Keepers' Diaries, October 2006

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

The arrival of two tiny new babies in the Nairobi Nursery has been the main event of October. A baby bull of 6 weeks old named “Shimba” was flown in on the 1st, whose mother died in Tsavo the day after being translocated from the Shimba Hills National Reserve. She was too fragile to withstand such a trauma, since she had just a small portion of her trunk left, the rest having been severed sometime in the past by a wire snare. Baby “Shimba” was still in good condition upon arrival in the Nursery, and has thrived since, the favourite of all the young Nursery females, and especially Loijuk until the arrival of an even smaller 3 week old female calf extracted for a well dug in the dry Milgis Lugga in the Northern Frontier of Kenya. This tiny baby was rescued by the brother of the late Chief and at his request has been named for the deceased Chief who was very conservation minded – “Lesanju”. Sadly, her Samburu rescuers cut a wedge from one ear and slashed the other ear almost in half, a practice done to their domestic livestock to establish ownership. Her ears have therefore needed a lot of careful attention, and some dead tissue has had to be removed.

The arrival of two tiny new babies in the Nairobi Nursery has been the main event of October. A baby bull of 6 weeks old named “Shimba” was flown in on the 1st, whose mother died in Tsavo the day after being translocated from the Shimba Hills National Reserve. She was too fragile to withstand such a trauma, since she had just a small portion of her trunk left, the rest having been severed sometime in the past by a wire snare. Baby “Shimba” was still in good condition upon arrival in the Nursery, and has thrived since, the favourite of all the young Nursery females, and especially Loijuk until the arrival of an even smaller 3 week old female calf extracted for a well dug in the dry Milgis Lugga in the Northern Frontier of Kenya.
This tiny baby was rescued by the brother of the late Chief and at his request has been named for the deceased Chief who was very conservation minded – “Lesanju”. Sadly, her Samburu rescuers cut a wedge from one ear and slashed the other ear almost in half, a practice done to their domestic livestock to establish ownership. Her ears have therefore needed a lot of careful attention, and some dead tissue has had to be removed.

She was literally brought to our doorstep by a Helicopter flown by Phil Mathews which had been kindly loaned by Mr. Halvor Astrup of Enoisot Ranch. Helen Defresne who heads the recently established Milgis Trust cradled the baby elephant in her lap throughout the long journey from a remote tribal manyatta in the hinterland not accessible any other way. Too young to understand fear, upon arrival at the Nursery, the calf trustingly followed the Keepers to her stable, where she was given milk and rehydration fluids. Apart from the serious damage to her ears, and the usual initial stomach upset caused by a change of milk, she was still in good condition, and since then her stomach has stabilized and she is thriving. Instantly she became the focus for all our Nursery females, even little Chyulu, for even in infancy female elephants display strong motherly instincts and all want to care for the smallest member of the family. Hence, all the Nursery “little mothers”- namely the new Matriarch, Sian, Loijuk, (who used to lavish her attention on Shimba), Makena (who shows signs of being a very proficient Matriarch-to-be once Sian gets up-graded) and baby Chyulu. Only Lenana has chosen to remain remote, still grieving for her lost elephant family, and also still very wary of all humans, having obviously seen a great deal of cruelty inflicted upon her Laikipia population, who have to streak through areas densely populated by an expanding human population.

Unfortunately, Lenana’s arrival in the Nursery coincided closely with the departure of Kora and Lualeni to Ithumba, and Kamboyo, who adored Kora, has since been moved to the Stockade that used to be occupied by Kora. Kamboyo seems to blame Kora’s isappearance on Lenana, and ever since Kora left, has been very pushy towards her, which hasn’t made her feel any more welcome. However, aside from being timid of humans, and rejected by Kamboyo, Lenana is now beginning to thrive, having been de-wormed. Most of the orphans who share pastures with domestic livestock suffer from an overload of stomach parasites, and need de-worming treatment before beginning to regain condition. She is also gradually becoming more integrated into the unit, illustrated by the entry at the end of the month, when she was away from the others and out of sight and they all rumbled. She answered, and all the other Nursery elephants immediately ran to join her.

Meanwhile, having had his noise put out of joint by Lesanju, Shimba has battened onto Sian and Kamboyo, who has responded touchingly by being tender and caring towards him, even placing a front leg forward to enable the baby to try and suckle his breasts and tolerant also of having an ear sucked on in between whiles! The two are inseparable!
He resents having to share Sian with little Lesanju and Sian is having difficulty trying to accommodate both tiny infants. Shimba is rather slow and dull, still obviously feeling the affects of his terrible ordeal, i.e. being captured in Shimba, driven along with his mother to Tsavo, tipped out in a strange place, losing his beloved mother a day later, and finding himself, at just 6 weeks old, facing certain death by dehydration and starvation in an alien environment. Unlike Lesanju, who is playful and happy, he is still a very dejected little soul.

An exciting, and very scarey event for the Nursery Elephants and their Keepers was coming across two lionesses on their way out during the morning of the 25th. The troupe of baboons alerted them to danger, all having taken to the trees and barking loudly.

Finally, an event on the 28th illustrates the fact that even infant elephants can communicate silently with one another. Lesanju was, as usual, with her Keepers, when little Chyulu came running up to her, inserted her trunk into Lesanju’s mouth (a very loving gesture) while Lesanju reciprocated by doing the same to Chyulu. A few moments later Chyulu ran back to the others, followed instantly by Lesanju, who normally never leaves the side of her Keepers. This exchange astonished the human onlookers and would certainly have confounded “the Boffins”!

October 2006 day to day

01 Oct

It was a sad day for the Nursery elephants who spent time searching for Lualeni and Kora, who left the day before for Ithumba. Makena, especially, missed Lualeni, with whom she has always been very close, but Sian (the oldest Nursery female) immediately took charge, and as the group headed out into the forest, rushed backwards and forwards to ensure that they were all following her lead. In the evening at 6.30 p.m. little Shimba was flown in from Tsavo, where his mother had died following translocation from the Shimba Hills National Reserve. He is about 6 weeks old, and still in good condition.

Shimba climbs over his dead mother

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