With the escalation of poaching throughout the country pending the passage into law of the new Wildlife Bill set to entail much more stringent punishment for poaching perpetrators, (15 years jail and/or K. Shs. l0 million fine), everyone seems to be taking advantage of the delay and cashing in on what poached ivory they can accumulate while they can. This escalation is reflected in the numbers of rescues this month, mainly of older milk dependent infant elephants who, having lost their mother, have remained with the rest of the family until unable to keep up. (Infant elephants are milk dependent and cannot live without it if orphaned under the age of 3 years). Therefore most have come in too far gone for us to be able to retrieve, despite having been put on life support after rescue and during the flight back to the Nursery.
From the Masai Mara came Olkishi on the lst who died on the 5th. Kieni was driven in from the Aberdares on the 5th and died at midnight on the 6th. Nelion was flown in from Mt. Kenya on the 7th and managed to survive, sufficiently calm to be out and about with the others on the 12th. Vuria, airlifted from Salt Lick Lodge airstrip at the end of last month, suddenly collapsed again whilst out in the field with the resident orphans on the 10th , but was revived after insertion of the intravenous drip and returned to the Stockade for the day. Mercifully, so far, he is surviving. Three year old Saruni, who was considered too big to airlift from the Mara came in on the l7th after a grueling 7 hour drive in the back of a Pickup truck and died on the 20th. The long car journey obviously took its toll on his already fragile condition. Mashariki was airlifted from Tsavo East National Park on the 21st having been rescued already in a state of near collapse. Miraculously, we managed to pull her from the jaws of death, and so far she is surviving. Not so Matopeh who was rescued from the black cotton mud of the leaking Mombasa pipeline in Tsavo East on the 27th, and died on the 29th having no reserves to cope with the diarrheoa that took hold after ingesting mud. Another orphan reported from Galdessa Tented Camp on the Galana river in Tsavo East, who had been seen alone for several days, died before the rescue team could reach it.
The death of our 4 ½ month old Nursery baby Ajabu on the 21st , rescued as a brand newborn, who had an infusion of elephant plasma to trigger her natural immunity, not having suckled her mother, thrived to begin with, but then succumbed to the usual teething problems which, in captive newborns, always prove life threatening.. Her death was a particularly painful blow for us during what has been a month already filled with tragedy and tears. However, time to mourn the loss of precious little Ajabu was not allowed us, for her death coincided with trying to orchestrate the rescue of yearling Mashariki whom, thankfully, was retrievable and who has turned out to be a particularly gentle and forgiving elephant, suckling the fingers of the Keepers soon after arrival, as did Tundani. Managing to save her life compensated in some small measure for the pain of losing our Nursery baby, Ajabu.
The Big Nursery girls, Kihari, Naipoki, Ishaq-B, Laragai and Lima Lima, sometimes with Orwa in tow, are always first to warmly welcome any newcomer into the fold, rushing to the new arrival’s Stockade the moment they are let out in the morning and whenever close to the Stockades. The five Big Nursery Girls seem to have settled into an amicable arrangement to share the Matriarchal burden while the established Junior boys such as Balguda, Kithaka, Lemoyian, Ngasha and Kwale usually also meander over to meet any newcomer, but more out of curiosity. Nursery newcomers are never short of elephant company, the resident orphans fed their milk within view of any new additions to impart confidence and illustrate that the human friendly are different to the evil men that killed their elephant mother and as such labeled humans as “the enemy” of the Natural World.
We have always known that elephants have mystical powers of perception. According to the Nursery Keepers, even the infant Nursery elephants are sometimes able to predict the arrival of a newcomer, displaying uncharacteristic excitement long before news comes that a new elephant is on its way! Kihari, Naipoki, Laragai, Ishaq-B and Lima Lima exhibit this quality, and are very established members of the Nursery, but Narok, Arruba and Quanza form a more reticent trio, not yet sufficiently confident to fully accept their predicament. Murera on the other hand looks upon herself as much more grown-up and prefers to be independent of her younger peers, often heading out alone to browse further afield.
This month Lima Lima has displayed exceptional love and caring for newcomer Mashariki whom she instantly comforted and befriended. Also, when Vuria collapsed out in the bush on the l0th, she, Kwale and Tundani were the most concerned, accompanying him and the Keepers back to his Stockade for the day, and thereafter periodically rushing to check up on him.
