Keepers' Diaries, November 2009

Nairobi Nursery Unit

The Nursery has suffered three tragedies this month, the demise of tiny Mara on the 4th, the death of little Pesi on the 13th and baby Sala on the 30th, all of whom were extremely endearing and precious to us all. Pesi was very much a favourite amongst the Baby Group of Tano, Shukuru, Mutara and Chaffa while Mara and Sala had always been frail little elephants who never seemed to pick up, and who needed extra “mothering” from us all as well as the other elephants. Pesi and Sala displayed similar symptoms, initially spots of blood in the stool, but otherwise the stool of a good consistency, one back foot appearing to turn upwards, as though suffering some mineral deficiency, then rapid weakness overcoming them overnight, followed by death. Both deaths were unexpected, because up until the weakness set in, the little elephants were feeding well, and appeared to be holding their own. Both had extensive treatment for the blood spotting, injectible and oral antibiotics which gave the illusion of having had the desired result, until the sudden weakness set in a day before death. Both were put on life support drip, and appeared to rally, but only briefly. Tiny Mara died from the dreaded pneumonia. She suddenly started breathing very rapidly with tell-tale fluid exuding from the trunk, and we knew instantly that the battle for her life was lost. She died within an hour, and was buried in the forest, but the bodies of Pesi and Sala went for autopsies.

01 November 2009

Shida returned from the bush earlier than usual today, obviously in a bad mood. At first he didn’t want to go into his Stockade, and was aggressive, but the Keepers calmed him with a handout of Copra and Lucerne, and then he settled down and went in.

02 November 2009

Sala is very attached to the Keepers and remains glued to them rather than mingling with the other babies. At the public visiting hour she remained close to the hung blanket and refused to leave when time was up. The Keepers removed the blanket, and this made her scream and still she refused to follow. Eventually, she had to be gently pushed, and this made her scream again which amused some of the visitors, but others sympathized with the situation.

03 November 2009

Today was the last day in the Nursery for the 5 older elephants, Kenia, Shira, Enasoit, Naimina and Meibai. It is as though they were suspicious of what was about to happen, because as soon as Kenia was let out of her stockade, she went to each of the baby’s stables, knocking on the door with her head so that the Keeper inside would open up. She then greeted each one lovingly, laying her trunk across their back, and paid a lot of attention to Suguta’s group out in the bush. Bhaawa spent the day very close to Kenia, suckling her ears. Sabachi, who is Shira’s best friend, remained very close to her and Olare throughout the day, intertwining their trunks and playing together. Upon returning from the bush in the evening Sabachi insisted on going into Shira’s stockade, and refused to leave, even when enticed out with his bottle of milk. In the end the Keepers had to push him out. It was as though he knew that Shira would be leaving in the morning.

04 November 2009

It was an early start today, with everyone waking up at 4 a.m. in preparation for moving the 5 older orphans, who had been practicing going into the trucks for the past 2 months. Kenia and Shira entered their truck, followed by Enasoit and Naimina without any pressure from the Keepers. However, when Meibai entered his truck, at first he panicked, and reversed out, wanting to return to his Stockade. However, the Keepers brought him back with a bottle of milk, and then he went in quietly. The three trucks drew out of the Nursery by 5 a.m. Kenia and Shira heading for the Voi Stockades while Enasoit, Meibai and Naimina were going to Ithumba. The remaining orphans spent the rest of the day rather confused without their Leaders, obviously missing their presence.

05 November 2009

Now, it was up to Dida to exercise Leadership, being the oldest orphan in the Nursery, and one who has been here the longest. Sabachi, Kilaguni and Chaimu joined her group today, while Melia and Mawenzi, who share a stockade with Dida, trailed behind, all seemingly accepting Dida as their new Mini Matriarch.

06 November 2009

Chaffa is the latest arrival in the Nursery, and is a very greedy baby. Today, she refused to leave the hung Feeding Blanket, and kept trying to push the other babies away. This infuriated Mutara who retaliated strongly and did not spare her, so Chaffa stood at a distance, pointing her trunk.

