Keepers' Diaries, March 2009

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

There were further tragedies in the Nairobi Nursery at the beginning of March. Two month old Kirisia, found alone near the Kirisia forest close to Maralal in Northern Kenya, who arrived in an extremely emaciated condition, and who would have died during the flight but for intravenous life support, died on the 1st just a week after being rescued. His death was followed on the 2nd by that of Soit from the Masai Mara, who also arrived extremely emaciated from milk deprivation and who also died just a week after being rescued. The death of these two orphans means that the Nursery has lost 5 infant elephant new arrivals in the last 2 weeks, one from the dreaded pneumonia and all the others from stomach related problems caused by the Rota virus. It is relevant that all these calves originated from pastoral tribal areas where elephants have to share the same watering places as hordes of emaciated and diseased domestic livestock, who are also suffering from drier than usual weather conditions. This leaves one wondering how many other wild babies succumb during very dry periods when immune systems are depressed through drought. Powdered dust polluted by the dung of domestic stock around such places cannot help but be sucked up into elephant lungs, and the Rota virus is apparently especially virulent in young animals. With livestock now present in large numbers in all the National Parks (some 80,000 in Tsavo, for instance), something the Government seems impotent to tackle fearing the political fallout, this poses yet another threat to the survival of Kenya’s priceless wild heritage, in addition to that of poaching for ivory and bushmeat and death through drought related starvation, all factors that are escalating. We find it exceedingly shocking that the Government is even considering allowing sport hunting and culling in a new Draft Bill, ill-advised activities introduced into a wild population already under severe stress and declining rapidly. One wonders when, and if, the political madness, the greed and the corruption will end in this once beautiful country!

There were further tragedies in the Nairobi Nursery at the beginning of March. Two month old Kirisia, found alone near the Kirisia forest close to Maralal in Northern Kenya, who arrived in an extremely emaciated condition, and who would have died during the flight but for intravenous life support, died on the 1st just a week after being rescued. His death was followed on the 2nd by that of Soit from the Masai Mara, who also arrived extremely emaciated from milk deprivation and who also died just a week after being rescued. The death of these two orphans means that the Nursery has lost 5 infant elephant new arrivals in the last 2 weeks, one from the dreaded pneumonia and all the others from stomach related problems caused by the Rota virus. It is relevant that all these calves originated from pastoral tribal areas where elephants have to share the same watering places as hordes of emaciated and diseased domestic livestock, who are also suffering from drier than usual weather conditions. This leaves one wondering how many other wild babies succumb during very dry periods when immune systems are depressed through drought. Powdered dust polluted by the dung of domestic stock around such places cannot help but be sucked up into elephant lungs, and the Rota virus is apparently especially virulent in young animals. With livestock now present in large numbers in all the National Parks (some 80,000 in Tsavo, for instance), something the Government seems impotent to tackle fearing the political fallout, this poses yet another threat to the survival of Kenya’s priceless wild heritage, in addition to that of poaching for ivory and bushmeat and death through drought related starvation, all factors that are escalating. We find it exceedingly shocking that the Government is even considering allowing sport hunting and culling in a new Draft Bill, ill-advised activities introduced into a wild population already under severe stress and declining rapidly. One wonders when, and if, the political madness, the greed and the corruption will end in this once beautiful country!

Three more infant elephants came into the Nursery in March, bringing the total number in the Nursery back to 15. One was airlifted in on the 14th, this time a yearling female calf from the Amboseli population who became the fourth casualty of the self-same well at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro that orphaned Sinya, Mawenzi and Kibo. We named this calf “Shira”, the name of another prominent peak on the mountain.

The Amboseli Researchers have managed to persuade the Masai tribesmen of the area to agree to a low restraining wall being built around the lip of this well, and others in the area, which are excavated through hard Meerschaum rock and which have taken such a toll of elephant young over the years. The erection of these walls is now in progress and will still allow adult elephants access to the water, but which hopefully will prevent their young from slipping in.

The next new Nursery arrival just a day later on the 15th, a baby bull of 5 months, whom we named “Bhaawa”, (pronounced Bahawa), the name of the area where he was found by tribesmen near the Kirisia Hills and the town of Maralal in Northern Kenya. This baby became hopelessly bogged in the mud of a drying waterhole. Happily, he arrived in better physical shape than those we lost from the viral infection, and by month end was doing well.

The third new arrival on the 26th March, was a 9 month old bull calf from Northern Kenya, found by Samburu herdsmen wandering alone in the Tassia Conservancy, with no living elephants anywhere in sight, but where poaching for ivory has increased dramatically since Chinese workmen began construction on the roads in that area. This calf is most probably a poaching victim and although emaciated, was not too far gone to retrieve. We named him “Tassia” and although he, too, threatened symptoms of the dreaded Rota virus, a Dextrose and Saline drip immediately inserted into an ear vein saved the day, and he recovered and by month end was also recovering well. We are optimistic about the survival of both the latest baby bulls who are now out and about with the other Nursery orphans.

The Rhinos:- Maalim continues to thrive and grow apace, and is an enormous attraction for our mudbath visitors, a daily event enjoyed hugely by him as well as the spectators. He patrols the cordon line of visitors, basking in being fondled and touched, and having had a mini mudbath, becomes extremely playful, often running through the cordon, and bouncing around amongst the guests! Maxwell is also growing apace, and is now almost larger than Shida, who continues to turn up often twice a day, and put himself back in his old Stockade at the noon visiting hour, and also in the evening, so that he can be viewed and admired and have his face rubbed through the bars of the Stockade Gate. At such times he also enjoys a hand-out of Lucerne and copra, which he is unselfishly happy to share with the wild warthogs who opportunistically follow him in!

March 2009 day to day

01 Mar

It was a very hot day, but the orphans emerged from their Night Quarters in a jovial mood, and embarked on trying to knock down the brittle branches of dessicated shrubs, something that defeated most of them. Little Kibo took a great interest in the antics of all the others.

Kibo getting attention from a keeper

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