Nursery Orphans:- The first three weeks of January were devoted almost entirely to battling for the life of little Seraa, who succumbed to pneumonia on New Years' Eve and almost died that night. Miraculously, following a veritable battery of antibiotic injections, (bravely endured), she just managed to pull through, but then began throwing epileptic- like fits, which baffled the Vet. However, we recalled that the same had happened to "Eleanor" way back in the fifties,the prognosis being that this was caused by a Calcium deficiency in an elephant coming from a highly mineralised low rainfall area to a place deficient in minerals. We suggested that Seraa be given intravenous calcium, and happily this seems to have done the trick, for no more fits have occurred. Then she developed a kidney disorder, and this time, rather than subjecting her to further injections, we settled for the Septrin boluses administered in the milk, which had cured Mulika's kidney problem. For the next two weeks Seraa had two a day and gradually she healed and her strength returned. Currently, just a swelling in one foot threatens to develop into an abscess, but this, compared to her earlier problems, will be easy to deal with. As has happened in the past, colloidal silver might just do the trick. An encouraging sign is that her trunk has stopped dripping fluid at night, although the Keepers report that it is much colder to the touch than that of the others. She is feeding well and we are hopeful now that little Seraa is over all her problems, and having put up such a spirited struggle for life, will grow up a healthy and happy elephant. Her will to do so is strong, and she is feeding well, and even beginning again to chase the warthogs, which is always a good sign!
Meanwhile, during Seraa's tribulations, Nasalot and Mulika were gentle and attentive, paying her special concern. Solango adored Mulika who patiently endured endless ear sucking, content in the role of his adopted "mother". Solango's sunburnt ears have healed well, and he is a playful and extrovert character, who is beginning to copy "Mweya", showing off in front of visitors. Mweya and Thoma continue their antics, as well as their strong friendship, Mweya still tempted to "down" the odd unsuspecting visitor, (as she did the Chimps in Uganda), something that has to be discouraged. She is mischievous and stubborn - by far the "naughtiest" baby we have ever had to cope with! Sweet Sally remains battened to her Keeper, begging endlessly for a finger to suck, ever self sufficient unto herself, her trunk always exploring the Keepers' faces and more often than not latched onto a nose or mouth.
As the month progressed, we began to plan for the graduation to Tsavo of the two bigger orphans, Nasalot and Mulika, which was long overdue, since both are now two years old, Nasalot even sporting little tusks. Roy Carr-Hartley's lorry was in situ at our Loading Ramp by the 25th, and the two orphans in question began practicing going in and out, fed each morning and evening in the back of the truck. As usual, we agonised about how the babies would react to their absence, especially Solango and Seraa, and whether Mweya was sufficiently responsible to slot into the role of Nursery Matriarch. We need not have worried, because in the absence of Mulika and Nasalot, other friendships and attachments have emerged, and Mweya has proved equal to the new task!
Very early in the morning of the 28th, everyone was up before dawn, whilst Nasalot and Mulika were taken from their night stables to be fed in the back of the truck. Once inside, the doors were closed on them and their two Keepers, and as the sun peeped over the horizon, they were on their way, accompanied by the usual entourage of wellwishers. At the other end was the Reception Committee included Simon Trevor and his camera, and, of course, Isaac Maina and off-duty Keepers, whilst the orphans who would be likely to remember Mulika and Nasalot, having shared the Nursery with them before leaving for Tsavo, were kept close by (namely Yatta, Kinna and Mukwaju). All the others were taken to feed at the base of nearby Masinga Hill.
The Nairobi contingent arrived at the Elephant Stockades at 11.30 a.m. on the 28th January, and after Mulika and Nasalot had had a drink of water and been offered a bottle, their three friends were brought along to meet them. Recognition was immediate, as we knew it would be, and the welcome both joyous and much more relaxed than usual. Then Natumi and the older set arrived, crowding around Mulika and Nasalot excitedly, with ears out, sniffing their underparts and reaching out to them with trunks. Then Emily and Aitong arrived in a rush with the senior set, rumbling excitedly, touching underparts and mouths, as elephants do in greeting, and laying their trunks gently across their backs in a gesture of love and acceptance. The excitement level was somewhat more muted than usual, but only because Emily and Aitong have become so accustomed to unexpected arrivals, having welcomed many over the years, including little "Burra", the snared calf, just the previous day. He arrived in a pathetically emaciated condition having been snared by a steel cable which had dug deep into the flesh of his throat and neck, almost severing one ear. Because he had been unable to lift his head to suckle his mother, he was a starvation candidate, over and above the horrendous wounds that would most certainly have cost him his life. Burra had been seen from a Helicopter, trailing a herd of elephants that were being driven back from their ancient migration route between Tsavo West and East, which, unhappily, is now densely settled by humans. Because he was so obviously in dire straits, the Helicopter landed so that he could be over- powered and the snare around his neck removed - no easy task since the only tool available was a leatherman. The wounds were deep and serious, and the calf so emaciated, that he needed extra care, so he was taken back to the Orphan Stockades in Voi in order to be able to travel to Nairobi the next day in the truck that had transported Nasalot and Mulika.
