Keepers' Diaries, October 2009

Nairobi Nursery Unit

The month began with 28 orphaned elephants in our Nairobi Nursery, 6 of whom were newborns of just 2 or 3 weeks old, went up to 31 and ended with 30 following the loss of little Kavu on the 26th. Three large Safari trucks were positioned at the Loading Ramps, awaiting the first rains in Tsavo, when 5 of the older Nursery inmates will be heading to one of the two Rehabilitation Centers in Tsavo East National Park.

01 October 2009

Mawenzi noticed Suguta and Melia playing together, and came to join in, mounting on Melia, who is not yet very strong. Melia bellowed, and all the games came to an end.

02 October 2009

Suguta’s group were wallowing happily at the mudbath when Kalama and Nchan decided to introduce a mounting game. Kibo then came in, which did not suit Nchan, so she aborted the game. Kibo then tried to climb onto Kalama, who screamed, and this brought Suguta who knocked Kibo down as a punishment.

03 October 2009

Tumaren and Sabachi had a disagreement over a branch today, which Sabachi had plucked from a shrub. This resulted in a tough fight between the two.

04 October 2009

Kenia and her group of older Nursery elephants were in a jovial mood as she made their way out into the bush. At the pipeline Shira, Meibai and Enasoit split from the rest to go and feed on softer shrubs deeper in the forest. This foray did not last long, however, because very soon the three came tearing back to their Keepers, Shira in the lead, followed by Enasoit and Meibai at the back, who bravely paused now and then to look back. The Keepers went to investigate the cause of the elephants’ alarm and came upon 3 bull buffaloes.

05 October 2009

As the orphans were playing around the compound this morning before heading out to the forest, Shira spotted the two resident male bushbucks who frequent the Trust compound, and began to go towards them, trumpeting. The bushbucks did not panic, but merely looked at Shira, who wanted support from her friends, but this was not forthcoming.

06 October 2009

Tumaren wanted to join in a pushing game in which Kilaguni and Kalama were engaged. As soon as she approached, Kalama walked away, leaving Kilaguni to play with Tumaren, but this didn’t last long, because he preferred the company of Kalama, and soon left Tumaren on her own.

07 October 2009

When Kenia and her group were leaving the noon mudbath, they paused to drink at the small waterhole nearby. Meibai, who is still very suspicious of all humans, suddenly noticed the Keepers approaching from behind, and panicked, pushing his way through the other elephants and in the process knocking down Olare, who ended up in the waterhole.

08 October 2009

Suguta’s group of middle-sized Nursery elephants enjoyed a very good mudbath today, Kalama, Nchan and Suguta played with two soccer balls joyfully, while Kilaguni knelt down and rubbed himself against the mudbath banks. The visitors enjoyed the football game very much, cheering the elephants on!

09 October 2009

There was only one Keeper to feed both Sabachi and Bhaawa in the evening at their Stockade, and this brought a huge problem, with both pushing each other to get at the milk first. In the end, the Keeper had to abort the feeding process, and retreat with the two bottles to seek help. The Keeper who was in the adjoining Stockade then jumped over the separating bars and all ended well without competition.

10 October 2009

It was the day for coconut oiling all the elephants, after which they all began to roll around, playing on the ground. It was also a hot day, and all had a wonderful mudbath. Suguta was the shining star of the soccer game, kicking the ball towards the visiting onlookers, who kicked the ball back to her, cheering and laughing, while Kibo and Nchan ran along the cordon, squeezing themselves against the visitors, all of whom loved touching them.

11 October 2009

Today was another fun mudbath day, just like yesterday, with Suguta kicking the football into the water. Kalama, Nchan, Kibo and Kilaguni joined in, but when Suguta went in to retrieve the ball, kneeling down to do so, Kilaguni mounted onto her. Immediately she rose up, knocking him off to fall on his back. He bellowed loudly, and then went to rub his backside and his tail stump against the edge of the wallow. All the visitors laughed and enjoyed the scene.

12 October 2009

As a group of visitors were looking at the blind rhino Maxwell in his Stockade, Shida approached quietly from the bush. The Keepers noticed him, and rapidly told the visitors to retreat in order to let Shida into his Stockade. When the Keepers went to close the door, he charged towards them, so they enticed him to the other side with a hand-out of coconut. He was in a bad mood today.

13 October 2009

A two year old female orphaned elephant was flown to the Nursery today from the Chyulu Hills, but died several hours later having arrived in a very bad state. Bhaawa has changed a lot since being separated from Kenia’s older group. A lot of the time he prefers to be alone, feeding apart from the others. Sabachi, who has always been a very close friend to Shira, Olare and Enasoit is accompanying Bhaawa now and Kilaguni is also trying to join up with the two, but Bhaawa and Sabachi do not want him because he is prone to biting tails. Today Bhaawa led the others towards the thickets, watched by the Keepers, who thought they were merely off to browse, but instead they joined up with Kenia’s Senior Group.

14 October 2009

Today, there was another elephant rescue, following a phone call from Voi. A baby elephant had wandered into Buffalo Camp near the Sala Entrance Gate to Tsavo East National Park the previous evening. She arrived in the Nursery with bad diarrheoa having been fed cows’ milk at the camp, so she was immediately put on Sulphadimidine, Kaolin, Psyllium husk and clay. She has been named Sala and is approximately 6 weeks of age.

