Keepers' Diaries, March 2013

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Four more elephant Rescues during the month - first a yearling female named “Laragai” from Borana Ranch in Laikipia, first seen alone on the 28th February, and flown to the Nursery on the 2nd March. Next came the yearling bull named “Danissa” from Galana Ranch on the 12th, who had to be on intravenous life support for the flight. He was too far gone for us to be able to retrieve, and developed uncontrolled diarrheoa with no reserves left to cope. He died during the early hours of the morning of the 15th. The third newcomer was another “albino” Amboseli calf, obviously fathered by the same Albino Big Bull as Faraja. He was named “Jasiri” (the Swahili word for “brave”) and was born in December 2011 to “Jemima”, the Matriarch of the Researchers JB Study Group who was found dead in December 2012, suspected to have been gunned down by poachers. “Jasiri” was flown to the Nursery on the 27th, the first albino calf documented in Amboseli during their 40 years of study, older than Faraja but probably fathered by the same albino Bull. He had not been seen since the death of his mother, and being a milk dependent candidate, was presumed dead, so the Amboseli Researchers were amazed to suddenly come across him again 3 months later, much enfeebled due to milk deprivation, alone but still alive. (Jemima’s daughter, Jalila, and grand daughter, Jasiri’s age-mate have never been seen again.) The fourth rescue was on the 29th - a tiny calf just days old from the Imenti Forest found abandoned near a waterhole, the previous day, and held overnight at the Meru Park Headquarters where, unfortunately, he had been fed cows’ milk overnight, which is death to baby elephants. Having been rescued by a member of the Orma tribe, he was named “Bosha” meaning “God’s Creation” in the Orma dialect, but the survival of this tiny calf hangs in the balance.

Four more elephant Rescues during the month - first a yearling female named “Laragai” from Borana Ranch in Laikipia, first seen alone on the 28th February, and flown to the Nursery on the 2nd March. Next came the yearling bull named “Danissa” from Galana Ranch on the 12th, who had to be on intravenous life support for the flight. He was too far gone for us to be able to retrieve, and developed uncontrolled diarrheoa with no reserves left to cope. He died during the early hours of the morning of the 15th. The third newcomer was another “albino” Amboseli calf, obviously fathered by the same Albino Big Bull as Faraja. He was named “Jasiri” (the Swahili word for “brave”) and was born in December 2011 to “Jemima”, the Matriarch of the Researchers JB Study Group who was found dead in December 2012, suspected to have been gunned down by poachers. “Jasiri” was flown to the Nursery on the 27th, the first albino calf documented in Amboseli during their 40 years of study, older than Faraja but probably fathered by the same albino Bull. He had not been seen since the death of his mother, and being a milk dependent candidate, was presumed dead, so the Amboseli Researchers were amazed to suddenly come across him again 3 months later, much enfeebled due to milk deprivation, alone but still alive. (Jemima’s daughter, Jalila, and grand daughter, Jasiri’s age-mate have never been seen again.) The fourth rescue was on the 29th - a tiny calf just days old from the Imenti Forest found abandoned near a waterhole, the previous day, and held overnight at the Meru Park Headquarters where, unfortunately, he had been fed cows’ milk overnight, which is death to baby elephants. Having been rescued by a member of the Orma tribe, he was named “Bosha” meaning “God’s Creation” in the Orma dialect, but the survival of this tiny calf hangs in the balance.

Jasiri took some milk during his first night in the Nursery, but collapsed the next day and was revived with an intravenous infusion of Saline, Dextrose and Hartmanns. During the next two days he would collapse again three times, on the third occasion literally snatched from the jaws of death by further intravenous interventions, massive doses of Calusol and copious hand-fed greens any by the end of the month he was sufficiently calm to be allowed out to join the other orphans, so we are hopeful of having been able to save this very special calf.

As always, all the resident orphans always rush to the Stockade Gates of any newcomers, to welcome and greet them every morning, reaching their trunks through the bars to comfort. Ishaq-B paid special attention to Laragai upon her arrival, reluctant to leave her and extending her trunk to touch her gently on the head in a particularly loving gesture. The realization that she was not alone worked its usual magic on Laragai and she was sufficiently calm to be allowed out to join the others on the 11th. Initially confused and aggressive towards the Keepers, Naipoki took her in hand, keeping her close, and obviously persuaded her to desist because she behaved impeccably at the Public Viewing mudbath hour under the close supervision of Naipoki. That evening she returned happily to her Stockade, taking her cue from the others, and since has settled in very well, forming a close bond of friendship with another relative Nursery newcomer, Lima Lima who is a particularly friendly and loving little elephant.

