Keepers' Diaries, February 2011

Nairobi Nursery Unit

February has been a month filled with drama and sadness - the deaths of two little orphaned elephant newcomers, “Kulalu” and “Kongit” on the 7th and 20th respectively and the rescue of little “Kainuk” an orphan of the few remaining elephants in the South Turkana National Reserve on the 22nd, an area that is populated by the warlike Pokot pastoral people who eke out a living as best they can in an extremely marginal lava desert. All the tribesmen are illegally heavily armed against cattle rustling which is also rife in that forgotten corner of the country, and now that Chinese aid workers are in the country, the market for illegal ivory is here as well, so is the incentive to poach both elephants and rhinos, commodities that are much in demand in the Far East.

01 February 2011

As the Nursery herd headed out into the bush to browse, Naisula led the way with Olare and Murka at the rear of the column to make sure that none of the Youngsters were left behind. Once the older orphans begin to disperse in the bush browsing, Naipoki sought out a Keeper to suck on a finger. Sities, who is normally very jealous then also approached and wanted a finger from the other hand of the same Keeper – the first time both babies have quietly sucked on fingers without a problem!

02 February 2011

The lions killed a buffalo just behind the Stockades, so they have been feeding on the carcass for several nights, and making a lot of noise. A hyaena came during the night at 2 a.m. and put himself underneath the Container near the Milk Mixing place, which scared the Night Milk Mixer . Due to the proximity of the lions, the baby rhino, Solio, has to feed near the elephants, being a target for the lions. Kalama tried to charge Solio, but Solio turned the tables on Kalama, sending her screaming through the bushes and heading back to the Stockades. The Keepers had to return to collect her and calm her down!

03 February 2011

At around 1.30 a.m. Murka was very unsettled, digging at the Gate to her Stockade, wanting to come out and screaming. She had been quiet up until the midnight feed but then her strange behaviour began and lasted until dawn. The Keepers thought that she had turned insane, but in retrospect we believe it was the presence of the hyaena that un-nerved her, or else perhaps a dream about the mutilation she suffered when she was orphaned in Tsavo West National Park. This morning the hyaena was still underneath the Container near the Milk Mixing place, watching all the Keepers as they passed by, but at 11 a.m. it left, running past Shida’s Stockade and into the forest, much to the relief of all! To begin with we were afraid to let Murka out, fearing that she might run away into the forest, or harm someone, if she had turned insane, but after a long gentle talk from the Keepers, and the input of the other elephants all of whom crowded around her, she calmed right down and went with the others as usual.

04 February 2011

At 10 a.m. we received the alert that a baby elephant had been found on its own on Kulalu Ranch. At 12 p.m. confirmation came that the orphan had been captured, so the Rescue team left. The Voi Elephant Keepers were already with the baby near the Sala Gate and drove it to the airfield, where we fed it milk and rehydration. It was about 1 year old, and very dehydrated and weak, and not at all aggressive, which is usually not a good sign in an elephant newcomer of that age. We had to adjust the Sleeping Arrangements of the Nursery elephants to make space for the new baby called “Kulalu”. Turkwel and Kudup are the most flexible in this respect and made no problems during the night.

05 February 2011

The new calf was taken to join the other orphans today, since he was becoming stressed when he saw the other elephants leaving in the morning. He is still weak. Mutara was the first to welcome him. The baby enjoyed the day in amongst all the others, who made a great fuss of him. He returned with them in the evening without any problem.

06 February 2011

Kulalu went out as usual with his peers this morning, but suddenly began to tremble and fell down. The Keepers carried him back to the Stockades on the rescue tarpaulin, and put intravenous life support drip into an ear vein. After the first infusion, he was up on his feet, so we took him out a short distance to enjoy some sunshine, still on the drip. Mutara spent the whole day looking for little Kulalu.

07 February 2011

A very sad morning, because we lost Kulalu. Even though he had been with us for just a short while, it was still heart-breaking. He passed away at 4 a.m. still on life support. Mutara seemed to have sensed his death because when she was let out in the morning, she went straight to his stable and stood there for a long time, and could not be persuaded to accompany her peers until she, herself, made that decision. Sities and Naipoki spent the day close to the Keepers, and took our minds off the death of Kulalu, but Mutara was very subdued for the entire day.

