Keepers' Diaries, July 2007

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Nursery Elephants:- July has been another harrowing month for our Nursery babies and their Keepers, who have had to endure a cat-and-mouse act with the few remaining Nairobi Park lions who have been casing the Trust premises for the warthogs that frequent our compound. Two pigs have been killed within spitting distance of the Elephants’ Night Stockades, as has a half-grown giraffe killed on the rocks just opposite the mudbath. After the lions had become bold enough to chase our Keepers and their charges in the Visitors’ Carpark, we resorted to asking the Kenya Wildlife Service for two armed Rangers to accompany and protect the Nursery elephants and their Keepers out in the bush behind our premises.

Nursery Elephants:- July has been another harrowing month for our Nursery babies and their Keepers, who have had to endure a cat-and-mouse act with the few remaining Nairobi Park lions who have been casing the Trust premises for the warthogs that frequent our compound. Two pigs have been killed within spitting distance of the Elephants’ Night Stockades, as has a half-grown giraffe killed on the rocks just opposite the mudbath. After the lions had become bold enough to chase our Keepers and their charges in the Visitors’ Carpark, we resorted to asking the Kenya Wildlife Service for two armed Rangers to accompany and protect the Nursery elephants and their Keepers out in the bush behind our premises.

Finally, two lionesses left the Park and startled the public by strolling down Magadi Road towards the township of Ongata Rongai which mobilized the Kenya Wildlife Service who managed to chase them back into the Park further down the road. Since then we seem to have had a reprieve! Quite obviously, a solution for the unfortunate lions, who are short of wild prey, needs to be found. Either the Park must be fenced along the fourth one open boundary, and the Park re-stocked with prey species (they are moving impala and zebra from the Rift Valley to Meru Park), or the lions translocated to greener pastures before they starve to death, because the mythical “corridor” for the migratory species is no longer a viable option due to human settlement. We wonder how long it will take the Wildlife Officials and the so-called Friends of Nairobi National Park, who support an open ecosystem, to accept this fact for unless they do, the Park will be lost on their watch!

On a happier note, the month has witnessed the establishment of Lenana as the main Nursery Matriarch. She has commandeered little Shimba who is glued to her side whenever the three tiny Nursery babies are with the bigger group, much to the displeasure of both Makena and, especially, Chyulu. Following some stiff competition for possession of Shimba, eventually, a compromise seems to have emerged whereby Chyulu is allowed to share Shimba with Lenana, walking alongside, but not attempting to remove him. Of course, Shimba basks in this adoration, and enjoys the attention of both young females, suckling Lenana’s miniscule breasts! During struggles for Shimba, when Makena and Chyulu teamed up against Lenana in order to hijack him, both came off second best, until Chyulu wisely found a solution! Meanwhile Kamboyo and Zurura are highly competitive, both young bulls of equal body size, but Kamboyo having a slight edge due to his longer tusks. However, Zurura refuses to submit, so the daily pushing bouts that begin as a test of strength often deteriorate into a fullblown battle that Lenana fails to sort out. Although she tries to keep intervene, both young bulls are the same size as herself, and probably a little stronger, so in the end she leaves any sorting out to the Keepers. Lenana, is now a very loving and friendly member of the Nursery Group, and Chyulu is also a very maternal and loving character, who will obviously take over the Leadership role when Lenana graduates to Ithumba.

Lesanju and Lempaute have resisted being smother-loved by the older females, something that has frustrated both Makena and Chyulu. However, Chyulu is managing to break the impasse in this respect, by lying down and enticing Lesanju to participate in a dustbath by climbing on her! Lesanju looks upon herself as the Infant Ele Matriarch, and clearly is reluctant to step down in rank by being “babied” by the older females! Lempaute is as mischievous as ever, and can always be counted upon to entertain the mudbath visitors with her antics, barging through the cordon and scaring any children who rush off screaming and laughing. She then lies down at their feet to show that she simply wants to play! This month, during one such prank, she managed a grown-up trumpet for the first time, which is always a milestone for an infant elephant, and does not happen until after the age of 6 months or so. The elephants first have to work themselves up into a state of high excitement before it happens involuntarily! June, July and August are “winter” months for Nairobi and the upcountry regions, so it has been chilly and overcast for most of the month, which has necessitated warmer blankets for the infant elephants. Apart from the lion hassles, it has been a carefree and happy month for the babies, with the three tiny orphans having a huge growth spurt, now almost double the size they were when they arrived!
The Rhinos:- Having at last made contact with the Surgeon in Hamburg, who performed a successful cataract operation on the young rhino in the Serengeti Zoo Park, we were disappointed that he declined to come to Kenya to help Max, which would entail being absent from his practice for some five days, which had financial implications for him. Aside from this, he was also unwilling to risk his equipment. However, we have since been in contact with an Animal Eye Specialist in Capetown, recommended to us by Dr. Henk Bertschinger, who traveled to Kenya to contracept our weakling elephant, Mweiga. The South African eye Specialist is eager to help Max in any way he can, but first would like to converse with Dr. Schwendermann, who performed the operation on the cataract in Max’s left eye, and who is currently overseas. Dr. Schwendermann returns on the 7th, after which we will be able to move forward. Meanwhile, Max is growing apace, and is contented and happy in the Stockade he knows well, eagerly anticipating the arrival of numerous adoring fans, and also the daily visits of orphan Shida.

Shida has been spending a lot of time back at home, not only because of Max, but because of the presence of the lions. He normally turns up each afternoon, when he is shut into his Stockade whilst the foster-parent visitors are at the Stockades viewing the elephants, an evening privilege reserved for foster-parents. The mudbath hour, from 11 a.m. to 12 noon daily has become extremely popular on a daily basis, when we ;usually have several hundred tourists come to see the orphans, plus literally hundreds of African school kids, whose viewing has had to be restricted to 250 at a time! It is very gratifying that the children find the Open Visiting Hour so special. Another special innovation has been the weekly broadcasts by our Keepers via the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, who speak to their tribesmen in their tribal dialect, passing on a conservation message, and telling the audience just how special elephants. Rhinos, and animals generally are.

No sign of Magnum this month, but we are assured by the Rhino Monitoring Unit of Kenya Wildlife Service that he is alive and well holding a territory out on the plains of Nairobi National Park.

July 2007 day to day

01 Jul

A very chilly morning for the youngsters, but this did not deter them from being playful. Zurura and Kamboyo indulged in their usual play-fight, which attracted the attention of Makena and Lenana.

Kamboyo in a playful mood

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