Keepers' Diaries, December 2013

Nairobi Nursery Unit

The 2013 end of year rains came very late with only light drizzle falling intermittently until about three meaningful storms just prior to Christmas were sufficiently heavy to penetrate the ground and green the vegetation of Nairobi National Park. Normally the so-called Short Rains for highland areas (which are the main rains for lower altitudes such as Tsavo) should begin at the end of September and continue until Christmas, so this year’s rains have been disappointing both in Nairobi and also in Tsavo.

01 December 2013

There was a light drizzle, just sufficient to settle the dust, but enough to keep the four teething babies indoors for most of the day. However, the older orphans thoroughly enjoyed the weather, playing in the dampened soil, Lemoyian, Kithaka, and Barsilinga climbing over Orwa and Sonje whenever they lay down while Oltaiyoni also enjoyed playing on her adopted mother, Sonje.

02 December 2013

Three of the four teething babies were passing copious loose stools today, so they were all put on a drip to restore lost body fluids, and given Kaolin and Green Clay orally. Of the four Ashaka still looks strongest, but all have lost a great deal of body condition, which happens during teething when on artificial formula milk that is not as perfect as that of their natural mother. The swelling on Asanje’s body and chin following the anaphylactic fit she suffered last month is still pronounced and troubling her (and us).

03 December 2013

There was celebration when the first four molars broke through the gum of Kamok, Olodare, and Ashaka, while little MacKinnon has yet to begin his teething ordeal. A blood sample taken from Asanja indicated that a course of injectable antibiotic might be helpful, which began today.

04 December 2013

Asanja has been mainly Stockade bound since she has been ailing but has been going out in the afternoons for a short time to be able to interact with the other orphans, always greeted with great concern by the older females, namely Arruba, Suswa, Sonje, Quanza, and even Mashariki and Oltaiyoni. However, recently she has been anxious to return to her Stockade to rest.

05 December 2013

Today the four smallest orphans (Kamok, Ashaka, Olodare and MacKinnon woke up happier. Kamok was picking up little leaves and putting them into her mouth to chew while the others were picking up little sticks, but in the afternoon she appeared very dull again, lying down frequently to sleep, so she was again put on Life Support.

06 December 2013

Orwa, now the oldest Bull in the Nursery, with the longest tusks, is not averse to using them on the smaller boys. Today, during the public viewing hour, he downed poor Teleki, prodding him and pushing him to the ground. The only Nursery members he respects are Big Girl Murera and Sonje, but now tends to throw his weight around all the others. Orwa will be upgraded to the Ithumba Rehabilitation Unit probably in April after the very hot months of January, February and March and there he will be taught manners by those even better equipped, including Bongo and Kanjoro!

07 December 2013

As soon as the main orphaned herd left their Night Stockades, Nelion and Tundani, who share a Night Stockade, and who are both gentle and polite boys as well as best friends, enjoyed a pushing game to welcome a new day, while the older females, Arruba, Sonje, Lima lima, Quanza. Mashariki, Suswa and Zongoloni checked on the younger ones such as Oltaiyoni and Lentili, having first visited the four teething babies who were still in their Stables. Tundani and Nelion are the most polite and gentle members of the main herd, even during milk feeding times when others tend to be greedily pushy, demanding more than their allotted quota!

08 December 2013

During the Public Viewing hour between 11am and 12 noon, naughty boys Lemoyian and Kithaka entertained the crowd with a Pushing Contest, but Kithaka always harbours a hidden motive. Suddenly he broke away from Lemoyian and before the Keepers could restrain him, ran along the cordon to push some small human spectators, who screamed. He then instantly returned to re-engage Lemoyian, much to the amusement of the older spectators, who marveled at his very human sense of humour! That day Kithaka was the talk of the Public Viewing hour!

09 December 2013

Ailing Asanja has shown improvement following her injectable course of antibiotic. The swellings under her chin and belly have reduced, and she is able to get up from a sleeping position without the help of the Keepers, which is a definite improvement in her strength.

10 December 2013

Today, as the main orphans were leaving their Night Quarters, Solio turned up intercepted by Murera and Sonje who were on heir way to greet Sonje’s favourite, Oltaiyoni. Both elephants trumpeted and tried to deter Solio, who merely took another route in order to enter her Stockade and enjoy the Lucerne handout that awaited her. Meanwhile Maxwell was in a high state of excitement, anxiously waiting to engage her through the Stockade poles in what has become a regular ritual for our two orphaned rhinos. Solio spent quite sometime in her Stockade next door to Max before leaving again for the Park. These days she spends more time in the bush than before.

