The month of August saw two rescues, one tragic and one happy. On the 16th a yearling female calf abandoned at Satao Camp, who had unsuccessfully being trying to attach itself to visiting wild herds for two days, was rescued by our Tsavo Keepers and taken to the Elephant Stockades, there to be welcomed warmly by Emily and Aitong, and all the others when they returned in the evening. The calf took milk, but sadly died the following night, breathing heavily and obviously suffering from advanced pneumonia. It is interesting that elephants cannot cough, so other than a moist trunk, and laboured breathing, there is no prior warning that the animal is, in fact, nearing death from lung disorders.
The next rescue was a 3 year old calf who became bogged in mud in Lake Jipe, Tsavo West, near the Tanzanian border. Again, after a Herculean effort, our Keepers managed to pull the calf free after it had been stuck for over 24 hours. It was very weak, having struggled for so long, but after a rest, gained strength and immediately rejoined its herd, who were waiting close by to welcome it.
The Nursery Elephants:- It has been a quiet, happy, and peaceful month in the Nairobi Nursery, with our six little inmates all growing apace, and healthy, with rounded cheeks masking any hint of a cheekbone, the means by which one can guage the health of an infant. Like human infants, baby elephants should have plump rounded cheeks, rather than sunken with prominent cheekbones. Even Natasha is now plump and settled, having initially suffered from bloat, his digestive system having been deprived of milk for some time. He is a hungry little elephant, who never wants to be starved of food again, and who bellows every time his allocation of milk is finished! He is also quite a loner, rather like Mpala, but has been befriended by Ol Malo, of whom he is very fond. Ol Malo, like Wendi, views herself also as a Mini Matriarch, with little Sunyei as her special baby, and Napasha also her particular responsibility. Tomboi enjoys romping with Napasha and is an exuberant and mischievous little character who chases the pigs, plays endlessly and is a favourite with everyone, whilst Selengai thinks first and foremost about food and is simply a member of the mini gang. Wendi, as always, is very protective of her charges, and, like Mweya, not averse to shoving a visitor paying too much attention to any of them! After a very shaky beginning, Wendi has turned out to be one of the healthiest of our infant elephants, who managed to cut her first molars without any problems, something that is unusual. As for Sunyei, she is a delight – a tiny little elephant who touches everyone’s heart, and who plays and plays and plays, without a care in the world!
The Tsavo Orphans:- Again, there has been a lot of wild contact this month, on the lst when the orphans joined l0 wild elephants, with Ndara and Loisaba remaining behind with them when the others left, and Emily having to return to retrieve them. On the 2nd the orphans joined 7 wild elephants, and Aitong, Loisaba, and Ndara joined forces to deter a wild cow bent on hijacking Morani, whilst Aitong held Morani close with her trunk, tempting him with offerings of greens. On the 5th the orphans were with l8 wild elephants, when Edie, Icholta, Tsavo and Ilingwezi had to join forces to prevent a wild cow from taking Morani from the orphaned group.
4 large Bachelor bulls scared Natumi, Seraa, Mweiga and Tsavo on the 9th, but when the younger orphans saw that Emily and Aitong welcomed the bulls, all the orphans calmed down and spent quality time with them. Contact with a wild herd of 12 who had a 2 month old calf was made on the 12th, when the younger orphans showed great interest in the baby, the mother keeping a wary eye on them. On the 17th the orphans joined l0 wild elephants, and when the other orphans left, Aitong and Morani remained behind with the wild herd, but rejoined the orphaned group later. Another meeting with a wild herd on the l8th ended abruptly when Sweet Sally pushed down a wild baby, and the Matriarch voiced displeasure, prompting a withdrawal.
On the 21st, Mpala, Salama and Laikipia remained behind with a wild herd of ll when the others left, but joined them later, one of the few occasions when Emily and Aitong did not feel the need to return in order to retrieve them. On the 22nd Aitong and Natumi tried to hijack a wild calf in amongst a herd of 7 wild elephants, and were expelled by the Matriarch.
On the 26th Emily left the group to join a wild herd of 6 and spend time playing with an agemate of whom she was obviously very fond, whilst on the 28th it was Mpala who was disinclined to leave a wild herd of 13, when Emily, Aitong and Natumi had quite a struggle persuading him to come home, returning late to the Stockades long after all the others.
