Keepers' Diaries, April 2012

Nairobi Nursery Unit

April has been an extremely hectic month for us. April Fools’ Day brought a surprise first thing in the morning, which, according to tribal custom, should have been a good omen but seems to have turned out otherwise - a large python curled up in a bush beside the Orphans’ mudbath! Everyone was up early to take a look, and not enjoying such attention, the snake moved off once all the excitement had died down!

01 April 2012

There was great excitement at dawn when the Keepers noticed a large python curled up in a bush beside the Orphans’ mudbath, everyone coming to take a look at the snake, which, later moved on. Meanwhile Tano and Shukuru gathered outside Kerio’s stable, hoping to escort the baby out, but little Kerio was on life support, not sufficiently strong to even stand. After the younger orphans had taken their milk at mudbath time, Kanjoro sneaked off to join the older group, who were at the next sitting, turning up again with them, hoping for another ration on milk! He has turned into a very greedy boy!

02 April 2012

It was a very sad morning, for little Kerio passed away at 6 a.m., despite our best efforts to save her. All the orphans walked off into the forest in a somber mood, understanding that Kerio was no more, probably from Kihari, who occupied the adjoining stable and was witness to events. At 11 a.m., as soon as the first milk feed had taken place, there was a heavy downpour of rain, which sent both the visitors and the elephants scuttling off for shelter. Little Kithaka was first to exit the venue, running to shelter in his stable. Thereafter loud claps of thunder scared the orphans, who all huddled close to their human Keepers for comfort and protection. Later, when the rain subsided, they enjoyed slipping and sliding in the mud, especially playful Naipoki and Sities.

03 April 2012

Ever since her arrival, Ishanga has been inclined to be a bully, her favourite pastime biting the tails of others without respect for age. She has bitten Mutara’s tail, that of Shukuru and even Kanjoro’s half tail. This morning at the 9 a.m. feed she finished her milk rapidly, and then knocked Shukuru, trying to snatch her bottle of milk. This infuriated Shukuru who immediately ran after Ishanga to settle the score, followed by the Keepers, but Ishanga was too quick for them. Having spent some time out, she sneaked back into the herd Again, having downed his noon bottle of milk, Kanjoro again ran off to join the Bigger Group of orphans, with whom he feels more comfortable.

04 April 2012

On another very wet morning, the orphans left their Night stables and Stockades in a jovial mood, without little Kithaka, who was kept indoors because of the weather. The other orphans enjoyed mud bathing out in the bush during the rainstorm, the younger ones such as Naipoki, Ishaq-B, Kihari and Sities enjoying sliding off the bodies of Mutara, Makireti, Shukuru and Turkwel as they lay in the mud. Sonje enjoyed wallowing away from the others because of her injured back leg. All had a wonderful morning. Again Kanjoro ran off into the bush having downed his milk at mudbath, and did not join the older orphans on this occasion. The Keepers trailed his footprints and bumped into 4 lions ambushing 2 male buffaloes, forcing the Keepers to make a sharp detour, trailed by all the orphans. Eventually, they found Kanjoro deep in the forest, and brought him back home, thankful that the lions had not targeted him.

05 April 2012

Kasigau enjoyed a Pushing Game with Shukuru which kept on being interrupted by Mutara, the Nursery Matriarch. Naipoki and Ishaq-B also challenged one another while Turkwel, Tano, Kainuk and Sities enjoyed a soil bath, Orwa and Ishanga keeping Murera company. Later on a troupe of baboons passed by, chattering noisily and scaring the elephants who ran back to their Keepers, little Kithaka being heavily guarded by Mutara, Shukuru, Makireti and Kilabasi. Once the baboons had dispersed, the orphans took to the usual deterrent Bush-Bashing!

06 April 2012

Once Solio emerged from her Night Stockade, she ran playfully from and back towards her Keepers before enjoying a lengthy mud wallow, scraping up copious quantities of mud with her horn. Later she settled down to browse. Sometimes she travels a great distance investigating the middens of the wild rhino residents, contributing her own scent trail. She is obviously eager to meet up with others of her kind, but so far they have eluded her.

