Keepers' Diaries, August 2004

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Overview Nursery Elephants:- The main Nursery event has been the arrival of 14 month old “Galana”, a female orphan very lucky to have survived the lions, found all alone in dense salt-bush abutting the Galana river. One small foot protruding from a hole in the salt-bush thicket tempted some Park visitors to take a closer look, and sure enough, there she was, all alone, a pride of 15 lions not far off. The visitors alerted the KWS authorities at Sala Gate who in turn called in the Trust’s Mobile Veterinary Unit and some manpower to enact the rescue on Sunday 15th August. The elephant was large for her age, but without tusks, so her age was estimated to be about 14 months. She was captured without sedation, being considered too weak to withstand the drug. Having been manhandled into the back of the Veterinary Unit’s Van she was driven 50 miles to the Voi Stockades, where the other orphans were waiting to comfort and calm her until such time as an aircraft that was in the process of being mobilised in Nairobi arrived to take her back to the Nairobi Nursery.

Overview
Nursery Elephants:- The main Nursery event has been the arrival of 14 month old “Galana”, a female orphan very lucky to have survived the lions, found all alone in dense salt-bush abutting the Galana river. One small foot protruding from a hole in the salt-bush thicket tempted some Park visitors to take a closer look, and sure enough, there she was, all alone, a pride of 15 lions not far off. The visitors alerted the KWS authorities at Sala Gate who in turn called in the Trust’s Mobile Veterinary Unit and some manpower to enact the rescue on Sunday 15th August. The elephant was large for her age, but without tusks, so her age was estimated to be about 14 months. She was captured without sedation, being considered too weak to withstand the drug. Having been manhandled into the back of the Veterinary Unit’s Van she was driven 50 miles to the Voi Stockades, where the other orphans were waiting to comfort and calm her until such time as an aircraft that was in the process of being mobilised in Nairobi arrived to take her back to the Nairobi Nursery.

The calf arrived in Nairobi in the late afternoon of that same day, very wild and traumatized, but desperate for milk, which she happily gulped down in between bouts of aggression, trying to pin the Keeper against the stockade walls. Throughout the night, she took as much milk as we felt prudent to give her, plus rehydration fluids, but by the next morning was too weak to get up without help. It took about 6 Keepers to heave her to her feet, after which she was given handfuls of glucose powder, more milk with glucose and crushed Dairy Cubes added in an attempt to give her strength. This soon took affect, and she was again aggressive yet desperate for more milk, eager to suck the Keeper’s hand in between bouts of pushing. The presence of the other Nursery elephants had the usual calming affect, and when they were with her, she settled visibly.

Starvation victims are always problematical, so we anticipated the usual stomach problems which duly appeared the second night, when she blew up like a balloon, suffering the serious discomfort of bloat. Fortunately we had the Buscopan on hand, and Robert managed to inject this, at the same time keeping her moving as much as possible. We suspected kidney problems as well, for she was in a great deal of pain and passing copious quantities of urine, so the next morning she was given another antibiotic injection by the Vet, plus homeopathic berberis pillules. Just one more day in the stockade was necessary before Galana was sufficiently calm to be allowed out and about with the others, and just l0 days later, she began to play and enjoy the mudbath, having been reluctant at first to approach with so many human onlookers present, obviously fearing capture again.

When a baby elephant who has suffered severe physical and psychological trauma begins to play, we rejoice, because now we know we are winning. Although still emaciated and very thin, little Galana is now very much part of the mini Nursery herd, a great favourite of Ndomot in particular. Slowly, her milk ration will be strengthened to full strength and also increased, a careful watch kept on the bowels, and all being well, boiled barley added will soon put on the weight she needs to regain full health. We look forward to being able to report favourably in this respect in next month’s Diary.

All the other Nursery babies thrive, but it has been an exciting month for them, with buffalo very prevalent in the forest where they spend their days. On several occasions both elephants and Keepers have been charged and forced to flee. Ndomot and Madiba are very competitive, and spend hours tussling with one another, deteriorating into the usual fight when one or other loses his temper, when the Keepers have to intervene to restore order! Madiba enjoys chasing the warthog babies who are still miniscule and who, along with their mother, often hang around the elephants for protection. Ndomot and Naserian were the first to move close to Galana during the initial introductions, when Sunyei was a little “stand-offish” but thawed later. Madiba” is a dominant and tough little character who makes up in character what he lacks in stature, although he has grown, perhaps more rounded than upwards! He stands no nonsense from any of the others and makes his needs known in a forceful way! His lymphatic lumps and bumps seem to be responding to the homeopathic lymph drainage pillules.. Like Imenti, Madiba promises to be quite a character; in every sense is a real mini “bull elephant” and a great favourite of everyone. Latterly, for some reason, Sunyei has been reluctant to enter her stable at bed time, perhaps because Galana is still a little reluctant about going into her quarters.

Rhino Orphans:- Shida continues to grow apace and is the picture of health. He had one bad scare when he encountered a buffalo out in the bush, which left him very unphased for several days, and ever since he has been very nervous of buffaloes, which are encountered almost daily at this time of the year. He and his Keeper have also had hard time avoiding Makosa, who spends days following Shida’s scent trail, obviously dying to make contact! Makosa is exceedingly mischievous and feisty, and gave the Canteen Cook a good run one morning! Shida thoroughly enjoys chasing the warthogs, which always make good sport for both the infant elephants and the small rhino, but who are very friendly with Magnum and Makosa who are always prepared to share their hand-outs with them.

Makosa and Magnum continue to meet up occasionally, when a tussle invariably develops, and usually turns into quite a fierce battle. Although Magnum is older than Makosa by two years, he is a quiet rhino who prefers peace rather than having to defend himself. Such encounters usually end when Magnum races off down the hill into familiar territory with Makosa hot on his tail until he feels uncomfortable in unfamiliar terrain, and reluctantly returns. Magnum has been a frequent mudbath visitor this month, thrilling all the spectators, and on one occasion both big rhinos turned up, which turned into an interesting interlude, with all the spectators having to take refuge on Daphne’s lawn and the elephants having to evacuate the mudbath!

A detailed daily record of the activities of the Nursery Elephants was initiated only on the 12th August 2004.

August 2004 day to day

12 Aug

Sunyei spent most of the day alone, whilst Madiba and Ndomot tussled with one another for most of the day. Naserian kept on feeding but made several attempts to join Sunyei. After the tussling, Sunyei, Madiba and Naserian fed close to one another whilst Ndomot was next to a Keeper, sucking on his dust-coat. Shida was very scared after we came across a buffalo on the way to the mudbath. In fact, that delayed us for the mudbath by 7 minutes, because Shida refused to come where the buffalo had been.

Mudbath time with Shida in the background

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