Keepers' Diaries, April 2002

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Voi Reintegration Unit

Nursery Elephants:- Thankfully, it has been an uneventful and satisfying month for us all in the Nairobi Nursery, with no sudden scares, other than Sweet Sally developing what we now know as an "Elephant Wart". Fortunately, this was on her trunk and not on the eyelid as was the case with Mweya. These protuberances don't seem to cause the elephant any distress, other than possibly a little itching, but are very unsightly, sometimes the size of a cork. We have learnt that they are easily cured homeopathically using tincture of Thuya topically as well as administering the pillules. Sweet Sally is a very vocal little elephant who makes her needs known in no mean way. In preparation for the transfer of her and Mweya to Tsavo in May, we have been encouraging both to accept less milk and more cereal, something Sally has objected to. Loud bellows during the night alert everyone to the fact that she wants milk and not barley, and the protest continues until she gets her way!

Nursery Elephants:- Thankfully, it has been an uneventful and satisfying month for us all in the Nairobi Nursery, with no sudden scares, other than Sweet Sally developing what we now know as an "Elephant Wart". Fortunately, this was on her trunk and not on the eyelid as was the case with Mweya. These protuberances don't seem to cause the elephant any distress, other than possibly a little itching, but are very unsightly, sometimes the size of a cork. We have learnt that they are easily cured homeopathically using tincture of Thuya topically as well as administering the pillules. Sweet Sally is a very vocal little elephant who makes her needs known in no mean way. In preparation for the transfer of her and Mweya to Tsavo in May, we have been encouraging both to accept less milk and more cereal, something Sally has objected to. Loud bellows during the night alert everyone to the fact that she wants milk and not barley, and the protest continues until she gets her way!

Mweya has been getting rounder and tubbier, a portly and short little character, but what she lacks in size, she makes up for in mischief and personality. Whilst she is better behaved in that she is not quite as "pushy" as before, she still ranks as the "naughtiest"(along with Imenti). She relishes her role as Queen Bee of the Nursery, and is still a great favourite with all the guests.

Thoma seems to be taking a leaf from her book. With the departure of Sally and Mweya, it will be she who will be Mini Matriarch of the Nursery, a role I am confident that she will enjoy greatly, throwing her weight around all the others. Little Burra has continued to heal and to fatten up so that now he looks like a healthy baby rather than the skeletal bag of bones who arrived more dead than alive. He is, however, still somewhat diffident about approaching strangers, obviously fearing the rather rough handling that he endured during capture, which could not be avoided, and the subsequent cleaning of the horrendous wounds inflicted by the cable snare. However, he is a gentle and reserved little elephant, but now a very happy one; big buddies with the other little boy, (who is not so little any longer), Solango.

Solango has shot up! Having once been the same size as little Seraa, he now towers over her, but then he did not have the complications that almost cost Seraa her life in early infancy. He is a playful little elephant, and quite a "show off" too, delighting in thrilling any onlookers with his funny antics. Meanwhile little Seraa, as the baby of the group, is greatly cherished by all, humans as well as the other orphans. She is a dear little elephant with a warm personality, always well behaved and not as exuberant as the others, but playful and happy and, above all, so far, keeping very well.

This month we have been anxiously awaiting the possible arrival of a little Sudanese orphan named "Fil Fil". At our end, we have organised everything, so it now remains for the bureaucratic wheels to turn - a request at Governmental level from the Sudanese to the Kenya Government to accept the elephant, (which has happened), but then the CITES Import and Export Permits from the relevant CITES Management authorities in both countries to enable the elephant to legally cross the International Boundaries. I don't think anyone can be impressed with the ability of CITES to save elephants, and it will be a pity indeed if their bureaucracy costs the life of this little orphan, whom, we are told, is not thriving in its present surroundings.

Tsavo Orphans:- It has been a lush month in Tsavo, intermittent showers keeping the vegetation green and growing. Tsavo during the rains resembles the Garden of Eden, with flowering shrubs and creepers, the days filled with birdsong and butterflies, and as a background the busy buzzing of the great variety of insects that emerge during the rains. Being wet still, contact with wild elephants has been limited, simply because the wild herds have largely been elsewhere. There have only been two contacts with wild elephants this month, once when Aitong chose to spend 4 hours away with a wild group, returning to the Night Stockades to join the orphans there in the evening, and also when Emily's group spent time with another wild herd with which they are obviously very comfortable.

