Keepers' Diaries, April 2005

Nairobi Nursery Unit

This month has been a very traumatic time for all in the Nairobi Nursery, the greatest tragedy being the death of our precious little Nalitu on the 8th April, which left us all, elephants and humans alike, in a state of shock and desperate grief. Her death was so unexpected and sudden, because she had been doing so well. The damaged shoulder was almost healed, she was gaining weight, and even playing on a daily basis, so her sudden death came as a tragedy we had not expected. We could hardly believe it, because it was like some bad dream. The post-mortem told us nothing, other than that she had “peritonitis” of the stomach itself, yet the stools were perfectly normal, with no signs of diarrheoa. As mentioned so often, baby elephants are essentially so very fragile that they can be fine one day and gone the next and the experience of Nalitu merely endorses this sad truth! At such times, one has to be strong enough to turn the page, and concentrate on the living, many of whom are yet to come, and when they do, will need all the help they can get, but that doesn’t lessen the grief.

01 April 2005

It was a beautiful morning today, all the elephants enjoying the sun. Being a Friday, it was the day for oiling their skin with Coconut oil, and they all began a game of running around the Keepers, some lying down, which attracted the attention of pushy Buchuma, who rushed to try and climb on them. Little Nalitu was trying to suckle Naserian and Galana.

02 April 2005

Once out of the Stockades, the orphans enjoyed chasing the warthogs towards Makosa’s stockade, where he was feeding on the night’s ration of greens. Makosa stormed out, and charged the elephants, causing Ndomot to retreat rapidly, but Buchuma was not deterred. At the noon mudbath Makosa again interrupted the elephants’ routine by arriving and demanding occupation of the mubath, so the elephants had to be taken to one side until he had finished which took about half an hour. After that Galana separated a pushing match between Buchuma and Ndomot.

03 April 2005

Shida (the baby rhino) had a long day today, on the run constantly because Makosa tried to catch up with him all day. In the end the longterm rhino Keeper was summonsed to deal with Makosa and chase him away.

04 April 2005

The orphans suddenly happened upon Magnum, who was lying under a tree close to where they were feeding. All the orphans were scared, except Sunyei who went up to sniff him, and would have liked to climb on him, but the Keepers prevented her from doing so.

05 April 2005

Lualeni loved the mudbath today. Galana came to try and rescue her when she looked as though she was stuck, showing how very motherly she is to little Lualeni.. Only Ndomot refused to go into the mudbath today for some reason.

06 April 2005

Naserian enjoyed frightening the mudbath visitors today, something she does not normally do. Madiba enjoys playing with noisy children at mudbath time, going close to them and kicking his back legs at them, which makes them make more noise. He seems to enjoy this.

07 April 2005

Nalitu is not well today, which has made Naserian very sad. Nalitu is not feeding as she should, and Naserian did not want to leave her side when all the other elephants left for the bush. Naserian was so upset that even she did not feed as well as she should for the entire day and in the evening the Vet came to give her an injection, but she died at 7 p.m.

08 April 2005

It is a very sad day for us all today, because little Nalitu died last night. In the morning Naserian rushed to the stable to see her, but the body had been removed, and she did not want to leave for the bush. Thereafter, she and Galana spent the whole day searching for Nalitu, often returning to the Stable to see if she had returned and crying loudly when we urged them to return to the bush empty-handed. None of the elephants wanted to play today because they had lost their “baby”. They were all sad, missing little Nalitu.

09 April 2005

This morning, Naserian again came to the stable previously occupied by Nalitu, but found Lualeni coming out of it instead, so she just walked sadly away.

10 April 2005

Galana keeps coming to the Keepers, as though to see whether Nalitu has returned. Naserian seems to have given up, but she is not happy, even with the Keepers.

11 April 2005

It was an overcast day today, so the elephants did not want to play in the mud. They all paid a great deal of attention to little Lualeni, now the baby of the group, placing their trunks lovingly on her back. Sunyei led the others from the mudbath when time was up.

12 April 2005

Lualeni loves playing in the mudbath. We create a small one for her, not allowing her to get too wet in the big one. Buchuma and Ndomot enjoyed their usual tussle at the mubath, and were separated by Sunyei.

13 April 2005

A herd of zebra came running in our direction out in the bush, forcing all the elephants except Sunyei to run off. She just stood and watched the zebras pass. Madiba was the most scared, making a lot of noise!

14 April 2005

Madiba aspires to being a professional “mounter”, trying his luck on all the elephants. Sunyei won’t put up with this, and kicks him until he gives up. He and Ndomot enjoy trying to mount each other, which is a game they enjoy between them.

