Keepers' Diaries, April 2013

Nairobi Nursery Unit

It has been an extremely wet and stormy month in the Nursery, turning the yard and particularly Maxwell’s Stockade into an endless veritable mudbath! The weather has also meant that any very young or fragile elephants have had to remain indoors when raining for fear of pneumonia, and since all elephants hate being confined, this is never popular.

01 April 2013

Turkwel, Kainuk and Sities are still rehearsing for their move to the Ithumba Rehabilitation facility in N. Tsavo East. Having previously been reluctant to enter the Elephant Mover Truck, Sities gained confidence when she saw Orwa, Naipoki and Ishaq-B going in without hesitation. Meanwhile poor tiny “Bocha” continues to fight for survival, his stools continuing to be very loose.

02 April 2013

Little Bocha fell into a coma this morning and had to be put on Life Support, which brought him round, and gave him sufficient energy to down his milk. However, the diarrheoa persists despite medication.

03 April 2013

This was the last dawn in the Nairobi Nursery for Turkwel, Kainuk and Sities, all of whom went into the Elephant Mover without a problem, much to everyone’s relief. It proved to be a very smooth transition for these three elephants.

04 April 2013

A few minutes past 11 a.m. news was received that a tiny newborn calf had been found near the main National Park Voi airfield and had been taken to the Voi Rehabilitation Centre by the Voi Keepers, to await the arrival of a plane to bring it to the Nairobi Nursery. The calf was a newborn baby girl, who was named “Ajabu” (the Swahili term for “mystery”, since the reason she was abandoned at birth was, indeed, a mystery.) Upon arrival this tiny newborn had a large infusion of the Elephant Plasma kept stored in the Trust Freezer for such situations when a newborn is unlikely to have received the mother’s first milk containing antibodies vital to survival. Poor little Bocha passed away peacefully at 7 p.m. – yet another heartbreak for the Nursery Keepers.

05 April 2013

Little Bocha is sadly missed by his elephant family and the Keepers who tried so desperately to save him. Sweet little Ajabu is taking her milk well, and is contented with her 24 hour intensive human care.

06 April 2013

Jasiri’s survival still hangs very much in the balance, since he keeps collapsing into a coma, and has to be revived each time with an intravenous infusion of Dextrose, Saline and Hartman’s. His blood indicates the desperate condition that he is in having been without milk for the past 3 months. He is now being hand-fed on balls of cooked oatmeal porridge with added glucose to stabilize his blood sugar levels which are very low. Each time he comes round, he continues fighting the Keepers, which takes his strength.

07 April 2013

There is still concern over Tano, who remains unusually dull with some chronic underlying health problem that we have been unable to identify to date. Out in the field she spends time apart from the other orphans, and is reluctant to take a mudbath, instead just standing on the periphery. She takes her milk and porridge well, but seems reluctant to feed on vegetation despite being over 3 years of age, with stools that appear normal.

08 April 2013

A few minutes before midday, there was another report of an Elephant Rescue needed, this time a young yearling bull calf from Tundani on the Tiva watercourse in N. Tsavo East, who had been spotted from the air by the Trust Pilot overflying the area. The Ithumba Keepers managed to accomplish a very difficult rescue, literally having to hack their way through thick vegetation under extremely wet and muddy conditions, accompanied by the Film Unit who had come especially to monitor the translocation of Sities from the Nursery, whose rescue they had filmed 3 years ago. The calf was airlifted to the Nursery that evening, and was unusually friendly towards the human Keepers right from the start, something very unusual for a calf of that age. Believed to be another victim of poaching, he was named “Tundani” after the area in which he was found.

09 April 2013

Tundani spent a peaceful night in the Nursery in the Stockade next door to Laragai, who kept touching him and comforting him through the separating poles of their respective stockades. He is a very unusual calf, extremely comfortable and loving to his human family, something that has left the Keepers marveling and amazed. We are all convinced that he must have interacted with our Ex Orphans who roam the area where he was found with their wild friends. He has probably even been to Voi Stockades to drink, where he has seen the love the dependent, and Ex Orphans have for their human family.