07 November 2009

Sabachi is very selective about choosing a friend, and having chosen one, does not want to be parted. He is also very selective about where he spends the night. We moved him and Olare to the stockade vacated by Shira, but he was not at all happy, and screamed the entire night, trying to climb out, standing on his head and even kicking the Keeper with a back leg. This upset Olare who was next door, and kept the entire Nursery awake all night!

08 November 2009

Suguta and her group exchanged greetings by touching each other and rumbling as soon as they were let out in the morning. The small babies such as Pesi, Chaffa and Mutara were not out yet, so Tumaren, Suguta, Chaimu and Nchan went to their stables touching the doors to encourage the Keepers inside to open them up. Kibo and Kilaguni enjoy a Pushing Match most mornings, and today was no different. Sabachi, Olare and Chaimu formed another play group which kept them busy until the Keepers called them to head out into the forest to feed.

09 November 2009

Mutara led the small babies out today. Once out in the bush the Keepers hung the blankets for them and all was well until Chaffa and Shukuru bumped heads as they were playing around the blankets. Chaffa was very angry and pushed Shukuru down who screamed, and this brought Mutara at the run, her trunk coiled underneath her chin. She and Chaffa do not see eye to eye, and knowing that she was now in trouble, Chaffa ran to hide behind the Keepers.

10 November 2009

Dida has settled into her role as the new Leader, and seems to relish it. She is very attached to Melia, an associate of Mawenzi. Once out in the bush the orphans began playing instead of concentrating on browsing. Kimana invited Olare for a Pushing Match and Sabachi, who has recently been promoted to the Bigger Group ran towards Mawenzi and tried to entice her to play with him. However, she ignored him and went instead to Melia. Dida, who was close by then moved in and pushed Sabachi away from the two girls, so he went to join Kimana and Olare instead.

11 November 2009

During the lunch break Tano spotted a mother warthog and her very small babies. She was very interested in the babies and moved towards them with her ears out which made the babies scatter in all directions. Mutara, who was watching from a distance came to team up with Tano, and together they chased after the baby warthogs, who had no difficulty in outwitting their pursuers.

12 November 2009

Pesi looked very weak this morning, and could not stand up by himself. He was immediately put on a drip and taken back to his stable. He was a little stronger afterwards and took his milk, but then lay down and slept, and the Keepers could not wake him. Another drip was inserted into an ear vein, but little Pesi lost the battle to live at 3 a.m. in the morning. Another very sad event in the Nursery for everyone.

13 November 2009

There was tension in the baby group, who missed the presence of little Pesi who had been in the Nursery a long time, along with Tano and Mutara. He meant a lot to them. They all gathered at Pesi’s stable door until Chaffa led them into her stable, which is next door to the one that was occupied by Pesi. They all put their trunks through the separating bars, wondering where Pesi was. They were all very subdued today, obviously because Pesi had left them.

14 November 2009

Again all the babies gathered outside Pesi’s former stable this morning, hoping that he would emerge. They have not forgotten him. Tano, Mutara and Shukuru began playing just outside Pesi’s door, until Chaffa was let out. Again she took them all into her stable so that they could look into Pesi’s former stable. Pesi’s demise has definitely affected the whole group.

15 November 2009

Suguta’s group were approaching the mudbath in a rush at noon, eager for their milk. Tumaren seemed to lose her way, and instead ran to the cordon that separates the visitors from the elephants. There she stood confused, trumpeting, until a Keeper caught up with her and brought her back to the milk.

16 November 2009

This morning Maalim was browsing a short distance from his Keepers, when he suddenly lifted up his head, with his ears out and ran back to the Keepers for protection. The Keepers went to investigate what could have disturbed him, and found 3 zebras who were grazing at the far end of a glade.

17 November 2009

Maalim woke up in a very jovial mood and began playing his running game when a family of warthogs crossed his path. He wanted to engage them but they were too scared, and ran off, having interrupted his “beat”.

