Keepers' Diaries, May 2013

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Just prior to midnight of the 11th May 2013, we lost the battle to save precious 4 year old Tano having been returned to the Nursery from Ithumba in March. The day before she died, all the elephants voluntarily came to see her in her Stockade after the mudbath hour, and were noticeably reluctant to leave her side, almost as though they knew it was a goodbye. Little Barsilinga was especially fond of Tano, and remained longer beside her than all the others. A professional Vet with vast experience of elephants under field conditions in Southern Africa came to work on Tano fulltime, and thanks to the amazing blood diagnostic equipment kindly donated to the Trust by an Argentinian donor, he was able to rule out many of the possible causes for her failing health. Hers had been a long slow decline with signs of chronic anaemia and the postmortem after death revealed what the Vet had concluded - a chronic bone marrow deficiency that rendered her unable to replenish both red and white blood cells. There was apparently nothing we could have done to save her, except for a bone marrow transplant, which, in and elephant under field conditions, is definitely out of the question. Quanza, who is all too familiar with death, having witnessed the slaughter of her elephant mother and family, was especially upset by the death of Tano, running back to her Stockade hoping to find that somehow she had managed to return! All the orphans were visibly disturbed by her absence.

Just prior to midnight of the 11th May 2013, we lost the battle to save precious 4 year old Tano having been returned to the Nursery from Ithumba in March. The day before she died, all the elephants voluntarily came to see her in her Stockade after the mudbath hour, and were noticeably reluctant to leave her side, almost as though they knew it was a goodbye. Little Barsilinga was especially fond of Tano, and remained longer beside her than all the others. A professional Vet with vast experience of elephants under field conditions in Southern Africa came to work on Tano fulltime, and thanks to the amazing blood diagnostic equipment kindly donated to the Trust by an Argentinian donor, he was able to rule out many of the possible causes for her failing health. Hers had been a long slow decline with signs of chronic anaemia and the postmortem after death revealed what the Vet had concluded - a chronic bone marrow deficiency that rendered her unable to replenish both red and white blood cells. There was apparently nothing we could have done to save her, except for a bone marrow transplant, which, in and elephant under field conditions, is definitely out of the question. Quanza, who is all too familiar with death, having witnessed the slaughter of her elephant mother and family, was especially upset by the death of Tano, running back to her Stockade hoping to find that somehow she had managed to return! All the orphans were visibly disturbed by her absence.

The 29th brought another yearling female newcomer to the Nursery herd, named “Arruba”, having been found alone at the Aruba area of Tsavo East National Park. The fate of her mother has not been established but the baby had obviously not been long without mother’s milk for she was still in good condition, although extremely wild and aggressive. She proved very difficult to calm down, refusing all milk for 5 full days, and only taking water from a bucket and the cut greens provided for her. By month end she was still too wild for a Keeper to be able to actually be in with her and proving very difficult to calm, even with the input of the other elephants.

As the oldest female in the Nursery, Murera has shown little interest in taking on the Matriarchal mantle, possibly due to the fact that she is compromised by her back leg, which probably still pains her during cold weather. Sometimes she is loving and placid, but at other times inclined to be impatient and irritable. However, there was one day this month when she spent a long time with baby Ajabu, constantly reaching out her trunk to caress the tiny calf. Strangely enough Kithaka is another who has enjoyed quality time one day with baby Ajabu, choosing to remain with her and apart from the others right up until it was time for the noon mudbath hour. Kihari is emerging as the main Matriarch of the Nursery herd, ably assisted by Ishaq-B and Sonje, but Naipoki seems to have fallen from grace this month, perhaps envious of the others’ leadership qualities, and expressed her displeasure by taking a dislike to Narok, whom she pushed to the ground on one occasion, and found herself punished for doing so by Ishaq-B who drove her out of the herd.

Little Ajabu continues to do well, still fed on demand, but sufficiently robust to join the other elephants by the 8th . She remains focused on the Keepers, seemingly impervious to the adoration of all the older Nursery females who vie with one another to be close to her at all times, which she finds somewhat irritating. All are eager to rush to her stable each morning just to check that she is still there! Sometimes, she emerges later than the others if the weather happens to be chilly for baby elephants are very prone to pneumonia.

