Keepers' Diaries, June 2005

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

For little Kora, his broken jaw has been an ordeal indeed. The cleaning of the wound now only happens once a week, with diminishing amounts of pus exuded but is something he clearly dreads. He has shown remarkable progress this month, and is beginning to become playful, which is always a very good sign. Rapsu’s eye is now perfect, and he has settled in to become a fully integrated member of the unit, who always seems hungry, having been a starvation case, and who is capable of disciplining bumptious little Buchuma using his tiny tusks! This has relieved the pushing pressure on Ndomot, who up until now has born the brunt of Buchuma’s quest for dominance, whilst Madiba tries to keep out of the way, having formed a strong bond of friendship with little Lualeni. He is a very gentle and loving elephant who is always well behaved. Galana shares the Matriarchal duties with Sunyei and Naserian, but being the oldest of the three, assumes leadership whenever the inclination takes her. Naserian is a very caring Assistant Matriarch, whilst Sunyei, who is much more self centred and independent, is also a Leader as well as a very good disciplinarian, insisting on good behaviour within her unit.

For little Kora, his broken jaw has been an ordeal indeed. The cleaning of the wound now only happens once a week, with diminishing amounts of pus exuded but is something he clearly dreads. He has shown remarkable progress this month, and is beginning to become playful, which is always a very good sign. Rapsu’s eye is now perfect, and he has settled in to become a fully integrated member of the unit, who always seems hungry, having been a starvation case, and who is capable of disciplining bumptious little Buchuma using his tiny tusks! This has relieved the pushing pressure on Ndomot, who up until now has born the brunt of Buchuma’s quest for dominance, whilst Madiba tries to keep out of the way, having formed a strong bond of friendship with little Lualeni. He is a very gentle and loving elephant who is always well behaved. Galana shares the Matriarchal duties with Sunyei and Naserian, but being the oldest of the three, assumes leadership whenever the inclination takes her. Naserian is a very caring Assistant Matriarch, whilst Sunyei, who is much more self centred and independent, is also a Leader as well as a very good disciplinarian, insisting on good behaviour within her unit.

It has been encouraging to see little Kora recovering both from his jaw wound and also the psychological trauma of losing his mother and elephant family. Lualeni is now settled, happy, and also very playful, over the deep grieving for her lost mother and family, which went on for months. She and Kora have formed a strong bond of friendship, and she watches out for him at all times. The fact that Kora is feeling better is clearly evident because, for the first time, he would like to indulge in the usual baby bull pushing games, which up until now he has not felt any inclination to do.

After a great deal of thought, in view of the fact that the Tsavo rains have been so poor this season, the decision was eventually made to go ahead with the move of four of the older Nursery elephants, namely Galana, Sunyei, Ndomot, and Madiba, all of whom have now reached the age when the reintroduction process must begin. Timing had to coincide with the availability of the large Safari Trucks lent by Sungelai Safaris and Roy Car-Hartley. Daphne felt it important that the young elephants be moved in the cool season, to enable them to acclimatize gradually both to the heat, and also the tsetse flies that are very abundant in scrub woodland vegetation, especially during the rains. Another factor was the need for the mineral rich vegetation of the North, with access to all the trace elements, calcium and other minerals needed to ensure strong growing bones in such large animals. Hence, the move is planned for July 1st, after which the Sheldrick/Carr Hartley family will be heading to U.K. for the publicity involved in the screening of “Elephant Diaries” on the 4th July. This will be shown on BBC 1 at 7 p.m. every evening for five days, in five half hour episodes, featuring the orphaned elephants, and filmed by the BBC Natural History Unit over a year in all three locations.

The Rhinos: Makosa, the feisty five year old rhino orphan, who is now Keeper independent, and a free spirit, can always be counted upon to cause a stir, and this month he seems to have been particularly badly behaved, taking delight in charging both the elephants and the Keepers, as well as the Yard personnel, and also trying to hunt down two year old Shida. Just the exclamation “Makosa is here” sends everyone scurrying for shelter! Since Makosa’s erstwhile Stockade is adjacent to that currently occupied by Shida, and Makosa returns almost every evening, the two obviously know one another, but we have not yet had the courage to risk physical contact, uncertain as to how accommodating Makosa might prove to Shida who is one third his size. Possibly, he just wants to play, but his power games instil fear in the entire establishment, something he definitely relishes! Meanwhile Magnum continues to keep well out of the way, arriving at the front steps of the house most mornings hoping for a hand-out of bananas, and then following a wheelbarrow full of goodies down the hill, followed like the Pied Piper by all the resident warthogs with whom he is happy to share his food. He is no fool, our Makosa. Should the door to his Stockade be closed when he returns in the evenings, he merely hooks his horn through the bars, and pulls it open it himself in order to stroll in!

June 2005 day to day

01 Jun

A Keeper was feeding Buchuma and Madiba milk at the same time, which made Buchuma very jealous, since he always wants a Keeper to himself during milk feeding times. Initially, he tried to knock Madiba down, but then pushed the Keeper. Buchuma is a very jealous and naughty boy!

Buchuma on the left with Ndomot and Madiba

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