Keepers' Diaries, February 2014

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This month we had just one new rescue of another severely emaciated baby bull on the 12th, (aged approximately 10 months), from the Shimba Hills National Reserve. The calf was driven to the Voi Stockades where he spent the night on life support, before being airlifted to the Nairobi Nursery the next day. He had been named Mwalolo after a small stream in the Shimba hills. He had obviously been without his mother for a long time and was too far gone upon arrival for us to be able to retrieve. Sadly, he passed away that night.

Ziwa, the 2 year old rescued last month from Amboseli, has settled in very well and is now an integral part of the Nairobi herd. He particularly enjoys sparring with Bomani.

The four smallest Nursery babies, Kamok, Ashaka, Olodare and newcomer Kauro were all doing well by month end; although Kauro had to undergo an antibiotic course after a blood test indicated he had a severe bacterial infection. Even though Kauro is the youngest of the four babies he is the largest size wise and also the most adventurous! He is even capable of charging the resident warthogs and their tiny piglets; as long as they oblige by retreating!

Kamok looks upon herself as the miniature Matriarch of the four and although still minute, can pack a punch on unsuspecting onlookers, rather like Kithaka! Olodare is much more retiring than the others; preferring to be a spectator rather than join in the others’ baby games. However, he is now beginning to play which is always a good sign. All four babies are putting on condition, but little Kauro, who is now 1 month old, will soon be embarking on the dreaded “teething” process, which always brings loss of body condition and other life threatening symptoms such as diarrheoa.

Now almost 3 years old, Bomani should have sprouted tusks, but as of yet there is no sign of them. We suspect he may carry the tuskless gene which is becoming ever more prevalent nowadays. Previously he was the sparring partner of Orwa, the biggest Nursery boy, but now that Orwa’s tusks are longer, Bomani prefers pushing matches with younger boys such as Ziwa, Tundani, Vuria or Nelion. This month Orwa was sufficiently bold enough to challenge big girl Murera to a pushing match, something that surprised the Keepers. Murera has always been somewhat intolerant of the Nursery boys as she is averse to their test of strength shoving bouts. This means they tend to try and avoid being too close to her when playing their favourite game. However, she accommodated Orwa who undoubtedly met his match having found tuskless Bomani understandably restrained and becoming reluctant to cooperate! Teleki, although much younger than Orwa, is another male contender for him as are the albino half brothers, Jasiri and Faraja.

Sonje and Suswa are the Nursery main full time Matriarchs, assisted part time by big girl Murera. Sonje adores little Oltaiyoni and every morning rushes to Oltaiyoni’s night stable to “fetch” and escort her out to browse. Once out in the bush she “shares” Oltaiyoni with gentle Suswa. Unlike Sonje and Suswa, Limalima, Lentili and Zongoloni still tend to be greedy and pushy at milk feeding times, as are boys Vuria (who still bellows when his bottle is emptied) along with Ngasha and Garzi. Garzi vents his frustration on the younger girls when his bottle is emptied! This is understandable, since all have almost perished through milk deprivation when wild orphans and the survival instincts of all mammals are paramount. It is also an indication of post-traumatic stress; however they will eventually settle down and turn into loving and gentle elephants.

Unseasonal February rainstorms between the l0th and 12th rejuvenated the drying Nairobi Park vegetation and left the orphans all very excited and happy as it provided puddles to play in and mud to roll in. Rorogoi, Mashariki, Tundani, Vuria and Balguda embarked on an impressive bush-bashing display as an illustration of their joy, while the boys enjoyed their usual pushing matches. Gentle boys Nelion, Ziwa, Bomani and Tundani are still sticking together and leaving the more vigorous shoving games to the likes of Teleki, Vuria. Garzi and Ngasha.

Lemoyian and Kithaka remain the impish, mischievous Junior boys, but this month both young boys have been slightly unwell (reported unusually “dull” by the Keepers), which necessitates a blood test to establish the cause. Lemoyian was “dull” at the beginning of the month, with a higher than normal white cell count and Kithaka reported “dull” towards the end of the month, also with a high white cell count. Both boys were back on form within a couple of days and targeting the visitors again during the mud bath open hour.

Yet again, having given us a break, the Nairobi Park lions were back targeting the resident warthogs on the 25th. This forced the Keepers and their elephant charges to take a different route to the noon mud bath and everyone had to be on high alert around the 4 small babies.

The Rhinos:

This month has been one for rhino dramas. The first being the decision taken by KWS to ear notch and install radios into the horns of the Nairobi Park rhinos following the poaching of a young female Black Rhino near the Ivory Burn site last month. That incident left us anxious about the safety of Solio, who had not returned for some time, even though we were assured by KWS that the victim had not been her. We were therefore very relieved when Solio turned up at the Stockades on the 4th, a large notch cut in her right ear and the antenna of a device protruding from her front horn. She was tired and spent most of the day feeding on Lucerne beside Max’s Gate or resting in her old Stockade before heading out again. Solio returned again over the next two or three days and obviously also during the night of the l7th. On this occasion Max managed to open the Gate to his Stockade by knocking it with his back horn during a sharpening process. He walked out and followed Solio’s scent trail, which took him to the Orphans’ mudbath where he enjoyed a wallow, before romping with her below Angela’s house.

When Solio had had enough, she headed off down the hill with Max hot on her heels following her scent. He then lost her scent after a light shower of rain near the Park road at the bottom of the hill. There he settled down to take a rest and when found at 5am he was browsing happily in the bush. Armed with bananas, a pineapple and a wheelbarrow full of his dung, the keepers spent the following 6 hours trying to entice Max back up the hill. Spadesful of his dung were tossed out of the wheelbarrow to try and show him the way back home. This worked until he reached the spot where he had romped with Solio and from there he refused to budge. He kept revolving around in circles and testing the wind, desperate to pick up her scent again. When it looked as though he was about to head back down the hill, the Trust’s newly donated small drone mechanism was put into action. The drone flies with a buzzing sound and was directed just behind Max’s rear end. Max didn’t like the noise and he avoided the drone which finally got him onto the rocks beside the Trust forest. However, there he picked up wild rhino scent and when it looked as though he was about to head off again in pursuit, three vehicles were mobilized, one on either side of Max and one behind to steer him (reluctantly) towards the Gate of his Stockade.

During this laborious process, Max’s patience wore thin and he vented his frustration on one of the attendant vehicles. However, eventually he found himself close to the open gate of his Stockade and back in he went, only moments before the mud bath public were due to turn up for the public viewing hour between 11am and 12 noon! Everyone heaved a huge sigh of relief. Since then the four gates to Max’s compound have been secured with chains and a padlock to avert another great escape! At 6 years old, Max is now grown and not easily steered anywhere!

February 2014 day to day

01 Feb

Newcomer Kauro, who has been born big, is taking his milk well, and has adapted to his new home, showing interest now in Olodare, the Nursery’s other baby boy. Kamok and Ashaka, although a lot older that Kauro, seem somewhat wary of his size!


Kauro and Olodare go for a walk