Keepers' Diaries, November 2014

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Early November was extremely difficult for us all when we lost two of our new arrival tiny elephant babies despite our best efforts. It always amazes us how fragile baby elephants are and how challenging they are to raise. Each one is an individual challenge as some seem so much more robust than others. Kazakini sadly was one of the weaker ones who was extremely emaciated and weak from the outset with terribly infected eyes that she struggled to open. Wass on the other hand had moments of feistiness but could not pass a day without plummeting glucose levels. This began the day he came into our care when our team found him in a state of collapse at the Milgis airstrip before loading him onto the plane. After his tragic passing an autopsy was performed which revealed pancreatitis and a deformed pancreas which made sense of the difficulties we had encountered. Lasayen who arrived at the same time, another tiny calf and a well victim, has thankfully grown stronger and seems to be doing very well. Ndotto too has sprouted some teeth, which has been a great relief as they were a long time coming! We now have the trauma of the teething process along with tiny Nkii who is also battling this difficult time.

Early November was extremely difficult for us all when we lost two of our new arrival tiny elephant babies despite our best efforts. It always amazes us how fragile baby elephants are and how challenging they are to raise. Each one is an individual challenge as some seem so much more robust than others. Kazakini sadly was one of the weaker ones who was extremely emaciated and weak from the outset with terribly infected eyes that she struggled to open. Wass on the other hand had moments of feistiness but could not pass a day without plummeting glucose levels. This began the day he came into our care when our team found him in a state of collapse at the Milgis airstrip before loading him onto the plane. After his tragic passing an autopsy was performed which revealed pancreatitis and a deformed pancreas which made sense of the difficulties we had encountered. Lasayen who arrived at the same time, another tiny calf and a well victim, has thankfully grown stronger and seems to be doing very well. Ndotto too has sprouted some teeth, which has been a great relief as they were a long time coming! We now have the trauma of the teething process along with tiny Nkii who is also battling this difficult time.

Kamok, Mbegu, Ashaka, Murit and Kauro have thankfully all struggled through the teething and have now progressed to spending more time with the bigger elephants. Mbegu is a budding Mummy and loves to spend time with the babies, with Ndotto a firm favourite. Kauro is becoming a rambunctious bull and needs the company of the bigger bulls to satisfy his rough antics.

Little Roi, who so tragically lost her mother to poaching last month, is settling in to Nursery life and has a firm friend in Ziwa who sleeps in the stable next door to her. They share the same tragic story, both having to confront their mothers mortality, so Ziwa has been able to comfort Roi and show her the ropes, ensuring she is fine at all times. Despite being a bull he is incredibly tender and nurturing. Ziwa is thankfully growing stronger by the week and it is simply wonderful to see him come back to life after his long protracted illness that required us to fly him back from the Ithumba relocation unit for intensive care.

The rains have broken and everywhere is green with standing water and mud throughout the forest. This creates a fabulous play ground for mischievous baby elephants who spend hours rolling and slipping around in the mud and water. Some days have been bitterly cold and the Keepers have to guide them back to the safety of their stables and stockades to get some respite from the driving rain. The Keepers themselves have had a sodden month, wet much of the time as they provide the all important security and comfort for the baby orphans out in the forest.

