Keepers' Diaries, February 2004

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Voi Reintegration Unit

The Nursery Elephants:- An event that puzzled and excited all the Nursery Elephants was “The Really Wild Show” whose cast rowdily joined them actually in the mudbath, diving into the mud, and hollering to the cameras. Amongst the stars was a dwarf, who was the focus of attention for all the elephants. Only little Sunyei found the antics of the Really Wild Show so amusing that she joined them in the mudbath. Taita, Olmalo, Selengai and Napasha were puzzled and apprehensive of the raised voices, used to reacting to tone of voice, whilst Wendi and Tomboi put on spirited mock charges, not wanting to show the obvious doubts they had about the unusual behaviour of this unusual group of humans!

The Nursery Elephants:- An event that puzzled and excited all the Nursery Elephants was “The Really Wild Show” whose cast rowdily joined them actually in the mudbath, diving into the mud, and hollering to the cameras. Amongst the stars was a dwarf, who was the focus of attention for all the elephants. Only little Sunyei found the antics of the Really Wild Show so amusing that she joined them in the mudbath. Taita, Olmalo, Selengai and Napasha were puzzled and apprehensive of the raised voices, used to reacting to tone of voice, whilst Wendi and Tomboi put on spirited mock charges, not wanting to show the obvious doubts they had about the unusual behaviour of this unusual group of humans!

Daphne and Angela were away in India from the 16th – 20th, where Daphne was due to give the keynote speech at the Venu Menon Animal Awards, and picked up a nasty flu bug for her pains! Back home, there was concern surrounding both Selengai and Madiba, Selengai suddenly having sprung a swollen back leg, (which later turned into an abscess), and Madiba with what was diagnosed as a bacterial infection of his lymph system, something that manifested itself in a string of mysterious lumps up the veins of a foreleg. Added to this, his stools were too runny and too frequent, which is always cause for concern, so Daphne and Angela hurried home after the Award Ceremony, having been away for just four packed days. Happily, both elephants are now in good health again. Selengai’s abscess burst after being poulticed, and healed quickly with Calendular and Silver, and Madiba’s lymph infection responded to a 3 day coarse of antibiotic injections, with a little help from homeopathic pillules of Hepar Sulph and colloidal silver mixed in with his milk. Now that all his molars are in place, and his lymph ailment cured, he is again in good health, sleeping well, feeding well, and very much part of the elephant gang. His friendship with little “Sunyei”is touching and close and very rewarding, having been so wary of all the others upon arrival in December. He adores her, and they play happily together throughout the day, and sleep next door to one another at night. He has even abandoned his South African blanket and is now a confident and happy member of our Nursery herd of nine.

Very rewarding, too, has been the recovery of Ndomot, whom we nearly lost in January. He, too, is now thriving, and has put on all the weight he lost, playing happily with the others.

Napasha becomes ever more proud of his tooth-pick tusks, showing them off proudly to all onlookers by raising his trunk skywards whilst the audience “oohs and aahs”. Tomboi was “The David Beckham of the Jumbo Football team that took on the Manchester United Junior players who paid the elephants a visit whilst Daphne and Angela were away in India, whilst Wendi asserted her authority and left them in no doubt as to who was in charge! She is a very vigilant, proficient, and sometimes “pushy” mini-Matriarch who refused to allow anyone to tamper with Selengai’s sore leg. Every time the abscess had to be cleaned, Selengai had to be confined in her stable, whilst Wendi watched events closely through the partition bars. Taita and Olmalo remain best friends, sharing a Night Stockade contentedly, with no more arguments over blankets! Both are gentle and loving – great favourites with both elephants and humans alike, but of all the Nursery inmates, it is furry little miniature Madiba and his playmate, Sunyei, who instantly attract the attention of visitors and who capture all hearts. Although small in stature, Madiba certainly makes up for it in courage, not once crying during the course of injections, and taking his diarrhoea medication as though enjoying it! This sets him apart from all the others who protest loud and long under similar situations!

Baby Rhino “Shida”- Little Shida is so robust, and so un-problematical that one tends s to even forget that he is around. He leaves his night quarters at 6 a.m. each morning, the Keeper assigned to him for the day wearing “the Special Rhino Coat”, returns at 11 a.m. to charm all the visitors for about l0 minutes during our Open Hour, and departs again for the bush to allow the elephants to take over the mudbath stage. Unlike all the other rhino orphans that we have reared over the years, Shida is not fussy about which Keeper accompanies him during the day, as long as he wears the right Coat, and at night he settles down happily with the Coat hanging close.