Jasiri is regaining strength daily and has formed a very close bond with Faraja, who is possibly his half-brother, both calves obviously fathered by the one albino Big Amboseli Bull. Jasiri likes to appear reluctant to enter his Night Stockade in the evenings, until all the Keepers gather to push him in, something observed by Bomani who is now doing the same – obviously a way of getting the full attention of all the Keepers, who are fully occupied throughout the keeping tabs on their 23 Nursery charges!

Tundani’s love affair with his human Rescuers endures, as does a liking for the general public at the mudbath Open Visiting hour each day. He strolls along the separating cordon during allowing all the visitors to reach out and touch him. He is an extremely gentle and loving little elephant, but still prone to sneaking out of the main unit to return to the milk mixing area just to ensure that his milk ration is being prepared! Others that enjoy sneaking away from the main herd are Kithaka, Barsilinga and Lemoyian, three mischievous little boys who are firm friends, but who enjoy wrestling with one another without interference from Kihari and her side-kicks, who tend to try and “smother-love” them and don’t approve of male wrestling. Of the three boys, little Lemoyian is feistiest, usually emerging victorious, but he is also not a good loser! Bomani has taken on the roll of coaching the three small boys in Pushing Tests of Strength.

Laragai and Lima lima are firm friends who are both very greedy for their milk. Lima lima has a habit of bellowing loudly having finished her milk, with eyes firmly fixed on the second bottle at the Keeper’s feet. Woe betide the Keeper should he remove the nipple from her mouth before every drop has gone down the hatch! Laragai is more polite, but also a milk “bellower” who often goes down on her knees to take her milk. Unlike Laragai and Lima lima, Kwale is picky about his milk, often declining it, which triggers anxiety wondering whether he is a little unwell. This usually entails a sample of his blood to test if his white blood cell count is as it should be.

Kwale, Balguda and Ngasha are close friends, who are now in adjacent stables at night, which suits them fine. Another night move this month has been that of Sonje, who was returned to her original Stockade adjacent to Maxwell’s enclosure, since Murera tended to become pushy at milk feeding times when they shared the Stockade previously occupied by Turkwel and Kainuk. Max was delighted to have Sonje as a close neighbour again.

The biggest Nursery boy is now Orwa, who is a firm friend of Teleki. Both enjoy their Pushing Games and respect one another. Like the small boys, they interact with one another away from the herd to limit female disruption of their wrestling bouts! On the 29th they kept the mudbath visitors fully entertained, Orwa lying down in the mud so that Teleki could climb into him; then tipping Teleki off sideways and sitting on him! The more the visitors laughed, the more the two boys provided the encore! While out browsing in the bush these two boys are always together, taking time out for hide and seek games, rolling around in soft earth together, and indulging in their favourite sport of Strength Tests.

The Rhinos:- Solio is becoming very independent. It is not unusual for her to spend several nights out now, but there was concern when several nights turned into five this month. When she did return in the dead of night, Max gave early warning by rushing around his Enclosure with tail aloft, anticipating a spirited sparring game through the separating poles of their two enclosures, but Solio was too tired to indulge him until the morning! She then spent some time close by before heading out again. Max flourishes, and because he can never be set free due to his irretrievable blindness, he is indulged by us all, and allowed human treats which he loves. These include left-over fruit, some sweets, the odd cake or bun, and anything sweet! A tap on his gate, brings him along, when he opens his mouth so that the treat can be tossed in and savoured for as long as possible! CCT Cameras installed around Maxwell’s Enclosure help ensure his protection and safety, with the poaching of rhinos having become a National crisis.

May 2013 day to day

01 May

A light drizzle early in the morning left the Orphans in a playful mood, splashing in the puddles and rolling around in the dampened earth, the young ones taking the opportunity to climb on those lying down. This caused a disagreement between Lemoyian and Barsilinga both of whom wanted to climb onto Kihari. Kithaka then joined in. Lemoyian emerged victorious. Jasiri is regaining strength now and is beginning to throw his weight around the others.

Lemoyian has a drink

Faraja behind Kithaka and Jasiri

mudbath playtime

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