Keepers' Diaries, February 2010

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

An orphaned bull elephant, subsequently given the name “Chemi Chemi” was flown in from Loisaba Ranch in Laikipia on the 22nd, having been found alone on the Ranch boundary with Pokot country the previous morning, with no other elephants nearby. Ranch staff monitored the calf throughout the day, but he was quite obviously an orphaned victim of either poaching or human wildlife conflict, both of which are rife in the tribal country occupied by the Pokot people. He was held at the Ranch Headquarters overnight and flown into the Nursery the following morning. He was in reasonable physical condition upon arrival, although visibly very stressed, but he took milk from the bottle immediately, and very soon calmed down. The Nursery elephants were brought to meet him, and all greeted him very warmly, to which he responded instantly and positively.

An orphaned bull elephant, subsequently given the name “Chemi Chemi” was flown in from Loisaba Ranch in Laikipia on the 22nd, having been found alone on the Ranch boundary with Pokot country the previous morning, with no other elephants nearby. Ranch staff monitored the calf throughout the day, but he was quite obviously an orphaned victim of either poaching or human wildlife conflict, both of which are rife in the tribal country occupied by the Pokot people. He was held at the Ranch Headquarters overnight and flown into the Nursery the following morning. He was in reasonable physical condition upon arrival, although visibly very stressed, but he took milk from the bottle immediately, and very soon calmed down. The Nursery elephants were brought to meet him, and all greeted him very warmly, to which he responded instantly and positively.

This month, Olare appears to have taken over the Matriarchship from Suguta of the small babies, namely Tano, Mutara and Shukuru focusing on Shukuru as her special favourite. However, the arrival of Chemi Chemi diverted her attention, allowing Suguta a chance to reclaim little Shukuru as her special baby. Chemi Chemi has proved a remarkable elephant, in that he calmed down instantly, took his milk feeds from the bottle without any trouble, has suffered no stomach problems, and instantly adapted to being a member of the orphaned Nursery herd, even unafraid of the noon day mudbath visitors two days after being a totally wild elephant! He has been a delight from the onset - one of the easiest elephants we have ever handled and a very popular member of the Nursery herd.

Another Elephant Rescue alert was received from KWS on Saturday 27th. Two poached cow elephants had apparently been spotted from the air in Kora National Reserve, their tusks missing, and both with orphaned milk dependent calves nearby. However, tragically, these two unfortunate babies were never recovered, it being over a weekend, and obviously have since been lost, since they would have no chance of survival without their mothers’ milk. It is heartrending to reflect on how many such cases happen probably on an almost daily basis now that poaching is rife and the price of ivory so high in the Far East. The elephants that are found in time to be saved are precious few and far between, particularly in remote areas.

Following the tragedy of losing Naimina and Enasoit at Ithumba, all the Nursery elephants, with the exception of the smallest three, as well as all the milk dependent orphans at both Ithumba and Voi, have been treated with the two specific drugs identified to deal with the particular gut parasites transmitted by diseased livestock identified from gut samples sent to Japan, and which were probably responsible for the demise of so many of our 2009 drought victims under circumstances that baffled all the Vets as well as the local pathological Laboratories. Whilst 2009 was a veritable nightmare year for all elephants, (and by extension, for us as well), at least this was one crucial new lesson that was learnt the hard way and will serve to save many others in the future!

February was a happy month for the Nursery elephants, all of whom remained healthy. Unseasonal heavy rain towards the end of the month has been a Godsend to keep the vegetation green and nutritious and relieve the usual heat of the usual extremely hot dry months of January, February and March, and for that we give thanks. As always, it has been interesting to observe the dynamics of the orphaned Nursery herd, Olare superceding Suguta in the mothering of the three smallest calves, Tano, Mutara and Shukuru. As the smallest, Shukuru is the hot favourite of all the older females, although the arrival of Chemi Chemi has diverted Olare’s attention somewhat and allowed the others a chance to monopolize her whilst Ndii has also been paying a great deal of attention to the newcomer, Chemi Chemi. Kalama and Turkwel obviously have an unknown score to settle, for both females have been antagonistic towards one another throughout the month. It has been a great relief to see Mawenzi’s improvement since she was given the specific hookworm de-wormers, and also a relief that Kilaguni seems to have overcome the difficulty he was experiencing passing stools, due to the damage inflicted by the hyaenas prior to his rescue. Molasses in his milk has kept his stools softer and enabled the scar tissue to stretch naturally without surgical intervention.

The Rhinos:- Shida’s sudden emergence from the bush at the visitors’ Carpark on the 13th, as all the mudbath guests were relaxing on the benches waiting to be escorted in to enjoy the orphans’ mudbath, caused quite a stir. Many of the guests fled, whilst others ignored the Keepers’ instructions, and insisted on approaching the rhino to get a better picture! However, apart from briefly scratching his bottom against one of the parked cars, Shida behaved impeccably, as he did on the day that he turned up at the mudbath ahead of the elephants, and began to approach the surrounding visitors. On both occasions, he was escorted away by a Keeper to go and fraternize with blind Maxwell, whom he enjoys engaging in a sparring bout between the separating poles of their respective two Stockades. We are always relieved to see Shida because the poaching of rhinos for their horns has become a mounting problem in Kenya, ever since the arrival of Chinese construction workers in the country.

Blind Maxwell’s daily routine has, of course, to remain monotonously un-varied, but since rhinos are creatures of habit, he is happy enough, still enjoying 3 milk feeds every day, the time of which he anticipates with amazing accuracy, presenting himself at the Stockade door on the dot! As always, interaction with Shida remains the highlight of his dark world but he also enjoys his mudbath, his comfortable sleeping shelter, and exercising around his stockade sure-footedly as well as the attention of passing visitors. He is in perfect health aside from his blindness.

Maalim is growing up. His passion for his mattress has not waned and he now enjoys the elephants’ large mudbath pool, into which he plonks himself on warm days once all the mudbath human guests have left. His daily routine also remains the same. Escorted by a different Keeper every day they embark on the rounds of all the rhino dungpiles and urinals in the vicinity, interrupted only every four hours for a milk feed. In the evening, the mattress takes over from the Keeper as Maalim heaves it over his body, and settles beneath it for the night, with just his snout and tail visible at each end!

February 2010 day to day

01 Feb

On this, the first day or a new month, the weather was chilly with a slight drizzle, so the small babies were not brought out at 6 a.m., but had to wait until it warmed up a bit. Mawenzi has made a very pleasing recovery since being treated for the two parasites identified in gut samples sent to Japan. She still takes her milk slowly, but is playful and bright now.

Mawenzi having milk

Tano, Mutara & Shukuru

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