08 February 2011

Ishanga has taken her cue from Chemi Chemi, and is now one of the most mischievous babies in the group, head butting the others and pushing in order to be first in line whenever the Keepers call the babies. Today she pushed Makireti, and paid the price. Makireti pushed her back so hard that she fell down screaming! At the mudbath Sities was up to her usual tricks, and entertained all the visitors. The elephants enjoyed their mudbath, Kandecha leading the second sitting, and always the first – a very gluttonous elephant. He runs fast for his bottle, bellowing while Kudup takes her time and is always last.

09 February 2011

As soon as the orphans are let out of their stables in the morning, all the big girls surround little Naipoki to check that she is alright. As the orphans were running around playing in the compound, Shida appeared from the forest and when Tano saw him approaching, she thought he was Solio and rushed towards him. Once she realized her mistake, she tried to back off, but it was too late because Shida was after her and tossed her into the air. The Keepers rushed to the rescue, and bombarded Shida with stones, one rock hitting him in the face which made him leave Tano. She came rushing back to the Keepers, miraculously, but for a few bruises, unhurt!

10 February 2011

The Keepers were still monitoring Tano in case she had suffered internal damage, but she seemed perfectly O.K., playing with Sities. At the mudbath both Sities and Naipoki entertained the visitors by going up and down the cordon, kicking the football and chasing after it. At one point Naipoki fell down screaming and Sities rushed in to help her, putting a front leg against her and then kneeling down to help lift Naipoki up using her head. Everyone cheered and clapped, which did not go down well with Sities. She ran towards the crowd, causing some confusion amongst them!

11 February 2011

Shida is now locked in his Stockade whenever he comes to the compound so the Keepers and the Elephants only have to look out for the lions! Tano is perfectly O.K., playing with Naipoki and Sities. Shukuru, who also views herself as a mother to Naipoki was not happy to see Tano playing with the baby, and came between them, making Tano walk away. Shukuru then began playing with Naipoki. Kibo and Olare have bonded and enjoy playing strength testing games against each other every morning now.

12 February 2011

As the Keepers were sitting having their lunch, a family of warthogs came and watched from a short distance away. Sities and Naipoki kept a close eye on them and as the warthogs moved in after the Keepers had finished, hoping to get some left-overs, Sities charged the pigs and hit one of them. It screamed and this caused chaos, with elephants rushing around chasing the warthogs who just ran round and round. Little Naipoki wanted to join in, but the Keepers restrained her. At the mudbath Sities and Naipoki are the centre of attraction as they play football.

13 February 2011

Long awaited rain came at last, the first drops falling at around 6 p.m. and thereafter it rained throughout the night, laying the dust and freshening up the vegetation.

14 February 2011

The orphans were all so happy about the rain. They rolled and played in the muddy pools happily. Sities, Makireti, Mutara, Kandecha and Kalama were most excited and spent the entire day wallowing and playing, without worrying about browsing. Ishanga is over-taking Chemi Chemi in terms of naughtiness. After she has downed her bottle at feeding times, she tries to take the share of the others, screaming when she is not able to get what she wants! The Keepers have to keep a close guard on her.

15 February 2011

Today was the day that Shida was transferred to the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary in Tsavo West National Park. He was kept inside his Stockade overnight in order to be on hand for the KWS Vets and Rhino Translocation team to sedate him at 8.30 a.m. in the morning, and remove him before the mudbath visitors turned up at 11 a.m. Having been sedated, a radio transmitter was inserted into his horn, and he was loaded in a Box onto the truck by a Crane. One Keeper accompanied him, along with sackfulls of his dung and supplements to feed him at the other end in order to try and anchor him to his new home.

16 February 2011

Today a tiny orphaned elephant calf from the Mt. Elgon area was flown to the Nursery. She was named “Kongit”, the name of the area where she was found having fallen over a Cliff. She is newborn and had bruises on one foreleg and a hind leg. She had been fed cows’ milk by her Rescuers, which will result in stomach problems, but we hope for the best.

17 February 2011

The new baby is feeding well, and enjoys the company of the Keepers. She is getting used to the routine in the Nursery. After the mudwallow Kalama, Sities and Olare had fun chasing some warthogs who came to hang around the Keepers as they took their lunch. However, when the warthogs reached some bush, they challenged the elephants, who then set about bush-bashing as a demonstration until Olare gave up and returned to the Keepers. Sities very much enjoyed being part of the action!

