Keepers' Diaries, July 2012

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.

01 July 2012

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.

02 July 2012

Kithaka is still very selective about who to play with. He is especially wary of strangers, yet he loves to entertain the daily human visitors who come to the Nairobi Nursery to enjoy the daily mudbath and the elephants’ football games.

03 July 2012

Today whilst playing in the bush Orwa boisterously charging the Keepers, whilst Naipoki came to join him and the other little ones. At first we thought Orwa and Naipoki were playing together, pushing and shoving each other around, but we soon realized they were in a fight, which the Keepers had to stop after Orwa had roughly over-powered Naipoki, things calmed down quickly and peace was regained. In the afternoon the four little boys, Lorian, Barsilinga, Kithaka and Balguda came down to the mudbath ground for some time with Daphne and some delicious milk.

04 July 2012

In the morning before heading out into the forest, Ishanga always reports to Murera’s stockade, irrespective of whether Murera has already left or not. Today Murera was still there so Ishanga was happy to see her and Sonje. After some soil dusting Ishanga proceeded to lead Murera and Sonje out into the bush in the opposite direction of the rest of the herd. Ishanga is always determined to be a Leader, taking the others in a different direction to that chosen by the more Senior Nursery Matriarchs.

05 July 2012

To begin with Ishaq-B was not so fond of Sonje, yet Sonje had a good friend in Orwa and they even shared a stockade for a little while. But soon after settling Sonje decided she no longer cared for Orwa and they started fighting, which meant the Keepers needed to separate them. Feeling more confident Sonje then started to pick fights with Ishaq-B, perhaps for revenge. This morning at the mudbath Sonje chased both Orwa and Ishaq-B, making Orwa run into the bushes and forcing the Keepers to give Sonje a good telling off.

06 July 2012

After the afternoon milk feed the Keepers came across two lionesses near the mudbath ground who were chasing a warthog. Mutara and Makireti who were at the front of the group with the Keepers reacted by rumbling loudly and spreading their ears in defense, despite the fact that the lionesses were only interested in chasing their fleeing warthog, which narrowly escaped being lion-lunch.

07 July 2012

Ishanga always likes to care for young Nursery newcomers such as Lorian, but they are usually more comfortable with the older females.

08 July 2012

This morning Lorian woke up feeling unwell. Makireti, who is very fond of Lorian tried to comfort him. Later in the day after keeping a close eye on him, he was put on an intravenous drip as he was weakening and had lost his appetite. He received two bottles, one with dextrose and one with the normal saline, which gave him strength and helped him to be more comfortable during the night.

09 July 2012

Lorian didn’t attend the morning mudbath today as he was still very weak. He stayed close to Murera for the whole day for comfort. Today Solio returned happily after a good day in the bush, she went straight into her stockade without any fuss, which meant that the evening foster parents who were visiting the nursery got the chance to meet her.

10 July 2012

Today Makireti and Murera were clearly worried about Lorian, who again was not feeling well. They tried to force their way into his stockade, rumbling in communication with Lorian, offering comfort. They left his stockade with their heads down, joining the others without saying anything.

11 July 2012

Today it is a very cold morning as the whole family head into the bush for the day. Earlier in the morning Lorian was infused on a drip at 1.30am in his stockade as his Keepers kept him warm in his blankets. At 7am this morning it was heartbreaking to discover that Lorian had died. It is a terrible loss for all. He was such a sweet little boy. A post-mortem that evening confirmed that he had died from a sudden and virus.

12 July 2012

Today Ishaq-B and Orwa tested their strength against each other. When the older orphans weren’t present the two began to fight roughly. Orwa defeated Ishaq-B again.

13 July 2012

Later today we received a phone call from the Voi Stockades saying they had found an abandoned baby elephant, who they had been monitoring for two days. After deciding to capture the lone calf, the Keepers kept her at the stockades overnight whilst they awaited a plane for her transfer to Nairobi. The Voi Keepers told us that she was in good condition and that she was accepting milk. The next morning the rescue team arrived at Voi to collect the calf who is approximately one year old and is suspected to be a victim of poaching. At around 2.30pm she arrived at the Nairobi Nursery and settled into her stockade. Tano was the first to welcome the new arrival who was very happy to see her.

14 July 2012

The new orphan has been named Talio today, which is the area that he was rescued from. Talio had a good night’s sleep next to Tano who reassured him during the night. Many of the other orphans came to greet Talio this morning spending over fifteen minutes at his stable door. Talio was sad to see the other orphans leave for the day but was in great spirits to see them return later in the afternoon.

15 July 2012

Today Talio joined the other orphans after settling into the milk routine and becoming more accustomed to the Keepers. Everyone reached out to touch and feel him. Yet, despite appearing fine, within the hour Talio suddenly became weak and collapsed. The Keepers carried him back to the Stockades on the rescue canvas, where he was put on lie support, but after a bottle of normal saline and then dextrose he died within thirty minutes. This is yet another tragedy with which we at the Nursery have to come to terms, so soon after losing Lorian.

