aptly named Glorosia Superba). Out on the grasslands and hidden between the grasses the beautiful red Klennia Abysinnica flowers.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

With the arrival of the rains, the resident Marsh Pride male lions spring into action patrolling the boundaries of their territory continuously scent-marking the area as each rainstorm washes the previous scent marks off. Long grass makes their prey more difficult to find and they roam further in search of food. The lionesses and cubs tend to spend most of their time near the Marsh and airstrip feeding mostly off warthog, a staple food source at this time of year. As the males spend more and more time away patrolling the boundaries of their pride lands we often see new males appear at this time of year hovering on the edges in anticipation of a moment of weakness to exploit and challenge the resident males.

Photo courtesy of Will Fortescue

We see large numbers of elephant throughout the Marsh and Bila Shaka plains. In the forests around camp the Warburgia trees stop fruiting bringing less elephant visitors to camp and the new growth on the grasslands draws the families of elephant out from the forests. Large herds of elephant with up to 30 members of related family units with very young calves feed on the tender young shoots on the plains whilst males in musth wander from one family herd to another mating with females in oestrus. The abundance of soft grass keeps the elephant herds well fed and provides them with a needed change of diet and a wealth of necessary minerals. This in turn gives the precious trees of the riverine forests and the acacia woodlands a much-needed respite.

Photo courtesy of Will Fortescue

On the ground between the elephants legs cattle egrets busily feast off the rich pickings of insects disturbed by the elephant's mighty round feet as they trudge along the marsh edges and grassy plains.

Topis congregate on the short grass plains, there are heavily pregnant impala and new fawns and eland and waterbuck are resident in the marsh grasslands and plains. Thomson Gazelles also give birth at this time of year and we see lots of female warthogs with 2 or 3 piglets, warthogs also begin to mate at this time of year. As the ground gets wetter so the resident buffalo herd move to higher groumd with better drainage and coarser grasses which they love.

Rain fills up the Musiara Marsh and causes the Mara River to rise. Hippos bask on the edges of the Marsh drawn out from the river with the abundance of water in the Marsh and many hippos are born.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds


With the rains come a profusion of insect life, frogs and catfish and birding in April is often extraordinarily good. The Musiara Marsh is an important area for many bird species and in April they come out in force. Tens of thousands of European Barn Swallows on their migration to Europe roost in the swamp every evening, and at dusk we witness huge clouds of them diving and swooping over the grasslands hunting grass-hoppers, crickets and small insects. Fish eagles perch in the trees surrounding the Marsh and dive into the waters to catch their prey. Lesser Kestrels fly in large flocks over the plains hunting grasshoppers and mice. European White Storks and Cattle Egrets comb the fringes of the Marsh feeding on grasshoppers and frogs, Ground Hornbills are out on the plains feasting on frogs and grass snakes. Yellow-billed Storks, Saddle Billed Storks Grey Herons and Sacred Ibis' feast in the swamp.

The first rains bring on a growth of grass which then matures and produces seed, drawing in the seedeaters to feed and breed. The abundance of nutritious food heralds the mating season as the chances of conception are increased, and we have been privileged to witness Red Collared Widow-birds, Fan Tailed Widow-birds, Pin Tailed Whydah's and Yellow Bishop all transformed from their dull plumage into their magnificent breeding plumage.

With the growth of the long grass the Village Weaver birds come out to harvest grass to build their new nests. If the hen doesn't like the new nest she dismantles it and makes the male rebuild it until she is happy with it and agrees to be his mate. The Widow birds do the same and the females also inspect the male's long breeding plumage tails to identify a good mate.

We often see a solitary European Roller, a migrant from Europe and Asia; they visit this area between October and April before beginning their long migration north. This small bird has a magnificent bright blue head, throat, belly and wings.

The ants and termites begin to reproduce. The king and queen mate, then the queen lays the eggs, some of which are reproductive's, some soldiers, and some are workers for the colony. The reproductives have wings and when they are ready they fly out of the nest, find a partner and then dig down into the ground to start their own colony. During the rainy season the ground is softer and for this reason the ants fly out during a rainstorm and then dig down into the soft earth. This whole reproductive cycle provides a feast for the birds, and we see lots of Sooty Chats parked on termite mounds waiting for these ants and termite reproductive's to emerge.

The butterflies come out and we have had lovely recent sightings of the Narrow green-banded swallow tales and Citrus swallowtails, whilst back in camp fireflies light up the night.