11 December 2013

Just after the Public Viewing hour, there was a downpour of rain, which excited the elephants, all of whom took to mudbathing, Lemoyian and Kithaka thoroughly enjoying climbing over Orwa as he lay in the mud. However when Lemoyian turned to climb on Oltaiyoni as she lay in the mud, her cry for help brought Sonje to the rescue at the double, chasing off Lemoyian as well as naughty Kithaka. Sonje then calmly escorted Oltaiyoni out to join the other orphans who by then were browsing in the bush.

12 December 2013

Light drizzle throughout the day forced the four small babies to remain indoors most of the time as did Asanja, while all the others enjoyed the weather, and spent their time playing in the puddles and the mud. Arruba, Mashariki, and Rorogoi joined Barsilinga, Lemoyian and Kithaka as they ran in and out of a tiny stream, splashing as much water as possible on each other as they did so, just as do human children. The laughter of the Keepers at their antics encouraged them further!

13 December 2013

Light drizzle fell throughout the morning, which forced the four babies in and out of their stables all morning, and was not popular with them. At 3 p.m. the orphans enjoyed a visit from Kenya’s First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta, who came with another visiting First Lady from Sri Lanka. Kenya’s First Lady enjoyed feeding her adopted elephant, Tundani. Dame Daphne and Angela were also present for this special visit, and received gifts from the visiting Indian First Lady.

14 December 2013

A heavy downpour came at 4 p.m. forcing the orphans to shelter under trees, Oltaiyoni sandwiched between Sonje and Big Girl Murera while Kithaka, Barsilinga, Lemoyian, Ngasha, Balguda and Tundani gathered around the Keepers since loud thunder and lightening scared them. Suswa lost her nerve after a loud clap of thunder, forcing the Keepers to peel off and go in search of her. They eventually caught up with her making her way back to the safety of her Stockade!

15 December 2013

The condition of Asanja is gradually improving, the swelling beneath her chin having disappeared, but the one beneath her belly is still pronounced. However, she is much livelier than before and feeding well on both milk, porridge and the greens cut for her.

16 December 2013

Blood samples were taken today from Balguda, Olodare, little McKinnon and Asanja to assess their health. Balguda, Olodare and Asanja were given immune boosters.

17 December 2013

Vuria and Lentili remain a problem during the milk feeding times, never satisfied with their share and running around bellowing trying to snatch the share of others, forcing the Keepers to send them off so that the others can enjoy their milk in peace. Lima lima used to be like that too, but since joining the bigger group is a reformed character and a lovely girl.

18 December 2013

Soon after leaving heir night quarters, Bomani and Orwa engaged one another in a Test of Strength, which ended when Orwa poked Bomani in the face with his tusks. Bomani then quit the game, and went to join Faraja and Jasiri who were also engaged in a friendly Pushing Game. Bomani then engaged Jasiri briefly, while Faraja watched, until the Keepers called the orphans for their milk. Jasiri and Faraja, our two albino “half brothers” are best friends, and while Jasiri is a gentle chap, Faraja enjoys trying to dominate the younger boys.

19 December 2013

Within the infant group, little Mackinnon is very attached to Kamok who is the miniscule Matriarch of the baby set, always gentle and caring of the other smaller calves. Baby boy Olodare remains more attached to the Keepers as the small group make heir way out into the bush on a fine day.

20 December 2013

This morning Max enjoyed a diversion to his usual routine when a Warthog mother and her piglets entered his Stockade and tried to share his Lucerne. Max chased them round and round his Stockade, hot on their tails so that no one could believe that he was blind! Even after he had managed to eject them, he remained in a high state of excitement, daring the warthog family to try the same trick again! Max comes when called and enjoys human contact, accurately turning up opposite whoever is calling irrespective of where they happen to be standing! He is perfectly habituated to every inch of the large compound.

21 December 2013

As the orphans were browsing in the bush at 2 p.m. a lone buffalo ran in amongst them, having been charged by Murera, Sonje and Quanza with little Oltaiyoni hot of their heels! All the orphans fled in disarray, bellowing and screaming while the Keepers did their best to round them up and calm them down. It took a while before things returned to normal!

22 December 2013

It was a hot day, so the orphans downed their milk rapidly and hurried to the mudbath during the Public Viewing hour. Even Vuria, who normally avoids wallowing, was up for it today. Murera with her stiff leg actually lay down to wallow, something that is unusual, because she normally stands on the edge splashing water over her body. The spectators today enjoyed a very active mudbath, with all the orphans fully involved in cooling themselves down.

