Keepers' Diaries, August 2009

Nairobi Nursery Unit

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.

01 August 2009

Maxwell, (the blind rhino) had a very busy night in his extended Stockade. He ran here and there, knocking down shrubs and small trees. The night Milk Mixer went to determine the cause of his excitement and found two buffaloes near his Stockade. Obviously Maxwell sensed their presence, and regarded them as intruders.

02 August 2009

As the orphans were browsing peacefully, Shida suddenly appeared and frightened them. Ndii and Bhaawa ran off towards the Stockade whilst the others dispersed in all directions. It took the Keepers some l0 minutes to bring them all together again.

03 August 2009

Nowadays Maalim does not run along the rope so often, but today he remembered it, and crossed under in amongst the visitors. They enjoyed touching him, and Maalim also enjoyed being touched! He then became frisky and ran towards the visiting school-children, who dispersed, screaming, so the Keepers removed Maalim from the Yard.

04 August 2009

Today the Rescue Team was mobilized again, this time bound for Northern Kenya near Lake Turkana to rescue a little elephant near the Turkwel Gorge. The mother of the calf was believed to have been shot in the cross-fire between warring tribesmen in the area from the Pokot and Turkana tribes. As the plane waited at the airstrip, gunshots could be heard, which made the pilot very nervous. However, the baby was rescued by some brave Rangers, who had been escorted by armed Police and G.S.U. to go and retrieve her. She has been named Turkwel, and was still in good condition.

05 August 2009

Yet another Elephant Rescue today, this time a calf from the Masai Mara from a place called Olare Orok. She was approximately 1 year old. The mother had a broken hind leg from a bullet wound and could no longer walk, so she was euthenazed after her baby had been removed. The rescue was difficult, because the calf kept climbing on her injured mother, who was doing her best to protect her, although unable to move. A group of Masai tribesmen watched in disbelief, obviously in awe of the Keepers as they managed to overpower the calf who was still strong. She has been named “Olare”.

06 August 2009

Olare was very angry back in the taming Stockade. She kept charging the Keepers, and kneeling down, hitting her head against the ground as though killing someone. Having seen the suffering humans had caused her mother, this was not surprising. No Keeper could get near to her this day. She reminded us of Wasessa, who was also very difficult to calm.

07 August 2009

Turkwel was sufficiently relaxed to join the baby group known as Suguta’s group. Suguta welcomed her warmly, as did Nchan and Mawenzi, but Kudup and Chaimu were not friendly towards her and kept on pushing her away. Having been pushed, she chose to remain close to the Keepers. Meanwhile Olare is still in the stockade and still very aggressive. However, towards evening she ran to the Keepers in an aggressive manner and took milk from a bottle before running away again.

08 August 2009

An orphaned calf was seen on Morondo Ranch near Tsavo East National Park and was monitored by KWS Rangers for several days. Having disappeared for another 5 days, it was again spotted at a water trough, and it was then that KWS alerted the Voi Keepers that a rescue was needed. The calf was captured and taken to the Voi Stockades to await the rescue plane which had been sent from Nairobi. The calf was severely emaciated and very weak. Upon arrival at the Nursery he spent the last of his strength fighting the Keepers, and when he collapsed, we were able to insert a drip to keep him alive. At 3 a.m. in the morning, he managed to stand, with help from the Keepers. We named him “Morondo”.

09 August 2009

Sadly, at 9 a.m. the young bull named Morondo, rescued the previous day, collapsed again. Despite all our efforts, which included an infusion of 4 bottles of Dextrose and saline plus 50% Dextrose, he lost the battle for life and died during the night. The Keepers were very sad, having tried so hard to save him.

10 August 2009

After a peaceful night in their stables, Suguta’s team gathered outside for morning greetings and a bit of fun. Nchan, who is always very playful, went to tickle Maxwell through the bars of his Stockade, while Kalama paid attention of Mutara and Tano. She kept on touching the small babies, who responded with happy rumbles.

