Keepers' Diaries, January 2009

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Two new elephant orphans came into the Nursery during January, one aged about 1 year, from the Southern end of Tsavo West National Park near Ziwani Sisal Estate, who was heard crying by Rangers stationed nearby during the night of the 19th January. Upon investigation during the morning of the 20th , the calf was found near an irrigation channel on the Estate where many animals come to drink under cover of darkness. She was extremely emaciated from having been without a mother and milk for some time, and worse still had multiple spear and dagger wounds, some severe and deep, and one ear almost sliced in half. (It is difficult to apprehend the mind-set of such brutal and blatant cruelty inflicted on a helpless year old baby elephant, by people who are supposed to coexist peacefully with the wildlife that share the land with them and their cattle, but aside from this, Masai herdsmen and their cattle have no right to actually be in the Tsavo National Park in the first place, but have invaded it illegally. However, this is something to which the Government prefers to turn a blind eye, and seems impotent to tackle).

Two new elephant orphans came into the Nursery during January, one aged about 1 year, from the Southern end of Tsavo West National Park near Ziwani Sisal Estate, who was heard crying by Rangers stationed nearby during the night of the 19th January. Upon investigation during the morning of the 20th , the calf was found near an irrigation channel on the Estate where many animals come to drink under cover of darkness. She was extremely emaciated from having been without a mother and milk for some time, and worse still had multiple spear and dagger wounds, some severe and deep, and one ear almost sliced in half. (It is difficult to apprehend the mind-set of such brutal and blatant cruelty inflicted on a helpless year old baby elephant, by people who are supposed to coexist peacefully with the wildlife that share the land with them and their cattle, but aside from this, Masai herdsmen and their cattle have no right to actually be in the Tsavo National Park in the first place, but have invaded it illegally. However, this is something to which the Government prefers to turn a blind eye, and seems impotent to tackle).

Her rescue must have been stressful beyond imagination in view of the pain she was in and the traveling entailed on rough roads in order to get her to the Voi Stockades during the day of the 20th. Having trailed the Rangers based near Ziwani back to their camp, she was bundled into a room and tied up to await the arrival of our Keepers, who had to drive from Voi, a distance of over l00 miles before being driven back to the Voi Stockades in the back of a Pick-up truck. Having spent the night at the Stockades in Voi, she was airlifted to the Nairobi Nursery the following day, arriving at 3 p.m. on the 21st January, in a pitiful condition.

We named the newcomer, “Ziwani” and from the start we did not hold out much hope for her survival since she was so severely wounded and psychologically traumatized, too weak to put up much of a struggle, and in view of what she had been through, to an experienced eye far too calm for comfort. By the next morning she had diarrheoa and immediately fell into a coma and was barely breathing. She would definitely have died had Dextrose and Saline, not been drip-fed directly into an ear vein over the next 48 hours, but at least we were then able to have a closer look at her multiple wounds, and get some Kaolin and Green Clay down her throat to try and stem the life-threatening diarrheoa. It was, indeed, a surprise to find that she was still with us the next morning, the Keepers having held the drip bottles aloft throughout what was a very long night.

Amazingly, after 48 hours on the drip, little Ziwani gradually came back to life, and with the help of manpower, was able to stand, but the Green Clay administered internally had bunged her up so effectively that she began to vomit up the milk she had taken. We then had to resort to Castor Oil, brown sugar and liquid paraffin to get things moving again, and mercifully, after another 2 days, this worked!

However, two wounds, one on her rump and another high up on a back leg were deep and proved extremely problematical, rendering her incapable of walking, and causing her such pain that she ground her teeth continually. This entailed a change of injectible penicillin based antibiotic and, of course, more pain having to try and clean such deep incisions. However, this tragic little orphan, if indeed she lives, owes her life to Robert Carr-Hartley and the Keepers, all of whom have worked tirelessly and beyond the call of duty to retrieve her from the jaws of death. Only time and continued anointing of her wounds will be able to make her whole again, but at least she is now surrounded by caring, compassion and kindness, as she struggles with the psychological pain of losing her loved ones, and the physical pain inflicted by the brutality of humans that shame our species. It is very humbling to witness the love she has for her Keepers, in view of the treatment she has had at the hands of humans.