10 April 2013

This, Tundani’s second day in the Nursery, and he is out and about with the other Nursery Elephants, feeding well on his milk and also on vegetation, but keeping close to the human Keepers, whom he has loved from the beginning! Laragai is paying him special attention.

11 April 2013

Jasiri can now keep pace with the other elephants out in the bush, but is still wary of the human Keepers, regarding them with suspicion and outspread ears whenever approached.

12 April 2013

It has been raining heavily almost every day, with many parts of the country suffering from flooding. The weather has meant that the babies of the Nursery (Ajabu, Lemoyian, Barsilinga, Tundani, Ngasha, Kithaka and those who are weak such as Jasiri and Tano have had to remain indoors for a lot of the time, which is not popular with them. The healthy and strong orphans have thoroughly enjoyed the frequent downpours, playing in the puddles and rolling in the mud, with Orwa and Bomani engaging one another frequently in playful strength-testing sliding matches!

13 April 2013

As usual, as soon as the doors of the stables and Stockades are opened early in the morning, all the Big Girls rush to check on the babies and the newcomers. Sonje was seen embracing Tundani who is very new in the Nursery while Naipoki and Kihari were busy following Jasiri along with Laragai and Lima lima. At the 9 a.m. milk feed it was noticed that Narok was limping, but managed to keep pace with the others.

14 April 2013

Just before the 9 a.m. milk feed today, Ngasha and Barsilinga engaged one another in a Pushing March which attracted the interest of Kithaka, but the arrival of the milk bottles disrupted the planned contest. Ngasha and Barsilinga are close playmates, but Ngasha enjoys attaching himself to Big Girl Tano who is now his adopted “mother figure” having replaced Shukuru in his affections.

15 April 2013

Although Murera is the oldest Nursery Member, she has yet to show any interest in being the Leader of the orphaned family after the departure of Turkwel and Mutara, possibly because her movement is compromised by the stiff back leg. Tano is not sufficiently healthy to take on this role, so the orphans are under the Matriarchship of young Naipoki and Kihari who were Mini-Matriarchs during the reign of Mutara and Turkwel, Naipoki is more responsible than Kihari, and without doubt she will prove a wonderful future adult Matriarch.

16 April 2013

It was a very unusual morning. As the Keepers opened up the Elephants, preparing to walk them out into the bush, they noticed that the Gate to Maxwell’s Stockade was wide open, and he was nowhere to be seen! Somehow the screw that secures his Gate had become loose during a heavy downpour during the night, and he had walked out, possibly following Solio. The Keepers instigated a search, and found blind Maxwell confused and crashing around the area of Angela’s house and the Orphans’ Mudbath. Armed with Lucerne, bananas and some milk in a bottle, the Keepers walked Maxwell back home, following his footprints so that he would recognize his scent trail. Amazingly, this strategy worked, much to everyone’s relief, and soon Max was back in his familiar territory thanks to the rhino experience gained by the Keepers over many years of raising and rehabilitating their orphaned young.

17 April 2013

Since the departure of Turkwel, Kainuk and Sities to Tsavo, Kithaka has switched his attachment mainly to Naipoki, with Kihari and Sonje as follow-ups while Lemoyian has chosen Ishaq-B, who previously used to be somewhat pushy towards the youngsters until disciplined by being upgraded to the Big Group of older orphans. Kithaka and Lemoyian are now very happy under their adopted Caretaker elephants.

18 April 2013

Orwa who is now the Biggest Boy in the Nursery, is beginning to behave like an independent Bull Elephant, enjoying trailing the other orphans rather than being in amongst them, obviously liking the feeling of independence from the family, ahead of his time! Orwa, who came into the Nursery in an advanced state of malnutrition, so feeble that he could not even stand unaided, will one day be a fine bull in the Tsavo ecosystem.

19 April 2013

As soon as the orphans emerge in the morning, Balguda and Kwale like rushing to tease Faraja, who gives them an Open Ear warning as soon as he spots them approaching with swinging trunks. This slows them down before one wrestles him from the front, while the other does the same from the back, something that always brings either Naipoki or Sonje to the rescue of Faraja. As soon as Balguda and Kwale notice the approach of Naipoki or Sonje they disengage and make good their escape, leaving Faraja to focus on his half albino brother Jasiri. Faraja and Jasiri have formed a firm friendship and possibly even knew each other while living wild in Amboseli.