Kili has been a big focus of attention this month. He was able to christen his new skyscraper stable, custom built for him, and despite an unsettled first night he has embraced it whole heartedly and simply loves it now. He has a special gap in the adjacent wall to the elephant babies’ stables and is able to see them and enjoy the Keepers presence throughout the night which he finds incredibly comforting. He has his salt lick in his stable and fresh cut greens. Sadly this month Kili began to show signs of being off colour with rumpled fur and a general drab appearance and a distinct lack of playing which rang alarm bells with us all. We managed to take blood from him for testing and gave him a long acting antibiotic and dewormed him. He bounced back to life and was soon his old perky self. Drama then struck on the 18th of the month just after lunch. Angela and Robert were called by a panicked Edwin to come and check on Kili as he had been attacked and wounded by a lioness. They ran to the stockades expecting the worst. The disaster happened as Kili and his keeper were standing in a sunny glade in the forest at midday. They were in the company of three little baby elephants and three elephant Keepers when a lioness flew through the air landing on Kili’s back knocking him to the ground. The Keepers immediately freaked out shouting with flailing arms and the lioness took fright and bolted back into the undergrowth. Kili staggered to his feet and with little prompting took off towards the safety of his stockade. This whole incident left everyone extremely shaken. Close inspection revealed that the lioness’s claws had cut the skin of one of Kili’s back legs and not much else. A miracle. We kept Kili in the stockades for the coming days but for the rest of this month he has been reluctant to go further afield. He has definitely been struggling from the aftermath of this most frightening event and is quiet and subdued. He is reluctant to leave his stockade during the day so we feel sure he can sense that the lions remain in the area.

It is time for some of the naughty boys to move up the ranks to Ithumba, one of our three rehabilitation units where they will be able to meet up with some of their old Nursery friends and have the company of wild elephants. As they grow older they outgrow the Nursery both mentally and physically so this month the older elephants have been practicing going into the elephant moving truck ready for the journey. Some are more reluctant than others but, as the weeks have passed, they are all now happy to enter the truck trailing after their milk bottles. We have to wait for the right time to move them as it needs to be dry enough that the truck doesn’t get stuck on the way there. The exact combination of who goes when and where has not yet been finalised but safe to say naughty Kithaka and best friend Barsilinga and very very naughty Lemoyian will be on their way to Ithumba shortly. Jasiri, Faraja and Ngasha are also earmarked to make the journey to their next phase. This phase still sees them remain very much dependent on their milk and Keepers for a number of years, but with the ability to interact with the older orphans and their wild friends. It is a progression they all embrace.

We also have our older girls, some of whom will travel to be a part of the Voi relocation unit. Mashariki has recently been inclined to hang around the babies and is showing signs of morphing into a loving and caring mini matriarch. Like everyone else Oltaiyoni still cannot resist little Mbegu; she is the most endearing little elephant - a bundle of joy, fun, tenderness and happiness. Kamok is growing fast in tandem with her best friend Ashaka. Embu and her warm orbit continues to embrace Dupotto who has found psychological equilibrium thanks to the love of Embu. Enkikwe has the privilege of sharing a stable with Embu. Olsekki and Sirimon have completely settled and are greedy boys; both hooked on their milk bottles. Nelion and Tundani are stockade neighbours and best friends. Their stockades are rather out on a limb from the others, around the back next to Maxwell, but they are both content with each others company and that of their night time Keeper. Rorogoi, Lentili and Arruba take time to nurture the younger orphans and ensure the rambunctious boys remain fairly well behaved. The girls are always so much more sensible right from a very young age while the boys like to be much more physical and tend to be a lot more dependent for longer.

Solio, our now fully independent rhino orphan, has been heard snorting around Angela’s house with her wild friends at night and she comes by to visit Maxwell but is obviously very content out in the wilds of Nairobi Park as her visits this month have been infrequent. Maxwell in his stockade has had a muddy time with all the rain, but this seems to make him more playful than ever. The company of the visiting public and the baby elephants’ antics in the early mornings are all important parts to Maxwell’s daily routine.

November 2014 day to day

01 Nov

The training for a move has begun with the older orphans in order to get them accustomed to the moving truck. This morning Kithaka, Barsilinga, Ngasha, Jasiri, Faraja, Arruba, Lentili, Rorogoi and Lemoyian had their 9am milk feed near to and in the truck. We have found that the more used to the truck the orphans are the easier and less traumatic the move will be when it eventually takes place. Out of this group it was Kithaka, Lemoyian and Rorogoi who refused to enter the truck for their milk.

Kithaka reaching for vegitation

Arruba browsing

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