07 April 2012

At the Orphans’ mudbath, two huge buffalo bulls appeared on the nearby rocks in full view of all the visitors, many of whom had never seen a buffalo before, so this was a treat for them. Orwa is a very polite little elephant. As soon as he has downed his bottle of milk, he turns to greet the visitors, walking along the cordon and allowing everyone to touch him and feel the texture of elephant skin. Little Kithaka is also a great favourite with the visitors, being the smallest.

08 April 2012

Kanjoro is still a nervous character, but is calming down. Kasigau the dominant bull of the Nursery elephant family, likes to try and challenge Kanjoro to a Pushing Game, which is the favourite pastime of adolescent bulls, but Kanjoro is not yet fit enough to be much of a match for Kasigau. Naipoki and Kihari often try to keep Kanjoro company, but he is still grieving for his lost elephant mother and family, and is something of a loner. Murera’s paralyzed back leg is still not showing signs of any improvement, and is still swollen and unable to take weight, trailing it on the ground as she moves. She lies down to sleep, making sure the injured leg is on he top, and straight. She loves her milk, and browses as much as she can. The Keepers cut special greens for her and Orwa spends time with her for company, but also enjoys joining the others out in the bush. He is very fond of little Kithaka.

09 April 2012

This was the day that brought 3 month old baby “Maralal” to us, having been rescued from a well in the Karisia forest by tribesmen and KWS personnel. She was welcomed very warmly by all the Keepers, desperate to take milk from a hand-held bottle from the start, but since it was late, all the orphans were already in for the night. The new baby was very restless in her stable, so Kihari was moved next door to her and Ishaq-B taken next door to Tano. The new baby bellowed frequently throughout the night, which upset all the others, especially Naipoki, all of whom also protested noisily throughout the night. No one got much sleep!

10 April 2012

Naipoki and Tano were first to arrive at the new baby’s stable door first thing in the morning eager to meet the latest addition, Tano trying to push down the door in order to gain access, but since the baby was still sleeping, the Keepers would not allow them in. Later at 7 p.m. the new baby was allowed out, and was very warmly welcomed by all the Big Girls, who gathered around, eager to comfort and touch her with their trunks, rumbling endearments. Tano struggled to take the newcomer from Mutara, Shukuru and Makireti and finally succeeded, the new baby suckling on her ears. The new baby made her first public appearance at the noon mudbath where she was the centre of attraction!

11 April 2012

As soon as the orphans emerged in the morning, Wonder Boy “Orwa” engaged injured “Murera” in a gentle Pushing Game, which she thoroughly enjoyed, the Keepers all incredulous at how mindful he was of her condition. They intertwined their trunks in a show of affection and solidarity. Little Maralal had her second day out with the other orphans and is still feeding well and comfortable with the Keepers. Sonje’s lump on her back leg shows no signs of change, and is still rock hard, but does not seem to worry her over much, although she does favour that leg. Kanjoro is still adjusting emotionally to his new situation, but is rapidly putting on weight and regaining strength.

12 April 2012

Naipoki is eager to assist Tano in taking care of little Maralal, who has diverted her attention from Kithaka. Shukuru is now Kithaka’s favourite followed by Makireti and Mutara, who seems to have relinquished ownership of the small babies. Having checked that they are alright first thing in the morning, she is happy to allow Shukuru, Tano, Turkwel and Makireti to take charge. Meanwhile Kasigau is trying to get dominance over the Big Girls, challenging Mutara but in vain. He then challenged Shukuru but Mutara, Kilabasi and naughty Ishanga thwarted him. He then resorts to trying to bully Kanjoro, who does not have the strength to be a suitable opponent, so the Keepers then intervene! Kasigau is desperate for another bull of his age with whom he can test his Pushing prowess!

13 April 2012

Being a Friday, it was Coconut Oiling day for the Nursery Elephants. Kanjoro, Kilabasi and Sonje tried to escape this, but the Keepers rounded them up! Even Murera got an oiling, followed by dusting, which the Keepers did for her and which she enjoyed. After the oiling, all the orphans have a busy time dusting themselves, youngsters such as Ishaq-B, Sities, Kainuk and Naipoki having a playful time bumping into each other and rolling around. During the dusting, Kasigau seized an opportunity to climb on Mutara as she lay down, accidentally stepping on her trunk. This made her bellow, and as Kasigau walked away, she went after him, driving him far off into the bush as a punishment. It was sometime before he sneaked back into the herd, careful to keep a distance from Mutara in case she had not forgiven him!

