Keepers' Diaries, May 2013

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.

01 May 2013

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.

02 May 2013

Murera and Sonje have moved back into their original separate Stockades, since Murera was “pushy” during milk feeding times and pushed Sonje around. Blind rhino Maxwell was happy to again have them next door to his enclosure during the night.

03 May 2013

Narok, Barsilinga, Lemoyian and Faraja thoroughly enjoy rolling in the wet mudbath mud, but Narok sometimes gets herself so stuck that she needs help getting out! Murera, Kihari, Ishaq-B or Sonje usually come to the rescue, but on this occasion they were further away, so the Keepers had to pile into the mud and help her out!

04 May 2013

Jasiri is a stubborn character. Sometimes in the evening he refuses to go into his Night Stable, when the Keepers have to try and push him in. Bomani seems to be taking his cue from Jasiri, and is trying the same tactics! Perhaps it is their way of getting the Keepers’ full attention! Kwale adjusted easily to a change of stable, welcomed warmly by Balguda and Ngasha who are next door at night. All are close friends who enjoy feeding close to one another out in the bush.

05 May 2013

Tundani remains a very friendly and calm little elephant, who enjoys fraternizing with the visitors behind the cordon at the public mudbath hour. He walks along the line so that the visitors can touch him. Out in the bush he enjoys remaining close to the Keepers.

06 May 2013

Lemoyian is feisty and always aspires to win Pushing Matches against both Kithaka and Barsilinga, but today at the mudbath, Kithaka proved stronger which made Lemoyian lose face before the visiting public. Either Kihari, Naipoki or Ishaq-B usually move in to separate warring youngsters, but they were not in the first milk sitting, so the Keepers had to restore order when Lemoyian lost his cool!

07 May 2013

Tano has lost a great deal of condition, but is enjoying her big Stockade with a lot of special vegetation cut for her to enjoy. The Vet is here and has taken samples of blood and stools from her, so we hope to have some positive results soon. Today she was given four injections of vitamins and immune boosters to try and restore her appetite and her health.

08 May 2013

Baby Ajabu joined the main group today. All the females were jostling to be next to her which was not popular. Ishaq-B managed to calm her down where Naipoki and Kihari had failed!

09 May 2013

Laragai and Lima Lima have proved very greedy for their milk, bellowing in the evening until their share arrives and waiting for the arrival of the next milk feed out in the bush rather than focusing on browsing.

10 May 2013

At 12 p.m. after the mudbath hour, all the Orphans came to see Tano in her big Stockade where she is under surveillance from the Vet. They spent half an hour with her, and were reluctant to leave her in order to return to the bush. Barsilinga especially wanted to remain with her!

11 May 2013

Tano missed several of her milk feeds today and although her stockade was filled with soft tasty greens, she fed very little. Just before midnight, she suddenly collapsed and within 5 minutes breathed her last and was dead. The Keepers who were in with her were distraught, as were we all, because Tano is much loved, having been with us for the past 4 years.

12 May 2013

It was a very sad morning following the sudden death of Tano last night. The Vet undertook an autopsy on her body, and discovered that she had a bone marrow malfunction, and was not able to create the blood she needed to maintain health. Apparently only a bone marrow transplant could have saved her and this is not possible in an elephant. Her remains were buried amidst a great deal of grief because she had always been a very gentle, caring much loved member of the Nursery herd.

13 May 2013

All the orphans are also feeling the loss of Tano. They all spent a long time in her Stockade this morning, and looked very “down”. Only little Ajabu seemed unconcerned, being too young to understand.

14 May 2013

Teleki, who is normally a cool boy, today picked on Orwa who is much stronger and who sorted him out. He then picked on Ishaq-B. In the evening Quanza came running to Tano’s old Stockade before going into her own. She obviously was hoping to find Tano back there, but was deeply disappointed. Quanza knows all about death having seen her mother and family slaughtered by Poachers and having been found beside their dead bodies.

15 May 2013

Once again Tundani was up to his old tricks – sneaking away and returning to the Stockades hoping for milk! When Murera returned in the evening, she wanted to go back into Turkwel’s old Stockade, which she had previously shared with Sonje. Sonje is now happy to be back in her first Stockade, which abuts Maxwell’s Enclosure.

16 May 2013

It was coconut oiling day, which Jasiri did not like and neither did Murera, who protested loudly every time she saw the tin of coconut oil. The rest of the orphans enjoyed it, and afterwards rolled around in the earth since the oil makes their skin itch.

17 May 2013

Bomani spent most of the day with the smaller boys, Kithaka, Lemoyian and Barsilinga, enjoying tutoring them in pushing tactics! Bomani, when in a good mood, is easy and responsive but at other times can be intolerant towards his peers.

18 May 2013

On a sunny morning Sonje joined Kihari to check on all the babies, moving from one to the other and touching them gently with a trunk to check that they are all O.K. Kithaka remained behind with little Ajabu, who as yet does not show much interest in her peers, but Kithaka enjoys playing with her, because she is so much smaller. He even lies down in front of her to encourage her to climb onto him. He remained with Ajabu until it was time for the Public Visiting hour.

