The 1st of March brought the arrival of little “Kenia”, an approximately 8 month old calf found abandoned early one morning in dense settlement on an ancient traditional migratory path of the Mt. Kenya elephants, which remains imprinted in their genetic memory. Nowadays when the elephants feel compelled to leave their forested mountain stronghold, they streak under cover of darkness through human habitation, and on this occasion this particular calf somehow got left behind, and was found at 5 a.m. by an early-rising farmer, who, fortunately was sufficiently ele-friendly to alert the Bill Woodley Mt. Kenya Trust personnel and also the Kenya Wildlife Service. The calf was flown into the Nairobi Nursery, arriving in the evening, and appeared in excellent condition. Her name, “Kenia” was chosen by the Keepers in consultation with the Mt. Kenya Bill Woodley Trust, to celebrate the political peace deal negotiated the day before by Mr. Koffi Annan which ended two months of tribal turmoil in Kenya.
Overnight, Shimba was moved from Sinya’s night stable in order to occupy his old quarters next door to the new arrival. She began taking milk and rehydration fluids during that first night and by morning had accepted the presence of the Keeper who was in with her. The other Nursery babies came to welcome her first thing in the morning, something that obviously confused her, because they were strangers and not members of her natural family. Consequently, she was not overly friendly towards them at first, but after just one more day in the stable to become more accustomed to her new situation, she was out and about with all the others, lovingly embraced as another member of Lesanju’s baby group, her presence relished by Lempaute, Sinya and even little boy Shimba, all of whom kept fussing around her.
The first day out and about in the bush, she kept on trying to move off and hide, but each time she was rounded up by Lesanju, Sinya and Lempaute and gently herded back to the Keepers, so she soon understood that they also were part of her new “family”.
For several nights she had difficulty sleeping, something to be expected when an orphan undergoes the after-affects of losing a mother and a much loved family. At 8 months old, an elephant’s comprehension is amazingly advanced, but the calming affect of essential oils and Bach rescue remedy, helped to relieve this problem which can take a heavy toll of the immune system. By month end “Kenia” was a loving and very friendly little elephant and very much part of the “family”. However, she still appeared to harbour resentment against poor Shimba, even though he is next door to her at night. Perhaps she had a little brother, or another male member of her elephant family who used to give her a hard time and she is now settling an old score!
Lenana, Makena and Chyulu were very excited to meet Kenia, and greatly enjoy occasions when the two groups are together, going in search of the babies when the Keepers separate the two groups and sometimes waiting outside their stable for them to come out first thing in the morning, rumbling to them. The youngsters have a ritual that is religiously followed each morning. They all pass by Maxwell’s Stockade to greet him, and he is always standing at the door waiting for them to pass by. It is as though they understand that he is handicapped, and have a soft spot in their heart for him.
This month, it has been un-friendly wild rhinos that have scared the Nursery elephants, as opposed to the lions. On two occasions wild rhinos have charged them and their Keepers, one occasion sending Lesanju’s group and the Keepers into a frantic retreat, and the other occasion charging the older elephants, when Lenana fled in disarray, losing control of her bowel on the way back to the safety of the Stockades. Lenana is much more fearful than Makena and Chyulu, scared of the appearance of any other animal, even the giraffe and the impala who are encountered regularly during sorties out into the bush to browse.
The Rhinos:- Shida has been a “Clinging Vine” throughout the month, seeking out Maxwell several times a day, and turning up regularly during the Open Noon Visiting Hour, when he puts himself back into his old Stockade next door to that of Maxwell, and is shut in so that he can be safely “viewed” and “wowed” by all the visitors, something he clearly relishes. He also tends to seek out the Keepers when they are with the elephants out in the bush, choosing to browse or rest nearby to them, or else coming to sleep within the Trust compound. Perhaps this is because he feels insecure following the trauma of the encounter with a wild peer that left him with a prolapsed rectum, or perhaps it is the presence of Maxwell that provides such an attraction. Either way, we are glad to be able to physically see him each day and know that he is O.K. while his regular appearances provide entertainment for Maxwell and are the highlights of his life.
Maxwell is enjoying his enlarged Stockade and is now 15 months old and quite a size. It is very touching that the elephant orphans make a point of greeting him each morning in passing and that he is there waiting expectantly at the Gate of his Stockade for this friendly ritual to take place. Although blind, Max is fully aware of everything going on around him. He had a very active night when Shida decided to sleep next door until the early hours of the next morning! The entire night was spent rushing around his Stockade, and trying to engage Shida through the separating bars. Whenever Shida walks by, every step he takes is accurately followed by Max, so much so that one would not know that he was, in fact, totally blind.