23 December 2013

Mischievous Kithaka, even when in his Stable in the evening, attracts the attention of the visiting foster-parents by resting the tip of his trunk on the top of the door so that the visitors come and touch it. This is a signal for him to put his front legs on top of the door and swing his trunk to and fro, so that the visitors laugh and crowd around to watch his antics. This ensures that he is the focus of attention at all times!

24 December 2013

Asanja, although improving, is still not inclined to join the other orphans out in the field, but is more content resting with her Keeper in her Stockade. However, she looks happier and her appetite is improving, the swelling under her belly also reducing. Whereas at one time we doubted that she would recover, we are now confident that she will, and that has made us very happy on Christmas Eve.

25 December 2013

As the orphans were making their way out on Christmas Day, Zongoloni, Teleki, Lentili and Vuria who were slightly apart from the main group encountered some impalas. Zongoloni trumpeted and began chasing the antelopes, eagerly joined in the chase by Teleki, Lentili and Vuria sending the impalas scampering and leaping, which satisfied the chasers who, having seen the intruders off, folded their ears again!

26 December 2013

Today it was Ngasha who had a slightly upset stomach, so he had a dose of green clay in his milk. However, he is strong and feeding well, so it was not something of great concern.

27 December 2013

Having spent a considerable time out in the bush, it was a great relief to see Solio again, who returned to her Stockade to interact with Maxwell and enjoy a handout of Lucerne. She was looking very well and happy, with no evidence of any injury on her body. Solio is now fully rehabilitated into the wild rhino community of Nairobi National Park, and as such a great success story and a credit to the Trust, since the rehabilitation of orphaned rhinos into an established territorial rhino community is an extremely complicated process that entails walking the newcomer around the dungpiles and urinals of the wild community, accompanied by a human Keeper as a deterrent to the initial aggression of established members, until the orphan is confident to do it solo after about 3 years. Solio was born at Solio Ranch in March 2010 and came to us aged 6 months. She is therefore now rising 4 years old.

28 December 2013

Having cut her first set of molars, Kamok is now gaining weight again, and is much more playful and active. Ashaka is also showing some improvement, while Olodare is still somewhat subdued. Little Mackinnon has one more tooth to come, and as usual has lost a lot of body condition during the teething process, but has cut three of his teeth quite quickly.

29 December 2013

Today at 2 p.m. Murera broke ranks with the other orphans and took away Lemoyian, (who is her chosen favourite), as well as Faraja, Jasiri and Lima lima. She took the four younger orphans deep into the bush which challenged the Keepers who had to go in search of them. The miscreants were eventually found near the Banda Gate at 5 p.m. and returned to the Stockades only reluctantly! These days Murera walks far afield together with her close friends, and as soon as the new Stockades in the Kibwezi Forest are ready, she will be moved there along with Sonje, since both elephants have one stiff leg and would not be able to cope with the tough conditions of Tsavo. The new Kibwezi Forest Rehabilitation Centre will be for orphans whom poaching has handicapped and will be the Invalid Rehab Unit.

30 December 2013

It was an unusually hot day at mudbath time, prompting little Oltaiyoni to only down half her quota of milk before rushing to the wallow to cool herself down. Small Boys Lemoyian, Kithaka, Barsilinga, Balguda and Tundani competed with the bigger boys, Orwa, Bomani, Garzi, Ngasha, Vuria, Faraja, Teleki, Nelion, and Vuria while the girls awaited their turn, Arruba and Sonje clearing space to allow girls Mashariki, Lima lima, Quanza, Suswa, Lima lima, Zongoloni, Lentili and Rorogoi to enjoy their turn.

31 December 2013

Asanja, who has suffered so much, ends the year on a positive note, the swellings beneath her chin and belly having dissipated entirely. She is looking much happier and feeding well and we are hopeful that with time she will have fully recovered from what we believe was the bite of a very poisonous snake. All our orphans, both those very young, and those older end the year on a positive note with improving health, many of them having arrived in a near death condition. We mourn those that didn’t make it, but give thanks for the recovery of those that managed, most having been snatched from the jaws of death through an infusion of life supporting drip and thanks to our new diagnostic equipment which allows early warning of infection and things going awry physically in the newcomers. Our Rhino Orphans, Maxwell and Solio, are also in prime condition, so we all face 2014 hopeful that the poaching situation will at last be an evil of the past, and that the Chinese and other Far Eastern countries will curb their appetite for our Elephants’ teeth, something that has caused the elephants untold suffering, both psychological and physical!