Nursery Elephants:- The struggle to save the life of 2 month old Ndomot dominated the month. Having failed to halt the diarrheoa, despite two courses of antibiotic, large blood clots suddenly appeared in the stools, dark in colour, indicative of haemorrhaging ulcers at the front end of the elephant’s very long digestive tract. It was now obvious that the ulcers were the root of the ill health that had plagued him for so long, probably brought on by a combination of stress and teething. Blood in the stools usually heralds the end, which plunged us all into hopeless depression, but now all the stops had to come out in one last desperate bid to retrieve this little elephant from the jaws of death. We resorted to the old fashioned remedy - Massive doses of Sulphadimidine boluses, crushed into a paste with glucose, Kaolin and herbal “bunger-ups”, administered with four hourly pillules of four different homeopathic ulcer remedies. Miraculously, this saved the day and there was celebration when little Ndomot gradually began to show signs of life again. Since then he has had just one day of obvious stomach pain but we have kept up the homeopathy, and by the month’s end, we were optimistically confident that the battle had been won, although this grave ailment has left him emaciated and weak. But, he bravely tags along; is feeding well again, having subsisted on glucose and water, with only small amounts of milk mixed with colloidal silver for days on end, and if all goes well, within another month or two, he will again be a healthy baby with plump cheeks masking the current visible prominent cheek bones of emaciation.
Another focus of attention was little “Ollie” (alias “Madiba” from South Africa) who arrived somewhat thin and weak, having also been through a bout of ill-health prior to arrival from South Africa. To begin with he seemed not to recognise that he was an elephant, and shunned contact with the others, firmly anchored to the blanket that had come with him from South Africa. However, all that has now changed, and he is thriving, gaining weight, fraternizing with the others, but still very Keeper dependent, enjoying romping in the mudbath, and developing a friendship with his nearest age-mate, little Ndomot. He is still very furry and small for 4 months of age, but this makes him all the more appealing for all the daily mudbath visitors, who are charmed by his woolly mammoth appearance. Character-wise, he is feisty and independent, and knows what he wants, noticeably intolerant of anyone in white, which probably reminds him of the Vet! Now his South African blanket has been put aside, and any blanket slung between two trees serves as the “mother feel” for his trunk whilst feeding. The South African comforter will always be there for him should he feel unwell at any time in the future.
Napasha has sprouted two sturdy little tusks, and as such is now two years old, and ready for promotion to the Tsavo set. He delights in showing them off to all onlookers, raising his trunk so that everyone can see them clearly. Olmalo and Taita are close friends, who share the same stockade, next door to that occupied by Napasha, who had to vacate his stable for Madiba. These three elephants housed in erstwhile Rhino Stockades, eagerly await the return of orphaned rhino “Makosa” each evening when he comes back to partake of a night meal in his erstwhile stockade next door. Having finished his rations, he then wanders over to the gates that enclose Olmalo, Taita and Napasha, who extend trunks through the bars of the entrance gate to touch, smell and tickle the face of this big “friend”. Makosa loves this little ritual, since rhinos are essentially sensuous creatures. He stands there, eyes closed in bliss, savouring the moment.
Wendi continues to stamp her authority over all bystanders, determined that they understand that all the eight Nursery babies are definitely hers, whilst Tomboi, who is a chubby and very sturdy character, happily looks upon himself as Protector, chasing off any warthog who will obligingly run away. Sunyei is a great favourite with all the Nursery inmates and the visitors alike. She is gentle and tiny, and very playful and mischievous.
With little Ndomot now better, and Madiba thriving, we enter the month of February hoping that we no downsides will be encountered, and no others will come in to stretch us even further. 9 Nursery babies, spilling out into the rhino quarters is quite a full house, but should others arrive, there is no question of ever turning one away. Quite simply room has to be arranged – somewhere – somehow!
Rhino Orphans:- Shida, now 5 months old, continues to flourish, happily following whichever Keeper is wearing the magic coat that carries the magic scent. His day consists of leaving his Night Stable at dawn, usually after the elephants have left, and embarking on the rounds of the dungpiles and urinals of the wild rhino community; feeding as he goes. At 11 a.m. he comes in for his mudbath, ahead of the elephants, leaving before they arrive and by 6 p.m. he is back in bed, with his coat hanging nearby, next to his nose! He is now a plump and very sturdy little miniature of an adult rhino, and has a gentle and loving temperament.