Magnum, who is now 7 years old and Makosa who will be 5 in August have also settled into a routine that suits them both. Magnum turns up back at base in the morning to enjoy having his filarial worm lesions daubed with Negasunct and Neem oil, before being escorted out again down the hill following the wheelbarrow of “goodies” comprised of kitchen peelings, discarded fruit, left-overs from the Staff Canteen and our own Kitchens mixed in with boiled barley and Copra. It is indeed entertaining to see a man with a wheelbarrow being followed like the Pied Piper, with a huge bull Rhino hot on his heels, and a trail of opportunistic warthogs trotting along behind! Makosa arrives in the evening and goes into his erstwhile Stockade for his rations, before paying Taita and Olmalo a visit to be “tickled” by their prickly trunks through the Stockade bars. He then does the rounds of the compound, enjoys the salt on the salt-lick, takes a mudbath, and wanders off into the bush again in the opposite direction to that taken by Magnum.

Unseasonal rain has kept the Park tinged with green well into March, and this has been a blessing, since the months from January – April are the hottest times of the year.

The Tsavo Orphaned Elephants:- The lush vegetation brought on by the unseasonal 8 inch storm last month has been a Godsend for our Tsavo orphans, and consequently we could embark on weaning Sally, Mweya, Sosian and Burra off milk. This month, the orphans have been making the most of the abundance of browse and have enjoyed actually swimming in the large natural waterholes, submerging themselves under water with just the tip of trunks visible.

The mischief ness of Mweya is evident again when she played a prank on the others, pretending that danger lay ahead, and putting them all to flight. The ability to plot is also evident, when Sosian positioned himself on the bank in order to get the better of Laikipia, who is much larger and when Mukwaju blocked Nasalot’s escape by holding her head with his tusks, whilst Nyiro tried to mount her from behind. We see little Morani fascinated by the antics of the termites, standing by the ant-mound, quietly watching them at work, and again, friendships become evident. Edie has taken a shine to Sosian, opting to share his Night Stockade, and feeding close to him for one entire day. Aitong’s love for Sweet Sally persists and Mpala and Burra remain best friends, as do Nyiro and Mukwaju. As usual Salama features prominently, testing his strength with others of his age-group and the usual rivalries are also evident amongst the females, particularly when it comes to who should lead the group to and from the Stockades. As usual, pushing games tend to deteriorate into a battle, and then the females intervene to restore peace. The empathy towards those less fortunate is again illustrated by Aitong kneeling down and inserting her tusks beneath Mweiga’s body in order to help lift her out of the mudbath..

After a very long and gruelling dry season, the orphans suffered from worms. Although some parasites are always present in wild populations, when animals are confined together, as the orphans are in their Night Stockades, an unnatural build-up can take place. The orphans were therefore all wormed following the obvious discomfort of Sweet Sally.

Two of our Big Boys have put in a brief appearance this month; Dika, who hoped to meet the orphans at their Spring Gate, but missed seeing them, and Edo, who called at the Stockade. There has been only one encounter with a wild group this month, since most of the elephants are still far afield, distant waterholes now holding water, and vegetation more abundant elsewhere.

Encounters with other species have involved Emily chasing off an old buffalo, backed up by Aitong, Yatta, Mulika, Mvita, and Seraa, Mpala and Morani also joining the chase, confident of victory. However, a tiny mongoose unravelled Irima when it ran between his legs, leaving him trembling with fright, and prompting him to remain close to the Keepers for the rest of the day!

For the Tsavo orphans, it has been a fun month with food and water plentiful, and we now hope that the April/May rains come on time, and are good. Meanwhile, the infrastructure for the Second Relocation Centre in the North, where Imenti is based, is nearing completion, and we will probably move some of the older elephants up to join him in May or June, when some of the older Nursery inmates will also go to join them.

February 2004 day to day

01 Feb

At 8 a.m. Morani went to an ant mound, and watched the tiny insects as they exchanged tasks building their home. He remained there for sometime and slowly left them to it without disturbing them. At noon Sally, Sosian, Mweya and Burra, all of whom are now being weaned off milk, followed the other young elephants, but found they had no bottles. They rumbled their displeasure, but the Keepers gave them water instead, and they went off satisfied. At 7 a.m. Dika came and stood vigil at the Spring Gate through which the orphans pass on their way out into the bush each day, only to find that they had already passed. He never came to the Stockade.
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