February has been a dramatic month in the Nairobi Nursery – tears at the unexpected death of baby “Galdessa” at 9 a.m. on the morning of 23rd February which was a tragic loss for all who had battled long and hard to save this precious elephant life. Washed down the flooded Galana river in Tsavo East, tossed around the rocks of the raging rapids, he eventually ended up, battered, bruised and suffering from severe trauma and shock in the Generator House of Galdessa Camp, simply awaiting death, for by the time he arrived in the Nairobi Nursery, most of his vital organs had apparently already all but shut down, according to tests on his saliva and urine. His physical condition was exacerbated of course by the intense grief of losing his mother and elephant family. This little calf never fully recovered during the 4 months that he was with us, plagued by successive bouts of diarrheoa and possible internal bruising and damage as well. During the night of the 22nd/23rd he began passing blood, and by the morning was too weak to even stand. Despite having a Dextrose Drip inserted in an ear vein, he died a few hours later. Little Galdessa, the best friend of “Shimba” will be sadly missed by all in the Nursery, especially by his elephant peers, his Keepers and, of course, all his foster-parents who also loved him having followed his short life through the monthly Diaries.
The next drama was the discovery of a blind yearling baby rhino in the Park forest about 2 kms. from our Headquarters. The elephant Keepers, who were out in the forest as usual with their charges, heard the rhino crying, and went to investigate. He was running around aimlessly, there being no sign of his mother. The KWS Rhino Unit was summonsed, and together they and our Keepers monitored the little rhino until dusk, and when there was still no sign of the mother, something had to be done to spare him from being taken by predators during the night. By calling him with the rhino “come” sound (a soft exhalation of breath), he followed the Elephant Keepers and KWS Rangers for about 2 kms until near the Trust buildings, and then spooked at the strange sounds, blindly charging all and sundry and almost downing Daphne in the process who had to resort to diving into a nearby bush! By now it was quite obvious that he was completely blind in both eyes, which were opaque, so he had to be physically overpowered, which took all the strength of about l0 men. Although just a year old, he could certainly pack a punch and was immensely powerful. Apart from his eyes, he was in good physical condition, so he could not have been without his mother for long. Her disappearance and ultimate fate still remains a mystery.
We named the little rhino “Max”, which somehow seemed to suit him. For three full days, no-one could set foot in his stable, he was so wild and fierce, but he soon understood that milk and water was available at the stable door. It being essential that he undergo a course of injectable antibiotic to forestall problems brought about by trauma and shock, only Robert Carr-Hartley was courageous enough to risk going in, and having restrained the sharp end of the rhino by hanging onto his head, some reinforcements then followed to enable Robert to administer the antibiotic! For the next three days, the same process had to be repeated, and everyone heaved a sigh of relief when it was over. However, by now, the little rhino had calmed down sufficiently to enable a Keeper to be in with him in his stable, and since then he has been very amenable, as long as not suddenly startled. He has now been moved into Magnum’s erstwhile Stockade, which abuts that of Shida.
An assessment of the cause of Max’s blindness has revealed that he is suffering from bilateral cataracts, so surgical intervention to remove the cataracts is planned for Wednesday 14th March, when our Vet, Dieter Rottcher returns from Germany. Dieter will oversee the anaesthetic and is very experienced in this field whilst the eye surgery will be undertaken by one of Kenya’s top Eye Specialists, Dr. Schwendemann. We keep our fingers crossed that we will be able to restore at least some vision to Max. Towards the end of the month we decided to try and take him out for a short spell, but it proved very difficult to return him to his Stockade, so since then he has not been allowed out again.
Shida, meanwhile, has fully recovered from the prolapsed rectum that dogged him last month. He is rapidly gaining weight, and returning regularly for his extra rations, but at other times spends his days back in his old Stamping Ground in the forest behind the Trust Headquarters. Magnum is now truly a wild Nairobi Park resident, and this month has only appeared back at base on two occasions, simply to take some Magadi Soda minerals from the rocks adjacent to the mudbath, before returning down the hill to his territory on the plains below. He is totally independent now, and living as a truly wild rhino, that no longer can be easily handled by his erstwhile Keepers.
Since the death of little Galdessa, all the elephants in the Nairobi Nursery are thriving, although Zurura gave us a fright by being unwell for a few days, with swollen glands and loose stools. However a course of oral Sulphadimidine combined with injectable antibiotic has sorted him out. Shimba is now doing very well, and Lesanju has overcome the cutting of her first molars, which usually cause some stool problems combined with fevers. Lempaute and Kilgoris are in the process of now doing the same now.
Towards the end of the month we were very fortunate to benefit from the expertise of Caroline Ingraham and Samantha Davis of Animal Aromatics, who heal and treat animals by offering a selection of essential oils to assist with support for the lungs and other vital organs. Many of the orphans, especially Kenze, were interested in the emotional supporting oils such as Rose, while others went for red and white clay which aids the stomach.