Meanwhile Makosa, now over 4 years of age, and large for his age, is independent and out and about in the big wide world, but continues to return most evenings to partakes of the “goodies” on offer in his erstwhile Stockade. Having enjoyed these, he then wanders over to see Olmalo, Taita and Napasha, taking water from the drum at the entrance of their Stockades and whilst there the elephants enjoy “tickling” his face with trunks outstretched through the bars, feeling his horns and face tenderly and gently all over. Makosa, thoroughly enjoys this ritual, standing with eyes closed in bliss. Equally the little elephants enjoy touching and feeling their big friend, bellowing if hid appearance is not on time!
Magnum was 7 years old on the 30th January, and as such is now full size, but only a little larger and heavier than Makosa. He usually arrives in the mornings, presenting himself at the Staff canteen to make his presence known, and sometimes turning up at the mudbath ahead of Shida. He is then escorted off down the hill, following a wheelbarrow of food, with a tail of opportunistic warthogs in tow! A man pushing a wheelbarrow, followed closely by a full-grown Black Rhino, trailed by an army of warthogs, is, indeed, a memorable sight for all the mudbath visitors!
Tsavo Orphans:- The first half of January saw the area around the Voi Elephant Stockades becoming progressively dryer and more dessicated, resembling a lunar landscape. This presented a challenge, for both the Elephants and their Keepers, and not least, a headache for us. Several members of the group were becoming very thin - namely Emily, Aitong and Mweiga who was visibly weak. It was touching to see the caring meted out to this frail 6 year old, even by the smaller females who take it in turns to hang back and accompany her back to the Stockades, and to the noon mudbath. She was visibly jubilant when both Emily and Aitong fulfilled this role, one on either side of her, when her pleasure was demonstrated by the sideways swinging of the trunk, which in body language denotes happiness and joy. The caring side of Salama came to the fore when naughty Nyiro cunningly separated Mweya from the group and then tried to mount her, something that brought Salama to the rescue.
There was practically no contact with wild elephants this month, simply because all the wild herds left this isolated arid patch for greener pastures. One wild bull passed close by on the 8th, and Ndara and Loisaba joined a wild group briefly early on in the month, but apart from that, the elephants simply had each others’ company to enjoy all month.
This they did, especially when a very heavy downpour fell (8 inches in one night) on the 16th, which flooded the Voi river and surrounding countryside, filled all the natural depressions and turned the roads into quagmires, leaving visitors stranded at the lodges and tented camps. For us, however, who were at the Trust House at the time, this was very welcome news, for we had envisaged having to march all our Tsavo elephants North to join Imenti at Ithumba , where the rains have been exceptional this year. This event is still planned, but for the cool season, which begins in May, when we hope to be able to split the Tsavo group leaving the smaller elephants with Aitong at Voi, and taking Emily and the larger calves North. Currently, we are building the Staff quarters, and getting all the infrastructure in place in the North – enlarged Stockades, Stores, Water Catchment tanks, a functional borehole, etc., etc.
Again friendships between individuals is endorsed in this month’s Diary – the young bulls, all of whom are much the same age and size (Salama, Laikipia, Lolokwe who seem to have taken little Morani into their midst, Nyiro and Mukwaju, who have always been friends (but sometimes have a fall-out, as do all friends) Sally’s love of Aitong, Mweiga’s jealousy of this closeness, the friendship of Sally and Kinna, of Mweya and Sally, and Icholta and Kinna. Mischievousness is displayed when Edie blocked Nyiro’s attempts to pass in a hurry which ended in a punch-up and when Nyiro deliberately baited Salama to try and get his attention. The love Tsavo and Loisaba hold for Emily is also obvious, something that is shared by all the orphans, especially Ndara, who has long been one of Emily’s favourite calves.
Irima, (the latest arrival who was abducted by wild elephants a few months ago) is turning into another forceful character who knows his own mind, and who is not afraid to take on the older more established elephants older than himself.
Rain always brings happiness. The orphans thoroughly enjoyed the results of the Big Storm, chasing the flying termites and trying to swipe them with their trunks, playing in the puddles and rolling in new damp mud. Wild encounters included cornering a baby warthog, whose mother came to the rescue, bringing Emily to the rescue of the perpetrators, as well as chasing waterbucks and ostriches. Of course every day is filled with pushing games, disagreements with one another, usually over a special branch, and games of hide and seek, chasing one another around bushes. The gluttony of Sosian is again evident, and the fact that he is one of the babies due now for weaning, won’t be popular!
All the elephants’ spectators are amazed at how our Keepers can control 31 growing elephants, some of whom tower over them, with just the wagging of a finger and tone of voice. The elephants’ intelligence and obedience to those they love is demonstrated every day, and is always a source of wonder to outsiders. There is no need for sticks, ankuses, prods or spikes to enforce obedience down in Tsavo, because we understand that such things breed resentment and as such are counter-productive and a recipe for reprisal later.