11 August 2009

Yet another elephant rescue today, this time a baby from Enasoit Ranch in Laikipia of approximately l8 months of age, who had been captured the day before with the help of Staff from the neighbouring Ol Jogi Ranch. The calf was still strong, and about l8 months of age, so it was a tough rescue. He arrived back in the Nursery at around midday and was very aggressive. He was given the name “Enasoit”. Having been in an enclosure for 5 days, Olare was considered tame enough to be released to join the others. Although Tassia and Taveta tried to push her away, she remained with the others, despite fears that she might run away, having been so anti-human. At the mudbath she took her share of milk, and joined the others in the mud, which surprised the Keepers.

12 August 2009

Kalama was the mudbath star today, walking along the line of visitors, and allowing them to fondle her, presenting her trunk to them so that they could blow into it. After that she enjoyed an active mudbath, and then ran around, making all the visitors very happy, and drawing many foster-parents!

13 August 2009

Today had been earmarked as the day Tassia and Taveta would be moved to the Voi Rehabilitation Centre, there to join Lesanju’s unit, and relieve the pressure in the Nursery, since all the stables were filled to capacity, having been partitioned. The Keepers awoke at 4 a.m. Taveta put up no resistance, but Tassia was reluctant to go into the truck, and had to be pushed in. Because he was still quite small, this was a walk-over for the Keepers, and within l0 minutes, the Truck was on its way to Voi, and arrived at Voi at around 11 a.m., in time for a mudbath at that end!

14 August 2009

Dida, who has always been very close to Taveta and Tassia, missed them and instead of spending time with Kenia, as usual, remained with Shira’s group, where the two boys spent their days whilst in the Nursery. Meanwhile Sabachi, who is always naughty, noticed that the older boys ere absent, and kept on pushing the others, even though he is not the biggest. However, he obviously just wanted to show them that he was a force to be reckoned with in the absence of Taveta and Tassia.

15 August 2009

Having shown signs of calming down, the Keepers decided to let Enasoit out to join the others. He took his milk outside the stockade and was welcomed by Kenia, Shira, Dida and Sabachi. Only Naimina and Olare tried to push him away. All of a sudden he started raising his trunk and heading off. The Keepers tried to get him back but he ran off into the Park and joined a herd of buffaloes, who charged the Keepers who were following him. The Trust’s plane, which happened to be in Nairobi at the time, was mobilized, and managed to locate him after a search that spanned several hours. The Keepers were directed to where he was sleeping near the Langata Gate and only with great difficulty managed to re-capture him, risking life and limb in the process. He was loaded into the Pick-up and returned to the Taming Stockade. Many of the Keepers were battered and bruised as a result.

16 August 2009

Poor Enasoit was very stressed when Shira and Olare, who were in the next door Stockade were allowed out in the morning, and he remained in. When they returned in the evening, he spent a long time touching them through the separating bars of his stockade, obviously wishing that he could join them out in the bush.

17 August 2009

Shira is always very compassionate towards newcomers, empathizing with them and obviously remembering her time as a wild elephant with an elephant mother and family.

18 August 2009

Today, a tiny newborn elephant not more than a few days old, if that, was flown to the Nursery. He comes from the same Ranch as Mutara and was found in the “Pesi” swamp stuck in the mud. Since it was feared that he may not have suckled his mother and received the first colostrums milk, he was given an infusion of elephant plasma into an ear vein, the plasma having been taken from a wild healthy Mara Bull and kept frozen in the Freezer for just such an emergency.

19 August 2009

Pesi is too young to walk out with the others, so two Keepers were assigned to him. Today he spent most of the day sleeping, and in between whiles taking milk and sucking on the Keepers’ fingers.

20 August 2009

Naimina is a very greedy elephant, and having finished her milk, pushes the Keepers and bellows, demanding more and not responding to the Keepers’ tone of voice of wagging finger. She is becoming disobedient and today, having taken her milk, went and aggressively knocked down Sabachi. All the visitors were very disappointed by her behavior. The Keepers sent her out of the group, and kept her isolated for a time on her own as a punishment.

