The 8th brought not just one Elephant Rescue Alert, but three, all within minutes of one another, presenting us with an unwelcome challenge! Two orphans, said to be about 2 years old, were in the North, one from the Imenti forest which was to be airlifted from the Lewa Downs airfield, and the other from Meru National Park airlifted from Meru Mulika airstrip. The third orphan (also a 2 year old) was from the Tsavo Conservation Area – in fact, the same hot-spot that yielded Murka, Kilabasi, Rombo, Kasigau and others. As it turned out, KWS Rangers failed to capture the Imenti forest orphan, so the only one to be airlifted to the Nursery that day was the 2 ½ year old from Meru, who was already in a pitiful state, emaciated, riddled in worms with maggots even crawling from the mouth. Meanwhile the Voi Elephant Keepers assisted by the Ziwani De-Snaring Team went by car to capture the Tsavo orphan, which they managed to accomplish. It was decided that this calf, named “Kivuko”, and also 2 years old, should remain at the Voi Stockades since space was not available in the Nursery to tame down another 2 year old. Several days later another Tsavo female orphan, also a two year old, was rescued at Emusiya on the Galana River, and given the name “Emsaya”, so this one joined “Kivuko” at the Voi Stockades. Full marks to Julius and the Voi Keepers for coping so proficiently with these two new orphans, administering the prophylactic Nuroclav injections, plus the de-wormers, getting them used to taking milk from a hand-held bottle and calming them down within just a day or two. By month end both were out and about with the resident Voi orphans under the leadership of Lesanju.
Meanwhile, at the Nursery, the Meru orphan collapsed soon after arrival, and was put on life support. Although he rallied during the night, and was on his feet the next morning and taking milk, he collapsed again in the evening and died during the night. This calf, who was nearer 3 than 2, was far too emaciated to save, reinforcing again the truth that elephant calves orphaned under 3 years of age cannot survive without access to milk, and that those orphaned between 3 and 5 seldom do either.
The 29th October brought the fifth Rescue alert of the month, this time from the remote Ndera Conservancy near the Tana River Delta in the far North. A torrential downpour during the afternoon of that day meant that the rescue had to be aborted and the plane return empty-handed, having dropped off the Trust’s 3 man A Rescue Team. They then ended up having to trek several miles through the mud because the vehicle that came to collect them got hopelessly bogged.
Meanwhile, the orphan – a female aged about 1 year, handicapped with a damaged back leg, had been kept under surveillance, guarded by Conservancy personnel and Police Reservists to ensure that it was not killed by local Pukomo tribesmen who are notorious Bushmeat consumers. Eventually, little “Ishaq-B”, as she has been named, was safely delivered to the Nursery at 2 p.m. on the 30th having been retrieved under extremely difficult weather and logistic circumstances from such a remote area. She was named to honour the people (of Somali origin) at the Ishaqbine Headquarters who could not have been more helpful or accommodating and who loaned our Rescue Team their tractor to access the area - the only vehicle capable of making progress due to the conditions.
The calf, handicapped by the damaged leg, was rescued without much resistance by our 3 man team single-handedly, all helpers evaporating at the last moment, too fearful to participate! The calf was said to have been without her mother for several weeks, subsisting on fallen mangoes and wild fruit and although emaciated, still had strength. Her rescue then entailed a grueling journey in the back of the tractor over an extremely rough track, crowded at every village en route by chattering onlookers eager for a glimpse of the elephant. She was transferred to a Landcruiser whose seats had been removed to ferry her to Masalani airfield for the 1 ½ hour flight back to Nairobi. Upon arrival we could see that the right hind leg was hugely swollen at the knee joint, though not actually broken, since she could put a little weight on it now and then. The Vet came to take a look the next day, and concluded that the swelling was probably water on the knee as a result of a serious twisting or fall and that only time could heal.
Ishaq-B has been very warmly welcomed by all the female Nursery elephants, who were brought back to spend time with her the next day and who crowded around her, all laying their trunks across her back in a gesture of love and friendship. Only Ishanga and the three Big Boys, Dabassa, Rombo and Kasigau remained un-excited and aloof.
