Keepers' Diaries, February 2002

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Voi Reintegration Unit

Nursery Elephants

Nursery Elephants

Mercifully, it has been a peaceful and trouble free month for our remaining six Nursery babies, Mweiga slotting into her role as the "Queen Bee" like a veteran, ably backed up by Thoma, who seems to have copied some of Mweya's "pushiness". Little Seraa's sunken cheeks have filled out, and are now smoothe and plump, just as they should be. Solango has formed a strong bond of friendship with Burra, whose wounds have all healed beautifully, and who is also beginning to put on weight and play, which is always a good sign. His ear, cut by the snare into two separate pieces, has healed well and remains firmly attached to his head. He is a very friendly and gentle little elephant, only shy when he suspects that the Vet might be amongst his admirers! Sweet Sally remains glued to her Keepers, begging for a finger to suck on, and is now almost the same size as Mweya. All the Nursery babies have thrived this month with no cause of anxiety, although we have had to weather a serious tragedy that has left us all distraught - the sudden mysterious death of Magnette, our five year old orphaned rhino, under very suspicious circumstances, who was hastily buried at night without us being informed, although her body lay just 1 km from our premises. Permission to exhume the body for further tests were refused by the wildlife authorities, claiming that Anthrax was suspected, yet this did not deter them from removing the horns before burial! We have, of course, taken the matter to higher authority, suspecting foul play in view of the secrecy that surrounded the incident, and because Magnette was romping around happily just the day before. Rhinos countrywide are suddenly being targeted again for their horns, six confirmed as having been poached recently in Tsavo East National Park with numbers remaining in all protected areas questionable, since in-house poaching cannot be ruled out, having happened before.

Tsavo Orphans

The one Tsavo orphan who is causing us grave anxiety is Mweiga, who has always been particularly fragile. Her weakness seems to be becoming more pronounced, despite all the extra rations and vitamins that she has been having. None of the Vets have any answers as to the cause of her problem, but we have long suspected a chronic condition, possibly connected with a defective heart, which could be taking the strain as the volume of blood with which it has to cope increases. As always, Emily and Aitong understand her suffering, and watch protectively and tenderly over her at all times. As a last resort, we have been advised to begin a course of anti-biotic and will be testing Mweiga's stools for possible liver fluke, but other than this, no-one has any other suggestions for us.

Nasalot and Mulika have settled in well, although they are still somewhat reticent about becoming embroiled too deeply in the exuberance of the mudbath, particularly when the little boys are there. They tend to rush in and quickly rush out when the others join them. Amongst the Big Boys, Ndume dominates this month's diary, having spent four days courting and mating with Aitong, something not approved of by both Emily or Imenti, who have done their best to thwart his love-making. Aitong, on the other hand, seems to be besotted with him and has not been an unwilling participant, despite being just eight years old. We pray that she does not fall pregnant too young, as did Malaika.

Ndume has done his best to persuade Imenti to join him on an outing, but Imenti is having none of it! We doubt that he will ever want to go with Ndume again, in case it leads to another long walk home!

Dika is back, after an absence of several months off with the wild herds and Edo has been spotted, but has yet to make contact. Dika was warmly greeted by both elephants and Keepers alike, and Daphne was especially happy to see him the day she spent with the elephants. He is now a very impressive bull who towers over all the others, walking stately and tall, as a bull elephant should. Lissa and her baby, Lara, who have taken Uaso into their family, have likewise returned to pay a visit to the others at the Stockade after an absence of several months.

There have been only two encounters with wild elephants this month, since most of the wild herds have yet to return to the Voi river valley, the waterholes inland still holding water. Both Emily and Imenti have interacted with wild friends of their size during these encounters, as has Laikipia, who played with "a calf of his size" for half an hour and in so doing abided by elephant etiquette. Kinna's friendship with little Maungu flourishes, and amongst the small boys, Nyiro is turning into one of the most exuberant characters, very competitive with Mukwaju, Tsavo, and Lolokwe and mischievous towards the girls, particularly Icholta, with whom he has a love/hate type relationship. Edie took the opportunity to put him firmly in his place during one mudbath, pinning his head under water, but suffered reprisals later!

It was a real joy and uplifting for Daphne to be amongst her elephant family down in Tsavo again, all save fragile little Mweiga looking the picture of happiness and health.
The unforgettable sight of them all approaching the mudbath from far-off will remain with her forever and brought tears of happiness to her eyes - humans in the lead, tiny in comparison, followed by a veritable herd of 23 elephants of all sizes walking beside and behind them, with Dika at the back, dwarfing them all! Such a scene must surely be unforgettable encapsulating into overall success and triumph all the heart-aches and headaches endured over the years in raising this very special elephant family, not forgetting, of course, all the foster-parents and others who have made it all possible!

February 2002 day to day

01 Feb

All the orphans fed close to their Keepers all day, because Nasalot and Mulika, who are newcomers from the Nursery, were feeling a little insecure in their new surroundings. Imenti alerted the Keepers to the presence of an old bull buffalo, who would not budge before a threat. The Keepers could see that the buffalo was determined not to move, and might charge, so the orphans left that place. During the noon mudbath Salama pushed Mulika down into the mud, but Emily intervened, pushing him away, warning him not to bully the new babies. Later Emily and Imenti shared a tree opposite one another, rubbing the mud from their bodies.