Keepers' Diaries, November 2005

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

We have struggled with blind little Ndololo this month, who has been having cortisone and antibiotic ointment in both eyes at 2 hourly intervals for many weeks now, but sadly with no visible results. Two ophthalmologists are monitoring him, and we all agree that because he is an elephant, he needs time. He has also been teething, and as usual this has been accompanied by the usual diarrheoa, necessitating two courses of Sulphadimidine and has left him in a skeletal condition. However, his spirit remains strong, and the love and trust he has for his Keepers is deeply touching, and also sad, to behold. He enjoys his little walks, following the tapping sound of a stick, and the scent of the Keepers, responds to his name and the sound of voices and loves his exclusive little dustbath. However, this tiny bull has too many problems for us to be able to be optimistic about his chances of survival, quite apart from the fact that a blind bull would find it very difficult to cope in a wild situation.

We have struggled with blind little Ndololo this month, who has been having cortisone and antibiotic ointment in both eyes at 2 hourly intervals for many weeks now, but sadly with no visible results. Two ophthalmologists are monitoring him, and we all agree that because he is an elephant, he needs time. He has also been teething, and as usual this has been accompanied by the usual diarrheoa, necessitating two courses of Sulphadimidine and has left him in a skeletal condition. However, his spirit remains strong, and the love and trust he has for his Keepers is deeply touching, and also sad, to behold. He enjoys his little walks, following the tapping sound of a stick, and the scent of the Keepers, responds to his name and the sound of voices and loves his exclusive little dustbath. However, this tiny bull has too many problems for us to be able to be optimistic about his chances of survival, quite apart from the fact that a blind bull would find it very difficult to cope in a wild situation.

Meanwhile, Zurura, the other new Nursery inmate, who has thrived from the beginning, continues to do so and is a very forceful character, who makes demands on his Keepers without reservation. He likes to take his bottle of milk from beneath a blanket draped over his face, and this is a comic sight, that caused some difficulty when the rains arrived, and all the elephants had blankets and raincoats over them! Zurura kept on probing underneath for a bottle of milk which was not there, and became very frustrated as a result! When he wants milk, he must have it, intolerant of any delay, when he enforces his wishes by butting the Keeper, sometimes hard enough to make him fall! He is a very strong calf, despite being only about 6 weeks old. He has been desperate to attach himself to Naserian, but she has eyes only for Makena, and rejects Zurura’s overtures, so he has settled for Kora, ignoring Lualeni, who would love to “adopt” him as her own special calf.

Another extremely emaciated newcomer arrived in the Nursery on the 16th, having been in amongst a herd of cattle on Ziwani Sisal Estate (bordering Tsavo West’s southern boundary) for many days. This calf has been named “Challa”, (the name of the spot where he was found and which means “source of the volcanic river”). Being about 15 months old upon arrival, understandably, he was wild, but also too weak to put up much of a struggle - a typical case of advanced starvation, deprived of his mother’s milk for far too long. Such cases of extreme emaciation are tricky to retrieve, especially at that age for they have not only a deficient digestive system, plus an overload of parasites, but also suffer from the trauma of capture and the psychological distress of losing his a mother and family. All are factors that work against success. However, Challa calmed overnight, and by the morning was taking his milk from the bottle avidly, albeit only a very weak mixture. He was given cakes made of cooked oatmeal and coconut to try and build up his strength, for he was too weak to rise from a recumbent position unaided. After several days, when he was a little stronger, he was de-wormed him, and passed a huge amount of dead parasites in his dung. There were, however, still some living ones, so he will probably need another de-worming dose in a week or two. We also had to cope with the usual bloat from which starvation cases suffer, so he had to have Buscopan to ease that. Gradually, milk mixture, with added coconut, is being strengthened, and we are hopeful that like many other such cases that have preceded him, he will soon be a healthy and plump member of the unit.

Sadly, this newcomer has not received the usual warm welcome from the other young bulls. Rapsu and Kora, especially, have not been accommodating to him, and tend to knock him over, which is out of character for Rapsu, and probably stems from the fact that he had to vacate his usual Stockade for Challa. Rapsu is now back, but the grudge persists, and this is not unusual in elephants, who have long memories, shown through a recent examination of the brain to be far superior to that of a human. Those that feel hard done by are usually anxious to settle the score.

Three of our current Nursery bulls tend to be a little more pushy than usual, probably because they have had to contend with Buchuma, who engages them in contests of strength and rank endlessly. They need the company of the older elephants, who will be able to instil discipline and put them into line! All three are ready to leave the Nairobi Nursery now, having passed their first fully milk dependent year, so we will probably be sending them to join the Ithumba Unit sooner rather than later to relieve the aggression directed at Challa, because when he gets stronger, he, too, will have some scores to settle! In the meantime, he and Zurura have teamed up together.

Naserian’s obsession with Makena continues, and is reciprocated equally as strongly by Makena. The two are inseparable, to the exclusion of all the others, even Lualeni, who has been forced to take a back seat since Naserian became so devoted to little Makena. This will have to change when Naserian has to leave the Nursery ahead of Lualeni who will then become the mini Matriarch. She promises to be a very caring and loving one.

November 2005 day to day

01 Nov

Unlike the usual pushy bull behaviour, today Kora was very caring of little Zurura, standing close to him. Up until now, Lualeni has been anxious to take charge of Zurura, but Zurura prefers the company of Kora, so Lualeni has accepted that.

Lualeni & Kora browsing together

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