Keepers' Diaries, May 2007

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

It has been a very harrowing month for both the Nursery elephants as well as their Keepers, since the few remaining lions in Nairobi National Park have practically no wild prey on which to feed, and have been targeting our elephants and the Keepers. They demolished poor old Warrior Pig, who has been enjoying a comfortable retirement around the Trust premises, and has become part of the furniture, sleeping in the Hay Store, and enjoying a hand-out from the Staff canteen in the evening. His remains were found nearby in the forest, and since then, being very intelligent animals, the remaining warthogs have taken to feeding within the Park’s fenced Staff compound. Once could be excused for wondering why we, too, do not forage the elephants within the compound, the reason being that they would be continually surrounded by interested humans, which would be counter-productive for the poroject.

It has been a very harrowing month for both the Nursery elephants as well as their Keepers, since the few remaining lions in Nairobi National Park have practically no wild prey on which to feed, and have been targeting our elephants and the Keepers. They demolished poor old Warrior Pig, who has been enjoying a comfortable retirement around the Trust premises, and has become part of the furniture, sleeping in the Hay Store, and enjoying a hand-out from the Staff canteen in the evening. His remains were found nearby in the forest, and since then, being very intelligent animals, the remaining warthogs have taken to feeding within the Park’s fenced Staff compound. Once could be excused for wondering why we, too, do not forage the elephants within the compound, the reason being that they would be continually surrounded by interested humans, which would be counter-productive for the poroject.

The future of Nairobi National Park is precarious at best, since the Government refuses to fence the fourth boundary and restock it, so, in essence, the Park (and its inmates) are dying. With the grass rank inside the Park, and short outside due to periodic burning by the Masai, the habitat within the Park does not favour grazers apart from, perhaps, the buffalo, hence a reluctance to burn the rank grass in the absence of sufficient grazers to keep it short, and with the fourth boundary open allowing intrusion of cattle, the future of the Park as a wildlife spectacle is, indeed, bleak.

However, aside from the lion hazard, all eleven Nursery inmates continue to thrive, Sian a very able Matriarch up until the time of her departure for Ithuma, keeping order amongst the boys, and little Lesanju, Lempaute and Shimba are also growing apace, Lesanju now nearly 8 months old, although it seems just yesterday that she came to us. Shimba is a month older than Lesanju, and Lempaute a month younger, so even the crèche group are growing up! Makena was glued to Sian, and Chyulu adored Loijuk, so the departure of these two very motherly females will be a sad loss for Makena and Chyulu. Lenana is beginning to assert herself now, and has taken revenge against Kamboyo, who used to shove her around when she was so feeble. She stands no nonsense from him now.

The trucks arrived on the 20th, parked against the loading ramps, ready to carry Kenze, Loijuk and Sian to join the Ithumba group, and take the next big step towards a normal wild life. Training began immediately, and whilst Loijuk was prepared to venture into the truck to take her milk, Kenze and especially Sian would have none of it. On day three Kenze reluctantly went in, but Sian proved intransigent and would have none of it. On the day of departure – the 24th, the three elephants bound for Ithumba were taken out at dawn, leaving the others in their Night quarters, and whilst Kenze and Loijuk were obliging and went into the truck, Sian ran off into the bush, and had to be coaxed back by letting out Makena and the others. Eventually, there was nothing for it, but to man-handle her on, one foreleg roped with two men pulling from the front, and all available manpower pushing from behind and at her side. It was a very tough struggle to get her to the truck, but eventually she was in, and the door quickly slammed behind her. The trucks then pulled away, to a sad farewell from all at Headquarters, beginning their 8 hour journey to distant Ithumba, and the other 24 orphans there.

The Rhinos:- Little blind Max, although he can’t see, is extremely perceptive, and races confidently around his Stockade, never colliding with anything, enjoying his little mudbath in the middle, and taking water from his water drum when he feels like it. He responds to his name, and instantly comes to the door of his quarters for a rub, closing his eyes in bliss. He an also detect the approach of Shida by scent, and whenever Shida is approaching, becomes highly excited, waiting at the door of his Stockade for a playful bout through the bars. Shida is very interested in him, and now spends more time than usual back at home, playing with, and looking at, Max..

We heard that a rhino calf in Hamburg had undergone what looks like being a successful cataract operation, so Daphne has been in touch with the relevant Professors who have suggested that we wait another month before they could be entirely sure that the Hamburg operation would prove successful. When the month is up, (mid June) we will be contacting the Hamburg Zoo Park people again, who have voiced a willingness to come and help us try and restore Max’s remaining eye, so all is not yet lost. If not, then we will have to resort to Plan B - i.e. keep him in a secured paddock to protect him from aggressive other bulls, and provide him with all he will need for a quality of life. In this way he could still have a comfortable existence, with the dung of other rhinos placed in his space, so that he does not feel alone, and still play an important conservation role for his species as a tourist exhibit. Under such circumstances, we would investigate having him neutered so that he does not become sexually frustrated and aggressive when grown.
No sign of Magnum now for many months, but we are assured by KWS that he is alive and well, in a territory around signboard No. 21 in the Park.

May 2007 day to day

01 May

Lesanju’s baby group began the day exuberantly, charging around, bumping into one another, and knocking down small shrubs. They happened upon a group of baby warthogs, and chased them off, after which Lesanju began rolling on the ground and Shimba climbed on her. Lempaute had fun trying to climb onto the Keepers’ laps!

Josaphat digs up fresh earth for the babies

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