We have been underwater this month with so many rain storms throughout that we have reached saturation point. While this has been wonderful for the vegetation and the Nairobi National Park, home to our Nursery, we are becoming waterlogged.
This month Kamok, Mbegu and Murit have bonded, becoming even closer after the death of Ashaka. They have used each other as balm to get over losing their very special friend. We have chosen to move Mbegu into Ashaka's stable so that Kamok and Mbegu are close companions at night. Kauro, despite being young considers himself a big boy and prefers the rough and tumble of the older bulls in the Nursery. Our budding little Matriarchs are hooked on the babies and provide care and comfort, with Mbegu becoming particularly caring despite being pint sized herself.
On the 3rd of May the Secretary of State John Kerry came to visit us at the orphanage with the Trust being his first stop after landing in the country. He drove directly from the airport through Nairobi National Park arriving in the late afternoon along with his delegation to enjoy the orphans and to learn more about the threat to elephants through the ivory trade. Lasayen gave Secretary Kerry wonderful photographic opportunities posing with him for 'selfies' that went viral around the world when shared!
Later after all the orphans were fed and viewed with their individual stories told, Mwashoti was led down with his best little friend Ngalai, along with their feathered entourage Pea and Pod. Mwashoti's tragic story is always a painful reminder of the price paid by elephants for the Ivory trade as his injured foot was caused by a cable snare. His story is one of hope however, having been rescued, saved and healing beautifully despite all odds and able to be nurturing comfort for little Ngalai, who is his constant companion. Pea and Pod were a novel attraction too. These two ostrich chicks have grown up amidst the elephant orphans and have now become so hooked on the baby herd that during stormy days when the tiny orphans are led back to the shelter of their stables the two ostriches follow and even put themselves in their adjoining stable to sit the rain out along with their tiny elephant friends. Pea and Pod believe they are actually elephants!
Embu and Dupotto's love for each other is heart-warming and there have been many nights this month with the torrential rains we have been experiencing here at our Nairobi National Park nursery when Embu has become extremely restless. One night, on the 4th of May, a bruising storm fell and Embu was freaking out. Her calls alerted Dupotto in her stable and she became very concerned for her best friend. They rumbled and comforted each other for most of the night. Embu's fear of the rain, thunder and lightening has now transferred to Dupotto who on stormy nights has also become unsettled, while others in the Nursery seem oblivious.
We have had our fare share of buffalo incidents this month. One day the orphans were charging single file through the bush having just finished their midday mud bath. They were in high spirits, when they happened upon a sleeping buffalo who took off into the under growth with elephants in hot pursuit. He then turned and charged back into the fray with orphans thrashing bushes and running in all directions and elephant Keepers having to take to the trees.
Enkikwe and Kamok are quite a handful these days, requiring the Keepers to keep a special eye on their calculated mischievous behaviour. They are not beyond bumping into unsuspecting visitors and sometimes this rough behaviour is even meted out to the other orphans. Of course this is never tolerated and they are immediately reprimanded.
On the 14th of May we very sadly lost our fight to save little Esilalae, but he passed away peacefully. Again we were overcome by the all too familiar feeling of failure. Some we lose and some we save and it is never easy. As if Esilalae's passing was not bad enough to handle a few days later little Doldol died too. Infant Ngalai who came around about the same time is thankfully doing well.
We never have time to dwell, as immediately there were more orphans to save. An elephant had been observed alone on Elkarama ranch for weeks, losing weight in that time and extremely vulnerable to the pride of 20 resident lions on the ranch. The fate of his herd to this day remains a mystery. His rescue was a challenge as we estimated his age to be 3 years old, too big for an aircraft. Angela arranged, with the permissions of KWS, to rescue the calf with efficient help from the DSWT/KWS Meru Mobile Veterinary Unit. The rangers from the Unit effectively captured the calf, secured him for the long journey and loaded him into the back of the Unit's landcruiser and proceeded to drive him to Nairobi, a long and gruelling drive, but our only option given his size. He was sedated for the journey so as to manage his stress levels and made it safely to Nairobi, despite the rain and flooded roads.
Once at the other end he settled fast, despite collapsing one morning due to weakness. It was not long before Elkerama (named after the ranch he was rescued from with a slight different spelling) was let out to join the others. Despite it being early, with him still wild, it seemed damp and miserable because of all of the rain to have him remain in the stockade throughout the day. Despite still being fairly wild, big in size and not entirely comfortable with the Keepers yet, a decision was made for him to join the other orphans in the forest during then day. He behaved relatively well under the circumstances. The other orphans weaved their comfort and in no time he seemed to settle, although whenever confronted with a white milk bottle he would be rough and aggressive, desperate for the milk. The Keepers developed creative feeding techniques, standing behind trees in the forest when feeding Elkerama so that if he barged or charged they had a buffer! This has worked well as a technique and he has settled and is getting much more manageable towards the months end. We have still had our fare share of drama with Elkerama becoming lost on occasion and one time joining up with a herd of buffalo. Our Nursery orphans have collaborated with their Keepers and have managed his movements for us, ensuring that every time he moves away from the group they effectively herd him back into the fold. Their input has helped enormously.
Then came another heartbreaking rescue on the 28th of this month with a calf of a year old arriving with a broken hind leg. The X-ray has revealed a bad break with the prognosis poor. Angela is however exploring all options before a decision is made.
This month Ndotto and Lasayen both ate something that did not agree with them and we have had a slump from them, with upset stomachs and a loss of body condition. This of course had everyone panicked. Thankfully Lasayen bounced back quickly, Ndotto took a little longer, but by months end they were looking the picture of health once again. These baby orphans give us a roller coaster ride as we lurch from day to day.
The 29th of May was a big day as we said goodbye to the three musketeers, naughty Kithaka, Barsilinga and Lemoyian who left for our Ithumba Relocation Unit in the giant Tsavo National Park. This is just a small step towards them becoming wild elephants again and they will remain our responsibility for a good long time still. They have been such a part of Nursery life for three years and are larger than life characters that they will be missed. Sokotei is missing the big boys and his special friend Lemoyian more than most.
Our blind rhino Maxwell too has enjoyed fun and games with these mischievous boys who have over the years encouraged him to gallop up and down his boma, with them on the opposite side charging and winding him up into quite a frenzy. Thankfully they have taught the others these games so they will continue long after they have gone.
Their move is a celebration of success, getting these tiny calves through the fraught infancy stage and to the point where they out grow the Nursery is always a challenge and to see them embark on this next phase, in a place where they will call home for the rest of their lives, is wonderful indeed. Their adventures from now on can be read in the Ithumba dairies each month.