Keepers' Diaries, October 2006

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.

01 October 2006

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.

02 October 2006

Little Shimba seems somewhat confused, wondering where he now is and where his erstwhile elephant family has gone. He was taken out into the bush to be consoled by the other elephants. Sian, Loijuk and Makena showed a great deal of concern for the new baby.

03 October 2006

There was great rivalry amongst Sian, Loijuk and Makena as to who should remain closest to little Shimba. Makena lovingly laid her trunk across his back and between his ears to comfort him, while Sian ensured total protection from all sides, even surging towards the visitors to deter them from coming too close to the new baby. However, Loijuk turned out to be Shimba’s favourite, since it is she who is next door to him at night. She remained very close to him, rumbling and touching him constantly.

04 October 2006

The competition is still on between the females over who should ‘adopt’ Shimba. Makena could not make up her mind between Chyulu and Shimba and was disappointed when the baby showed a preference for Loijuk. However, sometime later Makena came into her own, because Shimba chose her, which pleased her enormously, so much so that she pushed Zurura away whenever he approached, and even pushed Loijuk and Sian away.

05 October 2006

Today Shimba had an upset stomach, so he was kept near the Stockade, but went out to join the others later on in the day. As soon as he appeared, all the young females welcomed him warmly with trumpets and roars, and Loijuk immediately took charge of him.

06 October 2006

Today, Shimba is better, so he sent the entire day out with the others. Lenana pushed him down, and was warned by the Keepers. She removed herself, with her ears out, realizing that she had done something that had displeased everyone.

07 October 2006

All the orphans thoroughly enjoyed playing in the mudbath today. Even little Shimba wallowed peacefully in amongst Sian, Loijuk and Makena. Makena tried to climb onto Sian, but slipped off onto Shimba who screamed loudly. She was very upset by this and showed signs of nervousness.

08 October 2006

Shimba cannot make up his mind as to which female he wants as his new “mother”. He kept moving from one to the other, suckling Sian’s breasts before moving to Loijuk. Sian is showing a lot of tenderness towards Chyulu, who has decided that she is better to suckle, being older than Loijuk! She kept close to Loijuk while walking out in the bush, but moved to Sian to try and suckle.

09 October 2006

Sian is becoming very fond of Chyulu, and Shimba seems to have decided to have both Loijuk and Makena.

10 October 2006

Something startled the orphans out in the forest today, and while running, Zurura squashed Chyulu between two trees. Chyulu bellowed loudly, which brought Makena immediately to the rescue. She put her head between Zurura’s back legs and pushed him off for quite a long way.

11 October 2006

This morning a male bushbuck appeared outside the Stockade occupied by Kamboyo and Lenana. Both elephants put out their ears, and tried to scare the bushbuck off, but he didn’t seem to care and continued to advance. Lenana became fearful and retreated to the far corner of her Stockade, while Kamboyo trumpeted loudly. The bushbuck wandered off when he saw the Keepers arriving.

12 October 2006

Today Shimba did not like milk from the bottle, but spent time trying to suckle all the other elephants, including Zurura and Kamboyo who are male! In the end the Keepers had to trick him by bending down and putting the bottle of milk underneath the elephant he was trying to suckle. Kamboyo seemed to understand perfectly what was needed, and stood with his leg forward, as would a mother elephant when her baby suckles!

13 October 2006

Being a Friday, it was the day when all the Nursery elephants are anointed with coconut oil to keep their skin in good shape. Shimba enjoyed this very much, and having been covered in oil, took a dustbath, following the example of Makena. The Keepers had difficulty oiling Chyulu and Lenana, who ran off as soon as they spotted the cans and the bucket.

14 October 2006

At daybreak, Sian and Makena were first at Shimba’s stable door, waiting for him to be let out. However, when he was, he went to Loijuk’s door, reaching up his trunk towards her. She pushed her door very hard, and was let out, after which all three females took Shimba off with them.

