Keepers' Diaries, February 2012

Nairobi Nursery Unit

February 2012 has been a particularly hectic month in the Nairobi Nursery. The death of the 2 month old female elephant named Lemek, having been with us for just 8 days, came as a particularly bitter blow since, since, contrary to what we thought, the autopsy revealed nothing fundamentally wrong with any major organ. However, from the start this calf flatly refused to ingest her milk in the quantity essential to sustain life, despite the presence, example and in-put of all the other Nursery elephants and our best and most experienced Elephant Keeper, Mishak Nzimbi, who persevered with her day and night to try and coax her to feed as she should, a man who has worked miracles with many near dead orphans during the 28 years he has been with us. (Yet again, we must emphasize that force-feeding an elephant is simply not an option, since any milk that goes into the lungs during the inevitable struggle is certain death. Even baby elephants who weigh over 200 lbs. at birth, are difficult to restrain.) In view of the post-mortem result, we simply had to accept that little Lemek did not want to live following the loss of her elephant mother and had the determination to see this through, come what may. She starved herself to death, making her loss tragically poignant and particularly painful for all of us..

01 February 2012

Mutara, Tano, Makireti and Shukuru have been fighting over who is to take care of our newest orphan Lemek. During the public visiting hour Orwa and Tano had the pleasure of watching over her as the others enjoyed a mudbath in an effort to cool off.

02 February 2012

Today we had to separate Lemek from the rest of the orphans as when she is with them she does not want to feed and instead stays close to Mutara, Shukuru and Makireti who are like mothers to her, so much so that she tries to suckle from them. So that she is not entirely on her own Orwa has chosen to stay with her to keep her company.

03 February 2012

Makireti has become very fond of Lemek and when she woke up this morning she hurried straight to Lemek’s stockade to find her, pushing at the door to get in. Makireti only settled when we finally let her see the baby. Later in the day Lemek collapsed and was put on a drip from 4pm until the early morning, when she finally gained strength she got up and took some milk that sustained her until the morning.

04 February 2012

At 6am all the orphans gathered around Lemek’s door eager to see how she was doing. Lemek was still very weak and had to remain in her stockade throughout the day to rest. Sities followed Kithaka into his stockade in the evening and had to be pushed out by the keepers as she refused to leave.

05 February 2012

This morning was heartbreaking as despite all our efforts to save her Lemek died at 4am. All the orphans are in mourning and they are not playing like they usually do. The vet arrived at 11am and carried out the post-mortem - all the internal organs were found normal and healthy suggesting the cause of death to be a severe case of grieving for her lost mother and family and a refusal to take an adequate amount of milk to sustain her.

06 February 2012

Kasigau and Kilabasi have been quarreling today. We don’t know what Kilabasi has done to make Kasigau behave roughly towards her. Because of this bullying Kilabasi has felt very low all day and has been keeping close to the Keepers and staying away from Kasigau. We have given Kasigau a good telling off for his bullying and are keeping an eye on them both.

07 February 2012

Kainuk has been in a very playful mood today and managed to get Kihari to play with her. Naipoki was also on great form and gave a lovely show for the visitors at the daily mudbath. She played football with Kithaka teaching him her kicking skills.

08 February 2012

Kainuk has been disciplining Ishaq-B today because of her naughty behavior, whilst Orwa continues to be close to the keepers enjoying their company and especially his milk feeds, as he’s always first in the line, running up to his bottle. Sities, Turkwel and Tano have continued to be wonderful babysitters to little Kithaka who needs the love and attention.

09 February 2012

Orwa has been exceptionally sociable today and enjoyed interacting with the guests at the mud-bath – walking up and down the line saying hello to everyone. He stubbornly chose not to leave the mudbath and didn’t want to follow the younger orphans into the bush, so we had no choice but to let him stay with the older group.

10 February 2012

Naughtily Ishanga went after Kilabasi today because she got angry when she couldn’t steal Kilabasi’s milk bottle. The keepers gave Ishanga a good telling off, but this did not deter her as she kept chasing Kilabasi and biting her tail. Today Orwa behaved very well with a film crew that came for a recce, posing nicely for all the photographs, enjoying the attention. They had wanted to take photos of Kithaka but Mutara being very protective didn’t let them near him.

11 February 2012

The film crew came again today to film the orphans. Mutara was first to inspect the visitors and all their equipment. At 7am a football game was started and Tano, Sities and Naipoki showed off their skills. Tano emerged as the overall winner and had a wonderful morning. During the public viewing a call was received from Tsavo East’s Galana Wildlife Conservancy. A calf estimated at one year old had been spotted and was being monitored. We were told the calf had a swollen knee joint, which seemed to be an old wound. The calf arrived later in the evening and was welcomed lovingly by Ishanga. The calf was named Sonje, the Waliangulu word for ‘lame’ because of her leg injury.

12 February 2012

As soon as the orphans were let out of their stables this morning, they rushed to the new orphan’s stockade. Sonje was very happy to meet all the other orphans and was lavished with affection from Tano and Sities. Sonje enjoyed her bottle feed and took it very naturally from the keepers, finishing every last drop of milk, which was great to see. During the day another call was received, this time from Tsavo’s Voi station saying that a calf was being rescued from Tsavo West’s Taita Hills Sanctuary. The calf was estimated to be a one and a half month old female. The new baby arrived at the Nairobi Nursery by 3pm and was immediately very friendly with all the keepers. She responded well to the milk formula and was named Lumo.

