Keepers' Diaries, July 2009

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!

01 July 2009

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.

02 July 2009

Today, the biggest Polaroid Camera in the world was here to take pictures of the orphaned elephant babies. It was difficult to get the little elephants to cooperate, because when the shutter clicks, the huge camera makes a popping sound which scared the elephants. They also had to be coaxed into coming very close, one by one, which was stressful for the babies and their Keepers.

03 July 2009

Despite being the Mini Matriarch of the youngest set of Nursery elephants, Suguta prefers the company of Mawenzi and Sabachi. The three spent the entire day together, allowing Nchan to take charge of the rest of the group. Nchan reminds us of naughty Lempaute and Wendi, because she is so mischievous.

04 July 2009

Having realized that Isiolo was still unwell, we separated him from the others and kept him together with Melia, who is also very weak. The two remained close to the Stockades and didn’t go far into the forest.

05 July 2009

Now that we have had to partition the stables, it is sometimes still difficult. Today Nchan and Kalama had a disagreement over the Keeper, because when he is with one, the other one becomes jealous! They did not sleep well during the night. The fight continued the next morning out in the forest!

06 July 2009

Bhaawa is very close to Kenia, and loves sucking her ears. Now Tassia wants to do the same, so this usually ends in a quarrel, which the Keepers have to sort out.

07 July 2009

The Older Nursery elephants were very excited today, running up and down and knocking down small shrubs. The Keepers did not know what had excited them. Mawenzi, who was with the smaller babies, heard all the trumpeting and came running to see what was going on. All settled down once they had had their milk at 9 a.m.

08 July 2009

Naimina is beginning to contest the Matriarchship of the older group from Kenia. Whilst browsing out in the forest Kenia is usually with Dida, Bhaawa, Taveta and Ndii while Naimina has a separate group comprised of Shira, Taveta, Tassia, Kimana and Kilaguni. The two groups often browse separately, Naimina leading one group, and Kenia the other. Just as we were returning, there was an alert that another rescue was needed, so the rescue team left. At about 7 p.m. a new baby arrived in the Nursery.

09 July 2009

Because we were short of Keepers, some having to remain with the latest arrival, who was on life support, Isiolo and Melia joined the Baby Group led by Suguta. Kibo and Nchan were very happy to have Isiolo back with them, and remained very close to him all day, playing and having fun.

10 July 2009

It was another sad day in the Nursery. Having struggled with the latest arrival ever since he came in, having her on drips etc., she died. It is always very sad to lose an elephant, especially having worked so hard to try and save her.

11 July 2009

The Older Nursery elephants got a scare today when a herd of impalas came running into the middle of them. Ndii, Kimana and Tassia were the first to run screaming back to the Keepers while the others fled in different directions. Kilaguni ended up back in his stable. Kenia, Dida, Bhaawa and Taveta fled in another direction screaming, and Shira went off by herself. The Keepers had a tough time rounding all their charges up again.

12 July 2009

Sabachi is turning into quite a little bully. Even after the Keepers have waggled their fingers at him and shouted at him, he came to push Kibo and Kudup. The Keepers decided to put him with the Older Group, but he made so much noise that it upset Suguta, who began running up and down. Today Sabachi tried to mount onto little Olkeju. Melia is still feeding alone, separate from the others because she is grieving and still very weak.

13 July 2009

Today, Dr. Schwendemann came to look at Chaimu’s eyes, which are much better. Today, he seems to be able to see the Keepers. We were told to continue the Cortizone treatment twice a day for another week or two, until the Doctor comes to see him again.

14 July 2009

Suguta is beginning to be selective about the Keepers. Today at the mudbath she kept moving from one Keeper to the other, looking for the one who was with her during the night. The Keeper she wanted was with the Older Group, and this upset her so much that she refused the milk. This seems to be a new trend. She wants to be fed by the Keeper who was with her during the night!

15 July 2009

Today, it was good to see Suguta act like a Matriarch when Sabachi had an argument with Chaimu. The Keepers kept separating the two, but Sabachi kept following Chaimu to push him up and down. However, Suguta came and pushed Sabachi very hard, although she has always been his best friend. After that Sabachi stopped bullying Chaimu.

16 July 2009

Suguta’s group had a lovely time chasing the warthogs in the bush. One particular baby warthog took off nearly stepping on the Keeper in the process.

17 July 2009

It was a cool dry day, the orphans had no enthusiasm to play in the mud bath. Sabachi was being very cheeky during the milk feed. He quickly guzzled down his milk then rushed over to Mawenzi who was still having her and tried to take it. The Keepers quickly stepped in to stop him. Sabachi turned and bumped into Kalama who fell to the ground.

