Keepers' Diaries, October 2007

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Early on in the month, the Kenya Wildlife Service arbitrarily and without prior discussion or warning, and also without the authority of their Trustees, suddenly decided to impose the normal $40 Entrance Fee per visit to Nairobi National Park at the Service Entrance that provides access to our premises. This instantly resulted in chaos and confusion for the visiting public. Visitors who turned up as usual specifically just to see the elephants during our one public viewing hour a day, expecting just to put a donation of K. Shs. 300/- in the Orphans’ Donation Box, turned away, irate, and refusing to pay; others threatened to boycott Kenya as a tourist destination, and tell all their friends to do the same, and many more left bitterly disappointed, not having come prepared, and therefore unable to pay. Since Rangers at the Service Entrance are not permitted to accept cash, after the first day the visitors were told to return to the Main Gate in order to load their Smart Cards and pay there even though the Gate did not have the capacity to process the numbers and still enable access to the elephants for the one open hour. Even our own personal guests and the Vets were not spared!

Early on in the month, the Kenya Wildlife Service arbitrarily and without prior discussion or warning, and also without the authority of their Trustees, suddenly decided to impose the normal $40 Entrance Fee per visit to Nairobi National Park at the Service Entrance that provides access to our premises. This instantly resulted in chaos and confusion for the visiting public. Visitors who turned up as usual specifically just to see the elephants during our one public viewing hour a day, expecting just to put a donation of K. Shs. 300/- in the Orphans’ Donation Box, turned away, irate, and refusing to pay; others threatened to boycott Kenya as a tourist destination, and tell all their friends to do the same, and many more left bitterly disappointed, not having come prepared, and therefore unable to pay. Since Rangers at the Service Entrance are not permitted to accept cash, after the first day the visitors were told to return to the Main Gate in order to load their Smart Cards and pay there even though the Gate did not have the capacity to process the numbers and still enable access to the elephants for the one open hour. Even our own personal guests and the Vets were not spared!

No amount of discussion between us and the KWS officers concerned with this implementation was successful in persuading them to rethink what was turning into an appalling Public Relations blunder since by now the Tour Operators were also up in arms. Since the situation was becoming completely out of control, eventually it had to be taken to a higher level, and this has resulted in the establishment by the KWS Trustees of a panel to investigate the matter and come up with a workable and fair solution, allowing forward planning and advance warning to the public and also taking into account that the Trust has to raise the funding to raise the elephants, who are Keeper dependent for at least l0 years of life. Meanwhile, of course, our visitor numbers have plummeted, falling by at lest two thirds, with only the very intrepid customers making the journey. By extension, so has our working revenue. Hence, for us as an organization, it has been an extremely difficult month.

Perhaps however, the most startling discovery of all has been that the Kenya Wildlife Service, who live just next door to us, are not as well informed about the work of the Trust and what it has contributed in terms of support and conservation, than the general public both here and overseas! That they also appear to not appreciate the contribution of the orphaned elephants to Kenya’s conservation reputation and their immense public relations value through the international exposure they have generated, has also shocked us. Through them, the global public have a much better understanding of their species, so they have been amazing little ambassadors for their kind that has impacted on management decisions made further afield.

May we take this opportunity to thank our many friends and supporters for their empathy and the protests they have made on our behalf. We hope for a just solution.

Meanwhile, the month has been dominated by a different struggle - to try and heal the horrendous wounds on little Sinya, following her plunge down what was obviously a jagged and very deep pit near the Tanzanian border last month. Slabs of skin on her back gradually turned necrotic and had to be paired off, leaving raw flesh underneath. Caroline Ingraham, an expert in the use of essential oils as healing agents, was flown out to us courtesy of British Airways, and spent l0 days working on Sinya’s wounds anointing them with turmeric and red and green clay and offering essential oils by hand to the elephant for self selection. The clays and turmeric have exceptional healing properties, acting as a natural bandage and keeping flies at bay whilst allowing the flesh to breathe. Sinya ingested and sniffed up to clear her trunk unusual amounts of garlic essential oil which is extremely strong, and which was offered to her by hand, for animals know instinctively what the body needs in order to heal. Garlic essential oil is an extremely powerful natural antibiotic that can overcome most strains of bacteria, without depressing the immune system, like conventional antibiotics.

The improvement in the wounds after just a few days of Caroline’s work was so impressive that the Vets were amazed, having been of the opinion that only sedation and scrubbing of the wounds would make a difference. And so, yet again, Nature worked her magic and consequently we have learnt something new that we did not know before – the power of the clays and the instinctive self selection by animals of the essential oils that can help heal their bodies.

Dealing with Sinya’s wounds, and cutting away necrotic tissue involved having to man-handle the calf to the ground in order to be able to work on the back and foot wounds. This, of course, has been a distressful and painful process for her, so calming essential oils and natural pain killers were also offered and accepted. After just two weeks, it was no longer necessary to hold her down in order to clean and dress her wounds because she would stand quietly, understanding that she was being helped, and even holding out her leg for the clays to be applied, and seeking out the garlic oils from a pocket. By the end of the month the last piece of necrotic skin could be peeled off leaving the back wound looking clean with healthy signs of healing taking place. Today Sinya is well on the road to a full recovery and is a playful and happy little elephant, becoming much more tolerant of little Dida suckling her ears for comfort! Thanks are due to Caroline Ingraham, and Tal Manor who helped her and who has continued her work once she had to leave and did so with a heavy heart.

Sinya is extremely close to Lesanju, the Miniature Matriarch of the Baby foursome, which incorporates mischievous little Lempaute, and mellow little Shimba as well. Lenana remains the main Matriarch of the Nursery Group, and has turned into a loving and friendly elephant. Next month will see the transfer of our two big rambunctious boys, Kamboyo and Zurura, who are at the age when they need the discipline of their older peers up at Ithumba. For the Nursery elephants generally, therefore, it has been a quiet month visitor-wise, the only wild “intruder” into their daily routine being a small tortoise, who scared baby Shimba witless! We wonder where the lions have gone, but do not miss their presence around the elephants!

The Rhinos:- Maxwell remains in the limited world of his Stockade, every inch of which he knows by heart, eagerly anticipating the daily return of Shida, who is now healthy, squat and as round almost as he is tall. Shida is fully reintegrated into the wild rhino community of the Park which are conspicuous by their absence these days. Magnum has not been seen for at least 5 months. Shida returns to his Home Stockade, and to take a look at Maxwell, at least two times a day, and we are happy to see him and know that he is alive and well. As an added incentive to keep in touch regularly, he receives a hand-out of Copra and enjoys a drink of fresh water. Born in August 1003, Shida is now 4 years old, and rather large, so he is a power to be reckoned with, and is given quite a wide berth when out and about, both by the elephants, the Keepers and ourselves!

October 2007 day to day

01 Oct

When Lesanju’s baby group were heading out into the bush in the early morning, they encountered a mother warthog and her four piglets. Lesanju and Lempaute charged the piglets scattering them into the bushes, but the mother stood her ground.

The nursery orphans walking in the forest

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