Keepers' Diaries, January 2010

Nairobi Nursery Unit

We were stunned to receive news that our baby Chaffa had suddenly died, for she was promising a full recovery from the pneumonia that nearly took her from us several months ago. She was gaining weight, feeding well, and playing with her little elephant friends just hours before dying – but – she had the dreaded and mysterious turning back foot syndrome, that during the drought of 2009 has proved to be a precursor to certain death for many of our infant Nursery elephants and something that has baffled all the experts. It had struck once again, something that has baffled all the experts, even though detailed autopsies have been undertaken in three different Laboratories in Kenya, with body parts sent to Japan and blood for analysis in South Africa. Japan managed to identified 2 gut parasites in Bhaawa’s intestines, which had been missed in Kenya, and which is prevalent in domestic livestock but so far no explanation has been forthcoming the “turning foot” syndrome other than it is probably a deficiency of some vital nutrient during a drought year, or secondary to the emaciation caused by the new gut parasites obviously transmitted by having to share pasture and watering places with domestic livestock, even within the Protected Areas.

01 January 2010

The Nursery orphans spent New Year’s day all together, and Suguta established herself as a very able Matriarch of them all. She kept on fondling the small babies – namely Tano, Mutara, Chaffa and Shukuru. Olare was in second place, also wanting the four tiny babies close, but Suguta was too possessive to allow that until Mutara managed to detach herself from Suguta, and remained close to Olare. Meanwhile Dida, Ndii, and Tumaren were not competitors for the role of Matriarch to the smaller elephants.

02 January 2010

As soon as the small babies were let out of their Night Stables, Mutara ran to join the older elephant group, attaching herself again to Olare. Kilaguni and Kibo were bent on trying to mount onto her, but Olare protected her from these two exuberant little boys, who were keen to establish their authority.

03 January 2010

There is a great improvement in Chaffa, whose face is filling out nicely. She is much more playful and active, but still has the “turning foot” syndrome on the right hind leg, otherwise she is definitely recovering.

04 January 2010

Of the four tiny calves, Mutara and Shukuru are the most playful. As soon as they were let out of their Night Stalls, they chased some baby warthogs round and round the compound, and when the Keepers called them because it was time to go out into the bush, Shukuru rushed to take the lead, followed by Mutara with Tano and Chaffa bringing up the rear. Chaffa and Tano are now good friends.

05 January 2010

At the beginning of each day Kilaguni looks for Kibo and the two engage one another in a strength testing match. Meanwhile Kimana and Sabachi also enjoy pushing games, while Tumaren and Olare chase one another around the stables for fun, until the Keepers called the orphans to order, since it was time to head out. There was more at the mudbath because both Turkwel and Kalama had an altercation over their respective milk ration.

06 January 2010

Yesterday’s altercation between Kalama and Turkwel continued at today’s mudbath when the two again shoved each other around, as the elephants were being fed which caused a great deal of confusion amongst all the orphans and their Keepers.

07 January 2010

At 12 noon, as the Keepers and orphans were out in the bush, they came across a troupe of baboons attacking a newborn baby bushbuck. The Keepers drove the baboons off, and rescued the tiny bushbuck, which was in shock, and unable to stand. The fawn was taken into care. That same afternoon a zebra foal was also brought to the Trust, which had been stoned by children in nearby Ongata Rongai. This baby was also in a bad way.

08 January 2010

The small babies, led by Tano, had a happy time in the mudbath today, playing in the red soil. Even Chaffa was playful, and has improved greatly, even wanting to play push with the others, which is something she never did previously.

09 January 2010

The small babies enjoyed interacting with the older elephants as soon as they emerged from their night quarters. Mutara and Shukuru who are always more adventurous than Tano and Chaffa enjoyed inserting their trunk into the mouth of Suguta and Tumaren. Mutara then enjoyed playing with Nchan, who is very fond of the smaller babies.

10 January 2010

Turkwel and Kalama have still not made peace with each other having fought over the mudbath milk feeds. The two have harboured a grudge ever since and whenever they are together, the battle continues, usually instigated by Turkwel. The Keepers then have to move in to separate the two orphans! In order to avoid confusion at the mudbath, the keepers now separate the two, so that one is fed with the small babies first sitting and the other during the second sitting when the older elephants take their noon milk feed.

11 January 2010

Sadly, the baby bushbuck who had been attacked by the baboons died today and so did the baby zebra. It was a very sad day for the Keepers to loose these two orphans.

12 January 2010

It was an uneventful day for the orphans. All were fine and playful.

