Keepers' Diaries, December 2005

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

It has been an eventful month for the Nursery elephants, and one that has seen a marked improvement in blind little Ndololo’s general health, having been literally and miraculously snatched from the jaws of death. Now that he has cut his teeth, and weathered about 4 serious bouts of diarrheoa, which left him skeletal and feeble, he is gaining weight and strength by the day, feeding well, and becoming much more outgoing. The Eye Specialist who is monitoring him pronounced on Christmas day that there had been a marked improvement in one eye, so much so that if progress continued, he may not need to have to undergo surgery. If we can restore the sight of even just one eye, it would be sufficient to be able to offer him a quality of life in wild terms when grown, so this news was the best Christmas present we could have received. By the 20th, he was strong enough to join the other elephants out in the forest for a short time daily, and whilst to begin with he was afraid of their touch, by the end of the month he was enjoying contact, and looking forward to being with the other elephants during the mornings. By the end of the month he was spending all day out with them, and even coming to the mudbath.

It has been an eventful month for the Nursery elephants, and one that has seen a marked improvement in blind little Ndololo’s general health, having been literally and miraculously snatched from the jaws of death. Now that he has cut his teeth, and weathered about 4 serious bouts of diarrheoa, which left him skeletal and feeble, he is gaining weight and strength by the day, feeding well, and becoming much more outgoing. The Eye Specialist who is monitoring him pronounced on Christmas day that there had been a marked improvement in one eye, so much so that if progress continued, he may not need to have to undergo surgery. If we can restore the sight of even just one eye, it would be sufficient to be able to offer him a quality of life in wild terms when grown, so this news was the best Christmas present we could have received. By the 20th, he was strong enough to join the other elephants out in the forest for a short time daily, and whilst to begin with he was afraid of their touch, by the end of the month he was enjoying contact, and looking forward to being with the other elephants during the mornings. By the end of the month he was spending all day out with them, and even coming to the mudbath.

His perception and intelligence astonishes us. He walks confidently with the other elephants, and confidently follows the Keepers’ tapping of a stick on the ground. He resents the change of Keepers each morning, fearing that this could be the prelude to medication, because for many weeks he has had to endure a syringe-full of Sulphadimidine and Kaolin injected under his tongue, plus, of course, homeopathic remedies and vitamins. However, he no longer needs anything other than his Vitamins mixed in with his milk, so he is spared the daily ordeal, which he hated! This blind little bull, which everyone thought would never recover, and was a “No Hoper”, is a miracle elephant, showing us just how perceptive, and intelligent even a totally blind elephant baby can be,and teaching us a great deal about alternative senses that compensate a loss of vision. Ndololo has captured the heart of everyone with whom he comes in contact and we all keep fingers crossed for his full recovery.

An important event was the transfer of Naserian, Rapsu and Buchuma to the Ithumba Reintroduction Centre on the 15th. Getting Naserian into the Truck proved quite a challenge that left us all somewhat daunted (and armed with a tranquilizer in case the worst came to the worst), but the Professionals quietly pulled it off, namely Robert Carr-Hartley and his father Roy, and recalcitrant Naserian found herself propelled in without further ado on the appointed morning. This time we settled on 3 trucks with one elephant in each, mainly because Rapsu, armed with stubby tusks, could cause injury to one of the others if sharing space and fearful. Naserian was also quite large, and Buchuma rather pushy! All travelled brilliantly, and by 1 p.m. were at the other end being greeted warmly by their ex Nursery peers.

The decision to transfer them sooner rather than later was triggered by several events -. Firstly, we needed to make space, for the expected rains have fallen well short, and we now face serious drought (and very hot) months until the next rains in April May. This bodes ill for the wild elephants, particularly those in arid areas, so we anticipate a spate of new babies needing help. Secondly, Rapsu obviously harboured a grudge against Challa, who had occupied his Night Stockade when he first came in, and was too weak to stand up for himself. We did not think it healthy that these two young bulls grow up disliking one another, for elephant scores are always settled when older, often with serious consequences. Thirdly the all-consuming obsession between Makena and Naserian was proving counter-productive, for it left the other elephants isolated, especially Lualeni, who is a very sensitive baby who has had more than her fair share of unhappiness over the loss of her elephant family. Previously, she enjoyed the privileged position of being the favourite of Naserian, so had become displaced by Makena. For Naserian, no other elephant now counted except Makena, and for Makena, no other elephant counted but Naserian!

Moving Naserian, Rapsu and Buchuma solved all these issues, and turned out to be the correct decision, for Lualeni immediately slotted into the role of Matriarch, and an extremely caring one at that, loving both Zurura and Makena. Makena now found time to revert to being her previous playful self and to befriend and play with Zurura, and Challa could find the peace to gradually recover and regain his strength without being constantly targeted by Rapsu! As for Kora, he seemed pleased to be shot of Buchuma, who pushed him around quite a lot, and is obviously happy to now be the Big Boy of the Nursery. Being a loner, he likes spending time away from the close proximity of the others, and this has given both Challa and Zurura the space they need as they recover their health.

And so, by month end, everything had returned to normal in the Nursery, with all the inmates happy and healing. It was a good way to start the New Year, especially as Naserian, Rapsu and Buchuma had settled in at Ithumba as though they had always belonged!

December 2005 day to day

01 Dec

Early morning rain saw all the elephants and Keepers shrouded in their raincoats. Kora kept on pulling on Zurura’s raincoat, which angered Zurura, who bellowed for help.

Zurura walking in the bush

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