Keepers' Diaries, July 2006

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

The ongoing treatment of Kora’s infected jaw dominates this month’s Diary. After further consultation with many Veterinarians, as well as the Southern African experts, it was unanimously decided that surgery was not an option for two reasons, (l) because the sensitivity test done on the pus revealed that the bacteria was resistant to the antibiotic of choice to be inserted as slow-release “beads”, along the jawbone, under anaesthesia (always a danger to the life of a baby elephant). Also, this would involve two operations, one to implant the “beads” and another (also under anaesthesia) to remove them after a period of time. (2) From previous experience we knew that Kora would undoubtedly pull out the stitches with his trunk, and an open wound would simply invite further infection and added complications. It was therefore decided to administer a l0 day course of injectible Penicillin, to which the bacteria is sensitive, and even if this did not actually cure the osteomyelitis, hopefully it would weaken the bacteria, which might then succumb to ongoing and intensive homeopathic treatment, which has no side affects.

The ongoing treatment of Kora’s infected jaw dominates this month’s Diary. After further consultation with many Veterinarians, as well as the Southern African experts, it was unanimously decided that surgery was not an option for two reasons, (l) because the sensitivity test done on the pus revealed that the bacteria was resistant to the antibiotic of choice to be inserted as slow-release “beads”, along the jawbone, under anaesthesia (always a danger to the life of a baby elephant). Also, this would involve two operations, one to implant the “beads” and another (also under anaesthesia) to remove them after a period of time. (2) From previous experience we knew that Kora would undoubtedly pull out the stitches with his trunk, and an open wound would simply invite further infection and added complications. It was therefore decided to administer a l0 day course of injectible Penicillin, to which the bacteria is sensitive, and even if this did not actually cure the osteomyelitis, hopefully it would weaken the bacteria, which might then succumb to ongoing and intensive homeopathic treatment, which has no side affects.

Kora is a very docile and brave little elephant, who seems to understand that the daily cleaning of his wound is necessary, sp he is very cooperative. He has also stalwartly accepted the long course of very painful injections administered into the muscles of his back legs, which has left them painful and caused him to limp. His injections have been taking place at 4.30 p.m. daily, when he is escorted back to his Stockade, accompanied by two Keepers, to meet the dreaded Vet!. After a few days, Lualeni became curious as to why he was being removed daily, and decided to come and investigate, bringing with her the rest of the entourage, including Zurura, who is Kora’s best friend, and who took great exception to him being obviously hurt! However, Kora’s course thankfully ended on the 29th, and now he has to have the homeopathic de-tox plus Acidopholis to replace stomach flora that might have been destroyed by the long course of antibiotic. The jaw is still exuding droplets of pus, but in greatly reduced quantity, so we are hopeful that the antibiotic has done some good. The wound will be carefully monitored over the next few weeks, and the homeopathic treatment will continue.

Little Zurura adores him and is never far from his side. Kora is very gentle when they indulge in pushing games, which is something all little boy elephants enjoy greatly to determine who is the stronger. Zurura is a forceful character, ever eager to get a dig at his rival, Makena, by trying to mount her, something she hates!. However, she can always count on Lualeni’s intervention leaving Zurura thwarted and on one occasion angry, because he toppled over! He then gave chase, seized Makena’s blanket and pummelled it into the ground in a demonstration of what he felt like doing to her! Likewise, he is likewise eager to assert his authority over Kamboyo, who is of a similar age, rank being crucial to identity and how a bull is viewed by his peers. Zurura is also a very playful and outgoing character, who thrills the daily mudbath visitors by walking close to the rope behind which they stand, so that they all have a chance to touch him. Meanwhile, Loijuk, who has now recovered her strength, is showing signs of being a little pushy towards strangers, which is a phase that most babies go through having seen their mother killed by humans. This behaviour has to be handled with sensitivity, patience, and understanding and is always just a passing phase.

Sian will obviously replace Lualeni as the Mini Nursery Matriarch when the time comes for Lualeni and Kora to join the Ithumba unit, something that will take place when rainfall brings on a flush of greenery in Tsavo, which is an arid part of the world. Newcomers have to learn how to cope with the dry vegetation, debark nutritious branches and generally forage in a different environment to Nairobi. Sian is already displaying all the traits of a very proficient Matriarch, such as compassion for Kora, running back to keep him company as he limps behind the others, and keeping the peace between Zurura and Makena, even when Lualeni is defeated! She also makes a real effort to nurture and befriend the smaller calves, especially Zurura and Kamboyo, since Makena enjoys the un-divided attention of Lualeni.

Wild encounters for the Nursery group involve the usual warthog chases, an encounter with the ubiquitous baboons, and a scare from running giraffe and an impala, which sent them rushing back to their Keepers for protection.

The Rhinos:- Magnum turns up occasionally, usually at the mudbath hour, when all the visitors have to relocate to the back of the house to enjoy the elephants, and when Shida kept out in the bush and not brought to the mudbath. Magnum is a wild rhino now, and fully established amongst the wild community. His behaviour duplicates that of the wild rhinos, and whenever he turns up there is a lot of huffing and puffing to let everyone know his wild status! Shida is now 3 years old, and definitely beginning to think that he, too, should now qualify as a wild rhino, sometimes reluctant to return to his Night Quarters, and often fractious in the mornings having been in the Stockade during the night. As soon as the rains break in Tsavo, he will be moved to the Tsavo Triangle, where the Trust will be able to keep a close eye on him, and where he will not prove a hazard to either the Keepers or the Nursery elephants, for Shida, like Makosa, is much more volatile than “laid back”Magnum.

July 2006 day to day

01 Jul

Shida seemed dull this morning, according to the Mixer, because he did not sleep well last night, and kept circling his Stockade and pushing at the door to open it. He browsed for a short time, and then spent the rest of the day sleeping.

Makena

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