Keepers' Diaries, October 2001

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Voi Reintegration Unit

Nursery Orphans Overview:- This month saw the arrival of 2 new Nursery inmates, both rescued by Ian Craig of Lewa Downs, both flown in by Helicopter from the far North, one on 12th October and the other on 23rd October. Both were victims of the same rock catchment well in a place called "Kisima Hamisi" about 20 miles Northeast of Shaba National Reserve. The first, a baby female named "Seraa", (the name of the group Ranch) was estimated to be 6 weeks old, her ears still slightly tinged with pink behind, but sporting one molar through the gum; the other, a little bull named "Solango" (meaning "pit") was younger, only about 4 weeks old, with pinker hind ears and no molars through the gum. So far, having had their prophylactic anti-biotic jabs plus the usual colloidal silver in their milk, both are doing very well, sleeping peacefully at night and feeding well, albeit with quite a lot of shoving and pushing, which is normal until a baby settles on a place to rest the trunk.

Nursery Orphans Overview:- This month saw the arrival of 2 new Nursery inmates, both rescued by Ian Craig of Lewa Downs, both flown in by Helicopter from the far North, one on 12th October and the other on 23rd October. Both were victims of the same rock catchment well in a place called "Kisima Hamisi" about 20 miles Northeast of Shaba National Reserve. The first, a baby female named "Seraa", (the name of the group Ranch) was estimated to be 6 weeks old, her ears still slightly tinged with pink behind, but sporting one molar through the gum; the other, a little bull named "Solango" (meaning "pit") was younger, only about 4 weeks old, with pinker hind ears and no molars through the gum. So far, having had their prophylactic anti-biotic jabs plus the usual colloidal silver in their milk, both are doing very well, sleeping peacefully at night and feeding well, albeit with quite a lot of shoving and pushing, which is normal until a baby settles on a place to rest the trunk.

Little Thoma is turning into a forceful character, proving a match for mischievous Mweya, who still finds it sometimes hard to resist pushing the odd unsuspecting visitor, but is becoming much better behaved around humans. Mweya is still the favourite of Nasalot but equally loved by Mulika who has taken all the others into her large heart, viewing herself as "mother" to everyone except Nasalot's Mweya.. Sweet Sally is the loner, completely hooked on the Keepers, like Nyiro, always "nagging" for a finger to suck (as the Keepers put it!). It is hard to remember how difficult she was to feed in the beginning, because now she simply can't get enough! She is a gentle little elephant, choosey about with which Keeper she sleeps at night and with very definite mind of her own about such matters, always very vocal until she gets her way!

The Nursery orphan who has caused us most concern this month is 19 month old Mulika, who has been with us since the age of 7 - 8 months and comes from the same Meru area as two of our other older casualties, Serara and Maluti. Mulika has always been a rather fragile elephant, often displaying off colour symptoms, but for no reason that is obvious. Eventually, her problem became alarmingly apparent when one day, with intense discomfort, she passed a shovel full of pus and blood in her urine. Now all the stops were out, for we feared the worst. A urine sample revealed E Coli as the culprit bacteria, only partially sensitive to the antibiotic already selected by the Vet as necessary immediate therapy. Three days of injections had to be followed by 10 days of oral boluses, which, fortunately, went down with the milk. The prognosis was a kidney or bladder abscess. Thankfully, Mulika has healed, but we are still having to be vigilant against a relapse that would prove very life threatening. Both Mulika and Nasalot are due to be moved to Tsavo, something that is now urgent due to their age, and just as soon as the rains bring on a flush of green to make the transition easier, this must take place, an event that will inevitably be very traumatic for the babies, but once that has to be, for their own good.

A favourite game for all the Nursery babies is chasing the warthogs at mudbath, which delights their daily audience and in turn obviously encourages them to "show off" when all the people laugh. Thoma is now playing happily with Mweya during the mudbath hour, as is Sweet Sally, but little Seraa and Solango have yet to feel happyt enough to join in the fun. When a baby elephant plays for the first time, our hearts fill with joy, because this indicates that they are psychologically happier and that a milestone has been achieved.

