Keepers' Diaries, July 2009

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

During this extremely dry year, with drought conditions prevailing throughout all the elephant range, entire generations of young elephants that are still milk dependent are dying in droves, their lactating mothers unable to provide the milk they need any more. This in conjunction with a huge escalation in poaching with large hauls of illegal ivory intercepted both in Tanzania and at Jomo Kenyatta airport in Kenya means that our elephants are once more in serious jeopardy. However unsavoury this sad truth might be to the disbelievers. Mass die-offs are reported from all the Conservancies in the North, as well as in Amboseli National Park, so the same is undoubtedly quietly happening in Tsavo as well. The authorities could have a surprise in store when the next elephant count takes place!

During this extremely dry year, with drought conditions prevailing throughout all the elephant range, entire generations of young elephants that are still milk dependent are dying in droves, their lactating mothers unable to provide the milk they need any more. This in conjunction with a huge escalation in poaching with large hauls of illegal ivory intercepted both in Tanzania and at Jomo Kenyatta airport in Kenya means that our elephants are once more in serious jeopardy. However unsavoury this sad truth might be to the disbelievers. Mass die-offs are reported from all the Conservancies in the North, as well as in Amboseli National Park, so the same is undoubtedly quietly happening in Tsavo as well. The authorities could have a surprise in store when the next elephant count takes place!

With so many very young infants in the Nursery, our Nursery Keepers have been stretched, especially when a new arrival on life support entails the input of several men, leaving those supervising the 21 others short staffed. Each new arrival entails adjustments to the sleeping arrangements and a disruption in the daily routine, which never goes down well. All the existing stables and Stockades have had to be partitioned to accommodate two Nursery babies instead of just one with usually just one Keeper throughout the night, which breeds resentment from the unaccompanied baby in the next door partition! Sabachi is the pushiest of the baby boys, but this month has been disciplined by Sugutu, the miniscule Matriarch of the miniatures, who actually also happens to be his best friend. This demonstrates that she is taking her leadership role very seriously, despite being only being just over l year old! Tassia is the pushiest of the bigger boys, who resents the affection Kenia holds for Bhaawa, who suckles her ears endlessly. Tassia is now trying to do the same, so poor Kenia puts up with a lot! Naimina is also taking over a leadership role amongst the older Nursery orphans, often taking half the group away from Kenia.

Chaimu’s eyes have been a cause for concern, having arrived with signs of cloudiness. She has been having cortisone eye ointment, and Dr. Schwendemann, a human Eye specialist has been paying regular visits to monitor her progress. There have been signs of improvement, especially in one eye, so we are hopeful. Little Isiolo, who was very ill last month, obviously with a creeping Klebsiella, is recovering well, as is Kibo, who threatened the same symptoms a month or two ago. However, poor little Kilaguni, whose rear end was mauled by hyaenas, has ended up with a restricted anal opening, and is having difficulty defecating. The Vet has recommended a tablespoon of Liquid Paraffin in each milk feed, and we hope that this will spare surgical intervention.

Nchan, who is in Suguta’s group, has good leadership abilities within the small elephant group, and is a very gentle and caring little elephant.

An elephant herd obviously targeted by poachers at Olmaisor Ranch near Rumuruti in the Laikipia district on the 8th of July, where a yearling calf was found dead, shot in the stomach, and another yearling female member of the heard found dying nearby, who had obviously remained with its dying friend. The surviving yearling calf, emaciated, grief-stricken and weak was barely alive when discovered and was easily overpowered by the Ranch personnel capture team, who alerted us that a rescue would have to be initiated urgently to try and save this calf. During the flight back to the Nairobi Nursery, she was sustained by an intravenous drip in an ear vein and was with us at 7 p.m. delayed by having been stuck in traffic With help she managed to stand, but not for long, collapsing again during the night, and still comatose in the morning despite the infusion of 6 litres of intravenous Dextrose/Saline. She died a few hours after daybreak.

We were also shocked when the other recent arrival from the Tsavo ecosystem, named Melia, collapsed and had to be put on a life supporting drip, just when we thought she was over the worst. She managed to rally, and although still grief-stricken and painfully emaciated, will hopefully be able to recover and live, and is so far showing positive improvement.

Another year old orphan female arrived on the 21st from Tumaren Ranch in Laikipia. This orphan had undergone a terrible ordeal, losing its mother to poisoning. She arrived here very frightened and traumatized but adjusted very quickly. She is turning out to be a wonderful elephant, very gentle and sociable. She has taken a liking to Shira and her group.

A few days later, on the 26th, we received calls about 2 orphans in need of rescue. The first one, a little female orphan who we called Tano, arrived the same day. Tano was a poaching orphan from Loisaba and arrived at the Nursery in fairly good condition. The only cause for concern was the fact there was some mud in her stool. Much to our relief this quickly cleared up in a couple of days. The second orphan a little female called Mutara did not reach us until the 27th, as by the time we received the call it was too late to send a rescue plane. She spent the night at Ol Pejeta Conservancy under the care of its Managers. Upon arrival at the scene we noticed Mutara was very young with her umbilical cord still attached. Fearing she had little of her mothers colustrum milk we called our Vet Dr Sanjay who came to see her and administered a dose of Blood Plasma intravenously. These two baby girls are kept together with Isiolo as a small group of their own and are so far doing very well. Isiolo on the other hand has been struggling with his health. He has been very weak and despite feeding well and having normal stool he has lost condition. The Vets together with Daphne & Angela Sheldrick have been working tirelessly to help Isiolo in the fight for his life. On a couple of occasions he took a turn for the worse and had to be put on drip. Thankfully he has managed to battle through every downhill turn and is so far showing a slight improvement.

The Rhino’s:

Maalim is growing very quickly and becoming more and more dominant. He is still a huge attraction during the one hour public visit although the Keepers feel he will soon be too big and strong for this interaction with the visitors, as he takes great joy in charging under the rope and into the legs of the visiting public! The Keepers sometimes have a hard time controlling Maalim’s mischievous antics, and often have to resort to pushing him away when he just won’t listen.

Maxwell is also growing very quickly and is almost the same size as Shida who is twice his age. Maxwell has had lots of changes made to his stockade this month in order to enlarge his living space. He has had an extension built in addition to a new water trough. He loves his new and improved home and spent the first few days knocking down the trees and bushes as well as his territory!

Shida has been coming and going as usual, he occasionally creates problems for the Keepers during the visiting Hour when he shows up unexpectedly forcing the Keepers to evacuate the guests! He visits the mudbath almost daily in the afternoon when there is no one around. He occasionally stays out all day but never fails to return to the stockade for the night.

July 2009 day to day

01 Jul

We were shocked when Melia collapsed and had to be re-attached to life supporting drips. She rallied and with help was able to stand later.

Melia

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