This month has seen more of Lewa and Uaso, who seem to have joined forces again, Uaso having been absent and alone with wild elephants for a long time. Dika, Edo and Ndume have again often been in attendance, usually at the mudbath venue, but occasionally at the Stockades, sometimes with Lewa and Uaso, and sometimes without them. We see Emily being very protective and possessive of little Tsavo, making sure that he stays close beside her ever since she had to go and retrieve him from a wild herd who tried to abduct him. Tsavo has definitely usurped the previous place of Mweiga as "favourite" calf. Aitong remains ever a diligent "Nannie" to all the orphans, especially during the mudbath and is still obsessed with little Nyiro.
It is interesting to read that Mukwaju is venturing into the mud, but often panicking and having to be rescued either by Aitong or Kinna. Mukwaju has always been afraid of the mud since he was orphaned by becoming bogged in the Satao waterhole when newborn. However, with the very hot weather prior to the onset of the rains, he is obviously becoming a little more adventurous in this respect, taking his cue from the others.
The month has seen a lot of interaction between our orphans and the wild herds, which is very gratifying. It has also seen quite a lot of diarrhoea amongst the Nairobi newcomers, but nothing that a large dose of colloidal Silver has not been able to sort out. This is to be expected with a change of habitat and diet. We are also very relieved that, thanks to the special antibiotic sent by Roland Witschel of CFTW Germany, Salama's very seriously infected eye appears to have been saved just in the nick of time.
Very worrying is the fact that our Big Boys, along with wild elephants, have been habitually leaving the Park, apparently having been taught by their wild friends how to navigate the K.W.S. elephant grid on the main road. K.W.S., for some reason, is averse to installing "droppers" across the road, which would certainly sort out the problem. However, we have not pushed this, because even if they did, the electric fence segregating Voi town from the Park has not been completed, and only extends a few kilometres from the Voi river, K.W.S. having exhausted the EU donor funding before being able to complete the job. There is therefore nothing to stop the elephants going around the end of the fenceline, so it remains a no-win situation, and from the perspective of the orphans, one that is deeply worrying, since they face being shot as "problems", along with the wild elephants, every time they go out. However, until such time as the fence is completed, the problem will remain.
Why are they so tempted to leave the Park, one must ask, because it is not in a quest for food or water. The answer to this is simply that they go out in search of adventure. Just like teenage human boys, bull elephants enjoy the odd rush of adrenalin which accompanies danger - in other words, they are tempted always to become "dare-devils" to enhance their standing amongst their wild peers. This is simply an aspect of elephant behaviour that is beyond our control! We will, however, be urging K.W.S. to address this issue by seeking donor funding to complete the barrier fence, after which the question of making the Grid elephant-proof can be addressed.
Another very worrying aspect has been the question of the traffic of so-called "foster-parents" visiting the orphaned elephants out in the bush, and reasons to suspect that not all are, in fact, bone fide. The safety angle is, and always has been been a concern, particularly in the light of another incident involving a tourist at Namunyek Group Ranch, who is suing the Ranch for having been knocked down by a wild elephant. In the case of our orphans, this has become more so since Simon Trevor and our Head Keeper, Mishak Nzimbi, were seriously chased and threatened by a wild elephant who happened to turn up at the mudbath, both being far more accomplished in the bush than any visitor. We have therefore stopped mudbath visits, except with the written authority of the Trust. Henceforth foster parents brought by Care for the Wild Kenya may only see the elephants up at the Elephant Stockades in the evening, and are requested to please bring their fostering certificates and proof of identity with them.
Restricting human access to the orphaned elephants, in the interests of the future of the elephants, has always been one of our major headaches, because the temptation is always to exploit them for human gain, which is something that is definitely not in the best interests of the elephants themselves or the Trust whose ethics are clear cut and non-negotiable. It must be remembered that the Trust has lived through the evils of the W.C.M.D. corrupt regime, which embroiled the orphans of the day long before we were able to again take control of them, and resulted in the death of most. We don't want to ever see our project going down that road again. Our only objective in saving and hand-rearing the elephant orphans is to be able to spare them certain death and return them where they rightly belong, in the wild.. Fresh in our minds are so many instances of where and when "the tail begins to wag the dog!"
A significant event during the month was the visit of the Il Ngwezi tribesmen and elders who rescued orphan "Ilingwezi" way back in April 1999 and who came to the Nursery to see "their" elephant shortly afterwards. Their visit to Tsavo fulfils a promise the Trust made to them then - i.e. to bring them down to Tsavo East to see the next phase of her upbringing, and re-integration back into the wild. Ilingwezi is now just over two years old, and the tribesmen, plus the actual member of the community who brought her in, were delighted to see her again, as well as the other orphans, including 13 year old "Dika", who towered over them. Present also at this event was the K.W.S. Director and Headquarter top brass, plus the Minister, which lends credibility and "kudos" to our Project. Similarly, they too, were overwhelmed by what they saw on the 8th March 2001, since none of them had ever actually visited our Tsavo orphans before. It was also a great morale booster to our Keepers, who work long and hard on a daily basis to ensure that our elephant orphans are psychologically stable and as such, acceptable within the wild community.
Nursery News:- Nasalot, Mulika and little Mweya from Uganda, all flourish. Nasalot and Mulika have both now past their first birthday, and following the April/May rains, it will be urgent to get them down to Voi to join the others. In the absence of Charles Sagana, this presents us with a dilemma over "Mweya", because it we believe it would be counter-productive for her to be separated from the others, particularly as she is extremely attached to Nasalot. However, in Africa, one lives by the day, and for the day, and we will cross this hurdle when the time comes. She may even have to be another "first" - entrusted to the care of our expert Keepers down in Voi in the absence of a newcomer to the Nursery to keep her company.
We are apprehensive about her teething, particularly in the light of what happened to Charles Sagana, and because a sample of Mweya's stool shows the presence of potentially dangerous bacteria such as E-Coli and Salmonella, which healthy wild animals obviously live with until overcome by loss of condition and general health, something teething can trigger. Sensitivity tests reveal that these bacteria do not respond to the Sulphur based antibiotics we normally use, and are only sensitive to Chloramphenicol, a particularly potent product that would undoubtedly have adverse and severe side affects on an elephant calf. In the meantime, with all the Vitamins, Minerals and trace elements we can muster up, little Mweya is in fine fettle, and with careful handling, we are confident that she will come through the teething process without serious complications.
She is a particularly playful and boisterous little character, who enjoys charging and scattering onlookers at the noon mudbath (something that will have to be discouraged further on down the line!)