13 January 2010

It was a very difficult night because there was heavy rain, accompanied by thunder a lightening, which lasted all night, and caused the orphans a great deal of stress. They did not sleep all night, and nor did their Keepers.

14 January 2010

We were all shocked, because Chaffa, who had appeared healthy and well, died early this morning at 4.30 a.m. She was fine until the 3 a.m. feed, which she refused and died at 4.30 a.m. without warning. None of us could understand what had caused such a sudden and unexpected death.

15 January 2010

As usual, when let out, Mutara always runs to the older group because she enjoys being with the older orphans. Today she ran to Tumaren and exchanged greetings by inserting her trunk into Tumaren’s mouth, then ran back to Tano’s baby group, rumbling. The Keepers wondered what she was saying – perhaps that Tumaren told her to return to Tano!

16 January 2010

Nchan is always a real character at the mudbath. Today, having been in the mudbath, she ran along the cordon painting all the visitors with mud. Some of the visitors wondered whether the Keepers had instructed her to do that, because it was done so systematically and perfectly!

17 January 2010

Ndii is the largest in size within the older group of orphans, but not the oldest, but she is no push-over. Whenever she is pushed by one of the others, she responds forcefully!

18 January 2010

Kibo is showing signs of being a dominant bull within the Baby Group. Usually, he is calm within his group of girls, but today he challenged Kalama, Nchan and even Tumaren to a test of strength. Normally, he takes on Kilaguni who is in the older group, but Kilaguni usually wins, so today he thought he would get one over the girls in his group.

19 January 2010

Today, as the older orphans led by Dida were heading for their 9 a.m. milk feed, Dida stopped suddenly, spread out her ears, trumpeted and charged into the bush. All the Keepers ran to see what had disturbed her, only to find a large male warthog with huge tusks. Olare, Sabachi and Kimana joined Dida, who then stopped, and allow the other three to continue the chase. This is the only time that Dida has displayed a Matriarchal role since Kenia was transferred to Voi.

20 January 2010

Chaimu, who has had to have her eyes treated daily, has become very scared of close contact with the Keepers, obviously fearing that more ointment will be put into her eyes. Today, when a Keeper touched her, she ran away screaming. Previously, it was Olare who was scared of the Keepers, but now she looks for fingers to suck, and is very friendly towards all humans.

21 January 2010

Whenever the babies join the older group led by Suguta, Shukuru loves being with Keeper Mishak, who, over the years, has always emerged the favourite Keeper of all the Trust’s elephants. Turkwel and Kudup are proving to be good friends, for recently they have always been very close together whilst browsing out in the bush.

22 January 2010

Every Friday, all the orphans have coconut oil rubbed over their bodies, which they seem to enjoy, some even lying down and lifting up their legs so that the oil can be rubbed on their bellies. Olare used to hate “oiling day” but now accepts it.

23 January 2010

Today, at 4 p.m., Olare proved that she has the potential of being a very caring Matriarch. A lorry load of new, soft red soil was brought for the orphans, and all were having fun, lying in it, and rolling around. Olare stopped to stand beside the very small babies in order to protect them from the bigger boys. When Shukuru rolled down the slope in amongst the older elephants, Olare escorted her, and the other small babies, to a different patch, and only then began enjoying herself, certain now that the small ones were separated from the attentions of the boys.

24 January 2010

All the orphans met outside their Night Quarters, especially Mutara, Tano and Shukuru, because Olare, who is always very fond of the small babies, paid them special attention. As soon as they were together, she began teaching them the rolling game, lying down on the ground so that the little ones could climb on her, jumping up and falling down! Sabachi noticed this game and came rushing over, swinging his trunk happily in anticipation, because whenever any of the elephants is lying down, Sabachi enjoys trying to mount onto them. However, Olare shares a stockade with Sabachi, so she knows his tricks well. Gently, she pushed the babies aside, and stood up with her ears out to charge Sabachi who instantly changed direction, pretending to charge an unseen intruder instead! Olare then resumed the game, but kept a close eye on Sabachi. When the Keepers called the orphans, they all filed out into the bush, Shukuru and Mutara closely following the Keepers who were in front leading the herd. Once out in the field, the older orphans began browsing, while the little ones remained close to the Keepers.

25 January 2010

Again, all the orphans met up in the Stockade Compound for morning greetings and a little fun before being led out into the bush by their Keepers. Olare, who is demonstrating that she can be a very competent Matriarch, is very mindful of Mawenzi who has always looked up to Melia, and been allowed to suckle Melia’s ears whilst out in the field. However, today when Mawenzi tried to take some greens from Melia’s mouth, Melia knocked her down, and she fell, screaming. All the Keepers ran to help her, but Olare was there before them ;to help Mawenzi back onto her feet before charging Melia to punish her. Melia then ran behind Dida and the other orphans to hide and Olare knew that she could not then punish Melia, but instead returned to keep Mawenzi company for the remainder of the day.

