Keepers' Diaries, June 2013

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

At 7 p.m. during the evening of the 7th, word came from Oserian Ranch in Naivasha that a baby White Rhino had been extracted from a hole, and having been subsequently rejected by its mother, was on its way to us. The calf, a newborn female, arrived at the Nursery at 11 p.m. and having been comfortably settled into a stable, and put on intravenous life support, accepted a feed of formula milk before being wrapped warmly for the rest of the night. However, by dawn the condition of the calf had radically deteriorated – it was unable to stand unaided, and yellow fluid was exuding from both the nose and mouth. Still on life support, she was given injectible Penicillin and surrounded by hot water bottles, but sadly died within an hour. The post-mortem revealed that as a result of the fall, a rib had broken and pierced one lung and that the damage was such that there was nothing we could have done to save her.

At 7 p.m. during the evening of the 7th, word came from Oserian Ranch in Naivasha that a baby White Rhino had been extracted from a hole, and having been subsequently rejected by its mother, was on its way to us. The calf, a newborn female, arrived at the Nursery at 11 p.m. and having been comfortably settled into a stable, and put on intravenous life support, accepted a feed of formula milk before being wrapped warmly for the rest of the night. However, by dawn the condition of the calf had radically deteriorated – it was unable to stand unaided, and yellow fluid was exuding from both the nose and mouth. Still on life support, she was given injectible Penicillin and surrounded by hot water bottles, but sadly died within an hour. The post-mortem revealed that as a result of the fall, a rib had broken and pierced one lung and that the damage was such that there was nothing we could have done to save her.

Meanwhile the yearling female elephant orphan named Arruba from Tsavo East was still proving difficult to calm and refused all milk until the 4th when she finally took her first bottle. By the 7th she was sufficiently calm to be allowed out to join all the others, who had been running to her Stockade at dawn each morning, to comfort her and who had also been fed their milk within view of her. As soon as her Stockade Gate was opened for the 3 p.m. feed, Kihari, Ishaq-B and Naipoki rushed in to escort her out sandwiched between the three Big Girls, while all the other elephants crowded around excitedly, touching the newcomer with their trunks to welcome her into the orphaned “family”. Since then Arruba has settled in remarkably well, and was at the Public Viewing hour along with all the others on the day she was allowed out. Taking her cue from greedy Larigai and Limalima, who yell every time their milk feed ends, she now does the same, inclined to push away any others who approach her whilst she is feeding. It was, however, perhaps unwise of her to shove Faraja who was taking his milk beside her. He instantly abandoned his bottle, and bent on nipping her tail, chased her around until the Keepers intervened to spare her! Thereafter she sought the protection of Naipoki for the rest of the day, and has since learnt not to trifle with the Boys!

It was a Red Letter Day for the Trust, the Nursery and the Elephants when First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, accompanied by the new Cabinet Secretary for the Environment visited the Nursery on the l8th June, demonstrating the new Government’s support of the Elephant Cause. The First Lady enjoyed feeding milk to Big Girl Murera and yearling Tundani, (the special orphan from the Tiva who was friendly and trusting to the Keepers from Day One.) Amazed at the tiny size of newborn Ajabu, she thoroughly enjoyed the experience of mingling amongst 24 friendly orphaned elephants and before departing, chose to foster Tundani, - who has demonstrated yet again the sophisticated communication of Elephants, along with their ability to forgive. His behaviour can only be explained by the fact that he must have taken his cue from the Ithumba Ex Orphans now living wild, and possibly even been with his wild family to drink at the Ithumba water trough, where he would have observed the love and trust all the orphans have for their human family. All wild elephants who are in the habit of drinking from the Stockade water trough are totally relaxed in the company of humans, but only whilst within the Compound or at the noon mudbath wallow where they again meet up with our orphans.

The Trust’s donated Blood Diagnostic equipment has been put to good use this month, blood tests having been undertaken on Kwale who has been under the weather for a while now and who, at the suggestion of the Vet, is undergoing treatment for a stomach ulcer. Next to appear slightly off colour on the 21st was Larigai, suffering from bloat and loose stools, probably having ingested something toxic which a dose of activated charcoal and injectible Buscopan sorted out. Balguda was next on the 23rd whose white cell count indicated a bacterial infection and who, having undergone injectable Nuroclav to guard against pneumonia, is again back to normal. (The onset of a very cold, cool season has laid a lot of the humans low as well!) It is very touching to note that whenever one of the orphans is ailing, all the Big Girls such as Naipoki, Kihari, Ishaq-B, Narok, Limalima and Larigai lavish special caring and attention on the invalid. Kwale has been the main recipient of their concern this month, since he is taking a longer time to fully recover.

Little Ajabu at last began cutting her first molars on the 13th, with the usual loose and frequent very smelly stools indicative of teething, but whose blood test proved normal so avoided an antibiotic. A swelling on a lower jaw shows that the eruption of at least one of the four first molars is imminent. Ajabu is proving a late teether, who so far seems to be coping better than have others during this fraught process.

