Keepers' Diaries, May 2009

Nairobi Nursery Unit

The demise of elephants during the recent very severe drought period, combined with a marked and shocking escalation of poaching throughout the country, is an extremely worrying trend, which is real and a fact and therefore should be taken extremely seriously by the relevant authorities. This month, at least 3 young elephants were found dead in the Milgis area, the rescue of another had to be aborted on the 3rd because the orphan died before the plane could land, and on the 12th yet another never happened, again the calf dying before it could be rescued. Thankfully, three lucky little elephant elephant orphans were saved during the month, bringing the total in the Nairobi Nursery to a record 18.

01 May 2009

As the new Nursery Mini Matriarch, Kenia is having a tough time trying to control so many very small babies, some of whom are a bit un-disciplined. The Keepers had to assist her to control the naughty ones such as Kimana, Tassia, Bhaawa, Taveta and Ndii. We did this by tone of voice and waggling of a finger as well as giving the wrong-doer a shove! It was a great help to Kenia.

02 May 2009

Today we decided to separate the Nursery elephants into two groups, because all together they are too much of a handful. Suguta, who is an up and coming Mini Matriarch took charge of her group consisting of Sabachi, Mawenzi, Kibo, Isiolo, Nchan and Olkeju. They spent the day happily, with Sabachi eager to be Suguta’s little shadow, following her all the time. Kenia’s group includes Dida, Taveta, Shira, Bhaawa, Tassia, Kimana and Ndii. Bhaawa who is very attached to Kenia was allowed to be in her group rather than in Suguta’s small baby group.

03 May 2009

The two separate groups are doing well today. After the mudbath they were brought together to socialize with one another. Sabachi tried to suckle Kenia’s ears but was pushed away by jealous Bhaawa, so he returned to Suguta who allowed him to suckle her ears.

04 May 2009

The two groups joined up for Special Viewing by some visitors, and greeted one another very warmly, rumbling and touching one another with their trunks. Ndii and Kimana, who used to be with Suguta’s group when Lesanju and Lempaute were here, enjoyed playing with Sabachi and Mawenzi which made Tassia a bit jealous. The two groups were together for the remainder of the afternoon.

05 May 2009

Early in the morning, as Kenia’s group of orphans was heading off towards the main Park, suddenly there was a loud noise of heavy animals stampeding. The orphans scattered in all directions, and suddenly a herd of buffaloes came rushing past the Keepers, running very fast as though being chased. After they had passed, the Keepers went in search of their orphans, and came across the footprints of 3 lions who had obviously been chasing the buffaloes. Both the Keepers and the orphans were very scared.

06 May 2009

Tassia is misbehaving these days, always wanting to mount onto the others. Kenia does not approve of this. At the mudbath, he wants all the others to lie down first and then he tries to mount onto them. When he tried to do this to Ndii, she screamed and Kenia punished Tassia by pushing him off, and then refused to allow him back for quite some time.

07 May 2009

The Keepers made a small mudbath for Maalim during the visiting hour. Afterwards he became very frisky and began running through the cordon, scattering all the visitors who began laughing, because he is so small. The game ended when he collided with one of the Posts!

08 May 2009

Suguta led her little friends out into the bush, all in a jovial mood this morning. Mawenzi found a patch of loose earth and began to roll in it. This attracted the others. Sabachi came to mount on Suguta, but got his come-back when Suguta retaliated and knocked him to the ground!

09 May 2009

It was a cloudy and cool morning, so all the orphans had their red blankets on. The Keepers took the football out into the bush, to encourage the orphans to play so that they didn’t get cold.

10 May 2009

Suguta, Mawenzi and Nchan were the most playful babies this morning, which encouraged all the others to participate in rushing around and knocking down small shrubs.

11 May 2009

Maalim enchanted all the spectators at the noon mudbath. He ran along the rope, so that all the visitors could touch him. The Keepers then made him a little mudbath, and plastered him in mud, after which he became even more playful, and entertained the visitors, making them all laugh.

12 May 2009

The Keepers took the soccer ball with them out into the bush, divided themselves into two teams and began playing. The orphans became interested and began to join in. Dida, Mawenzi and Nchan were most active, with Mawenzi winning the prize for “best player”. She kept running after the ball, and instead of kicking it, knelt down and bit it. She would then lie on it. Dida then kicked the ball straight through the goal post which made the Keepers very happy. The teams then united, and played with the elephants.

13 May 2009

Early in the morning, as the elephants were heading out, the Keepers came across the fresh footprints of a lion. Kenia, Taveta and Dida smelt the presence of the lion and were agitated. In the afternoon, as one Keeper was heading out to the bush from the Stockade, he came across 3 lions, two females and one young male. The lions did not see him, so he changed direction rapidly.