The next new arrival was a 6 month old female calf from the Amboseli population who was found by two (more humane) Masai elders, firmly wedged down a shallow well in the shadow of Mawenzi, the second highest peak of Mount Kilimanjaro which overlooks the Amboseli area. Thanks to those two kindly Masai Elders and personnel from the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, she was extracted from the well, and transported to the nearest airfield, from whence she was flown directly to the Nursery. Apart from severe bruising along her back, (which threatens to duplicate that sustained by Sinya after her ordeal in a similar pit), this calf, named “Mawenzi”, is in good physical shape, albeit very disturbed psychologically by the loss of her elephant mother and family, which manifests itself in restlessness and wanting to spend time alone. However, after just one night, she was able to be out and about with the other Junior Nursery orphans, Kenia keeping a close eye on her, and gently shepherding her back to the Keepers every times she wanders off alone.

The arrival of 2 more Nursery babies brings the total number of infant elephants in our Nairobi Nursery to 15, and has necessitated the usual re-shuffle of sleeping arrangements, Dida having to move in with little Suguta to free up a stable for Mawenzi, while Siria is back with Wasessa to make room for Ziwani. We really are now “bulging at the seams” in more ways than one!

Kenia has taken on the role of Junior Matriarch to the smaller Nursery elephants, and is very conscientious in this role. Suguta, who previously was glued to a Keeper, is now becoming a member of the main herd, having gained in strength. She is very competitive with Kimana, particularly when it is milk time! Taveta, as the largest of the Nursery boys, enjoys throwing his weight around the others, earning the title of a “bully” who likes to assert dominance. Siria prefers to try his luck against the girls, who gang up to discipline him. Kimana hero-worships Siria while Shimba and Mzima, who share a stockade, are very close. Lempaute, like Sunyei of the Ithumba Unit, has extended her mischievous streak to playing pranks on the others, deliberately scaring them whenever they are a browsing away from the Keepers. She rushes past them as though fleeing from something dangerous, and this invariably triggers a mass stampede among the others, which she enjoys enormously. As usual she can always be counted on to entertain the mudbath guests; a new trick being picking up the football, and parading it along the cordon, holding it between her mouth and trunk. Shimba is very accommodating of the small African school-children who come to see the orphans at their noon mudbath. He stands close to the cordon in front of them, and allows them to blow down his trunk, and open and close his huge ears, as they marvel!

The Rhinos:- Tiny “Maalim”, who came to the Nursery on 19th December last year, when just days old, has doubled his size in the month he has been with us and is thriving. He takes long walks with his Keepers (who rotate so that he does not become too attached to just one) and he adores the soft mattress on which he sleeps in his stable at night, covered by a blanket. In fact, his love of the mattress, supercedes even his love of a bottle of milk when he returns in the evening. Immediately he plants his tiny frame on it, and flops down with a blissful look in his eyes, wanting to be fed his milk as he lies on the mattress!

Maxwell thrives, and continues to grow apace, now enjoying some lush Lucerne that we managed to source for him from Naivasha. Shida’s periodic visits remain the highlight of his days, although all the “goings on” in Ziwani’s stockade, which is next door to his own, has also proved an interesting diversion for him.

As for Shida, he has not been in the best frame of mind of late, probably having come up against a higher ranking wild rival out in the Park which has left him more feisty than usual, so everyone has had to be careful to give him a wide berth whenever he is around

January 2009 day to day

01 Jan

Being the beginning of a New Year, the Keepers excitement was also felt by the elephants, who ran around trumpeting and breaking down small bushes. Even Kimana was not left behind. He kept on following the older elephants and doing a squeaky trumpet as well. After the mudbath, the Keepers carried the football to the bush, and they and the elephants enjoyed a game of football. Lempaute put on a spirited display, kicking the ball left and right with both her front and back legs, while Shimba kept on kicking the ball into the bushes and wanting it all to himself.

The orphans head out early in the morning

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