This month the Nursery has received two new arrivals, the first a female orphan of about one year old found wandering alone on a farm bordering the Ziwani area of Southern Tsavo West, who was very fortunately found by friendly Community Scout and was spared the brutality meted out to the second new arrival. The first calf was airlifted to the Nairobi Nursery on the 7th July. She was named Makireti (meaning “lost in the wilderness in the Taita dialect) and was in poor condition, obviously having been without milk and her mother for several days.
The second orphan, a two year old, had been savagely mutilated by Masai tribesmen who came upon her, and who habitually illegally intrude into the Park with their domestic livestock. This calf had the blade of a long Masai spear imbedded 8 inches deep into her forehead, its stout wooden shaft bent backward by the force of hitting trees as she tried to escape through dense scrub woodland. Added to this she had been hacked around the hindquarters by machete “pangas” or an axe, resulting in horrendous injuries, some of which were deep, and already seething with maggots. Such cruelty perpetrated by people of the Masai tribe, who normally have the reputation of being more tolerant towards the wildlife, is, indeed, a shocking indictment that does the reputation of both the tribe and the country no favours.
The injured calf was sedated by the Vet attached to the Trust’s Mobile Veterinary Unit, and driven in the back of a Pickup to the Voi Stockades, where the Vet managed, with great difficulty, to extract the blade, clean the wounds as best he could under sedation and revive the orphan. Having spent the night at the Voi Stockades, she was again sedated in order to be airlifted to Nairobi the following day (the 8th) . She was, of course, severely traumatized and far too wild to handle. We doubted that she would live, knowing that it was just a matter of time before she would collapse, and had to wait for this to happen before being able to asses and attend to her wounds, and insert an intravenous Dectrose drip into an ear vein to sustain her life. Her wounds were such that we even contemplated whether it would not be kinder to merely allow her to slip away rather than suffer further, but while there is life, there is hope, and the Keepers remained optimistic and would not hear of this.
We named this calf Murka, the name of the area in which she was found. The body wounds, although extensive, deep and horrendous, were not life threatening, but would take a long time to heal and need a great deal of attention in order to do so, inevitably involving more pain. The would in the head was of most concern, because her breath came out of it as well as through the trunk, indicating that internal damage to the sinuses was extensive. After several hours in a coma, Murka eventually stood up, and whilst still groggy, the keepers managed to restrain her and offer her milk from a bottle, which she took hungrily. Thereafter, although still too fearful of humans to allow contact, every time she spotted something white near the Stockade Gate, she would rush up, hoping it was more milk. It didn’t help that for the next 3 days she had to be forcibly restrained for the necessary antibiotic injections to be administered, and for her wounds to be cleaned and dressed, but she took her milk from the bottle held by a Keeper outside the door to her Stockade and also water which had to be fed to her by bottle, since she lacked the suction to draw it up in the trunk. Although two Keepers were in with her for the next week, they could not get anywhere near her, and in order to dress and clean her wounds, she needed a Stressnil injection administered surreptitiously whilst taking her milk, which she loved. Only when sedated, was it possible to handle her.
One trial run of allowing her out to join the other orphans hoping that they would be able to calm and reassure her ended in disaster. She tried to escape, still too fearful of human company, which resulted in her having to be restrained and man-handled back into the Stockade for another long incarceration that spanned the next l0 days.
Meanwhile, once all the maggots and sepsis had been cleaned out, the wounds on her back began healing and only needed attention twice a week, which helped the taming process. However, the hole in her head still compromises her breathing and drinking, and will obviously take a very long time for the bones to knit, and may even need bone or skin grafting in order to seal it. This is something that will be addressed after several months.
When Murka was eventually allowed out, her relief and happiness was such that she behaved beautifully, much to everyone’s surprise, and although still extremely wary of humans, was content to be sandwiched amongst all the others, even at the public noon mudbath hour.
Meanwhile, Makireti, who had only been treated with kindness since losing her elephant family, was out and about with the other elephants the day after her arrival in the Nursery. Little Kandecha, who is another relative newcomer from last month, has proved a wonderful addition to the Nursery Unit and showed great compassion to Makireti from the start. All the other orphans were also very accommodating to the new arrivals and encompass them with understanding, compassion and love. Kibo is overjoyed to have another little bull playmate in Kandecha since the absence of Kilaguni, and the two are often seen engaging each one another in strength testing games.
Suguta and Olare continue to shower Sities with motherly love. Sities is now a confident, happy and mischievous calf who enjoys charging around the stockade compound causing havoc amongst the older orphans who are often pushed aside by Suguta and Olare as they try to keep up with the rambunctious youngster. However, Sities showed a softer side to her nature by keeping Kandecha company after he first came in and was still mourning the loss of his elephant family.
Suguta has taken to showing off at the public visiting hour by turning over the water barrels, spilling the drinking water onto the ground which the others then roll around in. Being a Senior Matriarch (along with Olare) this does not set a good example for the youngsters who in an effort to copy Suguta push the empty barrels around, something that always causes laughter amongst the visiting human onlookers which the orphans always enjoy. Like human children, they enjoy “showing off” to get attention!
Chemi Chemi, who has always been a particularly pushy little boy (given the nickname All Quaida by the Keepers) likes to take on even the bigger girls in pushing games, targeting Kalama and Turkwel who welcome the challenge in order to put him in his place. However, he is well behaved and friendly towards all humans, probably just jealous of the others believing he should have all the Keepers, and all the attention, for himself!
The health and continued loss of condition of sickly Mawenzi continues to be of deep concern to us all and is something that has puzzled all the Vets, who, after multiple antibiotic courses, continues to decline indicating a possible defect of a main body organ such as heart. However, she does not appear to be in pain and is always the first to befriend newcomers such as Makireti and Murka, often first to make such a move in order to comfort. On the 18th she gave the Keepers a scare by refusing her milk and appeared even weaker, but the next day she appeared to bounce back, drinking all her milk and even playing with Makireti for a short while.
Kalama & Kudup are now competing for the Matriarchal slot of the Baby Group. The Keepers feel that Kudup has the makings of a wonderful and caring Matriarch and think the leadership slot will slowly swing her way once Suguta & Olare have been upgraded to Tsavo.
The older orphans, Suguta, Olare, Tumaren, and Melia are all reaching the two year benchmark when tusks first appear through the lip. Suguta is now over two years old and has two inch long tusks, but was kept back in the interests of little Sities, who became very frail when cutting her first molars. We felt that removing Suguta at that time might compromise the life of that precious baby. However, Suguta is now ripe for promotion just as soon as conditions in Tsavo are favourable.
The Rhinos: On the 4th Shida made an appearance at the visiting hour which meant that the guests and orphans had to move back until he could be enticed away. Olare, who was not happy about his sudden appearance, was charged towards him backed up by Suguta who also wanted to protect her “herd”. Maalim continues to enjoy his daily mudbaths which take place around 12:30. On the 30th Maalim became shy upon seeing the large crowd waiting to see him and watch his nightly mattress ritual. He retreated into the bushes only coming out once the visitors had been moved back. Maxwell is a lovely rhino who and when Shida comes to visit the two often have private conversations through the stockade bars.