20 April 2013

The door to Solio’s Stockade is now left wide open at night, once all the Foster-parent visitors have departed in the evening. She is free to roam at will during the night, and does so happily. This is after Solio took to spending several nights away from base before returning back to confirm that she is O.K. – something that has earned her the right to freedom, of which she thoroughly approves. Since this has happened, she has been returning every night, and as soon as she has enjoyed her Lucerne supplement, she knocks the Gate, so that a Keeper comes to open it up and leave it open during the night.

21 April 2013

Beautiful baby Ajabu is still making good progress in the Nursery, feeding well on her milk, gaining strength and active in between demand feeding. However, her stools were looser than previously, an indication that her teething process may be beginning, but throughout the day the consistency returned to normal, which was a relief. Teething in the infant elephant orphans is always fraught!

22 April 2013

Kihari is showing signs of aspiring to take over the Matriarchship of the Nursery group, allowing Ngasha to suckle on her ears, and trying to lead the group in a different direction. Naipoki is somewhat erratic when it comes to being a Leader, sometimes keen and at other times, not so! Kithaka sticks to either Sonje or Kihari while Ngasha has chosen Kihari.

23 April 2013

While all the Nursery Elephants enjoy the fresh green grass which is plentiful everywhere, Tundani prefers to remain very close to the Keepers, suckling on their fingers or dust-coats. Every time they take him to join the others, he wants to come back to just be with them. Barsilinga often joins him close to the Keepers. Faraja has begun to throw his weight around Kwale and Balguda pushing them away whenever they approach him.

24 April 2013

As all the elephants were running for their 9 a.m. milk feed, Tano walked slowly behind, and just fell down, much to the alarm of the Keepers who rushed to help her get up. Naipoki also rushed to her and put her trunk in Tano’s mouth in an Elephant Kiss. Lemoyian is becoming a Pushing Partner of Barsilinga, nowadays very strong and eager to take on Barsilinga.

25 April 2013

All the Elephants are thoroughly enjoying playing in all the wet mud out in the field, which provide endless mudbaths for them throughout the day. Different groups roll around in different patches, with Sonje moving from one group to another to check them out until 3 p.m. when it is time for another milk feed. All are conscious of the time, and instantly begin running for their milk at the appointed time.

26 April 2013

Although Murera has always been a close friend to Sonje, since sharing a Stockade there has been problems during the milk feeds, Murera trying to snatch Sonje’s share. Lima Lima and Laragai are also very close friends, feeding and playing close together, but inclined to wait for the milk feeds rather than take the opportunity to browse more. Jasiri is gradually becoming friendlier towards the Keepers, not charging as he did previously.

27 April 2013

Since the departure of Turkwel and Sities, it has been a difficult time for Naipoki, who would like to be the Mini Matriarch of the Nursery group but has stiff competition from Kihari, Sonje and Ishaq-B. Every time she tries to take Kithaka, Barsilinga, Lemoyian and Ngasha for herself, the other females come and take them back again! Narok is also beginning to take an interest in the babies.

28 April 2013

As all the elephants were returning in the evening, Tundani took a different direction, unbeknownst to the Keepers who were leading the column. The Keepers did not notice his absence until all the elephants were going in for the night. The Keepers immediately went to search for him out in the bush, not noticing that he had turned up and was near Murera’s old Stockade within the compound.

29 April 2013

Baby Ajabu was allowed to go out into the bush today. All the elephants came running to be with her as soon as they saw her, but in the end it was Kihari who won out and who spent all the time “mothering” little Ajabu. Barsilinga and Lemoyian had a good time play-fighting. Lemoyian emerges victorious over both Barsilinga and Kithaka. Faraja, who has always been a very well behaved elephant, today set about taking on Ngasha, Kwale and Jasiri at the same time!

30 April 2013

Today was a beautiful sunny day which the elephants thoroughly enjoyed, rolling in bush mudbaths left by recent rain. At the 3 p.m. Private Viewing Lemoyian and Barsilinga were reluctant to get out of the mudbath, watched over by Ishaq-B and Sonje, who remained behind to oversee the two youngsters after all the others had already left.