As the Nursery ‘s two biggest boys, Orwa and Bomani are not only best friends but also Pushing Partners, while Garzi is still deciding which of the boys he favours, finding weak Nelion and Vuria somewhat dull, and the other junior boys already a bonded gang who are a bit too exuberant for him. Still grieving his lost family, he tends to spend quiet time on his own away from the others, always gravitating towards Kwale. It was, however, encouraging for the Keepers to observe Nelion attempting a Pushing bout with Balguda one morning. Nursery boys like to separate themselves from the girls if they can, so that they can indulge their favourite Pushing Bouts without female interruption.. Balguda and Ngasha are often interested observers when Orwa and Bomani take on one another in a vigorous test of strength.
The health of Kwale continues to be of ongoing concern. Although his blood analysis indicates normal white cell and platelet counts (ruling out bacterial infection), he is still suffering from some chronic condition that is baffling everyone. He is on immune boosters and vitamin supplements hoping that he will eventually be able to overcome whatever ails him which the Vets think could be viral. Usually with Nelion, Vuria and Garzi, he is definitely still not as he should be.
Lemoyian, Barsilinga and Kithaka form the mischievous small Boys Club, sometimes joined by Balguda and Ngasha – all are Pushing Partners who indulge in Pushing Matches on a daily basis, Kithaka and Lemoyian usually the instigators. Kithaka has caught up in size with his age peers, no longer the midget of the herd, although an overdose of “attitude” remains. This will be addressed by the Big Boys when he embarks on the next phase of growing up, at one of the Rehabilitation Centers in Tsavo. Blonde Half brothers Faraja and Jasiri, although close friends, remain competitive, with Jasiri still psychologically fragile, preferring not to be overly familiar with the human Keepers, retreating from them having taken his milk.
Newcomer Mashariki on the other hand loved her human family from the outset, suckling on the Keepers’ fingers within hours of her arrival on the 21st – a gentle little elephant who is visibly grateful for having been rescued in time to avoid a lonely and gruesome end in Tsavo. She is exceedingly relieved to find that she is no longer alone, and that other babies like her are settled and happy in their new home with a different family. She was happy and excited to be able to join them out in the field just as soon as she was strong enough to do so – (on the 27th) escorted out of her stockade lovingly sandwiched between Lima Lima and the other Big Girls. That same day brought the arrival of poor little “Matopeh” a 6 – 7 month old baby bull rescued from the black cotton mud of the leaking Mombasa pipeline. Already in a mess upon arrival, he had obviously been without his mother’s milk for some time, passing watery mud. This orphan never calmed down, using what remained of his strength in an attempt to exact retribution for what humans are doing to his kind. Although cool boy Tundani, who was his night neighbour, did his best to comfort and calm, Matopeh had another agenda and just wanted to kill, until the moment he collapsed and died during the night of the 29th.
August 2013 has been a month we will try and forget, none of us sorry to see it come to an end. Now, we hope that September will see more stringent punishments become law for poachers, because at the moment things are, indeed, dire for Elephants, Rhinos and all within the natural world. That said, news of the capture of two of the most notorious Poachers who have bedeviled Tsavo for a very long time, and who are likely to have caused the death of over l00 elephants, and possibly even arrowed our Ex Orphans out of spite, has been welcomed. We wait to see what sort of punishment will be meted out to them.
The Rhinos:- Following the shooting of an adult White Rhino in Nairobi National Park during the month, believed to have been executed from a vehicle, we are always anxious about the safety of Solio when she chooses to spend time away now that she has been fully integrated into the remaining wild rhino community of Nairobi Park and is a free spirit. There was massive relief therefore when she reappeared on the l5th at 5 a.m., engaging Maxwell as usual in a vigorous sparring game through the poles that separate their two Stockades. She was back again that afternoon at 3 p.m. - a special treat for blind Max whose contentment and happiness revolves around visits from Solio, and any nocturnal wild visitors who entertain him under cover of darkness. After another protracted absence Solio returned again on the 26th to spend quality time again with Max but also to make her presence felt, demolishing decorative potted palms in the yard, and pruning garden shrubs ruthlessly! Her next appearance was at month end, when she spent the entire day resting in her Stockade, enjoying the Lucerne in between interacting with Max, which was a very special treat for him!
Max also enjoys the visitors who come to interact with him at the Stockade Gate, and because he can never lead a normal life, being a bull and born blind (no retina and no optic nerve in either eye) he also enjoys the odd treat given him by us and the Staff, opening his mouth for any offering to be tossed in. Apart from his eyes, he is a magnificent representative of his rapidly disappearing species, whose extermination is fueled by the Far Eastern myth that rhino horn has magic healing properties as well as being an aphrodisiac. In fact it is mere keratin, the same substance as a fingernail so if the Far Eastern masses bit their fingernails, they would be ingesting the self same substance! That they should still believe in the myth beggars believe in this, the 21st Century!