19 May 2013

Naipoki seems to be jealous of Narok these days and on several occasions has pushed her down forcing the Keepers to intervene. Today Ishaq-B happened to be close, and punished Naipoki by driving her out of the herd, impervious to her protest bellows!

20 May 2013

Following the mudbath during the public visiting hour, as all the orphans were enjoying the cut greens provided for them, Kwale knocked Barsilinga down. Everyone felt very sorry for poor Barsilinga, but the Keepers believe that Kwale mistook Barsilinga for Balguda, with whom he enjoys play-fighting!

21 May 2013

Solio has not shown up for the past 5 days, so it was a huge relief when she turned up today at 1 a.m. in the morning, very tired. She instantly went to sleep on her bed of hay in her Stockade, much to Max’s disappointment, since he wanted to play through the separating poles of their adjoining Stockades. The Keepers on Night Duty got early warning of her arrival from Maxwell who began excitedly running up and down his Enclosure, and when Solio woke up later, Max enjoyed their usual sparring game At 8 a.m. Solio moved out of her Stockade and went to Maxwell’s side Gate to feed on some of his Lucerne. She left the compound at about 9 a.m.

22 May 2013

Lima Lima and Laragai are close friends, who love their bottles of milk. Lima lima’s eyes never leave the second bottle waiting on the ground, while she is attached to the nipple of the first until absolutely convinced that every drop has been drained. If not, she is inclined to push the Keeper. Laragai is more polite, going down on her knees in a sign of appreciation!

23 May 2013

Orwa and Teleki have become close friends, who respect one another as well. They enjoy their Pushing Games usually taking themselves away from the herd so that the females don’t interfere. Today they had a wonderful time doing strength testing, rolling on the ground, trying to mount onto one another, and playing hide and seek around the bushes. At the noon mudbath Orwa lay down in the mud and when Teleki climbed on top of him, he found himself tipped off sideways. Orwa then went to sit on him, and the more the visitors laughed, the more the two boys were encouraged to repeat the exercise several times!

24 May 2013

Murera is a complicated elephant. As the largest Nursery female, one would expect her to be the Matriarch, but she has shown no desire to take on this mantle, probably due to her infirmity. Some days she is loving towards all the others, but on other days, she pushes them away, perhaps because her stiff leg is still painful. At the mudbath session Murera prodded Kihari with her sharp tusks which made her scream. Perhaps she is jealous that Kihari is an accepted Matriarch who cares for the younger elephants.

25 May 2013

Lemoyian and Kithaka are very independent little boys, who enjoy separating themselves from Kihari, who tends to “smother-love” them. Just before the public mudbath hour, when the Keepers did a head count of their charges, it was noticed that the two small boys were missing, having slipped away from the rest of the herd to browse on the soft grasses along a small watercourse. The Keepers had a headache rounding them up for the public viewing hour, but eventually arrived l0 minutes late!

26 May 2013

Since the early mornings are now turning pretty cold, Ajabu leaves her Night Stable later than the others. All the other elephants then rush to greet her, but Ajabu instead chooses to greet all the Keepers one by one, touching them with her little trunk. Seeing that she prefers the Keepers, the others move off to feed, but today Murera remained behind with Ajabu, continually reaching out to caress the tiny baby, which surprised all the Keepers.

27 May 2013

Faraja and Jasiri are close and are possibly even share the same wild albino father, but like all siblings, they also sometimes have differences. Today was one such day, when what began as a small difference, turned into a serious fight with Jasiri emerging victorious. However, all was soon forgotten, and the two resumed their close relationship.

28 May 2013

Today it was a joy to witness the happiness of all the babies as they emerged from their Night Quarters. They all ran round the yard, rumbling and trumpeting happily, Kithaka, Barsilinga and Lemoyian being the most entertaining. Kithaka teamed up with Lemoyian to take on Barsilinga, as all the older elephants watched until Naipoki moved in to interrupt their game. Kihari objected to this intrusion and chased Naipoki away!

29 May 2013

It was another joyful day for all the Nursery elephants who had good reason to be happy, since the arrival of a newcomer from Tsavo East was expected, having been captured the previous evening near the Aruba Dam and spent the night at the Voi Stockades! The Rescue Plane left Nairobi at about 9 a.m. and the new baby arrived at the Nursery at 2 p.m. It was a yearling female and the fate of the mother has yet to be established. The baby had been slightly sedated to reduce stress, and was not in bad condition, but very wild. She took only a little milk on arrival, but enjoyed water from a bucket.

30 May 2013

The arrival of a new baby into the Nairobi Nursery was an exciting event for the Orphans, all of whom rushed to her Stockade to greet her. Murera dominated the door space, so others went into the adjoining stable, currently occupied at night by Limalima. Later Lemoyian remained near the new girl, who is still very aggressive towards the humans. As yet, the newcomer, (named Arruba) is not interested in taking milk.

31 May 2013

All the orphans rushed to Arruba’s Stockade in the morning to greet her, but she is still too aggressive to be able to handle. Today Tundani engaged both Ngasha and Barsilinga in westling games, which was good to see, because up until now he has been obsessed only with the Keepers. Kwale seems dull today, so a sample was taken of his blood for analysis.