18 February 2011

The transfer of Shida to Tsavo West has affected Maxwell, who is obviously missing him. Maxwell looks forward to Shida’s daily appearances, and loves challenging him through the separating poles of their Stockades. Maxwell is now very focused on little Solio, and whenever she returns in the evening, he is there to greet her through the partition of the Stockade.

19 February 2011

Kongit has developed severe diarrheoa on this, her third day in the Nursery. She was infused with elephant blood plasma and dosed with Sulphadimidine and Green Clay but is suffering stomach pain. She was put on a Dextrose and Saline drip.

20 February 2011

Kongit’s health is deteriorating, and she died surrounded by her grieving Keepers at 11 a.m. We are also anxious about Kudup whose appetite is not as it should be and who prefers to feed apart from the others. She is always last to come for her milk at mudbath and first to lie down and sleep in the evening.

21 February 2011

The orphans enjoyed a very active mudbath hour today, some wallowing in the pool, Chemi Chemi and Kibo trying to mount on whoever was within range, and little Naipoki sandwiched between Mutara and Makireti and led by Shukuru going up and down the cordon greeting all the visitors. The visitors were extremely touched and amazed at how the orphans understand everything the Keepers say to them, and enjoy the attention they receive from strangers.

22 February 2011

Today the Nursery received a new orphan, a yearling female from the South Turkana National Reserve who was found standing beside her dead mother. She has been named “Kainuk” – the name of the place where she was found, and although very traumatized and aggressive, hungrily took milk and water from a bottle in between pushing the Keeper around the stable! When the orphans, as usual, were let out of their Night Stockades, at 6.15 in the morning, Olare and Mutara waited behind at the compound waiting for little Naipoki to emerge. Olare is the main Nursery Matriarch, and very caring of all the orphans, but Mutara is her deputy, who is likely to take over when Olare leaves the Nursery for the Ithumba Rehabilitation Centre, which will be later on in the year after the next rains, probably in May or June.

23 February 2011

Solio is a very loving little rhino, who is gentle towards humans. As soon as she is let out of her Stockade each morning, she heads for the nearest dungpile out in the bush and adds her own contribution to it, kicking it with her feet to anoint them with her specific scent since the life of rhinos revolves around scent and chemistry. Solio is very settled now and enjoys every moment of the day, browsing mostly in the early mornings and evenings, and in thickets, and playing with the water drum in her Stockade at night. The Keepers believe she is trying to shape and sharpen her little horn in order to be able to defend herself when necessary. Maxwell, who is in the next door Stockade, eagerly awaits her return each evening, especially now that Shida is no longer here.

24 February 2011

Kainuk has settled down incredibly rapidly. The day after she came into the Nursery she was out and about with all the other elephants, with Olare and Mutara lavishing attention upon her. Kainuk and Naipoki are now the two babies that the older females care for most. Although very thin and still weak, little Kainuk is doing very well, taking all her milk feeds, as well as water, and her stools are still fine after having been given homeopathic stomach remedies.

25 February 2011

All the babies woke up in a jovial mood, running and trumpeting as they headed out into the bush. Today, being Friday, was the day when all have coconut oil rubbed on their skin, so it was the first time for Kainuk. Afterwards, she enjoyed rolling in the grass and playing in the dust, with Olare supervising her every move. In the afternoon the Vet arrived to take blood from Kudup and Turkwel, who have not been thriving as they should.

26 February 2011

Ishanga is very greedy and also naughty, head butting all the others at milk feeding times. Today she tried to hijack Makireti’s milk and after that Mutara’s. She is uncontrollable at milk feeding times, and does not listen to the Keepers.

27 February 2011

After the 3 p.m. milk feed, little Naipoki began chasing the warthogs, Olare following close behind to ensure that Naipoki was not targeted by one of the warthog mothers. Whilst Olare was so occupied, Mutara took control of Kainuk.

28 February 2011

On their way out to browse today, the orphans ran into a herd of impalas. Immediately Olare ran to protect Naipoki, while Mutara did the same for Kainuk. Kainuk loves Mutara, putting her trunk into Mutara’s mouth as she would that of her mother.