Keepers' Diaries, April 2009

Nairobi Nursery Unit

The month of April brought another 5 Elephant Rescues, and two more deaths, leaving us with l8 baby elephants in the Nairobi Nursery until the departure to the Voi Rehabilitation Unit of Lesanju, Lempaute and Sinya, which took place on the 29th.

01 April 2009

Maalim had just finished his noon mudbath, when he suddenly heard two baby warthogs approaching from behind. He spun round, lowered his head, and walked determinedly towards them. However, since the baby warthogs were the same size as him, they were not deterred, and continued to advance, whereupon Maalim lost his nerve and rushed to his Keepers for protection!

02 April 2009

Shida returned to his Stockade in a very bad mood today, threatening anyone who passed the door until some Copra Cake was put in his Stockade for him to eat so that the door could then be closed, because we were approaching the 11 a.m. – 12 noon visiting hour. Some warthogs went into his Stockade to share the Copra cake as usual, and immediately he tossed a female.

03 April 2009

Maalim was in a very happy mood at the noon Visiting Hour. After his mudbath he rushed to the visitors moving along the cordon so that they could touch him, and sometimes even moving through into the crowd. He thoroughly enjoyed all the attention he received today.

04 April 2009

We were alerted to another Elephant Rescue this morning, this time a baby who had been extracted from a well near the township of Isiolo in Northern Kenya. He arrived at the Nursery at noon, in reasonable condition, but very tired. He is about 6 weeks old and was named “Isiolo” to identify his origin. During the night he bellowed continuously, obviously remembering his elephant family, and this disturbed all the other elephants who also bellowed throughout the night, so everyone had a very sleepless night!

05 April 2009

Young “Isiolo” joined the other babies after the noon mudbath, but was very restless, constantly searching the bushes for his lost elephant mother and family. All the babies, except other newcomers such as Tassia and Bhaawa tried to console him, and soon he settled down a little, and during the night was much quieter.

06 April 2009

It was a difficult time for a Keeper who found he had to feed both Kimana and Ndii at the same time during the night, since the Trust is cutting back on overtime payments. Kimana finished his ration first, and then wanted to take Ndii’s. Immediately Ndii objected, leaving her bottle to take on Kimana in a tough fight, pushing him around the stable until another Keeper came to help separate the warring parties!

07 April 2009

It was a hot day, and little Isiolo plunged into the mudbath. The Keepers had difficulty extracting him, not wanting him to get chilled because he is still new and somewhat fragile, recovering from the trauma of being orphaned and having originated in a pastoral area filled with domestic livestock.

08 April 2009

There lingers some animosity between Ndii and Kimana following the altercation over the Night feed. Kimana resented Ndii sucking the fingers and dust-coat of the Keeper, and came to push her away. She retaliated, and managed to get the better of Kimana, who although a little older than Ndii, is not quite as muscular!

09 April 2009

The two smallest babies, newcomer Isiolo and Kibo, who have adjoining stables at night, have formed a strong friendship, and stick together throughout the day sometimes following Tassia who is still mourning his lost elephant family, and likes to spend time alone out in the bush. The three babies form a small unit apart from the others.

10 April 2009

Another Rescue alert today, this time from Tsavo East National Park, an orphaned elephant calf having been rescued near Satao Camp near the Eastern Park boundary. She arrived at 3 p.m. having been flown in from Voi and was very starved and in poor condition, already passing watery muddy stools. She was named “Pasaka”. the Swahili word for “Easter”, since she arrived on Good Friday.

11 April 2009

Yet another Elephant Rescue alert, this time from the Kipsing in Northern Kenya where a baby elephant had become bogged in the sticky mud of a very polluted watering place said to be infected with cholera. It was with difficulty that the calf was pulled from the mud, a party from Ol Malu Ranch having come to help. The baby appeared in reasonable condition upon arrival in the Nairobi Nursery, but was a very reluctant feeder. He was named “Sieku”, the area from whence he came.

12 April 2009

Shida returned today, having been absent for the past few days. He was still in a bad mood, standing outside his Stockade and threatening anyone who came close, refusing to be called away. Everyone gave him a wide berth until he decided to take himself off again.

13 April 2009

Pasaka, who has been becoming progressively weaker, was put on a drip today. She seemed to rally a little, but then regressed, and passed away at 3 a.m. during the early hours of the 14th. The Keepers who had worked so hard to try and keep her alive could not help shedding tears having tried so hard to save the life of this beautiful little female calf, of whom they had become very fond.

14 April 2009

Little Sieku was allowed out to join the other babies after the noon mudbath. He looked excited, but also shocked, heading out alone into the bush, without showing any interest in the others. After some time he began to notice Sabachi and Mawenzi, who followed him, Mawenzi trying hard to console him by resting her trunk across his back in a gesture of friendship and love.

15 April 2009

Today was the first time Sieku was to be taken to the noon mudbath, but he refused to follow the Keepers, and instead remained behind in the bush with Kibo and Isiolo to keep him company. Soon after having taken his milk, Kimana walked back in the direction from which the group had come, and stood there with his ears out, pointing his trunk in the direction of Sieku, Isiolo and Kibo, obviously aware that some members of the group were absent. On this day the babies joined the older elephant group, Sabachi very attached to Lesanju sucking her ears, while Bhaawa did the same to Sinya.