15 October 2006

At around 1 p.m. a Helicopter landed in front of Mrs. Sheldrick’s house, bringing a new baby to the Nursery, who had been rescued from a well dug in the sandy riverbed of the Milgis Lugga in Laikipia District. This baby was about 3 weeks old and has been named “Lesanju” after a Samburu Chief who has recently died. Unfortunately, her ears had been cut by the tribesmen who rescued her who adopt this practice to identify their livestock.

16 October 2006

This was the first day that the newcomer met the other Nursery orphans, but she ran away from them, bellowing, so the Keepers returned her to the vicinity of the stables, and kept her apart because she appeared fearful of the others.

17 October 2006

Shimba did not want to go into his stable this evening, wanting to remain with Loijuk.

18 October 2006

Everybody was surprised by Kamboyo today, who has been bullying all the other orphans since the departure of Kora. However, he has taken a great fondness to Shimba, and allows the baby to suckle him, putting his legs forward for easier access to his teats. Shimba has become very fond of Kamboyo since the arrival of Lesanju.

19 October 2006

Chyulu has taken a dislike to her Night Stable and keeps trying to escape having to go in. This is because she does not like the blanket put over her. Similarly Lenana would rather not have the blanket, but she runs to her stable to get her share of milk.

20 October 2006

Today, the Vet came to cut off the dead part of Lesanju’s damaged ear, which has made it easier for her to lie on that side to sleep. Previously, she always lay on the other side because the dead part of one ear protruded.

21 October 2006

Today was the first day that baby Lesanju was allowed to come to the mudbath. She seemed to enjoy patrolling along the cordon and allowing the visitors to touch her. She spent about 10 minutes playing in the loose soil near the actual mudbath, but was not allowed to get wet. At 2 p.m. she met the other orphans again, and this time seemed a lot more settled.

22 October 2006

Lesanju joined the others and remained with them for the entire afternoon. She looked relaxed and Sian immediately took control of her, denying Makena the access she would have liked.

23 October 2006

Kamboyo dotes on little Shimba, but remains very un-friendly towards Lenana, who is also not yet confident of the Keepers.

24 October 2006

Chyulu is very interested in Lesanju, always turning back to be with her alongside the Keepers. Sian wants both babies, and is disturbed when Lesanju is near one of the other females, rumbling and lifting her trunk towards the Keepers where Lesanju is.

25 October 2006

Early in the morning, as the Keepers were taking the Nursery babies out into the forest, we came across baboons making a lot of noise in the trees and looking in one direction. Investigating, we came across two lionesses lying in the bush, who ran off, leaving all the elephants and the baboons making even more noise. The lionesses were close to the stables.

26 October 2006

On the way to the mudbath, as all the elephants were running for their bottles of milk, Shimba was walking very slowly. Immediately Makena stopped and waited to accompany Shimba slowly, so that by the time they arrived all the others had already finished their milk.

27 October 2006

Sian is having difficulty taking care of the babies. She has Shimba, but also wants Lesanju, so keeps running between the two. Shimba is usually with the other Nursery elephants, especially fond of Kamboyo, and Lesanju likes to remain close to the Keepers.

28 October 2006

Lesanju was having a good time with the Keepers, when all of a sudden Chyulu came running up to her. They exchanged a message by putting the trunk into the mouth of one another, and after that Lesanju left the Keepers and went to join the other elephants along with Chyulu. The Keepers were astonished to understand that they had communicated with each other.

29 October 2006

Loijuk seems to have given up wanting to care for the babies, leaving this role to Sian, who is the Nursery Matriarch. Makena and Chyulu are very motherly towards the little ones, but have to give way to Sian.

30 October 2006

Baby Lesanju was very surprised to find two warthogs outside her Night Stable when she was let out in the morning. She charged them with her damaged ears out, but they were not impressed, and did not want to move. The Keepers chased them off, and after that Lesanju was visibly happy.

31 October 2006

Shimba is very possessive of Sian, and jealous when Lesanju comes close, pushing her aside. Lenana was grazing apart from the others, who could not see her. They rumbled loudly, and Lenana responded, so they all ran to join her.