This month has seen significant rains here at the Nairobi Nursery, with El nino seemingly upon us with some very wet days and nights never pleasant for either the Keepers or the orphans. However with plentiful vegetation, flowing streams and a mudbath at every turn, the baby elephants have had a lot of fun. During wet days we are mindful that our tiny baby herd has to be kept warm and dry. Boisterous baby bulls such as Kauro, Enkikwe, Olsekki and Sokotei enjoy trying to clamber over the long suffering older girls, Suswa, Mashariki, Embu, Arruba and Oltaiyoni and such jovial games can last for hours.
One day this month whilst walking out in the bush, the orphans startled two male buffaloes who came bulleting out of undergrowth straight through the orphan herd leaving the babies extremely shaken. Young ones such as Murit, Rapa, Godoma, Mbegu, Kamok, Roi, Ndotto and Lasayen bellowed in fear as they rushed towards their Keepers for comfort. Excited by the event, Arruba, Suswa, Mashariki, Rorogoi, Embu and Elkerama took to charging around “bush bashing” and trumpeting in order to provide a deterrent and security for their peers.
There have been three new rescues, this month - the first was early in the month on the 2nd of November, when an elephant baby was rescued from Namunyak Conservancy in Samburu having fallen down a well. She arrived in the afternoon, and was surprisingly large for a well victim candidate. We named her “Naseku” and she took milk from a bucket for the first few days, before gradually becoming sufficiently familiar with the Keepers to pluck up the courage to take milk from a hand held bottle and after just a few days in the Taming Stockade, we were confident that she could join the others out in the forest. The timing was perfect, and this process went extremely smoothly as she seamlessly immersed herself within her new elephant family. Predictably Mbegu was first one to rush to her side as soon as the Stockade Gate was opened while Arruba and Suswa were at hand to also impart comfort and love. “Naseku” is a lovely little elephant who is much loved by the whole Nursery herd.
On the 11th a calf, an apparent mud whole victim, was found abandoned and alone in Tsavo East National Park with no elephants anywhere in the area. He was rescued by the DSWT Voi Keepers after they received reports from the Kenya Wildlife Service, and was flown to the Nairobi Nursery. We named this tiny male “Korongo” and estimated his age on arrival to be approximately 2 weeks. We still have to navigate the dreaded teething stage with him, which is never easy when baby elephants do not have the benefit of mother’s milk.
On the 16th a newborn elephant of just two days old came into our care having fallen down a well in the Loldaiga mountains We had already been warned by his rescuers from Enasoit Ranch that he was already far gone, and early on it appeared that his rescue had come too late. Upon arrival his blood pressure was extremely low and his body temperature freezing cold. We tried hard to resurrect him, and although he rallied briefly and with support stood and fed, he then quietly and peacefully slipped away that same night.
The 16th proved a particularly traumatic day, as our little “Tafuta”, rescued the previous month in a state of advanced emaciation, also died after despite our best efforts to try and save her. At times such as this one is sometimes tempted to give up to save the emotional heartbreak of failure, but sadly elephant babies are extremely fragile and difficult to raise, especially when they arrive already far gone. However, like the Elephants themselves, we have learnt to turn the page after grief and concentrate on the living that need help each and every day and there are always little miracles to celebrate to counteract the heart break, “Simotua” being one such candidate. As his wounds heal, he is growing more confident and quite a greedy handful in actual fact, who enjoys trying to bully those smaller than himself! Another miracle miniature full of character is “Ndotto”, who came to us newborn and fresh from the womb. Although now over a year old and still small for his age, he has an endearing and very sharp intellect. The Big Girls humor him and one day Kamok, Arruba and Oltaiyoni lay on the ground to allow him to clamber all over them, something that is always a thrill and a favourite pastime for a small elephant.
The poor health of Murit was a concern last month, but thankfully he appears to have responded well to medication and all blood indicators are looking positive. Balguda’s health has also improved following the constant care he has been receiving, as has that of Tusuja. Raising orphaned elephants is certainly not for the faint- hearted and with them come challenges on a daily basis! Another remarkable story is that of “Alamaya”, rescued from the Masai Mara, but not before hyenas had savaged his rear end and genitalia. A few months back we undertook a challenging operation to remove the scar tissue that was inhibiting urination. The operation on his urethra lasted over 2 ½ hours to remove scar tissue and inserted a plastic pipe. Since then he has healed well.
“Kiko” (the giraffe orphan) and “Pea and Pod” (the ostriches) are inseparable these days, and spend long hours with the tiny baby herd of elephant orphans consisting of Wei Wei, Tamiyoi, Kwama, Kawaida and Korongo. However, they are becoming increasingly independent of the Keepers, sometimes determined to do what they want rather than follow orders! Kiko savours acacia tree leaves that are at an accessible height, consuming more and more greens as he grows up. Pea and Pod prefer to remain with Kiko and the baby elephant group who do come for the public Visiting hour at mudbath time which is between 11 -12 noon.
One day Oltaiyoni took off with Roi and Dupotto to browse further afield and could not be located at visiting time. However, before there was reason for panic the three truants emerged from the bush, determined not to miss out at milk feeding time.
Rapa is a naughty little boy with a tendency to bully. Murit and little Godoma have been victims of his bad behavior, so the Keepers have to keep an eye on him at all times. Tusuja, Rapa’s best friend, has been known to intervene to restore order when Rapa is out of hand. He needs more elephant discipline from the older females and Dupotto has taken him in hand on occasions. Kamok is an extremely mischievous little elephant as well, with premeditated ideas about how to manipulate events at feeding time! This month has seen Mbegu emulating some of her best friend’s bad habits.
This month we have begun to feed the bigger orphans in the Elephant Moving Lorry in anticipation of their transfer to the Rehabilitation facilities. All but Elkarama have appeared cooperative, which is no surprise since Elkerama was transported to Nairobi recumbent in the back of a land cruiser after being rescued, and obviously has lasting memories of that ordeal. The next move, involving Arruba, Mashariki and Rorogoi will be to the Voi Rehabilitation facility.