It has been a very peaceful and happy month in the Nairobi Nursery. The four small babies are all now content, satisfied at last with the new sleeping arrangements, i.e. Dida in with Lesanju and Lempaute and the dividing partition removed to make more space for three, and Shimba next door, in with Sinya. Baby Dida, the darling of the Nursery, has begun to thrive and play now that she is close to Lesanju and Lempaute 24 x 7, and is turning into a mischievous little character, who has taken a cue from Lempaute, delighting all the mudbath visitors by running up and down, and through, the ropes, with her ears out like dinner plates. Being such a miniature, this makes an enchanting spextacle that ensures that she is the centre of attention, interrupting the Explanatory Speeches for the visitors have eyes and ears for no-one else!. Lesanju remains a very able Mini Matriarch of the four smallest elephants, and is deeply loved by all the youngsters. Now that Sinya’s wounds are healed, and she is free from pain, she, too, is turning into a very friendly, affectionate and caring Matriarchal Assistant to Lesanju, her innate elephant mothering instincts coming to the fore. Lempaute is just Lempaute – mischievous, playful and full of nonsense, and Shimba, who is the only boy in the Nursery now, is happy to display bull independence by choosing to feed apart from the three little girls and sometimes picking on Lesanju for a pushing match, which he has yet to win, because Lempaute comes in as back-up to Lesanju!
This month, the baby unit has been allowed to spend limited time with the older three elephants, namely Makena, Lenana and Chyulu, but because of the intense rivalry this triggers for possession of baby Dida, the Keepers have restricted these group sessions because they inhibit feeding. Lenana adores Shimba, and instantly moves to caress him, whilst Makena and Chyulu both want to take possession of Dida, who would rather remain with Lesanju and Lempaute! Chyulu especially, has been persistent, often remaining behind to try and meet Dida and the others rather than following Makena and Lenana out to forage in the forest. On one occasion, following a group session, Lenana led the others to the location where the babies were feeding, so the older elephants know how to find them if necessary. Lenana, Chyulu and Makena are next in line to be upgraded to the Voi Reintegration Centre, now that all the Voi elephants are Keeper independent, so it is best not to allow very strong attachments to develop, which will cause psychological trauma when the time comes to part and leave the Nairobi Nursery. Nor do Lesanju and Lempaute want to share those they consider their charges, whilst Shimba is happy to have whatever attention is lavished on him! Lenana, obviously sensitive to the vibes of the visitors during mudbath, has taken to strolling up and down the rope to allow people to feel her skin, which is a remarkable turn around for this little elephant who arrived exceedingly fearful of all humans, and spent days trying to hide herself behind the browse placed in her Night Stockade. This illustrates yet again, the forgiving nature of these remarkable animals, bearing in mind that they are endowed with memories that far exceed those of humans.
There was excitement on the l8th, when a warthog ran towards the older elephants pursued by a lioness. However, fortunately when the Keepers stood up, the lioness gave up the chase, and the warthog managed to escape, leaving both the Keepers and their charges very fearful and changing location rapidly. Other scares have been encounters with buffaloes out in the forest, when all the elephants fled in different directions, (as did the buffaloes) and Lenana ran back to the Stockades and was nervous to leave home base for the mudbath. Mudbath visitors have enjoyed seeing wild giraffe, impala and, on one occasion, the buffaloes, all of whom come regularly to take mineral salts on the rocks opposite the mudbath venue. The orphans always love playing to the gallery, and were very disappointed on Christmas day, the one day a year when we are closed to the public, and there was no audience!. Visitors have been trickling back following the KWS imposition of the $40 fee at the Entrance Gate which drove so many people away, not to mention the political unrest that followed the recent Presidential election results. Many visitors have been deterred by both events and tourism in the country will obviously take a knock.
The Rhinos:- Shida has turned into a Clinging Vine, hanging around the yard, sharpening his horn against car bumpers, and even climbing onto Angela’s verandah to demolish her pot plants. He no longer respects what was once “the Hot Line” which has since lost its electricity, is simply a string! This will now have to be repaired and made hot again! Obviously, the presence of Maxwell keeps him close, but he probably also remembers the encounter he suffered with a wild rhino which left him with a prolapsed rectal mucosa. However, now that Rhino Horn is very much in demand, we are thankful to keep him close and see him on a daily basis, even though he has not been as well behaved as we would have liked.
Preparations have been made for Maxwell’s cataract operation by Anthony Goodhead, an Eye Veterinary Specialist from Capetown, who will be flown up especially to try and work a miracle on Maxwell’s right eye, and hopefully open up a window in the clouded cornea of the left one. All Dr. Goodhead’s specialized equipment has arrived in the country; two Vets are on hand to oversee the anaesthetic, a Fork Lift is being procured to lift Maxwell onto the operating table, and the table itself being reinforced to hold his weight. He is now rotund, solid, and must weight almost a ton! Maxwell’s operation will take place on the 11th January 2008, and we hold thumbs for a successful outcome.