Keepers' Diaries, October 2002

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Voi Reintegration Unit

Nursery Elephants:- Little "Wendi" is now 6 weeks old, and going strong, so, so far, so good. Currently, she is feeding well, gaining weight and becoming blessed with the little fat cheeks of a thriving elephant infant. She and her blanket, plus two 24 hour Keepers leave the Night Stable next door to Thoma, and wander off into the forest, where the blanket is hung as something large and soft beside her against which to rest her trunk and impart comfort. She is firmly attached to it, and sucks the two ends with a look of bliss on her face, eyes turning "dreamy". Woe betide anyone who interferes with such special moments, for they can expect an angry shove, and even at this tender age, Wendi can pack a punch! She is quite a little "Madam" and what she wants goes - at least for the time being!

Nursery Elephants:- Little "Wendi" is now 6 weeks old, and going strong, so, so far, so good. Currently, she is feeding well, gaining weight and becoming blessed with the little fat cheeks of a thriving elephant infant. She and her blanket, plus two 24 hour Keepers leave the Night Stable next door to Thoma, and wander off into the forest, where the blanket is hung as something large and soft beside her against which to rest her trunk and impart comfort. She is firmly attached to it, and sucks the two ends with a look of bliss on her face, eyes turning "dreamy". Woe betide anyone who interferes with such special moments, for they can expect an angry shove, and even at this tender age, Wendi can pack a punch! She is quite a little "Madam" and what she wants goes - at least for the time being!

When she would like a little milk, which is always on hand, with hot water in a thermos so that the temperature can be just right, she leaves the sucking ends of the blanket and heads towards the middle. Then, a Keeper stationed on the other side gently lifts the blanket and the milk goes down without a fuss, the tiny trunk snuggled against another special "feeding" place in the blanket! She likes a walk in the forest and demands it, always with the blanket in tow in case she chooses another place to stop!

The Nursery Elephant that loves Wendi best is "Seraa", and we are pleased about this, because once the country turns green down in Tsavo, Thoma, Burra and Sosian and possibly Solango, will be going down to join the others. Thoma can be assured of a great reunion and welcome from Mweya and Sweet Sally, with whom she shared her Nursery companions and whom she missed sorely when they left. What a joy it will be for her when she finds them both there to comfort and reassure, and gentle her introduction to all the other bigger elephants. Sosian and Burra will have each other and I have no doubt that they will be able to hold their own amongst the junior set such as Nyiro and Mukwaju and learn to respect their olders, such as Salama, and Laikipia. Mpala will then be the only boy in the Nursery, but Seraa will be there for him and to "mother" tiny Wendi.

The rains began a few weeks ago, the first some of our babies had ever seen, and they were quite unphased to begin with. However, then the puddles and the mud triggered immense excitement, whilst tiny "Wendi", still essentially fragile, was hurried back into the warmth of a dry stable, swathed in a blanket and a protective rain-sheet. (We can't risk her getting cold and wet yet.) The others rushed around, working themselves up into a frenzy so that a squeaky trumpet could happen, chasing any warthogs who obligingly ran away, and generally rejoicing in the change of the season.

Sosian, who is over two years old, and who has only been with us a few months, obviously arrived hosting a hefty dose of worms and has had to undergo several de-worming sessions in order to rid himself of these passengers. Burra also needed a de-worming course, and both had suffered from bloat, which is obviously an indication of worms. Otherwise, all the Nursery elephants continue to thrive and delight their daily audience of visitors.

Tsavo Orphans:- It is always very hot down in the low country of Tsavo before the rains, and the Tsavo family suffered from the heat until the onset of the rains. However, once the rains had broken, heralding the onset of the "festive season" for elephants, they relished the cooler weather when they are able to feed daylong, and also the puddles and the mud.

There has been contact with wild elephants on several occasions this month and our orphans mix easily and with confidence, even the newcomers such as Mweya and Sweet Sally, who remain firm friends and who together are obviously a force to be reckoned with! Laikipia had a lesson in elephant etiquette when he shoved the baby of a wild Matriarch, and found himself roundly punished for bad behaviour.

There has been an exciting encounter with a leopard on two occasions, and when the leopard interrupted a joyful mudbath by killing a waterbuck nearby, the orphans panicked, but became bolder when the leopard was chased off by some passing baboons. Then our orphans allied themselves with the baboons to despatch the hated predator! The orphans are brave only when something is running away, irrespective of size!

We were very worried when the report came that Emily was unwell, remembering an event in the Nairobi Nursery when she became so constipated that she had to be sedated and gallons of liquid paraffin poured into her stomach to get things moving again. This time the passing of a stool containing ballast and sand was all that was needed and she was better the next day. We are puzzled as to why she suddenly ingested such things, but suspect that the newly constructed watering trough in her Night Stockade was the problem. We remember that one of the rhino orphans also went crazy over newly laid cement, so assume that perhaps the lime in the mixture might prove the attraction. Whatever, it didn't do Emily any good, and in this way, yet another lesson has been learnt!

The health of Maungu has been an ongoing concern for us this month. She, like Mweiga, has always been a fragile elephant. We chartered a plane and flew a KWS Vet down to take a look. Blood and stool tests taken for pathological analysis, but only anaemia was evident, with no explanation for the swelling in the legs and abdomen. Aftger a course of antibiotic, Maungu's diet has been reinforced with Dairy Cubes, extra mineral supplement and injections of Vitamin B, and her condition has improved slightly, although, like Mweiga, she is a weakling.

We are alarmed by the secual attraction Aitong has had tot Edo. Aitong, is still too young to be put in calf, and we pray that we will not be faced with another "Malaika" scenario in two years' time. We have still not been able to source and identify a safe prophylactic to guard against early pregnancy in our elephants, although we have tried very hard. Nor has the permission arrived from KWS to allow us to construct another facility further from a sensitive community boundary for our bull elephants, so that they can integrate into herds whose dry weather range is inland. It is difficult to see the objection on the part of the authorities, but we do know that the bureaucracy is cumbersome, involving Impact Assessment Studies and suchlike, although quite what impact a dozen additional elephants can make, replacing those that have been lost to poachers, is difficult for a practical lay person to comprehend!

Apart from the leopard incidents, it would appear that squirrels have provided most of the fun out in the bush for our orphans this month. Icholta is turning into the Mini self appointed "Nannie" keeping order amongst the younger not always well behaved bull set, with Aitong as the main "Nannie" and Emily in overall charge as the Matriarch.

October 2002 day to day

01 Oct

Back at the Stockades Ndara finished her milk first, and then unexpectedly pushed Mweya to the ground, after which she retreated to the far end of the Stockade. At the mudbath 2 squirrels appeared for Mweya and Sweet Sally to chase, but Maungu was scared and sought shelter near the Keepers. At around 11 a.m. a running zebra passed near the orphans, scaring Natumi, who seemed rooted to the spot. Emily noticed this, and went to collect and reassure her and the other orphans escorting them to the mudbath.
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