Keepers' Diaries, March 2006

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

We welcomed the l0th Nursery inmate in the evening of 28th March. This young bull, aged approximately 8 months, was found crossing a road in the Tsavo Triangle by our Mtito De-Snaring team on their way to book two arrested poachers in Mtito Andei. Having completed this task, they returned to capture what was quite obviously an orphan, since the calf was all alone, and very emaciated. He has been named “Kamboyo”, the name of the nearby Tsavo West Headquarters from whence he was flown to the Nairobi Nursery. Placed in Challa’s “taming stockade” overnight, he interacted with Kora next door, and by the morning had tamed right down, taking milk from the bottle held by a Keeper. The other orphans came to meet him in the morning, when Makena, Zurura, and Loijuk paid him particular attention, as did the Nursery Matriarch Lualeni, who greeted him lovingly. By the afternoon, he was sufficiently docile to be allowed out with the other elephants, and spent the afternoon quietly amongst them, never attempting any escape. Only Sidai was a bit pushy towards him and did not want him close, but Lualeni and Loijuk were extremely loving and compassionate towards him, comforting him when he went aside on his own, and trying to bring him back into the fold, one on each side of him, reassuring him by placing their trunk in his mouth and across his back. He now occupies the Nursery Stable next door to Loijuk, and is proving a very easy Nursery inmate, although still obviously grieving for his lost elephant family. As usual, he has a load of worms, which will be dealt with when he is a little stronger.

We welcomed the l0th Nursery inmate in the evening of 28th March. This young bull, aged approximately 8 months, was found crossing a road in the Tsavo Triangle by our Mtito De-Snaring team on their way to book two arrested poachers in Mtito Andei. Having completed this task, they returned to capture what was quite obviously an orphan, since the calf was all alone, and very emaciated. He has been named “Kamboyo”, the name of the nearby Tsavo West Headquarters from whence he was flown to the Nairobi Nursery. Placed in Challa’s “taming stockade” overnight, he interacted with Kora next door, and by the morning had tamed right down, taking milk from the bottle held by a Keeper. The other orphans came to meet him in the morning, when Makena, Zurura, and Loijuk paid him particular attention, as did the Nursery Matriarch Lualeni, who greeted him lovingly. By the afternoon, he was sufficiently docile to be allowed out with the other elephants, and spent the afternoon quietly amongst them, never attempting any escape. Only Sidai was a bit pushy towards him and did not want him close, but Lualeni and Loijuk were extremely loving and compassionate towards him, comforting him when he went aside on his own, and trying to bring him back into the fold, one on each side of him, reassuring him by placing their trunk in his mouth and across his back. He now occupies the Nursery Stable next door to Loijuk, and is proving a very easy Nursery inmate, although still obviously grieving for his lost elephant family. As usual, he has a load of worms, which will be dealt with when he is a little stronger.

Highlighted in the March Diary is the ongoing competition between Zurura and Makena over “the blanket”. Since both still need a blanket against which to rest their trunk whilst feeding, fighting over who should be first at the blanket when it is hung, each of the opinion that only he, or she, should even have one, is ammunition for an ongoing feud between these two miniatures, which keeps the mini Matriarch of the Nursery, Lualeni, as well as the Keepers, pretty busy!. Lualeni adores Makena, but as the Nursery Matriarch, she will come to the aid of any of the smaller elephants when needed, but tends always always to give priority to Makena.

Zurura is the “character” of the Nursery, and he impishly enjoys provoking Makena who is quick to rise to the bait. He is both mischievous, clever and scheming, lying down to entice her approach and then at the last moment leaping up unexpectedly to try and mount her, which infuriates her and invariably starts a punch-up! For one so small, Zurura is outgoing and likes showing off, emerging from the mudbath to prove his bravery by chasing off a mother warthog and her piglets, and one day even retracing his footsteps alone back to the Stockades, when he unexpectedly encountered the mother pig and her piglets emerging from the shrubbery, and lost his nerve not enjoying the back-up of the others. Interesting is an occasion when Zurura got a small thorn in his foot, and pressing himself against the Keepers in order to focus their attention, with the tip of his trunk touching his food, indicated where the problem lay. At first the Keepers thought he had been stung by an insect, but upon closer examination they could see the tip of the thorn protruding from his pad, and with a quick pull were able to extract it! This surely demonstrates both forethought and intelligence. Zurura knew that the Keepers could help him, and also knew that he had to draw their attention to what needed to be done! For one who is still just a baby of only 5 months old (the equivalent of a 5 month old human infant, we believe that this, indeed, demonstrates intelligence!