Jasiri and Faraja, our two blonde “mzungu” Elephants (as the Keepers call them) although also good friends, are competitive. Although younger in age, Faraja was able to dominate Jasiri in his weakened condition, but now that Jasiri has recovered his strength, Faraja finds this not quite as easy as he would like! All the young Boys like to demonstrate Stength Testing skills Balguda, Ngasha, Tundani, Kithaka, Lemoyian and Barsilinga also engaging one another in mass Boys’ Pushing Bout, careful to separate themselves from the Big Girls, who tend to interfere! Best friends Kithaka and Lemoyian can always be counted on to entertain the mudbath public, illustrating their Pushing Skills along the line of the separating cordon, and deliberately bumping into anyone within range during the process which causes a great deal of mirth and spurs them on! They also enjoy showing off their foot-balling prowess at such times, again responding to the cheers of the onlookers!

The lions have again been around to scare the Orphans, killing a warthog near the Stockades at the end of the month, the process of which terrified the elephants who remained nervous, and close to their Keepers for the remainder of the day. There was excitement for the orphans on the l0th when they had a stand-off with some giraffe on the way out to browse the forest, and on the l7th when the same happened with a stubborn buffalo herd who refused to move away. Murera, Sonje and Kihari went forward with outspread ears and trumpets in an attempt to scare the buffaloes, but they merely stood their ground, regarding the elephants with disdain. The three Big Girls took to Bush-Bashing instead until the Keepers steered the group in another direction!

This month, the weaning process has begun for the established Bigger Orphans. Big Girls Murera, Sonje, Kihari, Quanza, Ishaq-B and Naipoki along with Big Boys Orwa, Bomani and Teleki have been upgraded to 6 hourly milk feeds rather than 3 hourly. All have accepted this stoically, with Kihari, Ishaq-B, Sonje and Naipoki even escorting the Juniors to their 3 hourly milk bottles and standing quietly beside them as they down the contents.

The Rhinos:- The loss of the tiny White Rhino calf from Oserian saddened everyone but it has been a joyful month for Solio, now an independent spirit who simply does her own thing, but usually turns up to interact with Maxwell at some stage either in the evenings or during the night. Her stable door is left ajar, so it is not uncommon for the humans to bump into her around the premises on a dark night, one such incident sending Angela tearing back to Daphne’s back door having been threatened with a loud “snort” from Solio at her Gate! The 26th was a red letter day for blind Maxwell, who was wildly energized by an early morning visit from Solio, prompting him to race around his Enclosure with tail aloft before locking horns with her through the gaps between the poles of Max’s Stockade. The game ended abruptly when Maxwell did an about-turn to spray pungent smelling urine directly into Solio’s face, upon which she abruptly abandoned the game! Her sudden departure so angered Max that he set about the Posts of his Stockade instead!

The Others:- He enriched our lives for an entire year, and was an enchanting character, whom Daphne’s grandchildren could carry in their arms upside down like a baby. His name was “Ho Ho” and he was a dikdik, a tiny antelope rescued on the Trust land by our De-Snarers after his mother was torn to shreds by a baboon. Found brand newborn, he grew into a handsome male with needle-sharp horns either side of his forhead tuft, which when annoyed stood erect in a dikdik “frown”. Ho Ho grew and turned into a free spirit, who was eager to demarcate the boundaries of his territory by leaving a blob from his facial glands on pieces of grass, the furniture of the house, and even the people he loved. He had recently taken to spending even nights out in preparation for the normal life he was about to enjoy, but tragically it was not to be for during the morning of the 27th he hobbled back home with a smashed front leg. Such damage could only have been caused by a rock hurled with force by some uncaring human.

We rushed him to the Vet for an Xray which revealed that there was no hope of saving that tiny front leg. The Vet gave us just two options – amputation of the leg or euthanasia. Knowing that precious Ho Ho could never enjoy the identity he craved on three legs, the hallmark of all territorial males and the passport to leading a normal natural life, tearfully and amidst enormous grief, we opted for the latter and watched him fall asleep forever, knowing that it was best for him.

Sleep in Peace little Ho Ho. Saying such a goodbye is never easy but you will live forever in our memory and our hearts. Another Page to Turn, but what a privilege to have been rewarded with your love and trust and the joy of having you close even if only for just one short year!

June 2013 day to day

01 Jun

As soon as the orphans were let out this morning, they all crowded around the Gate of the latest arrival, one year old Arruba. Kihari and Sonje gave the new elephant most caring and compassion, while Quanza, Lima lima, Teleki and Laragai were more interested in the soft greens that were in Arruba’s Stockade! Kwale, who has been slightly unwell over the past weeks, is more active today.

Arruba

Kihari

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