News from Mfangano Island Camp

8 April, 2014

Mfangano Island is looking fresh and vibrant. The rains have brought with them spectacular electrical storms, during which you can feel the thunder as it reverberates through your body, echoing back from the huge volcanic rocks on the steep hill behind the Camp. This is truly one of the best places on earth to enjoy a storm. The build-up of dark clouds over the lake in the early evening has helped to provide magnificent sunsets over the lake on a daily basis, perfect for a cocktail sundowner.
The days have been mostly hot with abundant sunshine. The local farmers are now waiting for their crops to mature and tending to the weeding of their fields. Maize and Cassava/Arrow-Root are the predominant crops followed by Millet, Kidney Beans and Kael. Fields which last year yielded the same crops and have been given a break, have now had an astoundingly quick and dense rejuvenation of Indigenous shrubs and trees such as the Morning Glory with its gorgeous and abundant white, pink and purple flowers, the stout Candle-Bush and the prolific Senna Spectablilis with its many golden-yellow turrets of flower.

In camp, the gardens are bulging with new growth and the birds are creating their usual orchestral cacophony. A new bird with new songs which has only recently been seen and heard for the first time in Camp is the African Thrush. It does not usually overlap territory with the Olive Thrush, so we hope it will make exception here and make a home to keep.

A Pair of Giant Kingfishers' are spending all of their afternoons fishing from the branches of a few dead trees which stand in the shallows beyond room 6 and the new family suite. They are still shy but are significantly less so than they used to be.

One of the elusive Feline Genet Cats' resident in Camp was recently spotted at 9pm feeding on an Egret in the branches of a large shrub behind the dining room. I suspect it was the same sickly Egret which I had seen in the afternoon taking cover in the flower beds.

An Otter has been seen almost every night by the Askaris eating on a small boulder in front of room 4. Fresh and red crab shells are found on top of the boulder every morning. Not a bad spot for a star-lit dinner!

Nile-Perch Fishermen have largely been fishing to the South of the Island for Nile Perch. Talapia are still being fished along the shorelines and around camp. The Omena or Sardine catch is well and healthy.

The new buildings are progressing well. The grass Thatch on one room is almost finished and we will shortly be fitting the bathroom amenities before screeding, and painting. The new Family Suite is about to have its roof built using Palm Fronds or Makuti thatch. This room should be ready by June, and will be the most luxurious of all the existing rooms. What a treat it will be to stay there once its ready!

We look forward to seeing you all soon. Karibu Sana.

Photos and text courtesy of James Duder, Mfangano Island Camp Relief Manager


It was a pleasure to welcome the US Ambassador Robert Godec to NRT this month, to inaugurate the new Nasuulu Community Conservancy HQ. It was also a pleasure to note the downturn, at last, in the proportion of illegally killed elephants in 2013 (PIKE), after a steady increase in each of the past four years, and to note the increase in the population of hirola antelope in Ishaqbini Community Conservancy. Read all about these below.

We have also stepped up our engagements with a range of partners: with County Governments - who are keen to support the conservancies the best they can; with the oil companies in Turkana and Pokot areas - whose communities are keen to develop conservancies; with hotel and tour operators working in the National Reserves in the north to ensure they see the part community conservancies play in conservation and livelihood development; and with the Mara conservancies - with whom we are keen to share lessons and experience. A number of conflicts have flared up in various conservancies as the dry season progressed, and competition for grazing intensified, but the conservancy institutions and NRT conflict resolution teams have managed to settle these. With welcome rains coming to the north, cattle are dispersing back to their homes.

Please enjoy catching up with NRT news, and join our social media pages to keep in touch.

Mike Harrison
Northern Rangelands Trust

US Ambassador Opens Nasuulu Conservancy HQ 



Robert Godec paid a visit to NRT at the end of February - USAID is a major supporter of NRT

NRT were delighted to welcome the US Ambassador, Robert Godec, to inaugurate the new Nasuulu HQ. With the generous support of USAID Kenya, this will provide an office, radio room and accommodation for Nasuulu rangers and manager and create, for the first time, a real presence of this relatively new conservancy. Nasuulu brings together Borana, Samburu, Somali and Turkana communities who now live peacefully together in this historically volatile and conflicted area.