Towards the end of the month, Zurura gave us a scare. One morning he refused the 6 a.m., 9 a.m. and 12 noon milk feeds, which was out of character. Soon he began to show signs of stomach pain, and following the lesson of Ndololo, clearly it was time to swing into action. He was given an oral dose of the old fashioned Sulphadimidine along with Liquid Parafin, Glucose and Brown sugar, since we suspected constipation as well. By the afternoon, he was writhing around in agony, so it was time for a Buscopan injection, after which he pain eased, and he slept. By 9 p.m. he began taking his milk feeds again, but when he did pass a hard stool the following day, there was the tell-tale mucous, which was the only indication that things were amiss with Ndololo. One lives and learns, and insofar as rearing the infant elephants is concerned, even 50 years experience is clearly not yet enough!

This month, Kora’s jaw has again been causing us some concern, exuding small quantities of sepsis. Reluctant to open up the wound again, and risk the introduction of further infection, we have opted for caution, and want to first try homeopathic remedies. A culture taken by the visiting Veterinarian from South Africa is currently being examined to determine what bacteria is involved, if any, and if present, to which antibiotic it is sensitive. Kora and Zurura are best friends but Zurura is so full of nonsense that even Kora sometimes become exasperated, and on one occasion, punished him by biting his tail! His bellow brought Lualeni to his rescue, much to the irritation of Makena! However, on other occasions when Lualeni disciplined Zurura for a punch-up with Makena, making him bellow, it was Kora who came to his rescue.

Sidai has regained her strength at last, and can now get up from a lying position without assistance. Belatedly, she is now strong enough to retaliate for the misfortune that deprived her of her elephant family, which was obviously human related, because she is being “pushy” with people she does not know, displaying an underlying grudge which is not reflected in Loijuk, whose mother probably succumbed to starvation. However, given time, and gentle nurturing, Sidai’s antagonism towards humans will mend as she grows to love her Keepers. She and Orok have formed a very close bond of friendship, tending to keep to themselves a lot and always close to one another. Orok is strong and still very wary of humans, flatly refusing to be covered by a blanket, and obviously connecting the blanket with the traumatic capture in Amboseli to which he was subjected during a rescue by KWS Rangers. He is an independent little elephant, with a mind of his own, who similarly resists being anointed with Coconut oil, which is a Nursery ritual that takes place every Friday. Whilst he downs his ration of milk with great relish, he then moves away putting space between himself and humans, including the Keepers.

Challa (the loner) is gaining weight steadily now, and has recovered from the huge parasite load that was in him when he arrived and which necessitated three de-worming sessions. As a starvation case, he inclines towards being selfishly possessive at feeding times, which is understandable, and a pattern seen in all such starvation victims. However, he is beginning to display the soft side of his nature, showing compassion to come and comfort little Makena when upset by Lualeni paying any attention to Zurura!

Loijuk is the most loving little elephant, who adores her human family above all the other Nursery inmates, and who is always extremely friendly and outgoing to any visitors. She and Sian are best friends, and she has clearly taken the newcomer, Kamboyo, under her wing. She and Sian have put on condition and are now looking plump and healthy. Sian is still somewhat quiet and withdrawn but exemplary in terms of good behaviour. She and Loijuk seldom become embroiled in any of the Nursery squabbles. In short, therefore, the month of March 2006 has been a healing, peaceful, and happy month for all the Nursery inmates, the only downside being concern again over the re-appearance of sepsis in Kora’s jaw, which we had hoped had healed completely and obviously has not yet, and also the sudden bad turn taken by Zurura. By month end, however, he was again fine and the newcomer, Kamboyo, appeared to be doing well, although perhaps is a bit too quiet for comfort; the exact opposite to his predecessor, Orok, who is still suspicious of any close contact with humans.

The Rhinos:- This month, some l0 rhinos have been transferred from Nairobi National Park to Meru National Park, among them obviously one of 9 year old Magnum’s antagonists, because he has since been extremely mellow, spending days away from base, and only occasionally visiting the mudbath, and then usually at night. When he has returned during daylight hours, he has been very docile – in fact, his usual self. Before the onset of rain, we were taking his supplements down below the Trust Headquarters, to coax him further from home, and now, having satisfied himself that Makosa has vanished forever, he seems quite comfortable occupying his usual territory below the Trust Headquarters and away from the forest. Meanwhile, should the need to move him become urgent, his Stockade and peripheral electric fence is ready and waiting for him within the Tsavo Triangle so that he could be transferred instantly.

This month, it has been Shida who has been occasionally misbehaved, enjoying making the visitors retreat from the separating rope during the mudbath hour, which obviously gives him a kick! Sometimes he spends time away from his Keepers, bringing himself back home when, and if, he feels like it, and one day spent a day amongst a troupe of baboons, amongst whom he seemed quite at ease. He is becoming more confident and independent now.

March 2006 day to day

01 Mar

Newcomers Sidai and Orok have already grasped the timing of milk feeds, and when the time is approaching, they become very watchful, lifting up their trunks to try and smell the approaching bottles of milk. Zurura entertains all the guests every day at the mudbath by his mischievous behaviour, trying to climb on the others lying down in front of him. When he tried this on Kora, he was thrown off!

Zurura leaning on a tree

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