Keepers' Diaries, July 2012

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

July has been an extremely challenging and demanding month at the Nairobi Nursery. We have received three new elephant arrivals to the Nursery who are all suspected victims of poaching, whilst we have sadly seen the loss of two other newcomers, who came in too far gone for us to be able to retrieve.

July has been an extremely challenging and demanding month at the Nairobi Nursery. We have received three new elephant arrivals to the Nursery who are all suspected victims of poaching, whilst we have sadly seen the loss of two other newcomers, who came in too far gone for us to be able to retrieve.

On the morning of the 11th, one of these, named Lorian, was infused on a drip in his stockade whilst his Keepers kept him warm in blankets and offered him comfort and support. At 7am sadly the heart-break came – little Lorian passed away. Two days later a calf named Talio was rescued from Tsavo East National Park and brought to the Nursery. After a couple of days of recuperation Talio was introduced to the rest of the orphans and as usual welcomed lovingly into the Nairobi herd. Yet despite appearing happy and excited, within an hour Talio suddenly collapsed and at 2pm on the 15th July he also died. Both these tragic victims had obviously been without their mother and milk for too long, exacerbated by the trauma of losing the elephant support so vital to infant elephants, plus the added trauma of capture by what all elephants believe, are “the arch enemy” - humans.

On the 21st July another elephant calf was reported as abandoned in Tsavo East National Park; the second orphan in need of rescue within days. On this occasion the Nairobi Nursery’s rescue team was accompanied by a visiting NBC film crew, and the calf (named Bomani) was airlifted to the safety of the Nursery, all recorded on film by the NBC crew who just happened to be at hand on that day. Bomani is a year old baby bull, who so far is doing well.

The next elephant rescue of the month was from the notorious Taita Ranch abutting Tsavo East – a poaching hotspot inhabited by Somali herdsmen whose cattle have been illegally grazing the Park, and who also deal in ivory as a sideline. Three of the Nairobi Keepers were sent down to Tsavo to help retrieve the orphan who turned out to be another yearling bull subsequently named “Nyika” – the term for the arid scrub bush that characterizes the Tsavo ecosystem. So far this baby is thriving.

Bomani and Nyika are currently adapting well to their new home, enjoying their milk and improving in condition under the watchful eyes of their caring Keepers and a plethora of older female budding Mini Matriarchs.

Rearing the orphaned elephants is invariably a roller-coaster of sadness and despair tempered by satisfaction and joy. Despite the tragedy of losing some orphans, giving up is simply not an option, for there will be many others in need of help to come. However, when one of the older Nursery residents, much loved is unwell, everyone is un-nerved, for infant elephants are fragile for the first three to five years of life. This month precious “Shukuru” comes into that category, not quite her usual exuberant self – “dull” is the term the Keepers use to describe the first signs of any ailment. Blood tests pointed to a viral infection since her white blood cell count was normal. The Vet suggested a de-worming, combined with injectible long-acting Penicillin and Vitamin B, all of which she has had, so now we simply have to keep fingers crossed that she will make a full recovery and that there is not a problem with some vital body organ.

Meanwhile, Murera is still improving and little “bonsai” Kithaka now growing, and becoming quite the entertainer at the daily public visits. He is growing in strength daily, and that certainly has been a joyful development after several anxious months.

The Nairobi Park lions have again been causing high drama at the Nursery this month – not least because we suspect that a lioness might have given birth close by to the stockades. During one of the orphans’ afternoon milk feeds, two lionesses near the mudbath shot out of the bush pursuing a warthog who headed towards the elephants for protection. All the orphans immediately became defensive, the older ones surrounding those younger as both the warthog and the pursuers shot past. On this occasion the warthog escaped unscathed. The wild resident warthogs are old family friends, most of them having been born and reared around the Nursery who have relied largely on the added deterrent of remaining close to humans. However, the lions are getting wise to this tactic, and are becoming bolder, so there is never a dull moment around the Trust’s Elephant Nursery!

The orphans enjoyed the company and excitement of the CNN film crew this month who themed their filming around the Mini Nursery Matriarchs, mainly Sities and Mutara, as well as a rescue. The crew enjoyed a full day being part of the orphans’ usual daily routine.

The Rhinos:- Solio is beginning to show positive signs of independence and becoming more confident going solo out in the bush, which includes seeing off a large bull buffalo, and by so doing, protecting not only herself but also her attendant Keepers as well. Maxwell’s days slot into the usual routine, but since rhinos are essentially creatures of habit, he is happy in his dark world, never having experienced anything else, and he thoroughly enjoys interacting with Solio whenever she returns, which recently has been two or three times a day. Max can audio-interpret the goings on around his Stockade, responds to his name, coming to enjoy a friendly pat or scratch from any passer by, and also enjoying the tender touch of elephant trunks as the Nursery elephants move out in the morning, and return in the evenings.

Others:- Geri the orphaned female Thompson’s gazelle is growing apace and is enjoying discovering the Nursery’s grounds and meeting some of its more gentle wild inhabitants, whilst also relishing her close friendship with Oomphy (Rax) (the orphaned bush hyrax) who is also beginning to become more independent, taking to the trees in between his milk feeds. Geri is carefully supervised by all the Nursery’s human inhabitants when Angela and her boys are not at home. She adores Daphne’s grandson, Taru, who can pick her up and hold her like a baby! She is a huge favourite who has made friends with the resident bushbuck, the guinea fowl and also the warthogs, and she is extremely alert, having experienced encounters with the hungry Nairobi Park lions who appear unexpectedly at any time in pursuit of one of her warthog friends. Fortunately, the lions are so fixated on the warthogs that they ignore Geri, who would just be a morsel for a lion, and who is like greased lightening when she needs to take evasive action.

July 2012 day to day

01 Jul

It has been some weeks since we treated Murera’s abscess on her left hind leg, which we were cleaning out every evening when she came back to the stockades after a peaceful day of browsing. Despite her progress Murera has been very shy of the keepers, so we only approach her gently, one person at a time, to keep her calm and quiet so as not to scare her. With a big bottle of milk in hand she is much more approachable.

Murera enjoying a bottle of milk

Giraffes near the mudbath