Keepers' Diaries, May 2010

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

A major Nursery event this month was the transfer of Dida, Kimana, and Ndii in 3 large trucks accompanied by their Keepers to the Tsavo Voi Unit early on the 11th. Unusual disturbance at such an early hour (4 a.m.) is always unsettling for those left in their night stockades and stables, aware that something unusual is going on. However, the three to be moved went into their respective truck without too much trouble, although Ndii needed a bit of shoving and pulling to get her in. By 5 a.m. the trucks were on their way, always an emotional moment for all those left behind, especially the remaining orphans who notice the absence of some of their friends, and miss them, as well as for the Nursery Keepers who have nurtured the babies from early infancy. Two Keepers in each truck accompanied the three, and will remain with them down in Voi until they are settled. Robert Carr Hartley and his father Roy escorted the convoy as usual and had to deal with several delays en route when two of the trucks had mechanical problems relating to contaminated diesel.

A major Nursery event this month was the transfer of Dida, Kimana, and Ndii in 3 large trucks accompanied by their Keepers to the Tsavo Voi Unit early on the 11th. Unusual disturbance at such an early hour (4 a.m.) is always unsettling for those left in their night stockades and stables, aware that something unusual is going on. However, the three to be moved went into their respective truck without too much trouble, although Ndii needed a bit of shoving and pulling to get her in. By 5 a.m. the trucks were on their way, always an emotional moment for all those left behind, especially the remaining orphans who notice the absence of some of their friends, and miss them, as well as for the Nursery Keepers who have nurtured the babies from early infancy. Two Keepers in each truck accompanied the three, and will remain with them down in Voi until they are settled. Robert Carr Hartley and his father Roy escorted the convoy as usual and had to deal with several delays en route when two of the trucks had mechanical problems relating to contaminated diesel.

At the other end, all three elephants looked hollow and stressed after their long and grueling journey, but were greeted very fondly by the others who had preceded them and knew them in the Nursery, especially Kenia, who was over the moon to become reunited with three of her Nursery friends. By the next morning, all were happy and settled in their new environment, and looked very relaxed as they embarked on heir first day out in what would now be their permanent new home. Only Ndii found it somewhat overwhelming and kept very close to the Nursery Keepers on that first day.

Back in the Nursery, a few nights later Kibo must have had a nightmare, triggered by the disappearance of some of his friends. It must have reminded him of the day he was orphaned by falling down the well at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro. He woke up screaming, desperately scrambling around trying to climb out of the stable in panic mode and could not be calmed. In the end the Keepers moved him out into the stockade vacated by Dida, where he was a little happier but the next morning he was washed out and tired after what had obviously been a terrible dream! Dida’s stockade did not suit him either when it was time to go back in at dusk, probably because being on the outside of the line, it felt more exposed to the unknown, so he was transferred into the one vacated by Ndii in between Olare and Suguta, and there he felt much more secure. Whereas previously he had insisted upon being in the original tiny stable, even when he could barely fit in, his new stockade is a much more suitable “bedroom” for a growing elephant!

Competition for baby Sities between Suguta, who is the main Matriarch of the baby group, and Olare, carries on unabated. Olare waits for Sities every morning as the little one rounds the corner, and in that way intercepts her before Suguta emerges from her stockade, which is further down the line. However, since the smaller orphans normally remain closer to home than the older elephants who need to go further afield to browse, Suguta has Sities all to herself whenever the two groups are not together, so the two big girls share the baby, an arrangement that Suguta seems to have accepted whenever the two groups merge..

Chemi Chemi is still exceedingly prone to head butting any of the elephants who happen to present a suitable target. This has made him an unpopular member of the group, who is constantly in trouble with the Big Girls and Bigger Boys. However, Chemi Chemi is a feisty little fellow, possessive of the Keepers, and is not easily subdued. He has a strong personality, and one day will make a fine bull having learnt some discipline from his elders during his teenage years.

There has again been concern over Mawenzi’s health, which for a long time has not been normal, but with nothing obvious to indicate as to why. She has been wormed three times, without much difference, and has never been a robust baby – another candidate of the Kilimanjaro well, and the Amboseli community of elephants. When her stools began turning dark in colour, we were reminded of a similar symptom in Bhaawa who simply wasted away, and treated Mawenzi to a long and stronger than usual course of Sulphdimidine. Since then the colour of the stools is returning to normal, as is her appetite, so we are hopeful that she will now begin to thrive.

Most gratifying has been the recovery of baby Sities after a long struggle teething which took a toll of her condition. However, now that her teeth are through, she is rapidly gaining weight, and is a playful and mischievous miniature who makes her wants known in a forceful manner, giving Chemi Chemi a run for his money with the backing of the Olare and Suguta.

The filming of the Nursery elephants by IMAX for the Big Screen and in 3D began on the 24th, involving a huge camera that weighs 2 tons, plus several smaller versions, an enormous amount of sophisticated equipment and a crew of some 30 people with outside caterers based in the guest house seeing to all their requirements. At first the orphans were not as cooperative as they would have liked, and nor was the weather. The orphans were wary of so much strange equipment, and so many people invading their space but after a few days began to take it all in their stride. The IMAX crew seems satisfied with what they have been able to shoot so far, focusing on baby Sities and in June will be filming the Ithumba and Voi orphans which will be much more of a challenge.

The Rhinos:- Rhinos are essentially Creatures of Habit, so Maalim was not at all happy to suddenly find himself confronted by the IMAX crew and all their paraphernalia plus hordes of strangers on hand to operate it, hoping to catch him on the Big Camera for the Big Screen, running past. He flatly refused to be coerced into doing so, and in the process became quite steamed up, so the Keepers had to remove him back to the bush to cool off before trying again! In the end, the IMAX crew managed to get the kind of shot they had been hoping for!

Meanwhile, Shida continues his routine of turning up during the Open Visiting Hour and putting himself in his old Stockade, there to receive a hand-out of food, after a short sparring match through the separating poles with Maxwell, and be on parade to be viewed by the mudbath guests. He usually is counted upon to do the same in the evenings when the foster-parents arrive at 5 p.m., locked in his stockade until all the guests have gone, when he is opened up again. Blind Maxwell’s routine remains the same. He still enjoys his milk and porridge three times a day, plus cut greens and Lucerne, and a mudbath and earth pile for him are at hand in his Stockade. He is a fine specimen, better looking than Shida, who has short legs for his body size and a massive forward pointing horn which looks somewhat odd on such a short rhino!

May 2010 day to day

01 May

Competition between Suguta and Olare for little Sities continues. Olare has become cunning, waiting for the baby at the corner to intercept her before Suguta emerges from her stockade. Meanwhile, Shukuru and Tano enjoyed pushing games overseen by Dida, while Kalama and Kibo indulged in strength testing. All the babies enjoy playing around the compound until it is time to head out to browse

Sities having milk

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