18 November 2009

It rained throughout the night, and was still raining in the morning, so all the orphans had to remain in their sleeping quarters. When the rain eased a little, Dida’s and Suguta’s groups were allowed out, but without Bhaawa and Turkwel, who are still not strong enough to cope with the cold. It was about l0.30 a.m. before the babies could come out, which did not please them. Meanwhile, Kalama, Nchan and Kudup spent the morning playing in the puddles, and wallowing in the mud, and consequently had a lovely time.

19 November 2009

Bhaawa and Turkwel spent the day with the small babies. Bhaawa has lost a lot of strength, and had to be supported by two Keepers in order to take his milk. Turkwel is also still weak.

20 November 2009

It was another cold, drizzly morning, so the little babies, Bhaawa and Turkwel were kept inside while Mutara, Tano and Shukuru gathered inside Chaffa’s stable where there was a lot of disagreement between Chaffa and Mutara about how to share the blanket! Chaffa did not like Mutara touching her blanket, but Mutara, being stronger, kept pushing Chaffa away into the far corner. Tano did not approve of this and went over to console Chaffa.

21 November 2009

The little babies were in a happy mood today. Shukuru and Mutara played together, pretending to fight one another. When they came to the mudbath, Mutara went straight to take her milk, but Shukuru began playing in the dust, showing off to the visitors. She then went to try and play with Sala, who is still very weak, and was having none of it. Sala bellowed, and ran in amongst the Keepers.

22 November 2009

Kilaguni and Chaimu, who share a stockade, headed straight towards the stables of Kibo, Kalama, Kudup and Nchan as soon as they were let out. Nowadays Kilaguni is very close to Kibo, and always anxious to play with him. He knocked at Kibo’s door hard with his head, so that the Keeper would open up for Kibo and Kudup to come out. Immediately Kilaguni engaged Kibo in a Pushing Game, kneeling down until Kibo came close, then standing up reversing until Kibo came up to him, as though coaching Kibo how to play flight! They continued doing this until the Keepers called them because it was time to head off into the bush.

23 November 2009

Shida turned up late today, and because all the foster-parent visitors had already left, the Keepers did not need to lock him into his Stockade. Instead he went to the door of Max’s stockade, and the two engaged each other in a tough fight between the bars, which lasted half an hour. Shida then lay down in front of Max’s door, but Max continued to batter him until he got up and took himself off.

24 November 2009

Suguta and her group left the Stockades in a happy mood this morning, but because there was light drizzle, the babies had to remain inside. Meanwhile Nchan, Kudup and Kibo were enjoying wallowing in the dam soil. Kilaguni then came to look for Kibo, who then abandoned his age mates, and concentrated on playing a fighting game with Kilaguni.

25 November 2009

After the departure of Kenia, we expected to see Dida automatically take over the Matriarchal role in the Nursery, but instead Ndii and Olare seem to be competing for that position, and Dida appears uninterested and relaxed!

26 November 2009

Mawenzi is very close to Melia, and Melia seems to have accepted her as her baby. Mawenzi keeps sucking on Melia’s ears, and is glued to her throughout the day. The two also share a stockade at night.

27 November 2009

Kibo and Kilaguni are very good friends. The two enjoy play-fighting together and are never far apart. Sabachi sometimes tries to bully Kibo, but Kilaguni immediately comes to his rescue, and pushes Sabachi away.

28 November 2009

Early in the morning, after all the orphans had been taken out, it began to drizzle with rain, which meant that Tano’s baby group, and weak orphans such as Bhaawa and Turkwel had to return to the shelter of their stables. Bhaawa was quite happy to do so, along with all the other babies, but Turkwel resisted, and had to be forced to go back. Meanwhile Maalim was having a wonderful time revolving around on his bottom in a mud puddle.

29 November 2009

Tano is the oldest orphan in the Small Baby Group, but today Mutara displayed excellent leadership abilities. She ran back to help Shukuru who fell down while running to the mudbath area for her bottle. Mutara was in front of the column, but she turned back to help Shukuru, whilst Tano just kept going.

30 November 2009

It was a very sad day in the Nursery, because little Sala died, having struggled to survive for a long time, and had put up a brave fight. Her death is a big blow to the Nursery, because we had worked very hard to try and save her life.