Nursery Elephants:- On the 26th November, we welcomed another little 6 week old elephant into the Nursery from the same remote corner of Kenya that yielded Sunyei – Ol Donyo Nyiro. This calf was orphaned under similar circumstances, by falling into a well dug in a dry sand lugga and we think he might even perhaps have come from Sunyei’s herd, for upon arrival in the Nursery, these two tiny elephants seemed to know one another. The Ol Donyo Nyiro elephants are remnant true survivors of a tough dry country population, genetically honed for survival where the odds are stacked against them. Great credit goes to his rescuers for not feeding him cows’ milk but keeping him hydrated until the rescue could be arranged. They even chose his name, “Ndomot” which, in the Samburu dialect means, “where two rivers meet”. His arrival brings the Nursery contingent to eight, with every stable occupied, and Olmalo and Taita sharing one of the side Rhino Stockades, (and a Keeper), an arrangement that is working harmoniously, but for when it rains, when Taita tries to nick the blanket off Olmalo, who protests loudly!
Six weeks is a difficult age for little “Ndomot” to have been orphaned, and we are having to weather the usual tummy troubles resulting from a combination of teething, trauma and a change from mother’s milk. To begin with he was very fearful without elephant company at night, desperately attempting to break out, so he was put in with Wendi, who is currently the self appointed Mini Matriarch of the Nursery orphans. Wendi was very touched to have a baby with her, even encouraging him to suckle as yet non-existent breasts by putting a foreleg forward and pulling him in position with her trunk and little Ndomot is happy to oblige, but gets a bit frustrated when what he wants doesn’t arrive! However, after two nights of sharing a stable, for Wendi the novelty wore off, because Ndomot wanted to lie actually on top of her, and to discourage such close contact, she kept kicking him with her leg! So, he was moved back to his own quarters and has since become accustomed to being in with only his Keeper.
Unhappily, another November orphan came in too far gone to be able to retrieve – a calf of about 9 months old, from Sosian Ranch (the home of “Sosian” himself, (now in Tsavo) and “Selengai” who is thriving in the Nursery). This third orphan from Sosian Ranch arrived suffering from advanced pneumonia and before we could even name her, she passed away, literally within hours of arrival. Apparently she had followed a Ranch cattle herder for several Kms. rather than have to die alone, and sadly by the time she arrived in Nairobi, it was too late to be able to deal with such an advanced respiratory problem. We knew she was a hopeless case, for fluid dribbling from the trunk is an indication that the end is near. At least this elephant died peacefully, and not alone.
All the Nursery inmates are thriving. Napasha’s tusks are just visible through the lip, which means that he is approaching a milestone – his second birthday – and time to move up a rung and join the others in Tsavo. Taita and Olmalo are firm friends, Olmalo a very gentle and friendly character and a great favourite amongst both elephants and humans alike. Napasha and Tomboi are real “boys”, more independent than the girls, whilst Selengai and Sunyei are quiet and sweet, Selengai still very hooked on her food! Sunyei is a Nursery favourite, for she is so tiny for her age, and although she is now 5 months old, she is a little smaller even than 6 week old “Ndomot”. No doubt she will suddenly shoot up, as have others before her. Wendi, is very much a confident Nursery Elephant Boss, lording it over everyone, human admirers included and not beyond asserting authority by giving unsuspecting onlookers a shove. This is behaviour she copied from Mweya, and something that we have to discourage!
The Nursery Rhino:- Little “Shida” is the easiest rhino we have ever had to handle. He is undemanding, and extremely playful, running hither and thither, spinning like a top and ending the game with little pig-jumps up and down. He is happy to follow any Green Coat, irrespective of which Keeper dons it, and happy also to be able to have as much milk as he needs, having obviously been on short rations from his ageing mother. Already he is round and plump, and looks very like the “Piglet” in “Winnie the Pooh”. When tiny, there are few animals more endearing than a rhino, and little Shida charms everyone being a miniature replica of his awesome kind. Unhappily, Nestle have refused to let us have the time expired returned “Lactogen” (the formula for rhinos and zebras) at the nominal price of K. shs. 2/- per kilo, which we used to pay, saying that Policy does not allow them to sell this any more. Because of this, we have had to purchase tins at the shelf price and since the rhino goes through 5 tins in a day, this is a heavy overhead for the Trust, and one for which we could do with some help! The baby rhino will need milk for another l8 months, and we hope that a generous donor will come forward to sponsor his rations. We have approached the Head Office in Switzerland for special dispensation to allow us to use the returned stocks, as before, but are not hopeful of this being agreed.
Meanwhile, Shida is doing the rounds of the dungpiles and urinals, which is part and parcel of the vital introductory process to being “accepted” into a resident rhino community, where everything works through chemistry, scent and memory and where intruders that are unknown are immediately either hunted down and killed, or expelled. The rounds of the dungpiles and urinals will involve daily rounds that will span the next 3 years, and only then will Shida be accepted as rightfully “belonging”. Our other two rhino orphans, 6 year old Magnum and 4 year old Makosa have now acquired this important status for survival, and are no longer accompanied by a Keeper, but move freely where and when they like, both returning to Home Base on a daily basis, Magnum in the mornings, and Makosa in the evenings. These two rhinos know and accept one another, but Magnum finds Makosa too exuberant for his liking, and deliberately seeks to avoid him, not wanting to become embroiled in a rough sparring match which is what Makosa initiates every time they meet!
