Keepers' Diaries, October 2005

Nairobi Nursery Unit

It has been a month overshadowed by tragedy – the tragedy of losing one of our most dedicated and popular Elephant Keepers who unwittingly walked right into 6 year old Rhino Orphan, Makosa, in thick bush on his way out to join the orphaned elephants early in the morning of 21st, not even having noticed the rhino’s presence. When a rhino is startled at close quarters, its natural means of defence is attack, and Makosa did just that, killing Patrick Dokata instantly. Later, when KWS Rangers came to guard Patrick’s body, Makosa was still in a state of “auto-mode”, not in physical control of his actions, and went for them, sending them up a flimsy tree. Despite three warning shots in an attempt to drive him off, he continued to batter the tree, and when it looked like coming down, putting two more lives at risk, the rhino was shot at close quarters and killed with one bullet. Hence, within the space of just an hour, on that fateful day’s dawning, we lost one of our most loyal Staff members, and a rhino that we had lovingly nurtured from day two into adulthood, and successfully integrated back into the wild rhino community of Nairobi National Park. This terrible tragedy has been painful in the extreme, and has cast a dark shadow over an extremely busy month that has also seen the arrival of two new Nursery inmates, bringing the Nursery total to eight.

01 October 2005

Today, confidently, Lualeni took little Makena from Naserian’s side. Naserian flapped her ears in irritation and went to retrieve her favourite baby from Lualeni.

02 October 2005

Buchuma gave Lualeni a hard shove, making her fall down. Kora then came and punished Buchuma by pushing him hard, before returning to Lualeni to comfort her.

04 October 2005

Today was a very sad day in the Nairobi Nursery. Little Narrippi, who seemed much better in the morning, began to tremble at 10 a.m. We returned him to his stable, and could see that he was having difficulty in breathing. Fluid from the trunk was a sign of the dreaded pneumonia, and soon afterwards he fell into a coma, and died. We buried him at the side and behind the Stables. Naserian led the orphans back in the evening, to find that she had been moved into another stable, so that Makena could be next door to her, in the absence of Narrippi. Naserian was not happy about this, and made quite a fuss all night.

05 October 2005

It was a very sad day for all the elephants, who noticed the absence of little Narrippi. Naserian went straight to his grave. We let Makena join the older elephants and go out into the bush. Immediately, she attached herself to Naserian, kneeling down to try and suckle Naserian’s tiny breasts, and having difficulty in getting hold of them. Lualeni remained very close to the baby, joined by Kora, who also took a great interest.

06 October 2005

It has been some time since we encountered buffaloes on our way out into the bush, but today we came across a lone bull, who was not at first scared, but ran off when he noticed the Keepers with the elephants.

07 October 2005

After mudbath, Buchuma pushed Kora very hard, making him cry. Rapsu immediately came to Kora’s rescue, and set about Buchuma, pushing him very hard so that he removed himself.

08 October 2005

Lualeni came to little Makena, touching her gently with her trunk. Naserian became jealous, and pushed Lualeni away, wanting the undivided attention of Makena all to herself.

09 October 2005

Kora and Lualeni enjoyed a wonderful game on a dusty anthill. Buchuma watched them keenly from a distance.

10 October 2005

Both Lualeni and Naserian went straight to Makena’s stable as soon as they were let out, extending their trunks to touch the baby.

11 October 2005

Naserian is very possessive of little Makena, who now is amongst the orphans all day. Lualeni would love to be allowed more time close to Makena, and Makena responded to Lualeni, but Naserian pushed Lualeni away. She won’t allow any of the young bulls too close to her “baby”.

12 October 2005

Naserian is completely obsessed with Makena, and becomes very jealous whenever Lualeni comes close to the baby.

13 October 2005

Because the mornings are cool, Makena is kept in her stable until the sun warms things up. This morning she heard the others rumbling, and responded by putting out her ears and calling to them. Naserian did not want to leave her and hung around the stable until Makena was allowed out.

14 October 2005

Rapsu and Buchuma had a serious tussle today, which was won by Rapsu, who then followed Buchuma to make sure that he accepted defeat. Later Buchuma vented his frustration on Kora, giving him a shove, which angered Naserian, who came and gave him a hard push, causing him to run off.

15 October 2005

The baboons kept blocking the Milk Mixer’s path as he was making his way out to the orphans in the bush, taking them their milk. Every time he changed direction, the baboons also moved, until he yelled for help, and other Keepers came to chase of the baboons.

