This month there have been five Elephant Rescues - Layoni (2 ½ years old) came in on the 4th from the Masai Mara with what looked like hyaena mauls on his rear end and under-belly, fortunately, only superficial. Three week old Sasab arrived on the 8th, having been washed down the flooded Uaso Nyiro River and retrieved near Sasaab Camp in the Kipsing area of Samburu. On the same day another 6 month old female orphaned calf was brought in having been found alone on the Taita Ranch abutting the Buchuma area of Tsavo East – a veritable poaching hotspot populated by Somalis. Sadly, this calf was too far gone to save, and collapsed soon after arrival. Despite being on life support throughout the night, she died the next morning. Next to arrive on the 20th was tiny Kithaka just a few days old from the Imenti Forest who was airlifted from the Lewa Downs airstrip. Finally, at month end on the 30th, another Rescue Alert came from the South Turkana Game Reserve where a beleaguered small remnant population of elephants somehow manage to survive under very challenging conditions. Those rescued from this area, are, indeed, the lucky ones, included amongst whom are Orphans Nasalot (now an Ithumba Ex Orphan living wild), Turkwel and Kainuk. This latest arrival, named “Orwa” was a young bull aged about 6 months, desperately dehydrated and malnutritioned in a state of extreme emaciation which was painful to even behold! However, he took milk overnight but had to be helped up from a sleeping position, and supported once up. It will be a miracle if this baby pulls through.
It has been a very hectic month for the Nairobi Nursery Keepers, not made easier by the onset of rain mid month which brought cold, drizzly weather, which meant that the small babies had to remain indoors being at risk from pneumonia. Nor were things made easier by the antics of rhino Solio, who led the Keepers a dance whenever she felt like remaining out instead of returning to her night Stockade in the evenings. All the Big Girls (Mutara, Shukuru, Makireti, Tano and Turkwel) are all eager to “mother” the babies, lining up outside their stables every morning, vying with one another to take possession as soon as the little ones emerge. Turkwel’s newest obsession with little Sasab and Kithaka has resulted in making her former favourite, Kainuk, very jealous. Sities and Naipoki have also been showing signs of jealousy, initially targeting little Ishaq-B who was the Big Girls’ favourite prior to the arrival of the two tiny calves. Mutara, Makireti and Shukuru all want to have tiny Kithaka, whilst Tano focuses on Sasab.
Ishaq-B’s swollen back leg has been improving rapidly. She can now put weight on it and keep up with the herd, whereas previously she always lagged behind. Ishanga remains a “problem” member of the Nursery, targeting Ishaq-B and the smaller calves probably again irritated that she does not manage to monopolize them. However, she still undertakes her nurturing role of grieving newcomers, accompanying those that want to feed apart from the crowd. This month, Mutara has surprised the Keepers by also going into hiding with Rombo, Dabassa, and Kasigau, and not responding to the Keepers summons when it is time to return in the evenings. This is probably just because she is enjoying the fresh green shoots!
Layoni, who has short tusks, and was still strong on arrival has been a difficult newcomer to calm. It was only after 8 days in the Taming Stockade that he would tolerate the presence of a Keeper with him, and could join the others out in the bush. Having been starved of milk since being orphaned, like all such newcomers, he is very greedy for milk, pushing and shoving the others in trying to get what is not his share, and bellowing loudly every time his share is finished! He and Rombo have struck up a strong friendship, sharing a Night Stockade, Kasigau having been moved into the stockade vacated by Rombo. Rombo, who is normally a pushy member of the Boy Gang, respects Layoni, who is bigger.
This Diary clearly illustrates the motherly instinct of female elephants, irrespective of age; the nurturing love of babies even when little more than a baby themselves; their understanding of routine and their disciplinarian role of jealous youngsters whose noises have been put out of joint by the arrival of smaller newcomers. This is always the case and never illustrated more graphically than by the reaction of Kainuk who has enjoyed being Turkwel’s favoured baby until the arrival of Ishaq-B and then smaller Sasab and tiny Kithaka! Both Sities and Naipoki have also shown jealous tendencies towards the two little ones, now not having the undivided attention of Mutara, Shukuru and Tano.
The Big boys, Dabassa, Rombo and Kasigau have been undergoing training to get them used to the Elephant Truck prior to being upgraded to the Ithumba Unit, as soon as weather permits. We were hoping to move them mid month but heavy downpours at the Ithumba end have rendered the access road a problem for the large Elephant Moving Truck. Rombo and Kasigau are now compliant, and are taking their milk inside the truck, but Dabassa wants none of it, and will even forego a feed rather than risk having to get in! Hence, on the appointed day, he will probably have to be a Stressnil candidate! It is time now that the Big Boys are all upgraded to the Rehabilitation stage, there to be taught elephant manners by even Bigger Boys and the Ex Orphans and their wild friends. Starvation cases armed with tusks tend to prove pushy and disruptive in the Nursery environment at feeding times.
The Rhinos:- Solio continues to grow apace, becoming ever more independent, and often leading her Keepers quite a run around when she decides to do her own thing and not return to her Night Stockade on queue. She has been moved to Shida’s old Stockade at night, which is much bigger than the one she occupied previously, and which suits her better and also abuts that of Maxwell. Max remains obsessed with Solio and literally lives for contact with her twice a day, when she leaves in the mornings and when she returns in the evenings. Due to the rain his Stockade has turned into a veritable huge mudbath, but he sleeps in comfort under the shelter and on a bed of hay at one end, within scent of Solio sleeping in her sheltered portion just next door. Both rhinos are healthy, happy and content with their lot.