Keepers' Diaries, April 2011

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Of mounting concern has been the progressive decline in the health of orphan Kudup, now aged two, who is showing similar symptoms to other drought and well victims that we have lost. That seems to be the common denominator but the actual nature of the disease has defeated all the Vets to date, who seem to believe that it is heart related. South African specialists are expected shortly hoping that they will be able to shed some light on this mysterious ailment which has taken the lives of several of our elephants, all about the age of 2 years and all who seemed to be thriving during early infancy. The Nursery main Matriarch, Olare and her deputy, Mutara, are both very caring of Kudup, singling her out to give her special comfort and loving, obviously empathizing with her suffering.

Of mounting concern has been the progressive decline in the health of orphan Kudup, now aged two, who is showing similar symptoms to other drought and well victims that we have lost. That seems to be the common denominator but the actual nature of the disease has defeated all the Vets to date, who seem to believe that it is heart related. South African specialists are expected shortly hoping that they will be able to shed some light on this mysterious ailment which has taken the lives of several of our elephants, all about the age of 2 years and all who seemed to be thriving during early infancy. The Nursery main Matriarch, Olare and her deputy, Mutara, are both very caring of Kudup, singling her out to give her special comfort and loving, obviously empathizing with her suffering.

Apart from the sorrow and stress of having to watch Kudup's suffering and decline, which is shared with all the Keepers as well as her elephant peers, April has been a relatively quiet month in the Nursery with no fresh arrivals. Relative newcomer babies of the Nursery, (little Naipoki and Kainuk) are thriving and there exists between them a strong bond of friendship. Sities, who was at first somewhat jealous of the attention given the two smaller elephants by Mutara and Olare, has also become closer to them. Kainuk instantly formed a bond of friendship with another Ex Lake Turkana elephant (Turkwel), and the Keepers believe that the two might have known one another when living wild. (Very few elephant herds remain in the Lake Turkana area where they have been ruthlessly poached for decades). On a day when Turkwel went into her Night unseen by Kainuk who was following at a distance, Kainuk ran back into the bush bellowing to search for her. Not even a bottle of milk taken to her by the Keepers could persuade her to return so in the end Turkwel had to be let out to go and fetch her and escort her back, reassuring the baby that all was well. Thereafter Turkwel comforted her by rumbling to her at intervals throughout the night, since these two are night stable neighbours.

Olare is a very competent Nursery Matriarch who now has to share her affections with 3 smaller babies rather than be focused just on Sities. She is happy to have Mutara and Murka as her Deputies. More recently Naisula and Kitirua have also begun to pay the two small babies more attention, having been spending time out together grieving for their lost elephant families. These two older orphans came into the Nursery within a short time of one another and share a Night Stockade. The fact that natural motherly instincts are now beginning to surface is indicative that they are healing psychologically, and this is heart warming indeed.

Ishanga, another older relative newcomer seems to be going through the usual bad behaviour linked to the "post traumatic stress disorder of humans". She is very pushy, especially at milk feeding times and is also antagonistic and jealous of Mutara's caring of babies Naipoki and Kainuk.

An unusual "climbing elephant" is Kalama whose prowess is depicted on the IMAX Big Screen in the recent IMAX film featuring the Orphaned Elephants and the Orangutans of Borneo. Kalama has learnt to reach high into the trees for delicacies by standing on her back legs with her forelegs resting on lower branches, something that has impressed the Keepers. She has also been reluctant to be upgraded from the "Baby Group: to the Older Group who forage further afield during the hours of daylight, clearly preferring the extra attention the Youngsters are given by the Keepers and the visiting public.

Yet again, hungry Nairobi Lions have brought additional tension and excitement to the Nursery orphans this month, scaring Naipoki when they dashed past in pursuit of a warthog out in the bush, and causing Naisula and Kitirua to trumpet their alarm when four strolled past their Stockade in the late evening as the Keepers were taking their dinner. As usual the wild warthogs who reside around the Trust Premises and enjoy the protection offered by keeping close to the elephants and Keepers, have provided entertainment at the noon mudbath on hot days. On the 9th Kalama failed to dislodge them from the mudbath pool so Murka took charge and chased the warthogs deep into the bush before putting on an impressive threat display of Bush Bashing, cheered on by the human audience!

No one can surely still doubt the intelligence of even infant elephants! That Makireti and Ishanga ran back so that their Keepers could brush off tobarnid biting flies that were bothering them is another small example of the fact that the orphans look to their human family for help. At first the Keepers were bemused as to what was wrong, until they happened to notice the Biting Flies and were able to brush them off.

Even the elephants are intolerant of bad human behaviour amongst the young. Olare showed her irritation one evening when some very rowdy human children of foster parents whom neither the Keepers nor their parents could control. Olare swiped at them with her trunk through the bars of her Night Stockade to put them in line, something that she would never normally even contemplate! However, on this occasion, such rude behaviour before the elephants was not tolerated by their Matriarch!

The Rhinos:- On the 5th little Solio illustrated the fact that when a rhino feels threatened, its mode of defence is attack! Four roaring lions turned up just outside her Stockade at 4 a.m. in the morning, and rather than cower in a corner with the Keeper, she continually charged the door, eager to get out and deal with them. Likewise blind Maxwell was eager to get at them, running up and down his enclosure and charging in the direction of the noise! However, Solio was not quite so brave when she detected the scent of a strange wild rhino in one of the rhino "middens" where she contributes her dung on a daily basis by way of an introduction into the wild community. She was so visibly nervous and unsettled that the Keepers had to take her to another location.

Solio is a very gentle baby, who, like all rhinos, loves being caressed and rubbed, instantly collapsing in a state of torpor and bliss in response to the sense of touch! Blind Maxwell does the same. Both rhinos are a delight and are healthy and happy in our care as orphans.

April 2011 day to day

01 Apr

Orphaned Rhino Solio welcomed the new morning in a very jovial mood, after a night of drizzling rain. Her jubilant mood lasted throughout the day shared by the Nursery Elephants who also enjoyed the damp earth and small puddles. All decided against the mudbath.

Solio out in the bush

Orphans browsing

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