The highlight of the month for us came on the 22nd , the day that CITES (Cop 15) for once voted in favour of the elephants, refusing permission for both Tanzania and Zambia to sell their huge ivory stockpiles, as well as downgrade their elephant populations from the fully protected status of Appendix I to Appendix II which would allow hunting, culling, etc. On that same afternoon, our latest baby was rescued, having strolled into the Staff Quarters of Mgeno Ranch, abutting Tsavo. She was driven to the Voi Stockades, and from there airlifted to Nairobi, arriving at about 3 p.m., still in perfect condition, and at just 1 ½ months old, fearless and trusting. We named her “Sities” to mark such an auspicious occasion.
That same afternoon she was introduced to the small Nursery elephants, Tano, Mutara and Shukuru, Mutara paying her particular interest whilst Shukuru just wanted to be close to her favourite Keeper, Mischak, and Tano was resentful of not being the centre of attention! However, all four babies enjoyed a pile of soft red earth that was brought in for them, rolling around in it playfully. That night little Sities was restless, reluctant to lie down in order to sleep, obviously fearful that her new “mother figure” might disappear and leave her alone again. The next morning she was introduced to the older orphans, all the females desperate to take possession of her, and since she found this somewhat over-whelming, Suguta and Tumaren were brought in to oversee the Baby Group of Tano, Mutara and Shukuru. From then on, Sities settled in fine, even enjoying the noon mudbath hour, feeding well, sleeping well etc. So far so good!
On the 29th of March we received an orphan from the outskirts of Meru town. She had fallen down a 32 foot pit latrine and was rescued by KWS rangers accompanied by Dr. Pogon, the new Tsavo Mobile Veterinary unit vet. The calf arrived in dreadful condition, having been in the pit latrine for quite some time, and had been put on drip during the rescue flight. She remained in a state of collapse through the night and showed a glimmer of life the next day when she got to her feet. Sadly at 5am on the 30th, Meru, as she had been named , passed away having endured a terrible ordeal from which she never recovered.
Last month’s new arrival, Chemi Chemi is still displaying signs of stress by being “pushy” towards the smaller orphans and later on in the month, deciding that he didn’t want to be “babied”, having been taken under the wing of Olare, who now holds the position of Main Mini Matriarch and is particularly fond of Chemi Chemi. One morning, when the warthog family were in the yard, he was too scared to come out of his stable, bellowing for help, and instantly Olare rushed to the rescue, chasing off the pig family, and escorting little Chemi Chemi out. Nchan is also a proficient Matriarch in the making, with a sense of humour as well. Her favourite trick this month was emerging from the mudbath, then running up and down the line of visitors, flapping her ears in order to splatter them with mud! Having run the length of the cordon and back again performing the ear flapping trick, all the visitors wondered whether she had been trained to behave thus! She and Kudup have been practicing mothering Tano this month, helping Tano get up by supporting her with a foreleg, as a mother elephant would her baby. Sabachi, always mischievous and up to seizing every opportunity to have one up on the others, rather unwisely tried to usurp Ndii’s milk ration one day, and found himself so roundly trounced that the Keepers had to move in to spare him further punishment from Ndii, who was furious!
Meanwhile, the close friendship of Kilaguni and Kibo endures. They enjoy strength testing against one another, and can usually be found close together at all times when browsing out in the bush. Kilaguni is a very mellow elephant, ever gentle and friendly towards everyone, whether human or elephant, easy-going about being moved from one Stockade to another. We have always believed that elephants suffer from claustrophobia when enclosed in too small a stable, but his friend Kibo has proved the exception. Although barely able to fit into his tiny “Baby” Quarters, he objected so strongly to being moved into a larger Stockade that we thought would be more comfortable that, in the interests of peace, he had to be returned to the cramped conditions he obviously favours, having kept everyone awake all night with his bellows!
When Olare’s attention shifted from Chemi Chemi to the new baby Sities, for the first time Dida’s mothering instincts came to the fore. Up until now Dida has been happy to allow one of the other older females to take charge of the babies, but this is gradually changing, although Dida is not confrontational in this respect, happy to defer to the other females if need be.
The Rhinos:- It has been a peaceful and uneventful month for our 3 rhino orphans. Shida continues to turn up every so often. During his visits he engages Maxwell in a sparring match between the poles that separate their two Stockades. Blind Maxwell happily negotiates his Stockade with utter confidence, knowing exactly where his water trough is situated, where the browse hangs, and where the mudbath is located. Sunny days find him stretched out basking in the warmth and when called, he always comes to the Stockade Gates to be fondled. Meanwhile, Maalim continues his daily rounds of the dungpiles and urinals, enjoys his noon mudbath and a playful romp once the visitors have left, and sleeps beneath the beloved mattress at night. At 15 months, he is the same as any other 15 month old Black Rhino calf, and is a normal, very healthy and happy little rhino now despite his premature beginning in life.