Keepers' Diaries, February 2013

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

It has been a difficult month for the Nursery having suffered the loss of two newly rescued elephant orphans, both of whom arrived too far gone for us to be able to retrieve. First was the young bull named Mwananchi, rescued from the ranches abutting Tsavo at the end of last month, who died on the 1st, and was sorely missed by Barsilinga who had developed a great fondness for this newcomer. Then followed the death of the 9 month old female from Masai Mara named Ngobor who was airlifted to the Nursery on the 16th, but died 4 days later. As we were burying this baby there was another Rescue alert, this time from Loisaba Ranch in Laikipia, and another 8 – 9 month old female arrived that day, also emaciated, but not quite as far gone as little Ngobor. Believed to be yet another poaching victim, she was on life support for the journey back, and at the request of the Ranch Manager, has been named Lima Lima. She had apparently been subsisting on Prickly Pear since the death of her mother and was passing bright pink stools as a result which left us anxious about her chances of survival, since Prickly Pear has been known to end up proving poisonous to elephants.

It has been a difficult month for the Nursery having suffered the loss of two newly rescued elephant orphans, both of whom arrived too far gone for us to be able to retrieve. First was the young bull named Mwananchi, rescued from the ranches abutting Tsavo at the end of last month, who died on the 1st, and was sorely missed by Barsilinga who had developed a great fondness for this newcomer. Then followed the death of the 9 month old female from Masai Mara named Ngobor who was airlifted to the Nursery on the 16th, but died 4 days later. As we were burying this baby there was another Rescue alert, this time from Loisaba Ranch in Laikipia, and another 8 – 9 month old female arrived that day, also emaciated, but not quite as far gone as little Ngobor. Believed to be yet another poaching victim, she was on life support for the journey back, and at the request of the Ranch Manager, has been named Lima Lima. She had apparently been subsisting on Prickly Pear since the death of her mother and was passing bright pink stools as a result which left us anxious about her chances of survival, since Prickly Pear has been known to end up proving poisonous to elephants.

Next came the very brave (but perhaps foolhardy) incident of Angela confronting the lions that had the audacity to snatch our precious little Thomson’s gazelle orphan named Geri literally from the daybed on Angela’s porch. This encounter left little “Geri” very much the worse for wear, but at least Angela managed to save her life. Instantly, she was rushed to the Vet, bleeding profusely from wounds to her throat and sides, and would probably have succumbed to shock had Taru (Angela’s 14 year old son who is Geri’s favourite person in the world) not been there to hold her whilst she was being patched up. Mercifully, we believe that she will make a full recovery, but this incident has left her very needy of companionship whenever exposed outside the confines of Angela’s house.

Anxiety over the safety of Solio followed, after she decided to spend several nights away from base. Mercifully, she turned up a few days later, but not before the KWS Rhino Surveillance team and all the Keepers had been mobilized to search for her. Since then she has spent several other nights out, obviously now comfortable consorting with her wild peers, who are turning nocturnal in order to try and survive being killed for their horns. (Rhino horn fetches five times the price of gold per ounce in the Far East where it is believed to have medicinal properties, despite being nothing more than keratin).

Good news is that all our elephant Nursery babies are now thriving, baby Lemoyian now plump and feisty, up to challenging Barsilinga, Ngasha and Balguda to Pushing Tests of strength, and earning quite a reputation as a mini wrestler! Turkwel is still being inhibited in exercising her Matriarchal role by Kainuk, who resents the small calves replacing her in Turkwel’s affections. Turkwel has to quietly sneak away from Kainuk in order to spend time with the younger orphans, ignoring Kainuk’s bellows when she is missed. Meanwhile Sities very ably fills the gap in Turkwel’s enforced absences ably backed up by Naipoki and Ishaq-B, both of whom are very caring of the smaller calves. Sities is especially caring of Lemoyian and Balguda, who missed Kilabasi sorely after she was upgraded to Ithumba. Faraja, Kwale, Ngasha, Bomani, Balguda, Kithaka, Lemoyian and Barsilinga have formed a small boys’ exclusive club who enjoy indulging in Pushing Bouts, although tiny Lemoyian is prone to being a bad loser! They also enjoy chasing the baby warthogs around whenever the opportunity arises. Meanwhile Qwanza and Narok are good friends, who enjoy hanging out together, both still a little wary of being handled by the Keepers, but happy to down their milk from a hand-held bottle nevertheless, after which they retreat to put some space between them and the human attendants.

Newcomer Lima Lima was sufficiently calm to be let out of her Stockade to join the resident Nursery orphans out in the bush on the 25th. She was extremely happy to be out and about with them rather than being incarcerated in her Stockade, and is accepting of the Keepers now. To begin with she was reluctant to come to the Public Viewing mudbath, but gradually took her cue from the others, and now does so. All the bigger females are eager to comfort and watch over her, particularly caring of her during the public mudbath hour when hordes of human visitors are present. She is a gentle and beautiful elephant who is mightily relieved to find herself again amongst a loving family, even seeking out the Keepers as they keep vigil just to make sure that they are still around.

The Nairobi Park lions are becoming a bit too bold, so we are investigating precautionary measures now in the form of dressing one of our Samburu Keepers in tribal Masai red, who, armed with a spear, will recce the surrounding bushes during the public viewing hour, and also accompany the elephants out in the bush. Nairobi Park lions are very afraid of the Masai and we are confident that this will deter their proximity to the compound during the hours of daylight. They killed a warthog with impunity on the 11th as it was trailing the Keeper bringing back the Keepers’ empty lunch plates, and another the day before they snatched “Geri” the yearling Thomson’s gazelle orphan.

The Rhino Orphans:- Maxwell’s daily routine never changes, but rhinos, being essentially creatures of habit, thrive on a peaceful monotony, as long as they know they are not alone and can interact with others. Max’s Stockade is his territory and his world, and Solio provides the companionship and stimulation that he needs, as to other wild rhinos that visit his Enclosure during the hours of darkness.

Solio has taken to spending nights out now, obviously confident that she is now an established member of the Nairobi Park Rhino community. According to the Keepers she consorts with a Black Rhino Cow who has a calf of her size, with whom she has made friends. Whenever she decides to return to her Stockade to partake of the Lucerne hand-out, she bangs the Gate during the night, so that the Keeper on duty can open it and let her out. Black Rhinos are turning nocturnal in order to try and survive.

February 2013 day to day

01 Feb

Yesterday the Nursery received another orphaned victim of poaching from the Ranches abutting Tsavo East. It was a young bull, who was already extremely emaciated and weak, but who was welcomed very warmly by Barsilinga and took milk from the start. This orphan whom we named “Mwananchi” after the Ranch where he was found, was on and off life supporting intravenous drip over the next few days, but we could not save him. He died on the 6th.

Barsilinga browsing

Elephant orphans

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