16 April 2009

Since the two small babies were becoming too focused on sucking the ears of Lesanju and Sinya over and above taking their milk ration, we decided to separate the two groups, taking Kenia from the Older Group to be the role model for the youngsters. After the 3 p.m. feed, there was a sudden change in Sieku who had a bloated stomach and was breathing heavily. He walked some distance from the others and lay down. The Keepers went to rouse him, but he again walked a short way and lay down, passing a lot of very watery stool. We rushed for the intravenous drip, but by the time we returned the blood pressure was too low to find a vein, and Sieku died as we were desperately trying to insert the drip. The Keepers were shocked by his sudden demise, which happened when Dame Daphne and Angela were in Tsavo.

17 April 2009

Kenia is having a difficult time keeping the discipline amongst so many very small babies. However, Isiolo and Kibo are very fond of Kenia, and spend most of their time close to her. Suguta, on the other hand, decided to push Kenia whilst Kenia was taking her milk, which annoyed Kenia, who left her bottle to run after Suguta punishing her by pushing her from behind. Suguta kept running away, so Kenia grabbed her tail and bit it, making Suguta bellow loudly. This brought the Keepers to the rescue in a rush!

18 April 2009

Early in the morning, the Rescue Team from the Nursery left for yet another Elephant Rescue, this time from the Milgis area of Laikipia where yet another very small elephant baby had fallen down a well. The baby was extremely exhausted upon arrival in the Nursery, having apparently spent the previous night bellowing without sleep. She was named “Nchan”, the Samburu word for “rain”, because everywhere in Kenya people are praying for rain which is so badly needed during this extremely challenging drought year.

19 April 2009

Today little Nchan was allowed out of the stable, but kept close and apart from the others by because she still looked very tired and weak. She is already very attached to her Keepers, following them everywhere and sucking their dust-coats and fingers.

20 April 2009

Since Kenia has been put in charge of the small babies, there has been an improvement in the behaviour of the more pushy babies such as Kimana, Ndii, Suguta and Bhaawa. During the mudbath Kimana came begging for Kenia’s share of the milk, which made Kenia furious. She immediately pushed him down to teach him manners!

21 April 2009

Bhaawa and Sabachi are both very fond of Kenia, constantly sucking her ears. Mawenzi has been showing interest in encouraging them to do the same to her, but they want only Kenia.

22 April 2009

Nchan joined the other small babies today. At first she seemed not interested in them, simply sticking close to the Keepers. Kenia comforted her by touching her chin with her trunk and laying a trunk across her back. Mawenzi and Suguta tried hard to gain her friendship, but Nchan was not interested, and only wanted to remain close to the Keepers.

23 April 2009

The three oldest Nursery orphans, Lesanju, Lempaute and Sinya began practicing going into the large trucks, parked at the loading bays, because they will soon be transferred to the Voi Unit to begin their gradual reintegration back into the wild elephant system of Tsavo. Sinya went in the truck to take her milk without any trouble, but Lesanju stretched at the entrance to reach her bottle, without actually going in. Lempaute wanted nothing to do with this new departure, and refused to even get close, even after we had stacked bushes around the entrance to make it look more normal!

24 April 2009

Today both Sinya and Lesanju went into the trucks without a problem, but Lempaute would rather miss her milk feed than go anywhere near the trucks. Obviously she associates them with the sudden removal of Shimba, Wasessa, Mzima and Siria last month.

25 April 2009

Tassia has regained his strength. He used to be able to be pushed by Ndii, Kimana, Suguta and Mawenzi, but nowadays he is taking his revenge, and pushing the others down, especially having taken his milk feeds. During the mudbath he pushed little Isiolo down, and wanted to go on doing so, but the Keeper was there before him to keep order.

26 April 2009

After the noon mudbath, the Keepers brought the two groups of Nursery orphans together. Sabachi, who loves Lesanju, had a very happy time with her. Bhaawa was also happy to be with the older elephants, kneeling down and begging to be able to suckle Lesanju’s tiny nipples, on the opposite side to Sabachi, who at first failed to notice. However, when Sabachi saw what was going on he became furious, and rushed round to push Bhaawa away.

27 April 2009

Today it rained all morning, which meant that the small babies had to be kept in their stables, which they did not enjoy. Even Maalim had to remain indoors until 2 p.m. when the sun came out. The noon visitors had to view the babies in their stables, because they did not come to the mudbath for fear of getting chilled and contracting pneumonia.

28 April 2009

It was a busy day preparing for the transfer to Voi of Lesanju, Lempaute and Sinya. Whilst Lesanju and Sinya willingly enter the parked vehicles to take their milk, Lempaute refused to even leave the door of the Stockade during the evening practice session. In the end her milk had to be taken to her.

29 April 2009

This was an auspicious day in the Nairobi Nursery, the day that Lesanju, Lempaute and Sinya were due to be moved to the Voi Rehabilitation facility. They were loaded into their respective trucks at 5 a.m. and at 5.30 a.m. were on their way to their new home. That evening another orphaned baby elephant was flown in from Mugi Ranch in Laikipia to the Nursery, his mother having died from a huge abscess on her side. He was already on a drip upon arrival because he was so thin and weak, and also suffering from diarrheoa. However, he took milk eagerly, and although very restless during the night, was a lot stronger by morning. He was named “Olkeju”.

30 April 2009

The new baby’s diarrheoa has abated, and he continues to feed well, so the drip was removed during the night. He was kept under very close surveillance throughout the day, and allowed out of the stable for a little exercise in the afternoon but was still too weak to join the others.