Keepers' Diaries, April 2008

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

On the 3rd, the Nursery welcomed its l0th occupant, an l8 month old bull calf, whose mother had to be euthenazed in the Mara Conservancy area of the Masai Mara. An old spear wound in her foot, which had previously been treated twice by our Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit had become progressively worse, until her entire body was infected and riddled with scepticaemia, rendering her incapable of movement and facing a slow and agonizing death. Her l8 month old calf remained with her, trying desperately to suckle, but the milk bar had long dried up, and the calf, deprived of milk, was also becoming progressively thinner and weaker. (No elephant under 3 years of age can live without milk, a statistic proven scientifically by a d0 year monitoring study of the Amboseli population.). Having immobilized the mother for the third time on the 3rd April, the Vet decided that she had no possibility of recovery, and made the decision to humanely end her suffering, the calf having already been physically captured and removed from his doomed mother. The calf was flown to the Nursery that afternoon, arriving in the late evening. He was named Siria, the name of the nearby escarpment, and the location for the burial scene in the famous film “Out of Africa”. The Masai people know this escarpment by the name “Olololoo” meaning “the end of the world”.

On the 3rd, the Nursery welcomed its l0th occupant, an l8 month old bull calf, whose mother had to be euthenazed in the Mara Conservancy area of the Masai Mara. An old spear wound in her foot, which had previously been treated twice by our Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit had become progressively worse, until her entire body was infected and riddled with scepticaemia, rendering her incapable of movement and facing a slow and agonizing death. Her l8 month old calf remained with her, trying desperately to suckle, but the milk bar had long dried up, and the calf, deprived of milk, was also becoming progressively thinner and weaker. (No elephant under 3 years of age can live without milk, a statistic proven scientifically by a d0 year monitoring study of the Amboseli population.). Having immobilized the mother for the third time on the 3rd April, the Vet decided that she had no possibility of recovery, and made the decision to humanely end her suffering, the calf having already been physically captured and removed from his doomed mother. The calf was flown to the Nursery that afternoon, arriving in the late evening. He was named Siria, the name of the nearby escarpment, and the location for the burial scene in the famous film “Out of Africa”. The Masai people know this escarpment by the name “Olololoo” meaning “the end of the world”.

Although thin, and loaded with stomach parasites, the calf still had enough strength to give his Night Keepers a hard time, but by the morning he began taking milk, initially from a bucket, but soon from the bottle. By the end of the 2nd day in the Stockades, attended by the Keepers, he was sufficiently calm to be handled safely. Right from the start Maxwell, the blind rhino, was intrigued by his neighbour, and over the course of that first day, they became firm friends, interacting through the separating poles of their respective Stockades. On the 6th he was allowed out of the Stockade, instantly lovingly embraced by Lenana, Makena and Chyulu, the 3 “Big Girls” of the Nursery Unit, who competed for possession of him, holding him with their trunks whenever he strayed, and gently steering him back. That day, the mudbath guests un-nerved him and he made an attempt to flee, but immediately the 3 Big Girls ran after him, comforted him, and brought him back, shielding him from the crowd so that he felt protected. And so, little Siria has a new and loving elephant family, and never has a baby elephant be more warmly welcomed and loved. Having been comforted by the older elephants, once he was more settled, he was moved to Lesanju’s junior group, since the 3 older orphans will shortly be ready to move to the Ithumba Rehabilitation Centre, and he is a little too young to be able to go with them.

Amazingly, immediately he was drawn to Kenia, sensing that she and he had a lot in common, having only recently lost their elephant mother and family. He and Kenia are now inseparable, although he still has a great fondness for Lenana, Makena and Chyulu and often seeks them out. Kenia continues to pick a quarrel with Shimba who, for some reason, she targets.

The mudbath antics of Lempaute this month included focusing on a small baby in a push-chair amongst the visitors. She kept on touching the baby’s head gently with her trunk, and then snatched the baby’s toy, which left the baby crying. However, the Keepers were close at hand to retrieve the toy and return it to its rightful owner! Lempaute has now prompted little Dida to also interact with the visitors, moving along the cordon, and playing with their shoes, singling out any young children for particular attention. One day Lempaute went through the cordon, held the handle of a baby’s push-chair in her trunk, and began to push it around, much to the delight of the visitors and the alarm of the little occupant!

At first Siria was daunted by the mudbath visiting crowd of spectators, running off back into the bush, hotly pursued by his Keepers and the three Big Girls. Lenana, Chyulu and Makena surrounded him and gently herded him back. On another occasion, when the crowd became too noisy, he ran through the rope, scattering them in all directions, again hotly pursued by Lenana, Makena and Chyulu, scattering the crowd and making them even noisier. However, he soon settled into the mudbath routine and after those two occasions, has behaved impeccably.

Again, towards the end of the month, a male lion caused a stir by roaring at close quarters throughout the night, and one evening lying just outside Angela’s front door within sight of everyone! He also scared Lenana, Chyulu and Makena out in the bush by passing within view of them, prompting them to run to their Keepers for protection.

The Rhinos:- Maxwell has lost condition this month, passing much softer stools. Nestles Lactogen baby milk is the ideal formula for rhinos and zebra, both members of the horse family. However, it has been difficult and very expensive to procure, so we tried substituting a Milk Replacer instead. We will now revert to Lactogen, since he is obviously not thriving on the Replacer and should his stools not improve, will undergo a course of Sulphadimidine.

Meanwhile, Shida remains a regular visitor, and the highlight of Maxwell’s dark world. He enjoys interacting with Maxwell through the bars of the Stockade, voluntarily putting himself back in his Stockade for the mudbath hour so that visitors can give him some attention as well even though he is now almost 4 years old, independent of his Keepers, and supposed to be just another wild rhino of Nairobi National Park. For a bull rhino, he has a mild temperament and a very gentle and friendly nature. He obviously enjoys the companionship of Maxwell who is no threat to him.

April 2008 day to day

01 Apr

Shimba and Kenia became involved in their usual pushing match at the mudbath, which distracted Lesanju, who had to keep on having to separate them. Kenia has always targeted Shimba, seemingly bearing a grudge against little boys!

Kenia having her milk bottle at mudbath

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