Keepers' Diaries, March 2012

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

The rescue of an orphaned elephant from Galana Ranch on the Eastern boundary of Tsavo early in the month had to be aborted, after being told that the orphans had died.

The rescue of an orphaned elephant from Galana Ranch on the Eastern boundary of Tsavo early in the month had to be aborted, after being told that the orphans had died.

The 20th March brought another - the rescue of l8 month old “Kanjoro” from Ol Malo Ranch, who arrived minus most of his tail, obviously bitten off by hyaenas and who takes his name from the lugga in which he was sheltering, fearful of another predator encounter. An Ol Malo Ranch Scout spent two full days and nights monitoring this calf to establish that he was, indeed, an orphan and that his natural family was not around to collect him. Aside from the tail wound and being riddled in worms, he was not in bad shape, taking milk and rehydrants soon after arrival, occupying the stockade between Mutara and Ishanga, who welcomed him very warmly. After a week being calmed down in a Stockade, he was out with the other orphans on the 27th, having first been de-wormed, but suffered a set-back towards the end of the month when someone nipped his tail stump, causing it again to bleed. The Keepers suspect that the culprit was Ishanga, who has taken a liking to nipping the tails of others. Wounded Kanjoro then left the Nursery herd, and was found by himself near the mudbath venue, very suspicious of the other elephants when they eventually met up with him! Otherwise, he has settled down very well.

The third Rescue alert of the month was on the 31st, at month end, from Rumoi National Reserve in the Kerio Valley below the town of Eldoret, where a young 6 – 8 month old female elephant calf was found by KWS bogged in the mud of a drying waterhole. It had obviously been without its mother for some time, since it was in a state of advanced emaciation and so weak that it had to be put on drip life support before even being loaded into the chartered Rescue Plane. The infusion of Saline and Dextrose gave it the strength to be able to stand and take milk on arrival in the Nursery at 7 p.m. She was named “Kerio”, and was put in the stable next door to Tano, who rumbled reassurance. The next few days would determine whether this calf would make it. (Sadly she didn’t, dying the next day (lst April), having been in and out of a coma and off and on a drip since her arrival).

During March, it was baby Kithaka who caused us a great deal of concern. Although his temperature has remained normal, it would appear that the eruption of the last of his first four molars has left him feeling off colour during the month. He lost his appetite, suffered stomach upsets that alternated between diarrheoa and constipation and was so weak and lethargic that on several occasions that he underwent an infusion of Dextrose drip in an ear vein to boost his strength. Thankfully by month end he was on the mend, but has lost a lot of body condition as a result, as do all the infants during the initial teething process which, on artificial milk, is always problematical. Wild-born babies on mothers’ milk so not appear to have this trouble, and are much more robust.

Murera’s injured back leg remains paralyzed and swollen, but she manages to shuffle around and enjoys interacting with the other Nursery elephants, all of whom lavish love and compassion on her. The Vet is beginning to suspect that she may have suffered a broken pelvis which, of course, will take a very long time to heal, as will damaged tendons or ligaments. (Sadly, we are told that it is not possible to X-ray an elephant’s leg, since the skin and flesh are too dense). Orwa remains her constant companion, happy in that role since Murera, as the largest of the Nursery batch, provides a deterrent to mischievous Ishaq-B who delights in frustrating him whenever he runs for his milk bottle.

The huge lump on Sonje’s right hip which was there when she was rescued from the Galana Ranch, remains hard and is obviously not going to ripen into an abscess, more likely to be an old bone injury that has healed that way and something she will probably have to live with. It does not seem to bother her overmuch, but she walks with a limp and favours that one back leg, reluctant to be in the thick of all the others at the mudbath.

Rhino Orphans:- Blind Maxwell, born blind in December 2006 with no retina and no optic nerve in both eyes is now over 6 years old and, but for his birth defect, is a magnificent Black Rhino bull. He represents a species that is becoming increasingly rare due to the mistaken belief in populous China and the Far East of the medicinal properties of rhino horns, despite the assertion of a well-known traditional Chinese medicine declaring that rhino horn is nothing more than the keratin of a finger nail and has no medicinal properties whatsoever, nor ever has had. Nevertheless, it would seem that even his input has fallen on deaf ears in China and the Far East where rhino horn remains much sought fetching astronomical prices and driving this ancient species to the very brink of extinction. Having read that the Chinese enjoy eggs soaked in youthful male human urine, we believe that they might get even richer pickings from the dung or urine of living rhinos, and were this so, it would be a powerful incentive to preserve and protect them rather than annihilate them! Worth a try!

Solio celebrates her second birthday in April and is growing apace, fast catching up with Max. They enjoy one another greatly, interacting whenever Solio returns to her Night Stockade, an event eagerly anticipated by Max who is ready and waiting ahead of her appearance. They relish a sparring match through the separating poles of their adjoining Stockades and just the fact that each knows the other is there, is sufficient to bring both contentment and immense happiness. Solio is a handful! She thoroughly enjoys giving her Keepers the slip and would obviously rather not have them around now, but they do provide an element of protection from any corrupt elements who might be eyeing her horn.

All the female Nursery orphans are extremely caring of little Kithaka, eagerly waiting at his stable door every morning, waiting to give him loving and escort him out, caressing him with their trunks. Naipoki and Sities have also been caring of newcomer Kanjoro, waiting at his Stockade door to escort him out into the bush. Mutara shares Matriarchal duties with Shukuru, Makireti, Tano and Turkwel with Sities, Naipoki and Ishaq-B runners up in waiting. However, the Golden Boy of the Nursery is Orwa, whose devotion to Murera is extremely touching, and who is very diligent about being there to keep her company, despite the fact that he misses the mudbath on most days.

Others:- Two unusual Nursery orphans who are best friends are “Geri”, a beautiful little Thomson’s gazelle fawn rescued by our Accountant from a man who would have made a meal of her down in Ongata Rongai township, and Rax, a newborn Bush Hyrax, found starving along with his newborn sister by Daphne’s grandsons. Sadly the little sister died, but Rax and Geri have become best friends and have the run of Angela’s house, cuddling up together to sleep in her Office at night and enjoying playing with the children every morning and evening, when Geri races and stotts around the yard, sometimes followed by miniature Rax!

March 2012 day to day

01 Mar

As soon as the Nursery elephants emerge from their Night Quarters in the morning, they regroup and go to Murera’s Stockade to greet her before heading out to browse in the forest, Kithaka closely guarded by Mutara and Shukuru. They know the timing of their milk feeds and are always ready and waiting for the wheelbarrow to bring all the bottles. Makireti always tries to down her share before Kasigau and Kilabasi have finished theirs, hoping to be able to snatch a bottle! She is intolerant of strange humans, pushing them gently away with her trunk.

Kithaka with Mishak

Makireti with the keepers