14 May 2009

A new baby elephant arrived in the Nursery from the Milgis area of Laikipia around 2 p.m. The baby was a female and in good condition. She had fallen down a well. She was named “Kudup” at the request of the Milgis Game Scouts.

15 May 2009

Kudup joined the other Nursery elephants out in the bush. She was quite disturbed and restless, moving from one place to another. The Keepers had difficulty in controlling her. At the mudbath, she dashed into the mud and began drinking the dirty water. The Keepers immediately restrained her, but she was desperate to get into the mud again, so they took her away from the mudbath.

16 May 2009

Kudup is still restless. When she came across some stagnant water, she immediately began rolling in it and trying to drink it. The Keepers wondered why she was so desperate for the water, especially as she had been in a well! Perhaps she had never seen water before because of the prevailing drought in Northern Kenya and the fact that all the rivers are dry.

17 May 2009

Today, the Keepers kept Kudup from the mudbath along with Nchan and Olkeju to keep her company. This was because she always wants to drink the dirty water which is not good for her stomach.

18 May 2009

Nchan, Isiolo and Olkeju have befriended Kudup, who prefers to remain close to the Keepers. The other three also remained close to the Keepers to keep Kudup company.

19 May 2009

During the mudbath, some giraffes came to the rocky area to take some salt as Shida emerged from the bushes. He walked up to the giraffes, who ran away as soon as he got close, but 2 males hung back, just staring at Shida, who paid no attention to them.

20 May 2009

It was a hot day, so all the babies enjoyed the mudbath, Suguta, Sabachi and Mawenzi getting deep inside it while Nchan, Olkeju and Isiolo remained on the edge. Kudup was kept from the mudbath, but the Keepers made some mud and applied it. We did not want her to eat the dirty mud.

21 May 2009

Maalim is the best entertainer at the mudbath, running along the rope cordon, and sometimes sneaking through, running through the legs of onlookers. Today he ran in amongst some school children who ran off screaming. Maalim followed one of them, thinking that it was a game. The girl ran faster, screaming loudly for dear life as Maalim accelerated until one of the Keepers caught up with him and blocked him. All the crowd fell about laughing!

22 May 2009

At 12 noon there was another Elephant Rescue alert, this time from a KWS officer in Tsavo West who had rescued the calf which had been mauled by hyenas. The elephant arrived at 7.30 p.m. and was placed in the partition of the Stockade that houses Tassia at night. The baby’s tail had been torn off and he had chunks bitten out of both ears, plus a deep wound on a back leg. The wounds were cleaned upon arrival. The calf was named “Kilaguni” and is a male about 6 months old.

23 May 2009

The new baby, Kilaguni, spent the day in the Stockade with 2 Keepers. The wounds were all cleaned and sprayed with anti-fly ointment. Because he was passing watery muddy stools, he was immediately put on a course of Sulphdimidine. Early in the morning three lions passed close to Mrs. Sheldrick’s house and past the Stockade, in full view of the Keepers.

24 May 2009

Kilaguni joined the other orphans shortly after his 9 a.m. feed. Kenia and her group came to collect him, but once out in the bush the established orphans didn’t pay him much interest but he moved between the elephants and their Keepers. Taveta and Tassia kept on pushing him the Keepers defended him. Dida and Ndii comforted him and began following him to keep him company. He was not taken to the mudbath because of his wounds, but instead remained behind with Kimana and Ndii for company.

25 May 2009

For the second day Kilaguni remained behind at the mudbath with Ndii and Kimana. He looked a little nervous when he saw the huge crowd. Having taken the milk, he, Ndii and Kimana returned to the bush and did not come to the mudbath.

26 May 2009

Today was the first day for Kilaguni to put in an appearance at the mudbath. He followed the others, but looked a little nervous and was reluctant to take his milk. The Keepers remained close to him, not wanting him to get into the mud. He kept on wanting to take the dirty water from the ground, until the Keepers showed him the drum. He then began drinking from it for the first time.

27 May 2009

Today, the orphans had a Film Crew with them, which made them very happy. Mawenzi ran behind one of the crew, joined by Kibo. It was a day of fun for Kibo who enjoyed pushing the Cameraman!

28 May 2009

It was a special day for Kilaguni, because his friends Dida and Kimana spent the whole day close to him. They enjoyed a dustbath together, and seemed very happy to be together.

29 May 2009

Kudup has settled down now, and follows the other elephants, not wanting to drink the dirty water any more. She even wants to suck the Keepers’ fingers, and is beginning to love their company.

30 May 2009

We received another phone call that a baby elephant needed to be airlifted from the Kalama area of Samburu. She arrived in the Nursery in the afternoon and in good condition, having been found down a well by Samburu tribesmen early in the morning. She was named “Kalama”.

31 May 2009

Nchan has proved to be a very good little elephant, who always responds instantly whenever called, even when the others hang back. The keepers believe that she will be a wonderful Matriarch when she is grown.