14 April 2012

At 1 p.m. we received a call that a baby White Rhino needed rescuing from Meru National Park. The rescue plane and team landed at Kinna airstrip at 4 p.m. to find the baby rhino with a broken back leg. The Vet told us he had been spotted with his mother and with the broken back leg which he (the Vet) had attended to. However three days later the calf was spotted alone and unable to stand, having been abandoned by the mother. The baby arrived back at the Nursery after dark at 7 p.m. a baby bull no more than 2 weeks old. We splintered the leg overnight, having made arrangements to have it X-rayed and operated on the following day (Sunday) by two experienced Veterinarians.

15 April 2012

The baby rhino was named “Nyope”, the Swahili word for “White”. He was taken to the Clinic soon after 8, where the Vets awaited him, with everything prepared for the operation. However, as he calf was carried from the car, he died in our arms. Meanwhile, there was another Rescue alert that day, this time an elephant calf from Wamba, whose mother had been spotted by the community severely injured by poachers bleeding from the mouth, with a front leg shattered by bullets, unable to move. The matter was reported to the KWS Vet, who came to assess the situation, and decided that there was no hope for the mother, and that she must be euthenazed out of humanitarian grounds and the calf rescued. The baby was a tiny bull baby of about 2 months and given the name “Barsilinga”. By 4 p.m. he was safely back in the Nursery, welcomed very warmly by all, humans and elephants alike, but very disturbed, crying a lot for his mother.

16 April 2012

Barsilinga was very restless, walking from one elephant to another trying to suckle their ears while still screaming for his mother. During the night he occupied the stable next door to Kihari. He kept on trying to climb the partition and bellowing, which upset Kihari and all the other elephants, and disturbed the rest of the entire human family!

17 April 2012

Ishanga took great interest in the newcomer, walking behind him, but he gravitated to Turkwel, who allowed him to suckle her ears. Makireti then came to Barsilinga, and encouraged him to suck on her ears instead, which he was happy to do. All the Big females are now obsessed with the two newcomers, (Maralal and Barsilinga) over and above Kithaka, although Turkwel has stuck by Kithaka.

18 April 2012

Kithaka has a special blanket that hangs in his Stable, and which he loves, nuzzling it prior to taking his milk. The Keepers sometimes take the same blanket to hang in the forest for his milk feeds, but he wants it only in his stable. Today at the 9 a.m. milk feed, as all the bottles arrived in a wheelbarrow, Kithaka put up his trunk, and ran back to his table to fondle the blanket in order to take his milk. The same happened at the 3 p.m. milk feed!

19 April 2012

Murera woke up in an active mood today, eager to be amongst the other orphans as the Keepers took their breakfast. Later, the main orphan herd left for the forest, and Murera had to remain behind. The physiotherapist came to work on her leg, and thought that there was some progress since the swelling had reduced, but that there appeared to be no sensation in the lower part of the leg.

20 April 2012

Kanjoro is still very unsettled. Today at the mudbath, having taken his milk, he pushed down a Keeper who was feeding Maralal, knocking the baby over as well. She bellowed loudly, and everyone ran to her aid, Kanjoro meanwhile running off into the forest again. He was then moved to the older group and in the evening downed his bottles very fast and then ran first after the Keeper, and then headed out into the bush. The Keepers then tried to entice him back with a bottle, but ended up having to surround him to bring him back in.

21 April 2012

News arrived late yesterday that our Voi Elephant Keepers had rescued a young male elephant of about 2-3 months in Tsavo East National Park, and held him overnight at the Voi Stockades. He was airlifted to the Nursery, arriving at about 1 p.m. Meanwhile adjustments were in progress to partition Turkwel’s stable to make space for the newcomer, so he was allowed to join the Nursery Orphans immediately, and was warmly embraced. Suddenly, Ishanga began to run, closely followed by the newcomer and Kanjoro who is not yet settled. A massive hunt ensued to round up the three who were only found at dusk some 2 kms. away near the Banda Gate!

