Good news is the fact that little Kithaka, who is now 2 months old, has managed to cut his first four molars without too much difficulty, other than a slight loss of condition, although his appetite has not diminished. Very gratifying has been the recovery of Orwa, who was in such a pitiful state upon arrival that we doubted he would even survive the first night! He is now gaining weight steadily, as is Ishaq B, another relative newcomer who endured a very dramatic rescue.
A calf which was found lying on a road near Lewa Downs Conservancy, was airlifted to the Nursery on the 14th, already half dead. This baby, believed to be a poaching victim, died soon after arrival, despite drip infusion inserted into the ear vein the moment it was on the plane.
Another 4 – 5 month old calf, also believed to be a poaching victim from Kora National Reserve came in on the 25th, minus a tail and mauled around the hindquarters, presumably by hyaenas bent on an easy meal. (Poaching has been rampant of late in the area, two Somali poachers shot dead and AK 47’s and ammunition recovered there earlier in the month, one poacher escaping with gunshot wounds.) This calf had been without milk for some time, and (well meaningly but unfortunately) had been given cows’ milk prior to being driven to Meru National Park’s Kinna airfield, from whence she was airlifted to the Nairobi Nursery. She was named “Moju”, after the area in which she had been found (Moju being the Boran word for “Eland”). She was skeletal and weak, but took milk and rehydrants before collapsing during the night, when she was put on life support which revived her, but sadly, having hovered between life and death for the next 2 days, diarrheoa eventually took her life despite oral medication to try and forestall this.
As little Moju was breathing her last on the 29th, another Rescue alert caused a diversion and galvanized the Keepers again into action – this time for a 2 month old infant female calf found alone in a thicket near the Lemek Hills in the Masai Mara, again in an area where the poaching of elephants has been rife of late. She was given the name “Lemek” upon arrival. That night Tano was moved into the Stockade abutting that of Ishanga, in order to make a stable available for the newcomer, and as predicted, this caused a major upset. Kithaka bellowed disapproval without let-up, which triggered bellowing from all the older females and traumatized little Lemek, who joined the chorus. After about an hour, fearing that the upset might trigger stomach problems with Kithaka, Tano was escorted back to her former Night Stable abutting that of Kithaka, while Lemek had to occupy the one next door, where Moju had passed away earlier which was not ideal. Matters weren’t helped by the presence of the lions, who are becoming bolder and have been frequent nocturnal visitors this month! One night a lioness decided to sleep in the narrow corridor separating Kithaka’s Stockade from Maxwell’s enclosure, much to the dismay of the Night Milk “Mixer” who has to bring the three hourly feeds to the bucket hanging at each door throughout the night. On another occasion whilst the elephants were on their way out to browse in the morning, it was actually little Kithaka who sounded the alert, having detected the presence of two sleeping lions in a nearby bush, ahead of all the other elephants and the Keepers. He stopped dead in his tracks with outspread ears and trunk up, which signaled to the Keepers that something was remiss. The proximity of the lions triggered a mass stampede, the Keepers fearful for little Kithaka because of his size.
Kithaka is the darling of all the Big Girls, who fuss around him constantly, rush to his stable door first thing in the morning to escort him out, nurture and look after him vying with each other to be closest to him. The Keepers describe his care as that of the “child of a King”! Naturally he basks in all the attention, but even so has a special soft spot for Orwa, who is always gentle and well behaved and whose male company he enjoys. Kithaka loves Shukuru most since she allows him to suckle her ears for a very long time, whereas the other Big Girls curtail the sucking after a short time. The arrival of baby Lemek will no doubt put Kithaka’s nose out of joint, but he enjoys so much “spoiling” that he probably won’t even notice. All the females in the Nursery dote on him, even Kainuk, Sities, Kihari and Naipoki who often enjoy being close to him whenever they get a chance. But, the Big Girls such as Mutara, Shukuru, Tano, Turkwel and Makireti are never far from him. Only Kilabasi, who is another relative newcomer, and who is probably still thinking about her lost elephant family, remains more aloof. Sities is becoming very maternal, and will one day make a wonderful, caring Matriarch. On chilly days when the two babies are kept indoors longer than usual, she waits outside the doors of the two babies long after the others have left for the forest, rumbling softly to them, and when they do emerge, escorts them out to join the others.
Due to the longstanding problem Kainuk has had with the one eye which was pierced by a stick, she prefers to keep her distance from the Keepers, who have had to hold her to treat the almost blind eye over many months. Thankfully, this has paid off, and the sight in that eye is gradually now returning.
Orwa endures a lot of “flak” from Ishaq-B. Now that she has regained strength, her swollen knee having healed so that she can walk without limping, she picks on poor Orwa as an easy target, since he is still weaker. Whenever he is behind her, she stops and puts out her ears to block him, so Orwa stops and screams for the protection of the Keepers and as soon as the Keepers reprimand her by name, she runs off, aware that she is in their bad books! On the way to the noon mudbath one day, she blocked Orwa who screamed, so the Keepers punished Ishaq-B the elephant way by chasing her out of the herd. She ran off screaming, but all the Big Girls knew that she had misbehaved and did not come to her rescue.
Kainuk,and Ishanga are the Pushiest of the Nursery gang. This month their bad behaviour, has also been disciplined by being sent to spend “time out”, isolated from the security of being amidst all the others, which for such fearful and social animals such as elephants, who rely on numbers, is a severe punishment. She and Sities have frequent scores to settle, which begin in play but end up heated and if interrupted, often carry on the next day!
From the start, little Lemek has been problematical to feed, not taking sufficient in a 24 hour period to sustain condition. At two months she is also cutting the first molars, which doesn’t help. We keep our fingers crossed that she will not loose too much condition to jeopardise her chances of survival, but so far the indications are not promising.
The Rhinos:- Both Blind Maxwell and Solio continue to thrive and grow apace, established in their daily routine, which is what rhinos enjoy most, not comfortable with any change, irrespective of how insignificant! Max enjoys the greeting of the elephants as they pass by his Stockade each morning, and when they return, standing next to the side of his Stockade that abuts their path. Solio has fun at the mudbath, adding her contribution to any wild dungpiles she happens upon, and also enjoys giving her Keepers the slip now and then, obviously feeling confident that she now “belongs” within the wild rhinos resident in this particular corner of Nairobi Park.