Keepers' Diaries, December 2006

Select your unit:

Nairobi Nursery Unit

A significant event this month was the arrival of 2 year old “Kenze” on the 7th, bringing the Nursery contingent to a record 12. He was rescued by our Chyulu De-Snarers the previous evening near a community village of that name adjacent to the Chyulu National Park and was driven to the Voi Stockades from whence he was airlifted to the Nursery the next day. He arrived in a pathetic condition that shocked us all. He was skeletal, every inch of his body literally plastered in ticks of all sizes, and had a nasty suppurating wound on his penis. Despite being clearly extremely weak, and near death, he still had sufficient strength to demonstrate his loathing of humans, and did his utmost to flatten the Keepers who were in with him against the walls of the Stockade, and because he had tiny tusks, the men had to be pretty agile at scaling the escape platform after each onslaught. Clearly, there was nothing that could be done for him until he collapsed, which we knew was inevitable. Having arrived at 11 a.m., this happened at 5 p.m. the same day and only then could his wounds be assessed, and the life-saving intravenous drip inserted into an ear vein. The wound on his penis, although severely infected, was not life-threatening – probably inflicted by a small predator such as a mongoose or domestic dog whilst he slept. It was clearned out with Hydrogen Peroxide and Betadine and Frontline Spray and tincture of T Tree took care of the ticks as he lay comatose. Two Keepers attended him throughout the night, replacing each bottle of dextrose and saline as it emptied with another and during the night and the next morning gallons of fluid went into his veins.

A significant event this month was the arrival of 2 year old “Kenze” on the 7th, bringing the Nursery contingent to a record 12. He was rescued by our Chyulu De-Snarers the previous evening near a community village of that name adjacent to the Chyulu National Park and was driven to the Voi Stockades from whence he was airlifted to the Nursery the next day. He arrived in a pathetic condition that shocked us all. He was skeletal, every inch of his body literally plastered in ticks of all sizes, and had a nasty suppurating wound on his penis. Despite being clearly extremely weak, and near death, he still had sufficient strength to demonstrate his loathing of humans, and did his utmost to flatten the Keepers who were in with him against the walls of the Stockade, and because he had tiny tusks, the men had to be pretty agile at scaling the escape platform after each onslaught. Clearly, there was nothing that could be done for him until he collapsed, which we knew was inevitable. Having arrived at 11 a.m., this happened at 5 p.m. the same day and only then could his wounds be assessed, and the life-saving intravenous drip inserted into an ear vein. The wound on his penis, although severely infected, was not life-threatening – probably inflicted by a small predator such as a mongoose or domestic dog whilst he slept. It was clearned out with Hydrogen Peroxide and Betadine and Frontline Spray and tincture of T Tree took care of the ticks as he lay comatose. Two Keepers attended him throughout the night, replacing each bottle of dextrose and saline as it emptied with another and during the night and the next morning gallons of fluid went into his veins.

We never expected him to still be with us in the morning, but he was obviously a survivor, and putting up a brave fight. He was also sufficiently conscious to swallow several cooked oatmeal and coconut cakes prepared with SMA which the Keepers placed directly into his mouth along with greens that were hand-fed. By 2 p.m. he showed signs of wanting to try and get to his feet, and with the help of some 6 men, we managed to lift him to his feet, after which he wobbled his way into a far corner where he propped himself up against the Stockade wall. Still extremely aggressive towards all humans, green vegetation was brought into the Stockade, which he devoured hungrily, and he took water and rehydration salts from a bucket placed outside the bars of his Stockade door, but refused to accept milk from a bottle held by a human. It was only on the 3rd day that he got the taste of it, again offered through the bars of the door and only after 5 days that he would tolerate a Keeper actually standing in his Stockade rather than beyond reach on the escape platform. However, he now understood tone of voice and responded to the word “No” refraining at this command from pushing home each charge. However, his aversion to actually being handled remains, even today three weeks later so the Keepers are unable to cover him with a blanket to protect him from the weather. Only when he lies down to sleep can they do this, and also clean out the wound on his penis, and then only because he is still unable to stand without help once down.

It was urgent that this elephant undergo a 5 day course of injectible antibiotic in view of his condition, and it was a mission to be able to administer this daily, involving a team of Keepers actually man-handling him into a corner. It was a relief when the 5th day and the last injection was over, for now the Keepers could gradually begin to win his trust. Quite obviously, Kenze has been witness to horrific acts of harassment and cruelty at the hands of humans in his short life, for he has proved an extremely difficult elephant to tame down, which is unusual, not helped, of course, by Kamboyo, who from the start has wanted to dominate him by pushing him down. He gulps down his bottle and then retreats as far as possible from the Keepers, keeping clear of Kamboyo, who has not been at all welcoming. However, Kenze will remember this injustice, and woe betide Kamboyo once his strength returns to normal, and it is “payback” time! He has been befriended by both Lenana and Zurura, both of whom have shown great concern at his isolation and unhappiness, and who have been key to his psychological healing and in helping him understand that the Keepers are his new friends, and human family, there not to harm him, but to help him. Like others before him, such as Challa and Rapsu, who also came in aged two, Kenze will soon regain his health, and grow up to be an impressive bull elephant, for he is large for his age. We are confident that by this time next year he will be romping around Ithumba with all the others, and having put Kamboyo back in place, will be able to hold his own amongst the other Boys of the Ithumba Unit.

Meanwhile, of the four tiny babies, it has been first Shimba and then Galdessa that needed medication to forestall symptoms that have proved life threatening in earlier orphans – i.e. lethargy and stools that are too frequent and too copious in quantity, despite being normal in consistency. Both have undergone a course of oral Sulphadimidine this month, and both are now much improved. The next to need the Sulphadimidine course was Lesanju, for the same reasons, and so far, only tiny Lempaute has escaped. The four babies are kept apart from the main group simply because Shimba spends all his time suckling ears and anything else he can get hold of, rather than taking his full quota of milk. However, they usually join the older elephants after their midday milk, and enjoy spending the afternoon with them.

The arrival of Kenze necessitated a re-shuffle of the orphans’ Night accommodation. Loijuk was moved in with Zurura, but little Chyulu who is used to being next door at night was so distressed by the change, that she could not sleep, and her bellows upset Loijuk so that she could not sleep either! Hence Loijuk had to be moved back. Then we tried doubling up Galdessa and his best friend Shimba, but this triggered punch-ups at milk feeding times, so in the end, Galdessa had to be moved back into an empty store next to the Canteen, which at first he did not like, but he has since settled down. Kamboyo was happy to vacate his Stockade and move into Magnum’s erstwhile larger one, so that Zurura could move next door to Kenze! Obviously, a priority now is more Night Accommodation for Nursery Orphans, so another three stables will be erected to accommodate any others that happen to come in.

Rhino Orphans:- Due to abundant rainfall, December has been a very happy month for our rhino orphans Shida and Magnum as well. Shida has spent many nights away from base, returning only intermittently to his Night Stockade, just to ensure that everything is as it should be in the yard, and particularly within his Night Stockade, and Magnum has appeared just twice. However, he is often seen on the plains below as just a large brown lump above the tall grass! Sadly, with the rains come the biting flies and mosquitoes which are an irritation to both man and beast alike!

December 2006 day to day

01 Dec

Recently Galdessa has caused us concern, for he takes his milk so very slowly. Today, we were impressed, because he began to feed normally. After the mudbath, little Shimba astonished the Keepers, charging some baby warthogs and even surprising himself, and us, by managing a trumpet! Usually, Shimba is very quiet, so this was a very pleasing development.

Little Galdessa

Select your unit:
View keepers’ diaries for another month?