In an opinion piece he wrote for The Star newspaper, Mr. Godec said he feared if poaching and insecurity didn't stop in areas like northern Kenya, that "our children may be left with no more than photos of many magnificent species." But he was inspired by what he saw in Nasuulu. "If we work together with creativity and determination, it doesn't have to be this way. Last week in Nasuulu Community Conservancy, I saw first-hand one example of how hard work and commitment can protect wildlife while building peace and creating jobs. Communities can solve problems; I saw it happening in Nasuulu. After a day in Isiolo speaking with leaders and citizens, I was deeply impressed by what they had achieved. Thousands of people have better lives and new hope while many animals including elephants, rhinos and the elegant Grevy's zebra are thriving. All as the result of local people coming together to make a difference."
In the article he also paid tribute to the Kenya Wildlife Service, who work closely with NRT to reduce insecurity and safeguard wildlife. He also mentioned the determination of the communities of Nasuulu, who he said were "justly proud of what they are doing for themselves, and for the world."

Inside NRT - Great News for Wildlife

The majority of Kenya's wildlife lives outside formally protected parks and reserves, with around 25% living in the rangelands and forests of northern Kenya. This is an area with a history of violence, insecurity, poaching and increasingly degraded grasslands, all of which contributed to dwindling wildlife populations and increased poverty. The NRT community conservancy model aims to change all this, by linking wildlife conservation to improved livelihoods. Recent results show that, in the majority of NRT member community conservancies, certain key wildlife species are stable or increasing.

In 2013, a total of 87 elephant carcasses were reported by NRT Conservancy Rangers. Of those, 45 carcasses were the result of poaching; making the proportion of illegally killed elephants (PIKE) reported by NRT conservancies in 2013, 59%. This is a marked contrast to 2012, when Conservancy Rangers reported 135 carcasses, of which 108 were poached with a PIKE value of 81%.

The reduction in poaching levels in 2013, compared with 2011 and 2012, is a significant achievement considering the high poaching threat that continues to be experienced across Kenya. Success in reducing poaching is likely to be as a result of a number of initiatives being undertaken in the conservancies, including:
Increased investment in, and capacity of, conservancy security operations (further training of rangers and commanders,   additional vehicles, employment of more rangers in some conservancies).

The creation of a second, multi-conservancy rapid response team, 9-2, who carry out similar operations to the highly successful 9-1 team.

Increased social pressure from conservancy boards and communities to expose the criminals in their midst.

The proportion of illegally killed elephants in NRT member conservancies dropped 22% in 2013, compared to 2012.

Juan Pablo Moreiras

Community conservancies seek to protect all wildlife, but certain flagship species besides the elephant have received special attention. One of the great success stories concerns the highly endangered Grevy's zebra, 93% of which are found in northern Kenya. The population declined from around 15,000 in the 1970s to 2,000 by the end of the century, largely as a result of disease, hunting and the loss of suitable grazing land. A vaccination programme and improvements in rangeland management, introduced by the Grevy's Zebra Trust and the conservancies, have helped to boost the population.

Around 60% of all the zebras are now found on land owned by local communities, and can frequently be seen grazing in the company of cattle.

Another species which has received special attention is the hirola, the world's most endangered antelope. Largely confined to north-east Kenya, the hirola suffered greatly from an outbreak of disease and from hunting during the latter decades of the last century. As a result, the hirola population was reduced to a few hundred individuals, many of which are to be found in Ishaqbini Community Conservancy.

The world's most endangered antelope - the hirola. Now on their way back from the brink of extinction thanks to the efforts of the Somali pastoralists in Ishaqbini. Michael Gunther

In August 2012, with the support of NRT and KWS, and funding from The Nature Conservancy, 48 

Hirola were moved into a fenced off, predator-free enclosure of 3,000 hectares in Ishaqbini. This was the first-ever fenced sanctuary on community land in Kenya dedicated for the conservation of a critically endangered species. Taking further measures to protect the hirola left outside the sanctuary, the community set up a grazing committee to reduce the competition with livestock for food and water, which in turn has also helped to rehabilitate the rangeland. Four rangers were assigned to monitor the hirola within the sanctuary, and to increase awareness of the antelope's plight in the local communities.
These measures are paying off. Over the past year the hirola rangers have built up an incredible knowledge of each individual animal, how the herds are composed, and where they are found. In early November 2013, they reported sighting seven new-born hirola in the sanctuary in just three days; the first Hirola to be conceived in the sanctuary.