Very obvious throughout the Diary is the popularity of little Morani, the smallest orphan in the group, who is a huge favourite. He has a very gentle and loving temperament that manifested itself during the few months he was in the Nursery. Perhaps the other orphans understand how much trauma he has been through, having been wounded when his mother was obviously gunned down by poachers; perhaps it is just because he is the youngest, or perhaps it is because he is so likeable. Whatever the reason, Morani enjoys a special place in the hearts of all the female orphans, and also the Keepers. This month Aitong and Loisaba have allowed Ndara and Edie to spend quality time with him keeping him close.
Nasalot stepped in to discipline Solango who was being somewhat of a pain trying to mount his particular Nursery friend, Seraa. Solango and Seraa both came from Shaba National Reserve in the North, both having fallen into a natural rock catchment, so it is likely that they were friends even before becoming orphaned. Sosian seems much better behaved in this month’s Diary, even playing peacemaker along with Sally and Burra to discipline Nyiro for jumping on Solango. Sosian holds his own in tussles with even the older bulls, but concentrates on Nyiro, and Mukwaju who are closer in age. Lolokwe, Laikipia and Salama remain very competitive, but share a close friendship that will obviously last a lifetime whilst Muluti and Nasalot have always been good friends.
Amongst the females, Icholta, Edie and Loisaba stand out with Natumi and Nasalot also stepping in to sort out differences, something that Maluti usually tries to avoid. Within the younger bulls, Mukwaju , Nyiro and Tsavo are very competitive.
Mpala is surprisingly outgoing for such a newcomer to the group, and often seems tempted to remain with the wild herds the orphans encounter on an almost daily basis. In fact, on the 28th, Emily, Aitong and Natumi had difficulty in repossessing him, and brought him home late, long after all the others had returned.. Similarly little Morani is also out-going, but Aitong and the older female orphans make sure that for him wild contact is kept strictly within limits! Of course, both Mpala and Morani were orphaned old enough to clearly remember their elephant family and obviously greatly enjoy being in a herd of adults. However, Emily and Aitong definitely don’t want to lose them – yet!
Sweet Sally played a prank on Mukwaju on a cold day when none of the orphans wanted to get into the mudbath. She took water into her trunk, and poured it onto Mukwaju’s back, which infuriated him, so she had to make a rapid escape! Elephants definitely do have a sense of humour, something that crops up time and again in the Keeper Diaries.
Wild adventures with other species include Kinna, Yatta, Edie, Laikipia and Loisaba joining forces to chase some hyraxes (which seems something of an overkill!) The orphans were very disappointed when the hyraxes retreated into a hole in the rocks at the base of Mzinga Hill and refused to come out! This month the orphans have enjoyed chasing 2 ostriches and a herd of impala, but were scared when 4 zebra interrupted the chase, although they all fed quietly one day amongst 5 friendly waterbuck, but retaliated by chasing off a lesser kudu that had startled them. The very large buffalo herd (numbering over l,000) always daunts them, but this month it was a dust-storm that seems to have caused most panic and sent them all running to Emily and Aitong for protection. Kinna had a shock one of 2 warthogs cornered in the mudbath by a coalition of the orphans, became aggressive and almost tusked her in the tummy as they tried to make a get-away. She sought shelter with the Keepers, trembling with fear, and on another occasion baboons jumping in a tree send a coalition of orphans scampering to Emily and Aitong for protection!
Lissa and her two wild-born calves along with Uaso have visited the Orphans’ Stockades on two occasions this month, but Mpenzi has been absent, which is unusual. Mpenzi usually acts as Nannie to Lissa’s 2 babies, but we suspect that another member within her adopted wild herd has produced a newborn calf, and this is something which would definitely prove irresistible. All female elephants (and the bulls as well) adore tiny babies, something that is very evident in all the Keeper Diaries.
It is very dry down in Tsavo now, and browse is scarce, so the next few months will be something of an endurance test for our elephant family. However, they are all still looking very well, even though the hot season has set in, and they have to travel far in search of food. We are particularly pleased to find Mweiga now much stronger and also plumper. She has always caused us concern, being a very frail member of the group whom we suspect of having a less than perfect heart.