The Nursery suffered yet another two tragedies during December, first the death of Bhaawa on the 13th, followed by the death of baby Shaba on the 21st, putting a dampener on what should have been the happy build-up to Christmas and leaving us with 20 babies in the Nairobi Nursery.
Bhaawa, was 5 months old when he was flown to the Nursery from Maralal in Northern Kenya on the 15th October, having been pulled from the mud of a drying waterhole by passing herdsmen. Although emaciated, and extremely traumatized, he appeared to thrive initially, but then appeared what the Keepers called “dull”, and thereafter simply wasted away, seemingly having lost the will to live ever since Kenia began rejecting him, not partial to having her ears suckled. However, he never lost his appetite and was taking 40 pints of milk per day up until the day before he died. Obviously he was not absorbing the food, though why has defeated all the Vets, since others have thrived on exactly the same formula. The autopsy revealed all major body organs healthy, but mucous and black spots in the small and large intestine, which would explain the syndrome of brown stools – something that Emily’s wild-born baby, Eve, also had when she was returned to the Voi Stockades by her elephant mother in a weakened condition due to the severe drought conditions prevailing throughout the country. Just prior to dying Bhaawa showed signs of the dreaded turning back foot syndrome, which has been a common denominator in all the calves we have lost from this mysterious “wasting” disease. We have since heard that baby camels in Northern Kenya seem to be suffering the same symptoms.
Baby Shaba, also simply wasted away and died in a state of pathetic emaciation despite feeding well right up until the day before his demise on the 21st December. He, too, had the “foot syndrome” having come into the Nursery on the 20th September as a seemingly healthy newborn calf, but never thrived.
Suguta, Ndii, and Olare are sharing the Matriarchal duties with Dida who due to her calm and kind nature does not mind having some weight lifted off her shoulders. Suguta keeps a watchful eye on the youngsters and puts any bullies back in line. She still has a soft spot for Kibo and often plays with him in the water. Little Mutara is also a wonderful, confident and playful little elephant; she often sticks up for Chaffa & Shukuru who get pushed around by Tano. Mutara has also developed a keen interest in the older elephant groups. She loves to play with the older orphans and challenges everyone to a game. The older orphan groups have now merged; both the Suguta and Dida groups remain together all day except for half an hour during the 11am-12noon visiting hour when they are separated for the milk feed and visit. The older orphans love to spend the day together and new friendships are forming. Turkwel is doing very well now and has put on weight. She is even beginning to become a rather jealous and naughty girl during milk feed and often pushes the other orphans as well as the keepers who she gets possessive of.
Another baby that has caused us extreme concern this month has been Chaffa, who suddenly collapsed with fluid coming from the trunk, indicating pneumonia. Immediately, she had a 5 day course of Enrofloxacine, (which saved little Kibo when he was in a similar condition) and she seems to have weathered the pneumonia, but she has the “foot syndrome”. However, the good news is that she seems to be putting on condition again, and is definitely becoming stronger, so we are hopeful that perhaps the “foot syndrome” is as a result of extreme emaciation and that Chaffa might come right. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, we have had several tests done on the urine and blood, which have revealed nothing untoward – no evidence of tick-borne disease in the red blood cells and no protein loss through the kidneys. Having been defeated by conventional medical analyses, we are now trying alternative healing – Body Talk, Homeopathy, and everything else we can think of to try and get to the bottom of what is ailing so many of our elephant babies during this terrible drought year. The drought has taken a very heavy toll of all wild animals, irrespective of species, and since Global Warming seems inevitable following the failure of the Climate Convention in Copenhagen, 2010 will probably be yet another challenging year for all others that have the misfortune of having to share this small planet with the selfishness and greed of the human species, who seem bent on their own ultimate self destruction as well.
Shida has begun to occupy a territory in the Park and is fast becoming more independent and wild. He has not shown up for the mudbath for almost the entire month and on a couple of occasions he remained out in the Park for several nights. The Keepers did attempt to check up on him to make sure he was ok as it is not usual for him to not come back to the stockades. They soon realized that he is fine and simply growing up and leaving the nest!
Maxwell is growing and becoming a dominant male, despite not being able to see, he moves around the stockade with great confidence. He has taken to creating a dung pile near the main gate to his stockade which the Keepers have to clean daily. He seems very happy in his enclosure, often playing in the mud or in the rain.
Maalim too is growing quickly and getting assertive. This month he had an encounter with the elephant orphans which ended in Maalim getting intimidated and running away! He has been attending the mudbath after the public visiting time is over to avoid him knocking over guests. He actually enjoys having the mudbath to himself. He is becoming less interested in visitors, and in the evening no longer stops to greet the foster parents and instead trots past heading straight for his night quarters.