26 January 2010

After exchanging the usual joyous morning greetings, the orphans were led by their Keepers out into the bush, where the older elephants split into two groups, one led by Dida and the other by Suguta. Kilaguni, Kibo, Kimana, Sabachi and Kalama decided to play the pushing game, Kibo and Kalama joining up to try and defeat Kilaguni who is large, older and stronger. Meanwhile Kimana and Sabachi decided to take each other on and iron out who was the stronger. At mudbath all the orphans, except Dida, Kimana and Mawenzi wallowed and played soccer in the pool, while Dida and the others dusted themselves instead. The Junior orphans, Kalama, Nchan and Kibo cut short their wallowing to instead charge the warthogs, who had also arrived, hoping for a cooling wallow.

27 January 2010

Nchan entertained all the mudbath visitors today, playing with the football in the water, kicking it with her front feet, then her back legs, and eventually kicking it clear of the water and chasing after it like a professional. Kilaguni and Sabachi were also impressed and decided to do the same, Sabachi rushing into the pool ahead of Kilaguni, and getting hold of the second football that was floating on the water while Kilaguni waited on the side swinging his trunk from side to side waiting for the ball to be kicked out. However, he was thwarted when the rest of the herd jumped into the pool and interrupted the game. This annoyed Kilaguni, who went to rub his tailless bottom on the cordon while the visitors clicked away with their cameras. The orphans had fun at the mudbath for the full hour before being led off by their Keepers at 12 p.m.

28 January 2010

Out in the bush Kilaguni and Kimana began a pushing game but Tumaren ran to separate the two, head butting Kilaguni and backing up Kimana to chase him off. At mudbath the two groups who usually come in separately for their milk, all enjoyed the mudbath, except Mawenzi who, of late, has been “dull” but who is looking a little better after taking her new medication, She rolled in the loose red earth, closely overseen by Olare and Melia. Ndii, Kalama, Nchan and Chaimu are good foot-ballers, kicking and chasing after the ball in the water while Kilaguni and Dida went to greet the visitors along the line of the cordon. After the mudbath, the orphans resumed feeding out in the bush, one group led by Dida and the other by Suguta while the small milk only babies remained with the Keepers.

29 January 2010

Olare and Ndii were engaged in a pushing game when the three small babies were let out of their Night Stables to join the older group in the yard. Olare immediately abandoned the game and ran to greet them. They all rumbled with excitement as soon as they saw Olare who then lay down so that they could enjoy climbing over her. After the 9 a.m. feed, the two groups separated, the older orphans heading out to browse along the western side of the Park whilst the youngsters, headed by Suguta took the opposite direction. At the mudbath, the orphans enjoyed playing with the football in the pool. Even Melia, who normally is not in the team, took part today while Mawenzi soil dusted in between watching the football game. Chaimu and Nchan charged the warthogs who turned up for a wallow. The Keepers had a difficult time to prevent baby Mutara from jumping into the mudbath who might have been injured since Sabachi and Kilaguni play rough. Meanwhile Shukuru joined Mawenzi at the dustbath, so all the visitors enjoyed an action-packed hour!

30 January 2010

Dida led the older group out to the bush today where Tumaren and Kimana teamed up to take on Kilaguni, but were defeated, which made Kilaguni very proud. Olare taught Shukuru, Tano and Mutara the usual rolling game and Suguta and her stockade-mate Tumaren charged some baby warthogs, chasing them far into the bush before returning looking very pleased with themselves, their trunks in the air and ears outspread. As usual, out in the bush, the orphans were divided into two groups, the older group and the babies. At the mudbath even Mawenzi enjoyed soil dusting, and indication that she is feeling better now. Shukuru entertained the guests by running up and down the cordon four times, and later on, during a Private viewing session Mawenzi partook of the mudbath, although she didn’t go in completely. However, all the others wallowed and dusted joyfully.

31 January 2010

Temperatures were high when all the orphans came for a Private Viewing Booking at 3 p.m., and all wanted immediately to get into the mud wallow to cool off, including the small babies. The Keepers had a difficult time trying to retrain them, and in the end had to give up. All then had a marvelous time in the mudbath, Olare watchful over Mutara while Suguta also kept a close eye on the three small babies, Tano, Mutara and Shukuru.