Daphne Sheldrick and Jill Woodley spent five days down in Tsavo with the orphaned elephants towards the end of April. On their way into the Park, they saw Uaso and Lewa in amongst a wild herd of all sizes, looking perfectly relaxed and busy stuffing their mouths with lush vegetation brought on by the rains.
The younger orphans have all settled in exceedingly well, are all in top condition and couldn't be healthier or happier, perfectly comfortable with all the older elephants. We have noticed a remarkable character change in Emily, who has become much more caring of all her charges, but still has a special place in her large heart for little Tsavo. He is turning out to be a forceful character, despite being the smallest calf of the entire group, dominating all the others with supreme confidence and very attached to Emily. Aitong is a wonderful Nannie to everyone, who is always first to the rescue should anyone yell whilst Ndume, Edo and Dika have put in regular appearances, often meeting up with the others out in the bush, and often at the Stockades in the evenings when they return, and there in the morning to accompany them when they leave. Lissa and her calf, "Lara", are extended family and they join the others on occasions.
Imenti remains the Protector, not only of all the younger elephants, but also of the Keepers, intercepting a charging buffalo who threatened the safety of the men, and sending it firmly on its way. He is extremely gentle with the smaller calves, and especially with Mweiga, who has always been something of a weakling whose legs seem to not work quite as they should. We have been supplementing her milk with a trace element and mineral mixture, in case her problems stem from the mineral deficiency always found in elephants from high rainfall forest environments, where leaching of minerals from the soil is caused by rainfall. Mweiga originates from the Aberdare Forests.
Featuring prominently in this month's Keepers' Diary, as usual, are the young bull set - namely Salama, Laikipia, Lolokwe, Mukwaju, and, of course, Nyiro and Tsavo, the two smallest, but also the most demonstrative. Edie and Ilingwezi are prominent amongst the younger female set, with Natumi somewhat timid and reserved and Icholta one of the most friendly.
Whilst we were in Tsavo, some changes were made to the sleeping arrangements, with Yatta, Edie and Ilingwezi being moved to the Stockade shared by Emily, Aitong, Loisaba, Imenti, Mweiga and little Tsavo. This is aimed at relieving the congestion in the top Stockade until it can be extended, bearing in mind that another three elephants will soon be there. To begin with this development was not welcomed, and a Keeper had to be inside with them, spending a very sleepless night with Aitong trying to rouse him all the time and pulling off his blankets! The next night, he was able to sleep just beyond the perimeter wire, and we hope that soon the three newcomers will be settled sufficiently to be comfortable without him! During the night Imenti is locked into his own compartment within the Stockade so that he does not pester the females by trying to mount them - a favourite pastime with the boys!
Mingling with wild elephants is almost a daily occurrence nowadays, and this is especially gratifying. To sum up, things are going very well down in Tsavo with our elephant family, but for the fact that some wild bulls have taught Ndume and Edo bad habits - i.e. how to negotiate to Elephant Grids and leave the Park for dangerous pickings around Voi Town. These same wild bulls have also been crossing our elephant grids on the Compound Perimeter Fence and feeding actually within the compound and houses, posing a hazard for pedestrians. We have been given authority to install "droppers" above our grids around the Compound, but K.W.S. will have to sort out the Grid on the main Park access road possibly by extending it, installing rolling bars further apart, and deepening the trench. The main fence line segregating the Park from the community is also incomplete, and this is at present an insurmountable problem because wild herds regularly circumvent it following ancient migration routes. Since this will take a major investment at World Bank or EU level and is something beyond our control.
Nairobi Nursery:- The little Uganda elephant, "Mweya", continues to thrive and is quite a character, charming everyone who meets her. She adores Nasalot. Both Mulika and Nasalot are now over one year old, and therefore ready to join the others in Tsavo, but we daren't risk leaving Meyer without company. Since no other new orphans have come in, we will keep Mulika and Nasalot until after the November rains, and then send all three down together.
So far, Mweya, who is 4 months old, has yet to cut her teeth. Usually the teeth are through by the fourth month - in Kenya elephants anyway, but perhaps Ugandans are different!
Early in the month Mulika was again very unwell, but massive doses of Colloidal Silver seemed to do the trick and we hope might have cured whatever bacteria was persistent. She has always been a somewhat frail little elephant and because she hails from an area shared with domestic stock, this causes us anxiety.
The Rhinos:- Magnum and Magnette, now independent of their Keepers, and integrated into the wild rhino community of Nairobi National Park, have been regular visitors, returning on almost a daily basis to enjoy a hand-out of Copra and the Kitchen vegetable and fruit peelings which they love. We have encouraged this, especially because Magnum has had a very bad eye, which looked like turning completely blind. However, with regular drops of Zinc Sulphate it is slowly improving and we think we might have saved it just in time.
Magnette is now very much a Rhino, respected by everyone who keeps distance, because she has a short fuse. She gave Magnum a very hard time when she was obviously in season, but is quieter now, although she remains unpredictable. Makosa flourishes, and is perhaps rather over-weight, resembling a small round hippo! Like Magnette, he also promises to be a force to be reckoned with! He is comfortable with the two large rhinos now, and all three are often in the mudbath together, to give our visitors, who have to retreat to the verandah, a special thrill!