This month’s Diary for the Nursery elephants portrays graphically, not only the sensitivity, intelligence and caring elephants possess in abundance, even in infancy. This encompasses those smaller, or in trouble, and a sense of personal sacrifice also becomes evident. Galana, for instance, who is by far the largest, but also the greediest of the Nursery elephants, (having been a near-dead starvation case when she first came in, unable even to stand unaided), will remain behind with the baby of the group, tiny Nalitu, who suffered a leg injury that left her with a serious limp trailing far behind the others at noon milk feed time, when all the elephants usually sprint ahead excitedly for their ration of milk before taking their daily mudbath. As the oldest, Galana has gradually taken her place as the Nursery Matriarch, sharing a deep and all consuming love of little Nalitu whose other adoring little “mother figure” is Naserian. Both are recorded as walking slowly one on either side of the injured Nalitu when the young bulls race excitedly ahead in the mornings, whilst Sunyei, who although also classified as a Nursery Matriarch but, according to the Keepers, not so keen on “baby-sitting”, returns periodically just to check that everything is O.K. On a cold day the Diary explains that Galana and Naserian crowd close to Nalitu to impart body warmth, leaving her side only when the suns warms things up enough for the Keepers to remove the babies’ covering blankets.
The next youngest member of the Nursery, Lualeni, who has grieved so deeply for her lost elephant family for so long, and up until very recently was obviously a depressed and sad little elephant, is daily becoming more normal, now playing happily in the mudbath with the others, and a close companion to Nalitu, opting to remain behind with Nalitu when the injured calf was not allowed to travel far on the damaged limb. The entry on the 13th will raise a smile amongst our foster-parents, i.e. “Lualeni is doing her final practice so that she can be enrolled in the Elephant Football Club! The Team Coach is Madiba who tries very hard to teach Lualeni football tactics!” Madiba is a great favourite with the Keepers, who take their lunch under a tree out in the bush after the daily mudbath, when the opportunistic warthog family hang around, hoping for a hand-out. Whilst Madiba is not in the least bit interested in the Keepers’ Lunch (because it does not come out of a white bottle), nevertheless he objects to the warthogs being in attendance, and enjoys dispersing them. He and Sunyei also enjoy giving their Keepers a playful run-around in the mornings. Both enter Makosa’s Stockade to “hide”. Madiba will usually emerge only after a great deal of coaxing but Sunyei insists on being physically forced out – their idea of great fun! Nalitu also has a little idiosyncracy. Before taking milk from her bottle, she goes first to suckle either Galana or Naserian, (or both) kneeling down in order to access their tiny breasts before returning to the Keepers, touching each one in turn and eventually with a gentle shove selecting from whom she chooses to take her bottle of milk that day, choosing a different Keeper each day!
Buchuma is by far the “pushiest” member of the boy- gang, endlessly challenging Ndomot, and sometimes, Madiba, to shoving bouts, and showing off by heaving around logs and pushing at trees. Being the smaller of the three boys, he obviously feels the need to demonstrate that he is not a “push-over”, although he is the most friendly of the three towards visiting humans, approaching to beg for an oustretched hand to suckle. A sense of humour is obvious by his latest recorded “trick” i.e. dashing ahead of all the others with outspread ears as though confidently in pursuit of something, and then doing a rapid U-turn and rapidly retreating as though scared, prompting the others to follow in full flight, then stopping to walk on slowly not bothered by anything, leaving the others in confused disarray! Ndomot is very long-suffering and patient with pushy little Buchuma, never taking advantage of his superior size and strength, whilst Madiba would rather not be endlessly shoved around, although he gets his fair share of it as well!
Nalitu’s leg injury caused us great concern, since the Vet could not rule out “joint disease” in view of the fact that she was probably born on Laikipia community land inhabited by pastoral tribesmen and seething herds of livestock. Joint disease is an infection of the joints, usually as a result of a bacterial infection of a raw and new navel. Howeer, Nalitu was 3 weeks old when she came to us, and her navel dry and healed, so we suspect that it was more likely to be an injury sustained when the rambunctious little boys inadvertently knocked her over, mention made of this in an entry on the 17th. Four days of injectible antibiotic combined with oral painkillers and sedatives has left Nalitu greatly improved by month end, now with just a slight hint of a limp and able to keep pace with the others.
All the Nursery elephants love showing off to the daily mudbath visitors, and thoroughly enjoy chasing off any warthogs in the vicinity, bouncing in their huge tractor tube as well as kicking the ball around, when the Keepers provide the opposing team. Just the distant roar of a lion earlier in the month left the entire group very fearful, evidence of the genetic memory with which all elephants are endowed at birth. Otherwise, the only other “wild” encounters have been the endless entertainment provided by the warthogs and the resident baboon troupe, some members of which scared the elephants when they were in hot pursuit of a fleeing dikdik (like humans and chimps, baboons are omnivorous and also enjoy eating meat).
The Rhino Orphans:- Rhinos are very much creatures of habit, so Makosa continues to appear at the Stockades most evenings, always first paying a visit to Galana and Buchuma who occupy the two Night Stockades on the side nearest his access route. Having enjoyed the tickle of a trunk on his face, and taken fresh water from the outside water-bin, he then strolls past Shida in his Stockade and goes into his erstwhile Nursery Stockade to savour an offering of Copra and kitchen peelings. The mere mention “Makosa” disperses any visitors, for his is known as a feisty and unpredictable fellow in contrast to quiet Magnum, who continues to turn up in the mornings, beg for a hand-out of fruit, before trundling down the hill following his wheel-barrowful of kitchen peelings and Copra. Whenever the two big rhinos turn up, their ex Nursery Attendants are the only people who can safely handle them to anoint their filarial lesions, and check for any horn puncture wounds. Anyone else is halted in their tracks with a loud snort and upstanding tail denoting alarm!
Shida continues his growth spurt, and is almost as round as he is tall. Like Makosa, he shows signs of being playfully feisty. Being next door to Ndomot, he too enjoys being tickled by the tip of a trunk through the separating bars, rhinos being essentially sensuous animals, where the senses of touch, hearing, and smell are extremely sophisticated.