Keepers' Diaries, November 2008

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Unlike October, mercifully November has been a quiet and healthy month for the remaining 13 Nursery elephants, although both Suguta and Kimana kept us on edge for a few days with tell-tale signs of feeling slightly under par. Fortunately, however, a few days of Septrin and Silver in their milk sorted out whatever was troubling them. Suguta is cutting her first molars, but why Kimana should feel unwell puzzled us, until tiny tusks appeared through the lip, despite the fact that he is only a few months old! This has astonished us, because usually the tusks appear when a calf is 2 years old, not two months old! As mentioned before, rearing the elephants is full of surprises!

Unlike October, mercifully November has been a quiet and healthy month for the remaining 13 Nursery elephants, although both Suguta and Kimana kept us on edge for a few days with tell-tale signs of feeling slightly under par. Fortunately, however, a few days of Septrin and Silver in their milk sorted out whatever was troubling them. Suguta is cutting her first molars, but why Kimana should feel unwell puzzled us, until tiny tusks appeared through the lip, despite the fact that he is only a few months old! This has astonished us, because usually the tusks appear when a calf is 2 years old, not two months old! As mentioned before, rearing the elephants is full of surprises!

The month has been marked mainly by the orphans establishing specific alliances in terms of friendship. Kenia definitely has chosen Ndii for special attention, while Mzima and Shimba are best friends, who share a night stockade. They often choose to feed together slightly apart from the others. Dida still adores little Kimana, but retains her affection for Lesanju, Lempaute and Sinya, while Taveta has got into the “bullying” mode, that is not unusual for orphans that have faced death through milk deprivation before being rescued. This is merely an instinctive survival tactic. He is overly possessive of his 3 hourly milk rations, quick to push others away suspecting that they might usurp his share, and bellowing and pushing the Keepers when he has finished his three large bottles. Only time, and the friendship of the others, will change such behaviour! Suguta remains so firmly bonded to the Keepers that she guards them jealously and resents them paying too much attention to the others, pushing the other orphans away whenever they approach the Keepers. She is our little miracle, who arrived unconscious and was on a drip for over 24 hours before regaining consciousness . We never expected her to survive the first night, let alone recover! She was just weeks old at the time, so probably has no recollection of her elephant mother and family.

Wasessa is at last becoming a little more accommodating of the Keepers, having always been extremely wary of all humans, including the Keepers. For the first time this month she has allowed them to actually stroke her trunk and touch her body, whereas previously she would have none of it! However, the blanket remains firmly rejected, but at least she has got used to the others being covered by one to protect them against the chill.

Kenia is already showing signs of becoming a budding Mini Matriarch. She is very responsible and concerned about all members of the smaller Nursery group, waiting behind to ensure any straggler catches up, and rushing to help Ndii whenever she stumbles or pushed by any of the others. Ndii has taken to entertaining the mudbath human visitors by showing off. She is always first into the mud, and enjoys walking up and down the cordon so that visitors can touch her, basking in the attention. Suguta is beginning to follow suit while Dida shows off her prowess with the football, kicking it along the line of the cordon, and, like Lempaute, breaching the cordon to excite the bystanders and mingle in amongst them. This invariably causes a stir.
Siria is a quiet and self-sufficient little elephant, something of a loner who is always well behaved and happy being just a member of the herd, with no particularly special friend.
Lesanju remains the main Matriarch, although not overly “hands-on” happy to allow Lempaute and Sinya to share.

Several good showers of rain fell earlier in the month which brought out a flush of green vegetation, but the last half of the month has remained dry. Normally the October’ November rains carry on into December and sometimes January, but this has not been the case this year – a worrying trend, especially as predictions are that global warming will turn Africa into a drier continent. This does not bode well for the future of either humans or animals.

The Rhinos:- Max’s days slot into his usual routine, and have been uneventful this month, apart from the regular daily visits of Shida, which remain the highlight of his existence. That said, all rhinos are creatures of habit, so Max is no exception. As he has been blind since birth, he is perfectly attuned to his dark world, and is lucky to be alive, for had he remained a wild rhino, he would have been long gone! Nevertheless it saddens us to see him so restricted. However, his prowess was demonstrated on an occasion when some baby piglets slipped through the bars of his Stockade because Shida turned up unexpectedly next door as they and their mothers were finishing off the left-over Copra hand-out. The mothers rushed under and past Shida, but the piglets, too fearful to follow, and instead slipped into Max’s quarters next door. Immediately, Max sensed the intrusion and charged, astonishing onlookers by being hot on their heels every inch of the way without colliding with any obstacle during the short chase and stopping short of the Gate as the piglets shot through! Seeing this, people would have been hard pressed to accept that he was totally blind!

Shida continues to be a regular caller, turning up at will and undertaking a careful inspection of the home compound to satisfy himself that nothing has changed! Even the slightest change does not pass un-noticed, but, thankfully this month, he has respected the “No-Go areas” cordoned off by wires that are not always hot! Every mudbath hour usually finds him voluntarily back in his old Stockade, waiting patiently for the visitors to come and view him, and presenting his huge head at the Stockade door so that it can be rubbed by any passer-by, while Max is in “excited mode” next door, his tail in the air! Shida usually returns again in the evenings for the foster-parents who come at 5.15 p.m. to watch the orphans settling down for the night and when he is again locked into his stockade. Only when the last visitor has left the compound is the Gate to his stockade opened to allow him freedom of movement again.

November 2008 day to day

01 Nov

Today marked the first time that Wasessa allowed the Keepers to touch her trunk and body. Up until now, immediately having taken her milk, she has always run away, but now at last she is beginning to accept the Keepers.

Wasessa and Siria

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