21 August 2009

Nchan is very active and playful, and today was the mudbath star, later going along the line of visitors and plastering some with mud. She then targeted a small boy with whom she wanted to play, but the boy was afraid and kept running away, with Nchan following him. When he screamed for help, she trumpeted, and this made all the visitors laugh.

22 August 2009

Today, the older group led by Shira ran past the Keepers towards their milk bottles during the visiting hour. The Keepers had to sprint to try and keep up with the elephants, fearing that they would knock down the bottles of milk. All the visitors were amused to witness this race!

23 August 2009

As a group of baboons passed by Suguta’s group, Chaimu, Kilaguni and Tumeric charged them, running with their ears out. The baboons were not deterred, so Chaima returned and whispered something to Suguta. The two then joined forces and returned to charge the baboons more aggressively, and managed to disperse them. This shows that Suguta is highly respected in her group.

24 August 2009

Melia, who arrived in an extremely emaciated and weak condition, has now gained both weight and strength and is becoming something of a bully to the smaller calves. She and Kilaguni target Turkwel, but usually only at milk feeds. The Keepers decided to attach Melia and Mawenzi from Suguta’s group to join the older group led by Kenia. At first there was confusion because Melia was pushed by Naimina, Olare and also Shira who obviously sensed that Melia needed some discipline. They had no problem with Mawenzi.

25 August 2009

Today the Keepers decided to allow Pesi to join the other babies rather than remain alone with his two attendants. This baby group consists of Isiolo, Tano, Mutara and now Pesi. The oldest in this group is Isiolo, who is still very weak, so Tano has taken on the leadership role. These tiny babies remain more attached to their Keepers than one another.

26 August 2009

Maalim came to the mudbath in a very jovial mood. The Keepers made a nice little mudbath especially for him, and he wallowed joyfully. He then became very playful, and began charging the Keepers, who steered him from the line of visitors. A wild warthog was wallowing in the big mudbath at the time, and seeing the Keepers running away, with Maalim in pursuit, it emerged and followed them all! All the visitors were amazed to see men being chased by a miniature rhino and a warthog!

27 August 2009

After a long incarceration in the Stockade, at last Enasoit was let out to join the older group led by Kenia and Dida. The Keepers kept a close eye on him in case he tried another escape. Naimina, Shira and Sabachi tended to try and push him around, but he was welcomed by Kenia and Dida. In the afternoon we were mobilized for another elephant rescue, this time from the Kirisia forest near Maralal in Samburu country. The baby’s herd had obviously traveled a long distance in search of water, and the baby was in a state of collapse. Herders observed the desperate mother trying to lift her collapsed calf to its feet, but the baby was too weak to carry on. Eventually the mother left it. Before being loaded onto the rescue plane, the baby was put on life support drip, but was still unconscious upon arrival in the Nursery. She was named “Kisima”.

28 August 2009

Little Kisima was still fighting for her life as dawn broke, having managed to stand up for a short time just once during the night. The Keepers tried to get her up, but she was too weak to stand. She died in the evening, and was immediately loaded onto the back of the Pickup for burial the next day, so that the other elephants did not see her dead body.

29 August 2009

As soon as the orphans were let out in the morning, they assembled into their usual groups leaving Isiolo behind, because the babies in his group were not yet out. They soon came to join him. Isiolo is becoming stronger. His condition has been a source of anxiety for a long time.

30 August 2009

After the 9 a.m. milk feed, Suguta decided to chase one of the warthogs. The chase went on for about half an hour, round and round. All the other orphans did not seem interested.

31 August 2009

Tano, the second smallest elephant in the Baby Group is becoming much stronger and is aspiring to becoming a leader of Isiolo, Pesi and Mutara. She also wants to show how strong she is by wanting to push Isiolo, who is bigger than her.