Keepers' Diaries, January 2007

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

The 25th January heralded the arrival of yet another tiny elephant into our Nairobi Nursery, this time a 3 week old baby bull, who was taken by the current of the river Mogor in Trans Mara some 200 meters downstream before being washed up on a bank. Apparently, he then simply walked into the cattle enclosure of a Masai farmer, something viewed in Masai folklore as good omen, which prompted the owner to protect him from the Warriors who would rather have killed him. Instead, he gave the little elephant some cows’ milk before walking with the elephant 15 kms. to Kilgoris Police Station to alert KWS to his presence. A day later they called us and a rescue was mounted, flying little “Kilgoris” to the Nairobi Nursery.

The 25th January heralded the arrival of yet another tiny elephant into our Nairobi Nursery, this time a 3 week old baby bull, who was taken by the current of the river Mogor in Trans Mara some 200 meters downstream before being washed up on a bank. Apparently, he then simply walked into the cattle enclosure of a Masai farmer, something viewed in Masai folklore as good omen, which prompted the owner to protect him from the Warriors who would rather have killed him. Instead, he gave the little elephant some cows’ milk before walking with the elephant 15 kms. to Kilgoris Police Station to alert KWS to his presence. A day later they called us and a rescue was mounted, flying little “Kilgoris” to the Nairobi Nursery.

Of course, a meal of cows’ milk hadn’t done him any good, but apart from an upset stomach, he was not in bad shape, although being another water victim, remains very much at risk from pneumonia. He will therefore have to undergo a course of injectible antibiotic to try and counteract this killer of baby elephants, combined with medication to sort out his diarrheoa. However, by month end he was feeding well, sleeping well, and with the other four tiny tots, namely Galdessa, Shimba, Lempaute and Lesanju, making five very newborn, very small orphans in our Nursery. They usually spend time apart from the older Nursery inmates, who forage further afield.

This month, Galdessa has been cause for concern, obviously losing condition, and very dull, although showing no obvious outward signs of what could be the problem. Being another water baby, and as such a pneumonia candidate, he underwent a second injectible antibiotic course combined with the Sulphadimidine to cover all options. Since then, he has greatly improved. He and Shimba, (who is now thriving), are firm friends, and Shimba has blossomed into a playful and bossy miniature, who likes to throw his weight around the baby girls, something Lesanju tries to prevent, especially when he targets little Lempaute, whom she adores. Lempaute is a very active and playful baby. She loves charging the visitors with baby ears out like saucers. Lesanju and Lempaute are best friends, Lesanju acting as the minute Matriarch of this baby group. To begin with, none of the resident tiny babies gave the newcomer much attention, but within just a week, little Kilgoris was well integrated as a member of their little group, and even joining in their playing together.

Of the others, Kenze is now flourishing, gaining condition almost before our eyes, but still very much a loner who does not seek human company and likes being on his own – obviously still grieving the loss of his elephant family. He is getting stronger daily and can now get up from a sleeping position unaided. Soon he will be able to settle the score with his early antagonist, Kamboyo, who, very wisely, is now behaving politely towards Kenze, who sports tiny tusks, and will have no qualms in using them on him! Lenana is now well settled, and no longer a skinny waif, but plump, happy and healthy. Zurura and Kamboyo are best friends and, of course, Loijuk is little Chyulu’s special surrogate Mum. Makena adores Sian (the Mini Matriarch) and Lenana gravitates towards Kenze.
Having been starvation cases, both Kenze and Lenana cry when their ration of milk comes to an end at each feed, and also make a fuss if the next round is not promptly on time.

The arrival of Kilgoris necessitated a re-shuffle of the elephant sleeping arrangements, and this always involves quite a lot of psychology. We knew that moving Loijuk would cause enormous fall-out from Chyulu and that Makena and Zurura were still very competitive. Kenze, as a longer, would not want to share his night quarters, so the only possibility to double up Makena with Sian, of whom she is very fond. Lempaute was then moved into the stable vacated by her, so as to be next door to Lesanju, and Kilgoris went into Lempaute’s stable. This has worked well, and fortunately Makena is very “chuffed” to be with Sian throughout the night.