13 February 2012

Tano, Mutara, Shukuru, Makireti and Sities headed straight to Lumo’s stockade after being let out this morning and greeted her over the stockade door. Turkwel, Kainuk, Kilabasi and Ishanga were busy greeting Sonje. Lumo was led out to join the other orphans this morning and was quickly embraced by Tano and Sities who were happy to see her. She spent the day being looked after by Mutara and Shukuru.

14 February 2012

The orphans took their morning milk feed by Sonje’s stockade after which she exited her stockade and was embraced by the rest of the group. She spent the morning browsing with Mutara, Makireti, Shukuru and Turkwel. Lumo continues to mourn the loss of her family and is quiet and withdrawn. The rest of the orphans do their best to comfort her, especially Orwa who is always by her side keeping her company.

15 February 2012

Today was Sonje’s second day out with the orphans. Her swollen knee does not seem to bother her too much and she is able to keep pace with the rest of the group. Lumo, who is still quite weak, spent the day close to the stockades with Orwa.

16 February 2012

Lumo was very weak today and had to be put on a drip. Once on her feet she stayed in close proximity to the stockades. The orphans ran into three giraffes on their way to the mudwallow for the private visit. Sities who was leading the group quickly turned around and ran to her keepers. Sities, Naipoki, Ishaq-B, Kihari and Kainuk quickly drank their milk, settling down only when the older girls joined them at the mudwallow.

17 February 2012

The orphans enjoyed a rub down with coconut oil after which they all enjoyed a dustbath. Kasigau took the opportunity to try and mount Makireti and Kilabasi who were lying down. Makireti was not amused and got up wanting to push him but was deterred from doing so as he is bigger than she is and has tusks which she doesn’t. Lumo spent the day around the stockade taking long rests on a mattress. In the afternoon she was once again put on a drip as she is teething and not feeding as she should. She has lost condition and we are all worried about her.

18 February 2012

Upon exiting the stockades the younger orphans, Sities, Kainuk, Kihari, and Ishaq-B had fun running around pushing and shoving each other. Soon after 7am little Lumo, despite our best efforts, breathed her last. She will be missed by the keepers and orphans all of whom had become attached to the little calf.

19 February 2012

While out in the bush this morning the orphans came across a male buffalo who ran off into the thickets when he saw the orphans and their keepers. The orphans were scattered and charged around bush bashing. Sities has become a very cheeky and loves to leave the mudwallow and run towards the visiting guests to see who she can rub against and cover in mud. The visitors love her antics and enjoy watching her play.

20 February 2012

While the orphans were enjoying their mudbath at the public visiting hour a buffalo came out of the bushes and stood on the rocks for a few minutes enabling the public to take some photos of him before he headed off again. Solio is very mischievous and gives the keepers the run around. She leaves her stockade in the morning and upon arriving in the bush she makes an about turn and runs back to her stockade before going back to the bush, leaving the keepers chasing after her unsure of what she will do next.

21 February 2012

At around lunch time we received a call about an orphan in Meru National Park who appeared to have a damaged back leg. A rescue team was quickly mobilized and dispatched to Meru arriving at 4:30. The calf was captured and airlifted back to Nairobi. The team noticed that the calf had lost muscle condition on the back right leg and the sole of the left leg had three deep puncture wounds from an elephant spike. The calf has been called Murera after the area in which she was found

22 February 2012

Upon exiting their stockades the orphans rushed to the new arrival greeting her warmly with Kasigau, Ishanga, Turkwel, Shukuru, Naipoki and Kainuk pushing each other to get closer to the newest member of their group. Mutara was particularly interested in seeing what had happened to Murera’s leg and touched it gently. Murera was relatively calm and allowed the keepers to examine, clean and disinfect her wounds.

23 February 2012

The orphans spent the morning around Murera’s stockade, browsing nearby for an hour or so before heading out for the day. Ishaq-B is jealous of the new orphans and often has to be reprimanded for head butting Orwa. Ishanga and Kilabasi engaged one another in strength testing games, which escalated into a fight. The two had to be separated by the keepers.

24 February 2012

A chilly morning greeted the orphans as they exited their stockades. Mutara and Shukuru played a mounting game in some loose soil. The game got out of hand forcing Makireti and the keepers to intervene. Murera’s wounds continue to be treated on a daily basis and they are slowly healing.

25 February 2012

Maxwell was in a playful mood this afternoon running around his stockade and tossing hay all over the place. Solio enjoyed watching him play before she began to knock on his stockade door in an effort to get the keepers to open the gate so that she could join the fun.

26 February 2012

Sities and Naipoki were the first to visit Murera this morning followed by Mutara and Shukuru. Murera was very happy to see the orphans and they greeted each other warmly before the group headed out for the day. Orwa was brought back to keep Murera company for the day and the two of them thoroughly enjoyed a red soil dustbath.

27 February 2012

Orwa is a very gentle and loving orphan who enjoys spending time with all of the new orphans, keeping them company until they are able to join the rest of the group out in the bush. Murera is feeding well and is slowly gaining strength.

28 February 2012

After the public visiting hour the orphans were startled by something in the bush and they all charged around screaming. Kainuk, Ishanga and Ishaq-B were the most vociferous with Kithaka running around in circles his ears spread wide. After the keepers had round up the group and checked that none was missing they went to see what had caused such a commotion and found Solio sharpening her horn against an anthill. She was not at all bothered by the elephants running around nearby.

29 February 2012

As soon as the stockade doors were opened Mutara and Shukuru rushed to see Murera who was thrilled to see them. The orphans are all kept close by so that Murera, who can not walk far, can join them for a while. Orwa continues to be a close friend and companion to Murera keeping her company thorughout the day. After she finished her 9am milk feed Makireti made a bee line for Kasigau and stole one of his milk bottle from him downing it before anyone could do anything to stop her.