15 April 2005

Buchuma was determined to lead the group today, pushing anyone who came in front of him. Galana walks close to Lualeni at the back as would a mother with her baby. Naserian is still searching for Nalitu, running in front and then behind.

16 April 2005

Today, it was Ndomot who initiated the fight with Buchuma, but Buchuma would not give up, and instead of feeding, kept on looking for Ndomot who was trying to evade him. The fight would start all over again!

17 April 2005

Madiba tried to mount little Lualeni today, which brought Naserian to the rescue at the double. Madiba took the hint and fled.

18 April 2005

It was a hot day today, so the elephants all enjoyed their mudbath. Suddenly Sunyei pushed beyond the visitors’ cordon, scaring all the visitors who backed away hurriedly. She enjoyed seeing them do this, because it made her feel very important!

19 April 2005

The orphans all greatly enjoyed a soil bath today. It was cold so they did not want to go into the mud. At the 3 p.m. feed Buchuma knocked Galana in the scramble for the milk, which made her furious. She left her bottle, and chased Buchuma for about 100 metres, whilst the Keepers watched in disbelief, because Galana is very fond of her milk!

20 April 2005

Sunyei suddenly came running from the thicket today, scaring all the others. The Keepers went to see what the problem was, and found a dikdik!

21 April 2005

The orphans seemed all very excited today, trumpeting and swaying here and there as though aware of something. We could not understand the reason, but later in the afternoon we heard that there was an orphan in Kora, who was being rescued. He arrived in the Nursery late in the evening, and was put in the stable on the other side of Sunyei who could not sleep all night, so eager was she to find out more about the new arrival.

22 April 2005

Sunyei hurried out of her stable in the morning, and went to extend her trunk over the door of the next door one, eager to find out more about “Kora” who was inside. Eventually, knowing that he was not going to join them, she walked away with the others into the bush.

23 April 2005

Kora spent the day inside his stable today, feeding on greens, and taking his milk. We noticed that he had a serious wound under his chin, which was very sceptic. When cleaning this wound, a piece of broken bone came out of his jaw, and we realised that he had a fractured right jawbone.

24 April 2005

Another orphan arrived in the evening from Meru National Park. He had been found alone at a place called “Rapsu” and was quite big, and very wild, with tusks just visible through the lip. The other orphans came to greet him through the bars of the side Stockade in the evening, but he did not seem interested – only very scared of the Keepers. Today Kora was able to join the others for a while.

25 April 2005

Rapsu remained in the Stockade all day. He was still violent and seemed very stressed and tired. One eye was weeping a lot, but he was too wild for us to treat it. Kora was allowed to join the others for the whole day today, but every evening his wounds have to be cleaned out.

26 April 2005

Buchuma wanted to snatch some greens from his rival, Ndomot, and inserted his trunk into Ndomot’s mouth. It was bitten, which made him yell, and retaliate by wanting to fight Ndomot. We heard that there was another orphan in Amboseli, which was still with the herd, so the plane left with the Rescue Team to collect the Trust’s Vet from Voi. The plane returned in the evening without the elephant, which had gone into one of the swamps with its herd.

27 April 2005

Very early in the morning, two Keepers set off to collect a new orphan from Amboseli National Park, since there had been a message that the calf had been captured. A lovely little 3 month old female arrived at 10 a.m. and was put in the stable next door to that of Madiba. We were told that the Amboseli Researchers wanted her called “Purai” which is the area her family frequents.

28 April 2005

It was raining heavily in the morning, so the orphans had to remain in their Stockades until the rain reduced. They did not like doing so, and Naserian and Sunyei protested very loudly, wanting to be let out. When we reached the forest, Makosa came charging at us, but we drove him away. Kora is enjoying being out with the others during the day now, but does not enjoy having his jaw cleaned in the evening.

29 April 2005

Rapsu, who has been confined in his stable now for several days was allowed out, hoping that he would join the others and walk with them as a group. However, he peeled off and ran right down to the Park road in front. Whenever the Keepers came near him, he ran away, but fortunately slipped in the mud, so we were able to reach him, tie his legs with a rope, and slowly shove him back up the hill to his Stockade for further confinement.

30 April 2005

Again there was heavy rain during the night, so all the elephants, except Kora and Rapsu enjoyed wallowing in the mud which was everywhere. At the mudbath everyone laughed when all the elephants came running very fast and happily. Sunyei slipped in the mud and fell down, and all the others did the same, enjoying it as a game.