Keepers' Diaries, May 2005

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

It has been very touching to witness the stoicism of little Kora, who has to be laid down each evening when he returns for the night, in order to have his damaged jaw syringed out. Each day, he subjects himself to the inevitable, falling into the arms of the Keepers with a little protest, his eyes filling with tears in response to the pain, but remaining quiet. Mercifully, each day the sepsis flushed out is a little less, but it has certainly been a long haul to try and heal the damaged jaw of this very special little elephant. Obviously there is still a lot of damaged tissue and bone that has to be expelled, but we are hopeful that in the end we will win this battle. So far, his temperature has remained normal, which means that his immune system is coping well with the infection. By the end of the month, he was beginning to chew soft leaves, which is a hopeful sign that the bullet wound in his jaw is gradually healing.

It has been very touching to witness the stoicism of little Kora, who has to be laid down each evening when he returns for the night, in order to have his damaged jaw syringed out. Each day, he subjects himself to the inevitable, falling into the arms of the Keepers with a little protest, his eyes filling with tears in response to the pain, but remaining quiet. Mercifully, each day the sepsis flushed out is a little less, but it has certainly been a long haul to try and heal the damaged jaw of this very special little elephant. Obviously there is still a lot of damaged tissue and bone that has to be expelled, but we are hopeful that in the end we will win this battle. So far, his temperature has remained normal, which means that his immune system is coping well with the infection. By the end of the month, he was beginning to chew soft leaves, which is a hopeful sign that the bullet wound in his jaw is gradually healing.

Also very touching is the compassion of little Lualeni, who deliberately spends all her time next to Kora, comforting him by touching him gently with her trunk. Meanwhile both Sunyei and Naserian keep a close eye on the two smallest babies, whilst Galana watches over Rapsu, prepared to round him up whenever he wanders too far away.

Rapsu has been one of the most difficult babies to calm down, having arrived with an obvious hatred of homo sapiens, the species that deprived him of his mother and elephant family. However, by the end of the month he was very much an established member of the group, and always the front runner at the 3 hourly milk feeds, protesting loudly whenever his bottle is finished, and begging for more. We have increased his milk ration slowly, fortified with boiled ground oatmeal and dessicated coconut, and he is gaining condition rapidly. Like Galana, as an emaciated and starving milk dependent orphan, it is the next milk feed that occupies most of his waking moments, but from having wanted to kill everyone at first, he has turned into a gentle and extremely intelligent member of the group, small for his age (just a little bigger than Buchuma in height but with tiny tusks through the lip, usually an indication of two years old or just under). It is good to see that he has topsides of pushy little Buchuma, who continues to aspire to being “top dog” in terms of rank, although he is the smallest bull of the group. Sunyei is the overall Matriarch, very ably assisted by Naserian, who has turned into an extremely caring character, and much more “trunks on” than Sunyei. However, all three females, namely Sunyei, Galana and Naserian chare Matriarchal responsibilities, all keeping a close eye on the group, and very vigilant in ensuring that neither Kora nor Rapsu “escape”, rounding them up and bringing them back into the fold whenever they wander some distance away.

We are very pleased to have been able to save the sight of Rapsu’s left eye, which threatened to turn blind from a Corneal ulcer. After a month of treatment with the Fujithalmic very kindly donated by the manufacturers in Germany, he sees again, and we thank them profoundly for sparing him what would have been a serious handicap for a bull elephant.

Distractions out in the bush have been mainly Makosa, who explodes onto the scene with monotonous regularity, usually causing chaos. A herd of impalas found themselves chased off by Sunyei and little Lualeni. It has been extremely rewarding to watch Lualeni coming back to life. Having suffered from deep depression for many months, she is now transformed into a happy and very caring and compassionate little female, who promises to be excellent Matriarch material in the future.

June is almost upon us again, and with June comes another wrench, parting with 4 of the bigger Nursery inmates now ready to begin the long slow rehabilitation back into the wild community of Tsavo, namely Ndomot, Galana, Sunyei and Madiba. At the moment we plan to send them to the Ithumba unit, in order to be re-united with those orphans who shared the Nursery with them in their early infancy, namely Wendi, Olmalo, Taita, Tomboi and Napasha. What a reunion that will be, but back home, as always, the pain of parting from orphans who have become loved members of our extended family, is never easy! Still, one of the most essential ingredients of success is the ability to be able to say “goodbye”, understanding that no wild animal ever “belongs”!

The Rhinos:- Makosa, the feisty orphaned rhino, now independent of Keepers, and out and about in the Big Wide World of Nairobi National Park, fully integrated as a “wild” member of the Park’s rhino community, has been eager to demonstrate that he is, indeed, a wild rhino, waiting in ambush to intercept and chase the unfortunate Yard Man who takes the Keepers’ tea and lunch out to the men on duty with the elephants in the bush. On two occasions this month, this unfortunate individual known as “Mboti” has had to take evasive action, once behind the vehicles in the garage, and then up a tree, much to Makosa’s great enjoyment, and the hilarity of the other Staff members!

Shida, who is still accompanied by a Keeper, and still doing “the rounds” (an important part of the introductions into an established wild rhino community) also promises to be a feisty fellow, so these two bulls will have each other as willing sparring partners!

Magnum, on the other hand, is a gentle, peace-loving rhino, who goes to great lengths to keep away from Makosa. He turns up at the front steps of Daphne’s house each morning begging for a banana or two, before quietly going round the back to find a Keeper to anoint his filarial sores, and escort him back down the hill with a wheelbarrow of kitchen peelings and copra – all part of the “extras” our three rhinos enjoy.

Yet again, with the onset of the rains, Magnum turned up with a good crop of Gyrostigma eggs on his face, and early one morning actually with the elusive rhino specific fly itself, who was busy laying more. This is a spectacle few people have ever seen so we realise how unique it was to be able to photograph this curious crepuscular fly in action, who emerges from the bot chrysalis with no mouth parts, but bent on finding a living rhino within 4 or 5 days on which to deposit the eggs that will perpetuate its curious life cycle, most of which is spent as a bot deep inside a rhino’s stomach sharing the rhino’s food!

May 2005 day to day

01 May

It was a cloudy, rainy morning. All the elephants enjoyed running round through the puddles, some actually lying in the mud, including Lualeni, who, being so young, had to be restrained from doing so.

The nursery orphans in a heap enjoying the mud

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