15 October 2009

Sala was fighting for her life and was put under intensive care, with a Dextrose/Saline drip inserted into an ear vein. She was very weak and could not stand without support from the Keepers, who had to lift her up to take her milk. However, she fed well.

16 October 2009

There was another elephant rescue today, this time from the Masai Mara, who also arrived suffering from diarrheoa, so like Sala was immediately put on a course of anti-diarrheoa medication, plus the usual prophylactic injectible Nuroclav. She seems to be almost blind, one eye worse than the other. She has been called Mara.

17 October 2009

Mara is very confused today, moving hither and thither and not sticking to either the Keepers or the other baby elephants. Shaba kept on trailing her. At the mudbath Nchan and Kalama befriended her, and she seemed to respond to them.

18 October 2009

For the past two days there has been light rain, so the very young Nursery babies have had to be kept in their stables, which was not popular, especially with Tano, Mutara and Shaba. They did not even attend the public viewing because it was wet and cold. They spent their time pushing at the door, and every time a Keeper entered, they tried to get out.

19 October 2009

Meibai is badly behaved after getting his milk, following the Keepers and demanding more rather aggressively. In the end the Keeper had to drop the empty bottle whereupon he knelt down and tried to get it into his mouth.

20 October 2009

Yet another elephant rescue today, this time a baby from Isiolo who was spotted by KWS personnel all alone yesterday evening. She has been named Chaffa, the name of a nearby swamp. She is approximately 2 months old and arrived at the Nairobi Nursery in reasonable condition, thought to be a victim of the ongoing drought that has gripped the country.

21 October 2009

It was a good day for the tiny Nursery babies who all seemed happy. Chaffa enjoyed playing with Mutara and Tano. Tano is the miniscule Matriarch of the tiny orphans, but sometimes Mutara takes control. She kept on trying to push Tano away and keep Chaffa to herself.

22 October 2009

As the older group left the Stockades, they were led by Kenia, who then slowed down and allowed Shira to go in front, remaining still and allowing all the others to pass by. She then opened her ears and rumbled, having noticed that some of her group were missing. Melia and Mawenzi had lagged behind and were coming slowly. Kenia waited for them to catch up before moving ahead again.

23 October 2009

The tiny babies met up with Suguta’s group after the public viewing. Tumaren was very attentive to the small babies, resting her trunk lovingly on the backs of Mutara and Pesi. Mutara then suckled Tumaren’s ears, and this brought Nchan along, who walked up to Shukuru, but much to Nchan’s disappointment, Shukuru walked away to join the Keepers.

24 October 2009

Whilst walking with his Keepers, Maalim came across the scent of another rhino, remaining behind to smell it. He then lifted his lip and followed the scent trail until he came upon the dung midden of another rhino, and strong smelling urine. He then deposited his own dung on top of the other, kicking it with his feet, which is a good indication that he wants to be known by the wild stranger.

25 October 2009

Early in the afternoon Kavu looked unwell, so he was taken back to the stockade compound where he spent the day with Sala, Mara and two Keepers.

26 October 2009

Kavu was put on a drip early this morning, having become weaker and refused his 3 a.m. milk feed. He was too weak to stand, and sadly passed away at about 3 p.m. with foamy fluid coming from the trunk, a sure indication of pneumonia. The Keepers were all very sad to have to bury him in the forest.

27 October 2009

Shaba has certainly noticed that Kavu is no longer with us, because today he was very dull and kept passing his trunk into the adjoining stable, which used to be occupied by Kavu. He and Kavu were close friends.

28 October 2009

On the way back to the Stockades in the evening, Tumaren (from Suguta’s group) raced ahead of the Keepers, but found that she was alone at the Stockades. She then did an about-turn and raced back to the Keepers, but then retraced her steps to the Stockades at a run, again finding no-one there. She then stood at the Gate screaming for attention and her milk. When the Keepers arrived, she got what she wanted!

29 October 2009

A small herd of impalas came to graze close to the tiny elephants, unafraid of the Keepers. Tano and Mutara did not pay them any attention, but Chaffa, who is always busy moving here and there, and suddenly found herself in amongst the antelopes. Strangely enough, they did not mind her presence, and some even came to sniff her, but when the Keepers approached to bring Chaffa back, the impalas ran off.

30 October 2009

There was a private visit at 3 p.m. and the three groups converged at the mudbath. Bhaawa, who has always been very close to Kenya, sought her out and stood close to her, and although very weak, found the strength to suckle Kenia’s ears. Meanwhile Nchan, Kalama and Kibo, who used to feed using the hung blankets returned to them as the small babies were feeding, and enjoyed being babies again. At the 9 p.m. feed, the Keepers were shocked to find that Kudup seemed unable to get up, even for her milk. Her legs and trunk looked relaxed and her eyes were open which alarmed the Keepers, who stood around not knowing what to do, so they went to report the matter to Robert, who came to look at Kudup. Later she got to her feet, and by the morning appeared quite normal again, but for a loose black stool during the night.

31 October 2009

It was a cold, drizzling morning, so the small babies were not allowed out of their night stables, which was not popular with them. Kudup, who had appeared so unwell last night, also remained in the stable with Kibo, Kalama and Nchan. Kibo did not enjoy being inside, trying to climb over the partitions, but as soon as the weather changed, the four were let out to join Suguta’s group. They were welcomed warmly by Suguta and Tumaren.