Ongoing extreme drought, escalating human wildlife conflict as hordes of starving domestic livestock compete with wildlife for dwindling sources of water and food, (even illegally swarming into the National Parks, bringing the added hazard of disease to the already beleaguered wild populations), plus a radical rise in illegal poaching for ivory and rhino horn driven by demands in the Far East and the presence of Chinese Buyers in the country, have contributed to a devastating toll taken of wildlife during 2009. Events in the Nursery during the past couple of months reflect the impact all this has had on the elephant populations.
This month has seen no less than 9 different elephant rescues. Five of the rescued orphans remain alive in our Nairobi Nursery, two died soon after arrival being already too far gone for us to be able to retrieve, and 2 others died in situ before the rescue plane could even land. Elephant calves orphaned under five years of age cannot survive without milk, especially when times are tough.
The month began with 20 infant elephant orphans in our Nairobi Nursery and ended up with 25, having transferred two on the 13th to the Voi Reintegration Centre and lost others. Tassia and Taveta, two of the rather pushy young Nursery Boys, were upgraded to join Lesanju, Lempaute, Shimba, Sinya, Wasessa and Siria, in order to free up more space for others bound to come in before the onset of the next rains, which are not due for another two months. They also needed the input of older females to ensure that they grow up socially acceptable.
The 4th saw the rescue of 5 month old Turkwel, rescued from the South Turkana National Reserve in the remote Northern Frontier Turkana district where conflict between Pokot and Turkana tribesmen is a way of life
The next day brought the rescue of l year old Olare from the Olare area of the Masai Mara whose mother had to be euthenased, having been found suffering from an injury that shattered her back leg and left her unable to move. This was a particularly dramatic rescue, since the calf was still strong, and the tragic mother desperate to try and protect it as best she could by flailing her trunk. Having managed to seize the calf as it ran around its mother, it was trussed up and loaded into a Pickup to be driven to the airport. The mother was then euthenazed by our Mobile Veterinary Unit since there was no hope of recovery.
The 8th saw the rescue of a young bull calf found orphaned on Morondo Ranch abutting Tsavo East National Park, who had been observed alone and was eventually rescued after about 5 days. He arrived in the Nursery too far gone to save and died the next night, unable to be brought round even with intravenous life support.
The 11th brought us l8 month old Enasoit from Enasoit Ranch in Laikipia, who was the subject of high drama when he escaped into the Nairobi Park having been allowed out of his Stockade to join the others 5 days after incarceration in the Taming Stockade. He was in reasonable condition on arrival, but extremely aggressive.
The Trust’s new Top Cub aircraft had to take to the air in order to locate his whereabouts in the Park. The calf initially tried to join a herd of buffalo who chased him, and the Keepers who were trailing him, off. Eventually, however, once he had been located from the air the Keepers managed to recapture him, bind his legs and bring him back to safety where he spent the next two weeks in the Taming Stockade.
The 18th saw the arrival of tiny newborn Pesi, found bogged in the Pesi Swamp near Rumuruti. Since it was doubtful that this tiny baby had been able to even suckle his mother, more than likely actually born in the swamp, he was given an infusion of elephant plasma through an intravenous drip into an ear vein to kick-start his immune system, and by the end of the month was doing well. His story is yet to be added to the fostering program given his fragiliy as a newborn.
On the 27th, another elephant rescue was mobilized for a baby orphaned near the Kirisia forest who had been spotted by ele-friendly herdsmen in a state of collapse beside his desperate mother, who was trying to lift him back to his feet. She and the herd had obviously covered an enormous distance in search of water and the exhausted and emaciated yearling calf could simply go no further. In the end she had no option but abandon him to his fate and continue on her way along with the rest of the herd. This little female calf, named Kisima, was given life support immediately the plane landed, and during the flight back, to be continued in the Nursery upon arrival since she was still unconscious. She rallied briefly, but died shortly afterwards.
It has been a very harrowing month for our Keepers, who must be congratulated for having pulled off so many rescues so proficiently, particularly as Daphne and family were away throughout the month, though in mobile phone contact several times a day wherever they happened to be. Elephants are not alone in their suffering during this year numerous other animals have perished due to the drought, livestock incursions into the protected areas and the bushmeat trade.
The condition of little Isiolo has been of grave concern to us for many months. Although he feeds well and has normal stools, he remains very weak and has not put on weight or grown as he should, something that has confounded all the Vets as well as ourselves. He and the other tiny calves, namely Mutara, Tano, and tiny Pesi are kept closer to home, with the other Nursery orphans separated into two groups, the older group led by Kenia and Dida and the next age group by Suguta.
Another orphan who has caused concern is Kilaguni, who lost his tail to hyaenas and was mauled around the anus in the process. Scar tissue around the anal opening has constricted the outlet and interfered with defecation now that he is eating greens. He may have to undergo surgery to enlarge the opening, but in the meantime we are hoping that homeopathic treatment and molasses to soften the stools might help save him what will be a very painful procedure. Apart from this he is a very happy and playful little elephant, who is thriving well.
Chaimu, who came in practically blind with cloudy eyes, is also improving, thanks to the input of Dr. Peter Schwendermann, an Eye Specialist, who has kindly been advising us about her treatment. All the remaining Nursery elephants, are all doing well.
With so many very young baby elephants in the Nursery, the Keepers have been kept busy keeping all in order since some are still somewhat pushy - for instance Naimina and Melia who still show signs of post trauma stress, while Sabachi who is a real rascal, is just plain naughty! Suguta is a very proficient little Matriarch, backed up by Nchan and Kudup. Kenia and Dida do their best but have difficulty controlling Naimina and Melia, who are older. Kudup adores Bhaawa, who is a great favourite amongst all the Nursery females and little Kibo is thriving now after a shaky start.
The current Nursery inmates are Kenia, Dida, Kimana, Suguta, Ndii, Mawenzi, Sabachi, Kibo, Shira, Bhaawa, Isiolo, Nchan, Kudup, Kalama, Kilaguni, Chaimu, Naimina, Melia, Tumaren, Tano, Mutara, Turkwel, Olare, Enasoit and baby Pesi – 25 in all.
The Rhinos:- Maxwell’s Stockade has been extended to grant him more space in which to run around, now that he is as big as Shida and exceedingly energetic and playful whenever Shida appears, charging around at a gallop with his tail in the air, and never colliding with any object, despite being completely blind. Shida continues his twice daily appearances, planting himself in his Stockade to enjoy being viewed by human passers by during visiting hours. We are happy to know that he is safe, especially as the poaching of rhinos has again become a serious threat this year, a number having been lost recently even on the Private Ranches and Conservancies.
Maalim has grown in leaps and bounds, and now sports a button horn on the tip of his nose, which he enjoys putting to good use, especially when frisky after his noon mudbath. His public appearances during the Public Visiting hour will soon have to come to an end if we are to avoid the visitors being bowled over, because he can certainly pack a punch, no longer the tiny toy that could fit into a handbag!