The Tsavo Orphans:- The rains have still not broken properly in the part of the Park occupied by our orphans, although it has rained heavily in the North. Around Voi there have just been sporadic light showers, which is not enough to bring on the festive green season. November has therefore been a very tough month for the orphans, for rain is usually expected in Mid October. We hope that the rains are just late, and that they will not fail altogether, which will, indeed, by a disaster in the making!
The weakness of Mweiga is a feature of this Diary. This is not entirely unexpected, for she has always been a very frail elephant, and we suspect suffers from a weak heart. It is touching that the other females are so caring of her, especially Aitong, Icholta and Mulika who are always looking out for her, keeping her company when she lags behind the others on the way to the mudbath, and remaining at the base of the hill when the others choose to go up to feed.
There has been frequent contact with wild groups – on the 1st when Natumi chose to spend time alone with a wild herd, on the 2nd when Emily joined three bachelors (much to the distress of Loisaba and Ndara) and spend several hours away from the other orphans. The orphans joined a herd of l0 on the 13th when Mulika hung back, daunted by the presence of the wild herd’s very large Matriarch, until Emily returned to fetch her and bring her in to join the herd. On the 14th a 12 year old wild young bull teamed up with our orphans, with whom Emily enjoyed playing. When he left Laikipia and Salama accompanied him, spending several hours away before leaving him to return.
On the 15th Natumi joined the wild herd led by Eleanor’s friend, “Catherine” and on the 12th a wild herd consisting of 2 cows, a bull and 2 calves abducted little Irima from the orphaned group, and prevented him from escaping. The Keepers followed this herd for 5 kms, but eventually had to give up and accept the fact that Irima had gone.
Several days later, who should appear, but Edo wlong with Ndume, (who has not been seen since March) escorting none other than little Irima back to the Keepers and the orphans, and having safely taken him back, did an immediate turnaround and again left heading towards the Voi river. Irima enjoyed a very exuberant welcome from all the others, and features prominently in this month’s Diary, his particular pal being little Morani. Mweiga is also very caring of him, and it is interesting that the day after his return, Morani and Mweiga keep close beside him, fearful of losing him again!
On the 22nd Emily, Tsavo, Loisaba, Ilingwezi and Salama spent time with a lone wild bull, who joined the orphans at their mudbath. Again on 24th the orphans were joined by 2 cows, a calf and a bull when Tsavo and Ndara enjoyed playing with the wild baby of their size, and were tempted to go off with the group, but were retrieved by Emily, who went especially to retrieve them. On the 29th 7 wild elephants joined the orphans and came with them to the noon mudbath.
Edo, who, like Ndume, has been away for many months, has been a fairly frequent visitor to the orphans this month, joining them first on the 4th, when he paid particular attention to Aitong, of whom he is very fond. However, on 8th he enticed Emily away from the others for an hour, and was back at the Stockades in the evening. He again appeared on the 17th and on the 18th when he and Ndume returned little Irima. On the 28th all the orphans join Edo to browse on the top of the hill called Mazinga, just behind the Stockades, but Aitong, and Mulika kept Mweiga company at the base.
Sosian is bold to stand up to Salama, who is much bigger, and this says a great deal for his confidence and courage, which has long manifested itself, for he is a dominant character, despite his tender age. As usual, it is always the females who intervene to end squabbles and who act as peace-keepers. The special relationship that Sally has with Aitong is again evident, and the bonds between Burra, Mpala, Morani and Solango is also illustrated, with Irima being taken in as another close friend of this group of young bulls. Nyiro, Mukwaju, and Tsavo share close bonds of friendship, but there is one young bull that is not mentioned at all this month, and that is Lolokwe, who, wisely, has obviously just been getting on with life as a member of the group at large, avoiding valuable time that can be spend feeding instead of feuding!
Encounters with other species include coming across a dead buffalo killed by lions, which terrified all the orphans; chasing out an old bull buffalo who was occupying their mudbath; Natumi and Edie seeing off 4 zebras, Seraa, Mvita, Morani and Laikipia ganging up to corner a tiny warthog baby, and being ignominiously chased off by the mother! Irima, Mpala, Mulika, Ilingwezi, Laikipia and Edie ran for the protection of the Keepers when two kudu bulls ran out unexpectedly, but Mweiga, Sosian, Morani and Ilingwezi felt good when they were able to separate two warring Impala rams. A low flying Helicopter scared the entire group (always does) and Mweya, Kinna and Sweet Sally were very interested in a newborn buffalo calf, following this baby and the two cows that were with it for a long way until the buffalo cows became irritated and saw them off!