16 July 2012

Ishanga is displaying very unusual behavior to the younger male orphans by bullying them and pushing them around. Unlike the other older females who are very caring and protective, Ishanga is does not seem to have the mothering quality. Each elephant has a very different personality, but it is curious that Ishanga reacts in this manner.

17 July 2012

Today the orphans had a busy time with the CNN film crew that came to visit them. They focused their filming on Sities as she is the matriarch of the orphan family as well as Mutara. The film crew had a wonderful time and got to experience a full day with the orphans following them back to their stockades in the evening.

18 July 2012

Little Barsilinga is spending a lot of time close to the Keepers, who he has created a strong bond with. He spends very little time with the other orphans unlike Kithaka who is proud of being part of the orphan herd.

19 July 2012

Today Solio woke up with a lot of energy and charged out of her stockade and chasing off her Keepers, who decided to let her take her own direction into the bush. She ran through the car park and headed straight back into the stockades where she found Maxwell and started playing with him. The game lasted for almost 20minutes until Solio walked off followed by her Keepers. She had a peaceful day in the bush after her earlier exertions. Solio is now showing positive signs of independence and is learning lots of lessons.

20 July 2012

Murera is spending more and more time with the other orphans although she is still nervous of her physical weakness and doesn’t stay with them for too long, yet she is putting on weight healthily and has a very happy demeanor, which makes the Keepers very happy to see.

21 July 2012

The day began early with news of a lone elephant calf in Tsavo East National Park, which had been spotted by the electric fence attendants who alerted the Voi Keepers. Around 10am the rescue crew left for Voi accompanied by the NBC film crew who were documenting the rescue. By 4pm the rescued elephant calf arrived at the Nairobi Nursery without incident. The calf is a young male of about one year and has been named Bomani after the area of his rescue. He is not in the best of health yet the Keepers were all on standby to help him through this delicate stage.

22 July 2012

Bomani had a very good night with his new Keeper family, surrounded by the other orphans who were rumbling with support. In the morning Bomani was greeted by Tano and Makireti as soon as they were let out of their stockades. In the afternoon Bomani was let out of his stockade to greet the rest of his new family, who all encircled him gently, each trying to get his attention and welcome him. His reaction has happy and excited and he took well to his new companions.

23 July 2012

Whilst enjoying her browsing time in the bush Solio came across a huge male buffalo in her territory. With support from the Keepers Solio built the courage to fully charge the buffalo, who was holding strong ground. Solio finally managed to charge the buffalo off into the bush, protecting not only herself but her Keeper family as well.

24 July 2012

Bomani is making good progress in his new home and is getting along well with the Keepers and the other orphans. Out in the bush he is being taken well care of by Makireti and Shukuru.

25 July 2012

Bomani has adjusted very well to his 3-hourly feeds and is enjoying the public feeding time. Orwa has taken Bomani under his wing and is teaching him the lessons of the orphanage, whilst little Kithaka, Barsilinga and Balguda continue to enjoy playing with each other and their Keepers.

26 July 2012

Nowadays Sonje is behaving similarly to Ishanga and is bullying and pushing around the other orphans. At the public viewing today Sonje was being very naughty and had to be warned by the Keepers. Bomani is still doing well and adores his magic milk formula, getting very excited whenever he sees a bottle.

27 July 2012

It is Friday, which means a coconut oil bath for the orphans after their 9am bottle feeds. Bomani enjoyed his first ever coconut oil bath unlike most of the new arrivals of his age who normally run away and avoid it.

28 July 2012

Barsilinga is still growing strong and is a very active member of the family during feeding times, whilst Kithaka is becoming fond of pushing over anyone who gets low enough to be at the same level as him.

29 July 2012

At 11am this morning we received a call from Angela Sheldrick with a message from the Voi Keepers that there was a young elephant calf in need of help. Three of the Nairobi Keepers were soon sent down to Tsavo to help with the rescue on Taita Ranch. This young calf was suspected of being yet another poaching victim as several poached elephant carcasses were found in the area. This new baby arrived at the Nairobi Nursery around 4pm. The calf happily guzzled his milk formula in addition to rehydration salts as he was very dehydrated. This new male is approximately 1 year old and has been named Nyika. He was put in his new stockade next to Makireti, who was the first orphan to come and greet him.

30 July 2012

This morning Mutara and Makireti immediately led the orphans to the new calf’s stockade door, gathering around to greet and welcome Nyika, who happily passed close to them inside his stockade. Nyika spent the rest of the day with his new human family safely comforted in his stockade. As his dung was still very loose the Keepers continued to rehydrate him with salts in-between his milk feeds. He has not yet shown any negative signs such as loss of appetite, which is a great relief.

31 July 2012

Nyika enjoyed his first day out with the other orphans today and is showing good signs of progress. He also joined all the orphans at the 11am public viewing which he reacted very well to and seemed to be enjoying the company of both elephants and humans alike. Some days ago it was noticed that Shukuru had been in an unusual mood, showing signs of sluggishness with a sunken belly despite feeding very well. So today at 10am a blood sample was taken to be analyzed soon.