Another major event for the Nursery was the return of 4 year old Tano from Ithumba
On the 15th. Tano was upgraded to Ithumba along with Mutara and Shukuru on the 25th January, but unlike the others, had deteriorated since, quite obviously suffering from the heat of Tsavo, lagging behind the others, and opting out of the mudbath with signs of fatigue and listlessness. The Trust’s new Blood Diagnostic equipment has proved invaluable, a sample of Tano’s blood revealing a chronic bacterial infection as well as muscle damage and anaemia. She was put on a cocktail of injectible antibiotics and vitamins and after a full weak, the analysis of her blood showed improvement. Similarly Ngasha was slightly unwell during the month passing loose stools, and his blood test revealed a mild viral infection, so he has been on medication as well, and is also now much better.

Lima Lima is a remarkable little elephant who is particularly gentle and loving especially to the Keepers whom she trusts implicitly, which is unusual for a newcomer of her age. She chooses to remain close to the Keepers out in the bush, gaining comfort from sucking on their fingers. Barsilinga is another who prefers the company of the Keepers so he and Lima Lima have become close, both occasionally sneaking away to check up on the Milk Mixing venue just to make sure that another batch is on the way! The Keepers are astounded that Lima Lima has learnt the layout of the land so rapidly and marvel at her intelligence!

Baby boys, tiny Lemoyian, Barsilinga and miniature yearling Kithaka all enjoy Pushing Bouts to test their strength. Barsilinga and Lemoyian are regular sparring partners, often separated by Sities who is very close to Barsilinga and being female, not partial to such rough male games. She intervened to disrupt a serious sparring match between Orwa and Teleki as well. As the biggest boy in the Nursery, Orwa enjoys sparring with Kwale and Faraja as well, while Barsilinga enjoys taking on Balguda and also Faraja, (according to the Keepers), eager to benefit from the experience of bigger and stronger opponents! Barsilinga is a spirited “Pusher” who is game for anyone, and will be a fine Bull in the fullness of time.

Meanwhile Turkwel and Kainuk have come to an amicable arrangement sharing Turkwel’s Matriarchal role. In this they are ably supported by the other Big girls i.e. Naipoki, Sities, Ishaq-B and to a lesser extent, Kihari and Sonje, who are self sufficient characters who are less responsible and prefer to simply “do their own thing”, as does Big Girl Murera, also a very independent character.

Training began towards the end of the month for the move of Turkwel, Kainuk and Sities to Ithumba which was scheduled for the 1st April, an event to be filmed for by the TV Company who were at hand to document the rescue of Sities and her arrival in the Nursery in January 2010. (However, the Heavens opened and the scheduled moved had to be delayed, because one can’t risk getting stuck in the mud with 3 elephants aboard!).

Turkwel and Kainuk had no problem entering the Elephant Mover to take their milk, but Sities was reluctant. Not so Orwa, Naipoki and Kihari, all of whom happily went in to investigate strange new surroundings!

The Rhinos:- Solio again failed to return to her Night Stockade on the 23rd, bur returned to her Stockade at midnight on the 25th, in fine fettle, just as we were beginning to get anxious as to whether or not she was alright. That she was, was endorsed by Maxwell, who had obviously had visitations from her during the hours of darkness, because he showed no signs of alarm. (Like the elephants, Rhinos have mysterious perceptive abilities that we humans will never fully understand, for instance when Shida was moved, Maxwell was visibly upset for quite some time, mooching around dejectedly making his “wanting” mew!) Solio at last decided to return to her Stockade for a handout of Lucerne during the evening of the 29th and was in fine fettle. Clearly she is becoming ever more confident of her place within the wild rhino community, so as far as we are concerned, it is “mission accomplished” although her absenteeism always causes anxiousness in view of the value of what she carries on her nose now that rampant poaching throughout Africa is driving rhinos to the brink of extinction.

Max is a magnificent specimen, who comes when called for a rub under the tummy, something that sends him into a trance as he lifts one huge back leg to expose the soft undersurface to the “Rubber”. Being blind and deprived of freedom, he is privileged in that he can be indulged with “junk food” treats, (fed to him only by his Keepers). He enjoys the odd mince-pie at Christmastime, chocolate for Easter and mango peels now and then, but not too many for obvious reasons!

March 2013 day to day

01 Mar

The orphans had a wonderful mudbath today, Kithaka and Barsilinga sliding in the mud and deliberately bumping into one another while Kainuk put on a spirited display of her footballing skills, kicking the ball with her front and hind legs. As the orphans began to leave, Orwa found himself bogged and cried for help, but eventually managed to emerge unaided and catch up with all the others. Lima Lima, grieving for her lost elephant family deeply, chooses sometimes to spend time apart from the others, which is normal during this painful process.

Barsilinga and Kithaka enjoying the mudbath

Orwa caked in mud

Kithaka wallowing

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