Conspicuous in the Diary also is the absence of the Big Boys, and the rather bad mood of Imenti, who is obviously feeling hard done by and somewhat left out by not being with his peer males. Imenti has long been a worry to us, due to his reluctance to join the other "Boys", something his rather challenging experience at the hands of Ndume has fuelled. Instead, he has been throwing his weight around the Keepers, and sometimes the younger elephants, but he has been spending time away from the others, which is good news. When his confidence grows, and when he finds a good friend amongst the wild bulls, and one who doesn't lead him into being banished, he will soon be doing what a young bull should, and that is being with the boys rather than the baby girls.

The enduring friendship of Mulika and Nasalot is obvious, but a strong bond also exists with Yatta and Kinna, and Yatta with whom they shared the Nairobi Nursery. Kinna is a very social elephant, comfortable amongst any of the different age groups. Icholta features prominently and has the makings of a very caring Matriarch, always conscientious of Mweiga, who, although improved, is still not quite right. Edie and Ilingwezi are also very solicitous of the smaller babies, particularly of Ndara and Maungu, escorting them to the milk tractor to have their noon bottles, and seeing that they return back to the group safely. The bond that unites the orphans as a family is seen when Edie was left behind in the mudbath, and mistakenly took a wrong direction to catch up with the others. Immediately Natumi and Ilingwezi ran after her, and brought her safely back to the group, walking "majestically" as the Keepers so graphically describe the return of all three!

Amongst the boys, Laikipia is the playful clown, always showing off,, with Tsavo, Nyiro and Mukwaju very competitive, but also good friends, being roughly the same size. Salama and Laikipia constantly test their strength, whilst Lolokwe got roundly punished when he stood accidently on Yatta's trunk and got his ear bitten in revenge! The friendship of Nyiro and Mukwaju comes to the fore when Mukwaju ended up in the wrong stockade at night, and Nyiro went to extract him and see that he went to where he should.

Emily, as the Matriarch of them all, is extremely able, doing the rounds of all three Night Stockades in the evening just to ensure that everyone is present and correct before settling down herself and rushing to the rescue whenever anyone is in trouble, as does Aitong. Loisaba and Tsavo are both possessive of Emily, jealous of sharing her with the others, but Emily still holds a great fondness for little Ndara, seeking her out, and on one occasion spending the whole day with Ndara tucked beneath her tummy, getting comfort from suckling Emily's breasts.

It is good to see Mvita holding her own amongst the others, and becoming quite a character in her own right now that she is settled and happy. She and Mulika appear good friends and she is quite competitive with Kinna over the younger elephants.

It is interesting to see the Baby Group mingling peacefully amongst a herd of buffalo and then a herd of waterbuck, obviously glad to be surrounded by many others to give them confidence as they feed.

Adventures this month include a chameleon unphasing Loisaba completely when it fell on her back as she was rubbing against a tree. This sent Loisaba into a panic, and she rushed, trembling, to the Keepers! Another incident that unravelled Natumi was when a harmless millipede happened to touch her foot! Again, she was so frightened that she trembled! Natumi's prank to scare all the others is amusing; enticing them some 400 metres from the Keepers, and then suddenly tearing back as though something untoward was after her, prompting a stampede, with Kinna proving to be the fastest runner! Who says elephants do not have a sense of humour! The game with the treed baboon also illustrates this point, when Emily, Aitong and Loisaba kept several baboons up the tree for two hours, scaring them by trumpeting loudly at them, and breaking down branches! The elephants obviously derived great pleasure from the discomfort of the baboons who could not escape easily.

Another amusing incident was when Aitong confronted a large male impala with huge horns, who was not impressed and ignominiously kicked her, forcing her to retreat! Emily's encounter with a hyena left her somewhat shaken, but she retrieved the situation by ending up by chasing the hyena off!

In short, it has been a happy month for all our orphans, both in the Nursery and down in Tsavo. Only Magnum the five year old rhino has been miserable and lonely, still missing his friend Magnette very deeply. Needless to say, we have got no further with our quest to discover exactly why Magnette died so mysteriously and was buried so hurriedly without us being informed, leaving us convinced of foul play.

April 2002 day to day

01 Apr

When Ndara and Maungu were taking their noon feed, Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna tried to squeeze in between, but Ndara and Maungu hurriedly closed the gap, fearing that the three intruders might take their milk. Imenti was in a bad mood today, and pushed Natumi and Ilingwezi away hard as they approached him. He even threatened the Keepers who went to the rescue of the youngsters.
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