16 October 2005

Today, another tiny baby was flown to the Nursery from Voi, having been found the day before in a state of collapse, and actually being “buried” by the adult who was with him. He was very weak, and we could see that he had something very wrong with his eyes. One looked blind, and the other not normal. The Vet came to look at him and give him another antibiotic injection. He was too weak to join the others, so was kept in the stable. He is to be named “Ndololo”. Out in the bush Makena detached herself from Naserian’s breasts to chase the baby warthogs, and managed a squeaky trumpet for the first time.

17 October 2005

The new baby’s stools are not good, so Mrs. Sheldrick initiated a course of Sulphadimidine, because he is too weak to withstand diarrheoa. The Vet came to look at his eyes again and suggested that an eye specialist also come to give an opinion. Kora and Lualeni are now very close friends. They spend all day close to one another feeding, so much so that one would think they were twins!

18 October 2005

Rapsu and Buchuma were in competition about which one of them should lead the way home in the evening today. The new baby, Ndololo, is still being treated in his stable. We are not sure that he can see. The eye Specialist came and looked at his eyes, prescribing Cortisone ointment.

19 October 2005

Naserian did not want to leave Makena in her stable this morning, but it was too cold and wet to allow the baby out early. In the end we forced Naserian out to join the others.

20 October 2005

Today, we brought the older elephants to meet the new baby. Makena did not want him to come close to Naserian, pushing him away whenever he was close. We noticed that the new baby’s eyes were very cloudy, and we all suspect that he is blind in both eyes.

21 October 2005

Today was the saddest and worst day we have ever had in the Nairobi Nursery. Keeper Patrick Dokata, Mzee, who was with Shida, the young rhino, unwittingly bumped into Makosa who was in thick bush, not having realised that the big rhino was there. Startled, Makosa responded aggressively, tossing Patrick high into the air and killing him on the spot. Those who heard the commotion came running, and were stunned to find what had happened. The Management went to fetch KWS Rangers to come and guard the body until the Police and other KWS Officers arrived, but Makosa returned and charged the Rangers, forcing them to climb a flimsy tree. Despite 3 warning shots fired from the Rangers’s gun, Makosa would not stop attacking the tree, and was shot dead, so today we lost a very proficient and popular member of the Staff, and also an orphan that we had lovingly reared from just 2 days old. Makosa was now a full grown rhino living wild and free, fully established amongst the wild rhino population of Nairobi National Park. He was 6 years old.

22 October 2005

Everyone was very sad and subdued today, still in shock after the events of yesterday, but our work with the orphans had to carry on as normal. Even the elephants sensed that something was very wrong. They clustered around the Keepers for comfort, and were also unusually quiet.

23 October 2005

Today, we tried putting Makena in with little Ndololo so that he could enjoy some elephant companionship, but she did not like him, and having pushed him away, we removed her and returned her to Naserian and the others.

24 October 2005

Some giraffes arrived out in the bush, which scared the orphans, who ran from them. Only Buchuma stood his ground, and had the courage to chase them off.

25 October 2005

Naserian led the orphans out into the bush today, with Makena glued to her side. She was like a grown up Matriarch!

26 October 2005

Kora and Buchuma are eager to have a pushing match to establish who is boss, but Naserian will not allow it. Every time Buchuma approaches Kora, Naserian chases him away from Kora.

27 October 2005

Buchuma likes to feed apart from the others on many occasions. Today, however, he came rushing back to the others, obviously very afraid. The Keepers went to investigate what had scared him, and came across a hyaena sitting in the bush, who was not scared. We chased him off.

28 October 2005

Rapsu was enjoying the mudbath when a family of warthogs arrived, complete with many baby piglets. Rapsu chased them around, leaving some of the little babies confused, since they lost sight of the direction taken by their mothers. The visitors enjoyed the action!

29 October 2005

Makena was left behind when the other elephants left for the bush, because it was a little too chilly to risk letting her out. As soon as the door was opened, she ran straight to where the other elephants were. Today, we received another new baby who had been rescued from a ruby mine between Tsavo East and West National Park. Since its elephant family had left by the time dawn arrived, the calf was flown to Nairobi. The people that rescued him had written the name they wanted him called in felt pen on his ear – “Zurura”, which is the Swahili word for “The Wanderer”. The calf arrived in good condition, and appears uninjured.

30 October 2005

The new baby, Zurura, was taken out to join the others later in the morning. He wanted Naserian, but she kept on rejecting him, because she wants only Makena.

31 October 2005

Today, we kept Makena back so that she could keep little Ndololo and Zurura company, but she was not happy to be without Naserian. However, she comforted blind little Ndololo, putting her head close to his, after which he followed her with much more confidence. But, Makena was obviously eager to return to Naserian, so we took her back to the others.