18 July 2009

Naimina is becoming very greedy during milk feeds. She boldly rushes to the milk shoving any others in her way! During the evening feed she hurried to her stockade where she found Taveta who had entered her stockade by accident. She got very upset and gave him a push!

19 July 2009

Kenia’s group spent most of the day browsing. Towards the afternoon the orphans came across an area which made them very nervous, they all bunched up together raising their trunks high and sniffing the air. Their trunks were repeatedly pointing towards the bushes nearby. One of the Keepers decided to investigate what the commotion was all about; as he got close he noticed a fresh lion footprint. The Keepers hastily led the orphans away.

20 July 2009

Today Isiolo took a turn for the worse, appearing very weak and gloomy. He could not keep up with the rest of the orphans while out in the bush. The Keepers put him on a dextrose drip to give him strength and to help re-hydrate him. Towards the end of the day it looked like he was feeling better.

21 July 2009

As Suguta’s group was on their way to the Stockades for the night they bumped into a herd of Impalas. Not having seen the Impala’s around the corner the orphans got a real fright and all dispersed in a panic! Nchan and Kalama rushed over to their Keepers for comfort!

22 July 2009

Yet another Orphan arrived at the Nursery, a one year old female. The orphan was named ‘Tumaren’ which is the name of the place she came from. She was found next to her dying mother’s body. Tumaren was put into a stockade next door to Tassia and was very nervous from the ordeal of being orphaned. Kenia’s group was brought in from the bush to meet the new arrival giving her a very warm welcome! They all crowded around her reaching out with their trunk to great and comfort the new orphan. Tumaren was instantly calmed and loved the company of the others.

23 July 2009

The new arrival Tumaren joined Kenia’s group out in the bush. She seemed very pleased to be in the company of a herd and was very loving towards all the orphans. Tassia had his reserves about the new arrival and was not as welcoming as everyone else. He gave Tumaren a few warning shoves and was watching her every move. Tumaren ignored his antics and concentrated on interacting with the other orphans.

24 July 2009

Tumaren seems to have attached herself to Shira and her group, which Tassia is a part of. He totally changed his behavior towards her, following her closely as well as continually smelling and gently touching her. This surprised the Keepers, considering yesterday’s attempts to exclude her!

25 July 2009

Maxwell’s boma has been re-furbished! He had a new water trough put in and the boma was extended so that he has more room and trees in his stockade. He spends most of his time exploring his stockade and plays in the mud when it is nice and sunny.

26 July 2009

The orphanage is quickly filling up. Another orphan arrived today bringing the number in the nursery to 22. The calf is a young girl, only about 2 and half months old and is a poaching victim from Loisaba. We named her ‘Tano’ which means ‘five’ in Kiswahili as she was found and rescued on a farm in ‘Boma Tano’ which means ‘Field Number Five’.

27 July 2009

Another orphan was rescued today, a very young female calf only 2 weeks old making her the youngest at the Nursery. She was named ‘Mutara’ after her place of origin. The Keepers cannot believe how quickly orphans are arriving at the Orphanage.

28 July 2009

The two new babies Tano & Mutara are joyous & loving. They follow the Keepers closely wanting lots of physical contact and affection. The Keepers decided to make a 3rd elephant group consisting of Mutara, Tano, & Isiolo. He is still weak and the Keepers want to keep a close eye on him. Little Mutara had a visit from the Vet today who administered her a dose of blood plasma to boost her immune as she is very young and it is possible she did not get much of her mother’s first milk which contains the essential antibodies for the calf’s immune system.

29 July 2009

Isiolo is happy to be with the two young girls and watched keenly as they played a friendly pushing game. He wanted to join in but was fearful of hurting himself as he is still very weak. Maxwell is really enjoying his new stockade. He struts around it tail up marking his territory! Today he mistook his new water trough for a mudbath, and tried to climb into it for a roll! The Keepers had a good laugh watching this scene unfold.

30 July 2009

Kalama & Nchan are becoming best of friends. They stay close to the Keepers while playing together as the rest of the group move further afield and feed. Kudup attempted to join this duo for a game but they made it clear they prefer to play on their own! Some of the Trees in Maxwell’s new stockade have been bulldozed by Maxwell who spent the entire day flattening them!

31 July 2009

Maalim is becoming big and rather naughty at the daily visiting. He plays a game, running up and down mock charging the Keepers. He occasionally runs to the guests and scattering the crowd as he charges through the rope! He is a firm favourite at the daily visit however the Keepers are having a hard time trying to protect the visitors from his games!