Tsavo Orphans:- It was after a great deal of thought and with very heavy hearts that we made the decision to move Ndume, Lewa and Imenti to the Ngulia Valley in Tsavo West National Park, further from the temptations of a boundary and forbidden pickings beyond in human settlement, which Ndume has found completely irresistible, to his cost. The decision to move Imenti with him was so that he would not be alone, and in view of the fact that Imenti had taken a dislike to some of the newer Keepers. Little Lewa was chosen because the spear wound on his back needed another thorough cleansing, accompanied by another long acting antibiotic, and because he had been teaming up with Ndume on forays into Voi town.

All three were tranquilized and successfully moved by the K.W.S. Capture team on the 5th October, released at their new home some 70 miles distant that evening. All of us wept on that sad day, but when rearing the elephants, one must be strong enough to take the rough with the smooth and always irrespective of what you, as a human, would like, do the best for the elephants. There was no doubt that, for their own safety and wellbeing, we had little option.

Notable this month has been Emily doing her best to snatch the new baby born into the wild herd led by the Matriarch Naom. During the first attempt, on the 5th October, she happened upon Ndume, Imenti and Lewa in the process of being moved and seeing that something strange was happening to her friends, she rushed in to assist them, sending the Capture unit fleeing in all directions! However, the Keepers stood their ground and were able to reassure her, leading her back to her adopted family, who were becoming very anxious because of her absence. Both she and Aitong made another attempt to grab the calf on the 6th, this time using a combined effort, and they almost succeeded but ended up being chased off by another wild cow from the herd who ensured that the calf remained with its rightful owner. Yet a third attempt was made by Emily on the 13th, but she had to give up after "two hours of hard labour", according to the Keepers who witnessed this event.

It is not unusual for orphaned females to try and rebuild the family they yearn for and have lost by trying to abduct the calves of others. Eleanor had been guilty of this in the past, as had Malaika. Within Emily's group, Aitong continues to be the very responsible little "Nannie", devoting a lot of care to Mweiga, who is the weakling of the group, usually lagging behind the others when they have to climb the incline back to the Stockades in the evening. Aitong is always first to respond to a cry, or to break up a fight, and during the mudbath, rescues those that are stuck and lifts those that aren't! She is a truly compassionate and sensitive elephant, always mindful of the needs of others.

Maungu's little friend, Ndara, rescued last month from the manhole on the pipeline, and with a deep wound on her back, has been in need of Veterinary intervention on this wound, which is deep exposing bone. She and Maungu have been kept in the Stockades all month, and it is touching that the other orphans have been showing such concern, particularly Kinna and Yatta. Loisaba seems to be developing a strong bond of friendship with Emily and also Mweiga and Natumi is beginning to become closer to Emily and Aitong. Of the middle sized boys, Salama, Laikipia and Lolokwe continue to be very competitive, but are kept in line by Edie and Ilingwezi whilst Mukwaju and Nyiro dominate the activity of the baby set, often embroiling Kinna and Yatta as well.

Lissa, Mpenzi and Lissa's wildborn calf, Lara, have again been in evidence, but infrequently, fraternising with the other orphans on the 14th October and again, when Lissa and her family came back with Uaso on the 14th.

On the 15th October another two new orphans were rescued from the Tsavo bridge area of Tsavo West National Park, both females, one a little over a year old and the other a little younger. We named these two calves "Mvita" and "Salaita", due to the Second World War affiliation of their place of origin. Sadly, little Salaita was lost on the 20th, when she succumbed to pneumonia.

Amongst those classified as "The Big Boys", i.e. the bulls that are now independent and comfortable with the wild elephants, only Edo, Uaso and Dika have appeared this month, Edo on two occasions, once with Uaso, and Dika only once. This is very gratifying especially during the dry season, proving that they really are now "wild" elephants again.

The orphans have enjoyed interacting with various wild animals they meet during the course of their travels - the zebra, when Salama was kicked by one, the baboons and ostriches, and the guinea fowl and squirrels who have entertained the babies. The stubborn old bull buffalo proved the exception. True to form, he showed his metal by seeing them all off, including Emily and Aitong!

October 2001 day to day

01 Oct

Within the youngest set, the interaction was dominated by Yatta and Mukwaju who indulged in wrestling, pushing each other and teasing with trunks. The bout went on intermittently all day, but after the mudbath, Yatta emerged the victor, and Mukwaju had to concede defeat. Within the older set, Icholta and Tsavo did the same, with Tsavo being defeated following which Emily was very loving towards him. Returning to the Stockades in the evening Aitong patiently lagged behind to be with Mweiga, towards whom both the older elephants are very attentive since the is generally not as robust as she should be.
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