Dabassa is now a plump and confident elephant who can even hold his own bottle of milk, and if necessary, run off with it should others approach! Up until now he has enjoyed throwing his weight around Rombo and Kasigau, who although armed with bigger tusks, have hitherto been too weak to retaliate. We all knew that, given time, they would, since “Elephants never forget” and sure enough, this month Dabassa got what he deserved after trying to snatch Kasigau’s milk bottle. Kasigau prodded him in the bottom with his 2 – 3 inch tusks and drove him off to spend “time out” of the herd, which is the way Elephants punish wrong-doers. Furthermore, after Dabassa pushed Kainuk, Kasigau again took it upon himself to send Dabassa off to spend more ‘time out’, with another sharp prod in the bottom! Since then Dabassa has been more respectful of both Kasigau and Rombo and has decided to integrate himself into Mutara’s main orphaned herd instead of Ishanga’s ‘Special Needs’ group, but ended up being roundly disciplined again for attempting to mount Mutara who, backed up by Shukuru, sent him for even more ‘time out’! The three Big Nursery Boys will be off to Ithumba just as soon as Rombo and Kasigau are a little stronger, there to be taught good manners by even Bigger Boys!
Kasigau is a very gentle and loving 2 year old, who is now gaining weight rapidly and losing the gaunt emaciated appearance that marked his arrival. However, he is still not overly trusting of the Keepers, knowing of course that it was someone like them in appearance who orphaned him by killing his elephant mother and who also left him wounded with a deep spear hole in the top of his trunk. Likewise Rombo is also putting on weight, his ear and shoulder wounds now also healed, but like Kasigau, he too is wary of Africans and when approached from behind. Kasigau and Rombo are now inseparable and often have little Kihari with them who is mourning her elephant mother extremely deeply, and has yet to form a close bond with any of the other elephants or select a favourite Keeper. However, Tano has taken Kihari under her wing, and is never far from her, comforting her by laying a trunk tenderly across her back, and touching her gently throughout the night, since she now occupies the adjoining Stockade. Whenever Kihari is reluctant to return to her Night Quarters, it is Tano who has to persuade her to do so, escorting her in and keeping an eye on her from next door. Meanwhile Mutara is a very proficient Matriarch of the Nursery Unit, ably assisted by Shukuru leaving Tano to concentrate on comforting Kihari.
Kainuk’s injured eye which did not respond to the antibiotic ointment has been an ongoing cause for concern. The eye Specialist suggested adding a fungal ointment and since then the eye has improved considerably, although vision is still impaired. Kainuk can, however, detect movement, but she may never regain normal vision in that eye. She and Turkwel have always been inseparable, but like Ishanga, Kainuk still has the post trauma “pushy” tendency and has never been overly popular with the others, especially Sities. This month she pushed down little Naipoki, and, surprisingly, it was Turkwel who drove her from the herd, and according to the Keepers, “gave her a ‘Talking To’ before permitting her to return. Since then, Turkwel seems to be deliberately distancing herself from Kainuk – instead of sleeping close to the separating partition of their two adjoining stables, instead lying at the far end, which has upset Kainuk. (The Keepers are convinced that some elephants can predict the future, and since Turkwel will soon be ready to be upgraded to one of the Rehabilitation Centers in Tsavo, that perhaps she feels such separation necessary!)
This month, the Nairobi Park lions have let up on hunting down the resident warthogs around the Trust compound, but paid one nocturnal visit to the Stockades housing Dabassa, Rombo and Kasigau at the back of the compound. The orphans were also un-nerved by gunshots across the road when Police fired in the air to quell rioting Catholic University students. Obviously, the sound of gunshots remain a very sinister sound for the orphans, which is possibly why they also react so fearfully to thunder.
Despite the kidnapping of foreign tourists from Lamu and the fact that Kenya has entered Somalia to deal with the Al Shabaab pirate/terrorists resulting in grenade attacks in downtown Nairobi, the mudbath and Private Viewing visitors have not abandoned us and are still coming in numbers on a daily basis. We sincerely hope that they will continue to do so, since we now have 45 milk dependent elephant orphans all told and with poaching as it is, there are going to be a lot more!
The Rhinos:- Solio’s independent spirit has caused the Keepers a huge headache and a run around this month. She is becoming ever more difficult to control, anxious to run off on her own to seek out other rhinos, or at least, evidence of them, and often refusing to return to her stable in the evenings where Maxwell anxiously awaits her arrival! The appearance of new orphaned elephants always causes an interesting diversion for Max, who unerringly detects their arrival by scent, and gets as close as he can to check them out. He was very excited by the arrival of little “Ishaqbee” on the 30th October, who spent the afternoon of her arrival in Shida’s old Stockade right next door to Max who had his head pressed up against the separating poles relishing the moment.