22 April 2012

Newcomer Balguda has settled very well, but surprisingly seems to like Kanjoro above all the others, probably because they have so much in common having lost their elephant mother recently. Naipoki adores him, spending most of the day right beside him. As soon as she emerged this morning, she searched for him in his stable, but he was already out with Ishaq-B and Kanjoro. With the arrival of Balguda, Turkwel and Kainuk now share a large Stockade, which suits them well since they are very close. Meanwhile, Ishaq-B is next door to Balguda. Today Maralal suddenly became very weak having previously been active. She was brought back to the Stable.

23 April 2012

Maralal was fighting for her life this morning, on life support in an ear vein. The orphans played joyfully, since it was a sunny morning after a night of heavy rain. Balguda, Barsilinga and Kithaka remained close to their Keepers. In the afternoon there was another heavy rainstorm, so the three babies had to be returned to their stables.

24 April 2012

Maralal, who had been on a drip yesterday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. seemed to then rally, back on her feet and begging for milk, which she took eagerly and wanted more. We all thought that she had turned the corner, but just before 6 a.m. this morning she passed away, so it was a very tearful farewell as we buried her small body. She had been deeply loved, but obviously God loved her more. Rest in Peace little Maralal, and in our hearts. She came in teething, with her stomach in a mess, and during the time we had her, never managed to sleep properly at night. Everything that had befallen this baby had proved too much for her. She had lost the will to live.

25 April 2012

Kithaka was closer to Maralal than to Barsilinga. This morning he went looking for her, and not finding her, has affected him deeply. Having found her stable empty, he walked away with head down, consoled by Tano who was waiting for him at the corner of the Stockade compound. Kainuk has always been a Pushy member of the Nursery herd, often pushing Kihari, who has always been a gentle little girl. Out in the Park today, Kihari stood firm when Kainuk tried to bully her. Upon seeing this, Naipoki came to support Kihari, and together the managed to get topsides of Kainuk, driving her away.

26 April 2012

Sonje and Orwa are Stockade neighbours now, and have become very close friends, rather like a brother and sister. They feed and play together, and are never apart. Up until now Balguda has preferred Kanjoro, but he is now gravitating towards Orwa and Sonje, Orwa, who is such a gentle elephant, welcoming him by putting out his trunk, and then playing gently with the baby. Orwa loves baby-sitting smaller ones, especially newcomers, teaching them some of the things he knows. Maxwell’s Stockade has been turned into one huge mudwallow, in which he enjoys wallowing. Today, he was wallowing when Solio came back home, and he immediately began joyfully running up and down and then engaging her in play through the separating poles of their quarters. They love one another dearly.

27 April 2012

Because it has been so wet for the last three days, raining during the day and drizzling during the night, the three babies, i.e. Kithaka, Balguda and Barsilinga have had to be in and out of their stables. The other orphans went out as usual, having fun slipping and sliding and rolling in the mud. Murera, who has been nursing a serious injury on one hind leg, which is paralyzed, is showing some improvement. The swelling has decreased and she has a happier face, enjoys her milk and porridge and the greens that we cut for her, plus the company of the others who always come to see how she is on the way out and back in the evenings. However, a boil is developing near her anus, which, when ripe, will burst and release a lot of toxins. Sities has also had a boil on her cheek, which has burst now and is healing.

28 April 2012

Sonje has become very pushy to all who are close to her at milk feeding time. Although she has a close friendship with Orwa, even he gets rough treatment from her at feed times. Sities had a mind of her own today, not wanting to follow the usual route to her stable, and instead giving the Keepers a hard time!

29 April 2012

In the absence of the Big Girls, Naipoki has taken it upon herself to mother Balguda, pushing all others who come close away. Sities would also like to mother Balguda, but Naipoki blocks her.

30 April 2012

It was a beautiful sunny day, without rain, so all the orphans enjoyed their time out in the bush. Kithaka kept walking away from the others, and rolling on the ground as though in pain. Turkwel was very concerned, and kept following him while Mutara and Shukuru gave up and returned to little Barsilinga. He took his milk at 3 p.m. and after that appeared normal.