The Rhinos:- The beginning of 2007 was not a happy interlude in the life of poor Shida, who came back to the Stockades on the 2nd with a prolapsed rectum and part of what should be inside, outside! We suspect that a blow from another bigger and stronger wild opponent might possibly have caused the problem, because he was not only obviously extremely “jumpy”, with wide, staring eyes denoting fear and pain, but also in a lot of physical distress, seeking the seclusion and safety of his Stockade. He refused all food (very unusual) and simply retreated to the back of his Night Stockade, and lay down.

Apparently, this condition is not uncommon in equine species, caused usually by an overload of stomach parasites. Rhinos are, of course, members of the horse family, so it is probably not unknown in them as well, although no-one has ever been around to witness it, and the afflicted rhino probably just dies.

The first operation to try and correct the prolepses took place on the 3rd under anesthesia, when a suture was sown around the rectum, and what was hanging out, pushed back in. Having been de-wormed, the Vet advised just a diet of soft fruit, and rhino formula milk, reinforced with cooked oatmeal porridge, and this Shida accepted readily. Sadly, however, the suture did not hold, and a day or two later we were back in square one with Shida, who was, if anything always over-weight, now becoming skeletal, and losing condition rapidly. Another unaesthetic and another operation took place on the 5th, when an 80 lb. nylon Fishing Line was used to suture the rectum, and this time it held, but compromised the anal opening which left him having difficulty defecating. An entire night and day past with no stool, and since by now he was quite obviously miserable incarcerated in his Night Stockade during daylight hours, having been used to freedom in the forest, we decided to let him out so that he could visit his usual dungpiles in the hopes that this would stimulate a stool. Fortunately, it did and during the next 5 days, his appetite gradually returned, and he began to browse.

However, this caused another problem - an enormous build up of dung that he could not pass, and to our horror, on the 11th he returned to his stockade in the evening with his rear end looking like a balloon about to burst! Whilst awaiting the arrival of the Vet, the Keepers and Robert Carr-Hartley did what they could to relieve him, and he knew they were trying to help, for instead of being wary of anyone approaching his rear, as before, he simply lay down and allowed them to scoop out as much dung as they could by hand. Whilst this obviously helped relieve some of the pressure, it was not enough, and the Vet decided that the suture must come out, even though he would have preferred it to remain in place longer. As Shida downed a bottle or two of milk, the Vet was able to cut the suture, whereupon an explosion occurred the likes of which was amazing! About a bucketful of dung shot out, showering everyone in the firing line, but the relief it brought Shida was quite obvious! Very fortunately, the rectum did not prolapse again, which was very encouraging, but the Vet had not been able to remove the cord from around the rectum having just snipped it to relieve the pressure. However, Shida not only slept peacefully that night, but turned his Stockade into a massive rhino midden!

Meanwhile, having examined a sample of his dung, and found that worm eggs were still present, he was given an alternative de-worming drug. Every time he lay down, the Keepers, armed with a small pair of pliers desperately tried to remove the remaining fishing line around the prolapsed part, but soon it was no longer visible, so, the Vet had to come again, and under sedation, the rest of the stitching was able to be removed on the evening of the 13th. Since then, Shida is again himself, feeding well, gaining weight rapidly, and spending the hours of daylight doing what all rhinos do, visiting all the dungpiles and urinals of the others. However, in the evening, he is happy to return to his Stockade for the night. By the end of the month, he clearly no longer wanted the presence of the Keepers out in the bush, moving location repeatedly to try and “lose” them, and on the 31st even heading off down the hill into the main Park on his own. That evening he brought himself home to his Night Stockade in the late evening. All this signifies that Shida has now fully recovered, and feels sufficiently confident to again become “a wild rhino”.

Magnum has appeared only twice this month, and then just briefly, and after having taken some salt from the salt-lick on the rocks, takes himself off again. He is now simply another wild rhino member of the Nairobi National Park’s rhino community, and when he returns to base, is treated as such.

January 2007 day to day

01 Jan

The New Year began on a high note with the 4 tiny babies running around, and playing with one another. Galdessa and Shimba like pretending to browse, but Lesanju and Lempaute spend most of their time playing, rolling around on the ground, and chasing one another round bushes!

Lesanju with Lempaute behind her

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