Nursery Elephants:- It has been a quiet month in the Nairobi Nursery, with all the babies thriving and gaining weight. Looking back at photographs that depict them as they were when they came in, terrified, emaciated and staring death in the face, it is hard to remember that they were ever that bad. Little Mpala has gained weight, and now has plump cheeks; Sosian is a very friendly and gentle little chap, a far cry from the "wild" calf that came in, wanting only to kill every human in sight, although he still carries the wounds on his legs from being hobbled on the ranch where he was held; Burra has grown, and is the picture of health, his damaged ear now flapping happily in two very healthy and healed halves; little Seraa has grown and is even portly, though still tiny for her age, whilst Solango is now almost the same size as Sosian and Burra, and Thoma just a touch taller. Deep friendships have been forged. Sosian and Solango are inseparable, Thoma and Seraa have a strong female bond that will last for life, and Burra and Mpala are best buddies. The warthogs are now having their tiny piglets, so pig chases provide a welcome diversion for the Nursery elephants, as does rivalry to try and be the closest to the favourite Keeper of the day. It is wonderful to see them all so healthy, so happy and doing so well. Sosian now spends time being admired by a human audience at mudbath hour, whereas before he felt intimidated.
We had a nice surprise at the beginning of the month when Burra was
presented as a fostering gift to members of the United Nations Security Council by the British Chairman, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, symbolic, he said, of all that is good and bad in Africa. The "good" is the fact that he has been saved; the "bad" that he was snared by poachers in the first place. We hope that the ensuing publicity will highlight the plight of the elephants at the forthcoming CITES Convention, and the threats that they face both from the bush meat snares as well as the Ivory Trade.
Tsavo Orphans:- It has been an eventful month for the Tsavo orphans, with a lot of contact with wild herds, with whom they are quite comfortable, except on one occasion when Emily and Aitong were intimidated by a bunch of bachelor bulls who would have liked to make their acquaintance. Mweya is extraordinarily outgoing, and again features prominently in the Diary. She, Sally, Maungu and Ndara have had encounters with buffalo, mingled in with a herd of zebra and on one occasion, when Mweya tried to engage a foal in play and got kicked in the face! They have also mingled with giraffe, feeding peacefully amongst them, been scared by barking baboons, a woodpecker, the call of a territorial male impala etc.
An interesting incident occurred when Edie, Natumi, Laikipia, Salama and Ilingwezi came across the carcase of a dead zebra, and all grouped around the body standing silently and motionless for l0 long minutes, contemplating this tragedy as though it grieved them deeply. Upon departure, they trumpeting their alarm. This is an example of the compassion that elephants extend to other species as well as to their own kind.
Obvious friendships are seen with Nasalot and Mulika, who in turn have taken Mweya and Sweet Sally under their protection, having shared the Nursery with them. Mweya and Sally are still very close friends, protective of one another, and always there for one another when in need of help.
It is gratifying to see Imenti spending more time away with Edo, and mixing with wild herds more frquently, but interesting to see his protectiveness, and probably even jealousy, when Edo tries to chase and mount Aitong. Trying to come between them he got slightly tusked by an irritated Edo, and this prompted some "bad behaviour" towards the keepers, upon whom he vented his frustration.
It is interesting also to see Emily being so protective of Tsavo, and disciplining Loisaba for trying to keep him away from her. Interesting also that Emily will come to the assistance of any of her group who yells for help even when in the midst of a wild herd, as she did when Laikipia found himself shoved into a thornbush by a wild calf with whom he was tussling.
Laikipia is a very caring and gentle little bull. We see him escorting the babies to the milk tractor, standing protectively beside them, and escorting them back to the mudbath after their milk feed. Kinna and Yatta are close friends as are the smaller bull set, namely Mukwaju, Lolokwe and Nyiro, whilst Salama seems to be taking a back seat for a change and does not feature prominently this month.
Of the females, Icholta is dominant, a force to be reckoned with by the young boys. The friendliest little boys are still undoubtedly Nyiro and Mukwaju, who will enfold any human stranger with their trunks, and beg for a thumb to suck on. The little females have one another, and are less demonstrative to human strangers.
Both Emily and Aitong have again been guilty of trying to snatch wild calves from their mothers yet again, which seems to be common practice amongst those who do not have their own structured family. By so doing, they have made themselves unpopular with the mothers. But, as always, Emily is a very caring Matriarch of her little adopted family, coming to the rescue of whoever needs help, as does Aitong, both taking particular care of Mweiga, and Maungu, both of whom are not as strong as they ought to be.
The mischievous side of elephant nature is exampled when, on a cold day when no-one is interested in the mudbath, Ilingwezi takes some cold water into her trunk and sprays it over Edie. How many times, as children, have we done that!
The youngest members of the group derive great comfort from suckling the ears of Emily and Aitong, and are allowed to do so, since the older elephants understand their need in this respect. Loisaba is jealous of Emily's attachment to the babies, particularly Tsavo, and invariably there are the usual reprisals when someone hurts someone else in the same way that human children exact revenge. Maungu adores Aitong, and is seldom far from her side.
It has been a tough month for the orphans, especially the little ones, because conditions have been exceedingly dry in Tsavo, and green fodder difficult to find. Nevertheless, all are looking in fine fettle, despite having a few worms, for which they were all dosed, Edo included. Of the Big Boys, only Edo and Imenti feature in this month's diary. No sign of Dika or Ndume, but that can only be good news, meaning that they are somewhere further afield, and not hanging around the Stockades. There is little mention of Mvita, and this is also good news, meaning that she has settled happily in amongst all the others now, and is no longer the loner that she once was. Because there has been so much contact with wild elephants along the Voi river, where the orphans now spend their days, the Keepers have had to keep a very low profile, keeping well away, and calling the group when they want to round them up. When this happens, Emily gathers her clan to her, ensuring that all are present and correct, and this little orphaned herd of elephants willingly respond, coming to join their human family without any hesitation. On such occasions only Edo and Imenti might remain behind.