Back at the Nursery, Mweya took charge, rounding up the younger orphans and escorting them happily out into the bush, chasing a few warthogs on the way, and emitting the odd little squeaky trumpet. Solango chose Thoma to be his new friend, whilst Seraa settled for Mweya, Sweet Sally remaining unmoved as long as a Keeper had a finger to proffer for sucking on. The noon mudbath proceeded as usual, and life has gone on uninterrupted ever since, but for the arrival on 29th January of little "Burra", who returned in the lorry that had taken Nasalot and Mulika down, and presented us all with a depressing sight, so gaunt and yet so brave, so seriously scarred with deep suppurating wounds, and so weak that he could hardly muster the strength to suck. We feared that he might be too far gone to save, but after a bottle or two of milk, he began to pick up strength, and with a lot of tender loving care from two Keepers day and night, he began to settle down. The other Nursery elephants were brought in to see him to show him that he was not alone in such new strange surroundings. He bravely endured the cleaning of his wounds with Calendular and antibiotic powder, and within two days, he was strong enough to go out with the others into the bush, though fearful of visitors amongst whom might be the Vet!
Since then little Solango has befriended him, and he is beginning to play and enjoy life again. As a starvation candidate, his milk intake has had to be increased very carefully and slowly since he does not have the reserves to weather a bout of diarrhoea. And just to stave off any such disaster, the good old Septrim boluses in the milk have kept this at bay. Now we wait for his wounds to heal, and the dead tissue of one ear to fall away, leaving him scarred for life. He is about 8 months old, a gentle and loving little calf, and a very lucky one not to have suffered an agonising end far from help, dying slowly of starvation despite the tempting presence of his lactating mother, but because of the snare, unable to lift his head. The snaring of wild game is one of the cruellest and most terrible crimes inflicted on animals by man, causing immense suffering. Unhappily, today it is so prevalent that it threatens just about everything on four legs, from dikdiks to elephants. One can't help hoping that those that inflict such suffering get their just deserts, both in this world and the next!
Tsavo Orphans:- The most momentous happening has undoubtedly been the return of Imenti, whose long walk from Tsavo West has been graphically documented on our web-page. He obviously never wants to be alone again, encouraging all the other orphans to accompany him whenever he feels the need to wander a little further afield.
This seasons "short rains" have been abundant in Tsavo, particularly in the Northern Area of the Park. Given such bounty, as usual, the Park has taken on the aspect of a Garden of Eden, with flowers, butterflies, and the vibrant hum of life which is so tangible at this time of the year. Consequently, with inland waterholes rain-filled, most of the wild elephants have been released from their normal dry weather haunts, able to seek fresh pasture elsewhere. Consequently there have been few contacts with the wild community.
Ndume has turned up at the Stockades briefly on two occasions, but only to take a drink before moving on, and "Uncle" Edo has been absent entirely, obviously having a very good time elsewhere, probably with Uaso and Dika, who, similarly, have been conspicuous by their absence.
Because of Lewa's adventurous nature, and the fact that he has always been very comfortable waltzing happily into the wild herds, we are confident that he is safely ensconced in Tsavo West, the one success following the relocation of Ndume, Imenti and Lewa, which is also chronicled in full on our website. Even the Keepers have no qualms about his wellbeing. Any misgivings are greeted with smiling faces and shaking heads, and they, after all, know the character of their charges better than we who are further removed. Nevertheless, we continue to keep an eye out for him, the Wardens in Tsavo West having been armed with graphic identification pictures.
Emily is delighted to have Imenti back home, and Imenti couldn't be more delighted to be there. Not a day passes that they don't have their usual "game", and every morning Imenti is waiting at the Stockades to join the orphan group, accompanying Emily who makes a special detour to collect her favourite calf, "Ndara", whom she adores, and who has healed miraculously from the terrible wound she came with. Aitong remains a very conscientious "Nannie", solicitous of frail Mweiga, but it is encouraging to see Mweiga winning a race, so perhaps all the extra Vitamin supplements she has been given are beginning to take affect. Icholta and Tsavo seem to be forming a strong bond of friendship, Icholta sometimes impatient of his affections. As usual the little bulls incessantly indulge the dominance contests they so love, with Salama a clear front runner ahead of the others, although Nyiro shows promise! He and Mukwaju are good friends, delighted to have seen off some antelope, following the failure the day before of an attempted buffalo expulsion! All young bulls are exuberant and fiercely competitive, especially when of equal age.
Amongst the girls, Natumi and Yatta are somewhat "clinging vines" to the Keepers and not very outgoing. Most independent are Edie and Ilingwezi, both forceful characters who are more confident and adventurous in every way than Natumi and Yatta, who are gentle and shy. Loisaba promises to be very like Aitong, developing into a proficient Assistant. Whilst Ndara basks in the privileged position of being Emily's special baby, Kinna seems to be paying particular attention to Maungu, who is another relative newcomer.
There has been no mention of Lissa and her family in this month's Diary, nor of the wild Matriarchs, Naom and Catherine, who usually feature prominently. Likewise Eleanor is obviously happy where she is, somewhere out in the vastness of this great Park, with her family, which hopefully now includes another baby. When the orphans' wild Matriarch friends return, with their respective babies, there will be the usual tender, wonderfully joyous, reunion. Similarly when Edo, and Dika call again, as special "uncles" of the orphan family, they can be assured of an even greater outpouring of excitement and joy. Imenti will be especially pleased to see his friend Uaso, again, and I am sure the same will go for Uaso.