Keepers' Diaries, October 2010

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

13th October, the day of the Chilean Miners’ dramatic rescue from the bowels of the earth, brought beautiful little “Naisula” to us, flown in from the Archers’ Post Area abutting Samburu National Reserve, an area where the Chinese road construction workers are based, and which has seen a great deal of Ivory Poaching of late. For us, she was indeed another “miracle” because from the start she was so friendly towards all humans, which, as a 2 year old from an area where humans have inflicted so much suffering, was most unusual. Most orphans of that age want retribution and revenge. Naisula was the exception. She and Kitirua, another relative newcomer who came in last month from Amboseli National Park, have formed a strong bond of friendship and have become inseparable. Their arrival displaced Murka and Melia from their usual Night Quarters, and this had resulted in resentment. Both Murka and especially Melia are not welcoming to Kitirua and Naisula, which is unusual, but Mutara, Tano, Suguta and Olare make up for that.

13th October, the day of the Chilean Miners’ dramatic rescue from the bowels of the earth, brought beautiful little “Naisula” to us, flown in from the Archers’ Post Area abutting Samburu National Reserve, an area where the Chinese road construction workers are based, and which has seen a great deal of Ivory Poaching of late. For us, she was indeed another “miracle” because from the start she was so friendly towards all humans, which, as a 2 year old from an area where humans have inflicted so much suffering, was most unusual. Most orphans of that age want retribution and revenge. Naisula was the exception. She and Kitirua, another relative newcomer who came in last month from Amboseli National Park, have formed a strong bond of friendship and have become inseparable. Their arrival displaced Murka and Melia from their usual Night Quarters, and this had resulted in resentment. Both Murka and especially Melia are not welcoming to Kitirua and Naisula, which is unusual, but Mutara, Tano, Suguta and Olare make up for that.

On the l7th October, whilst at Solio visiting “Pushmi” alias “Hoshim”, a very early orphaned rhino from Daphne’s Tsavo days, who is now 37 years old (and probably the oldest living Black Rhino in the world), we learnt of the very sudden and unexpected death of both little Maalim and Kimana. Maalim was born premature and had battled pneumonia for a long time, but finally lost the struggle, just when we all thought he was on the mend. Kimana, who had been sent to the Voi Rehabilitation Unit along with Dida on the 11th May, had also been unwell for sometime, becoming progressively weaker and unable to keep up with the rest of the herd down in Tsavo. The decision was made to return him to the Nursery on the 13th October for further monitoring, but he went into a further decline, stopped feeding, and died half an hour after Maalim, on the 17th. On our return we were alarmed to learn how the KWS Night Guard Rangers were discussing the worth of his button horn within earshot of his grieving Keepers before his body even turned cold. At dawn KWS officials removed the body, “for autopsy” - in itself an unusual event and perhaps not surprisingly, the horn had been removed by the time our Vet got there to be a party to the post mortem. This merely confirmed what we already knew - that Maalim had succumbed to pneumonia, possibly as a result of ingesting milk into his lungs at some point in the past. It was, however, good to see Orphan “Hoshim” again after so many years, now a grand old man, but, again not surprisingly, minus the magnificent long horn that he had on his nose when I saw him last about 15 years ago, which, like that of Maalim, had been removed under sedation by KWS.

The autopsy on Kimana’s body revealed one enlarged ventricle of the heart and swollen lymph nodes, but all other organs, including the digestive tract, were healthy. The lymph nodes have been taken for further examination.

Aside from the deaths of both Maalim and Kimana on the 17th October, that Sunday also brought the arrival in the Nursery of newborn baby Wasin, an elephant calf of only one or two weeks old rescued by Samburu elders from a shallow well within the Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy in Laikipia. The fate of her mother is not known for sure, but likely to have been as a result of the increased poaching in the area where the Chinese are working on roads.

The day after her arrival, little Wasin woke up with an ulcerated Cornea threatening blindness. However, swift treatment with antibiotic eye ointment and drops is healing the eye, and we are hopeful that her sight will not be compromised. So far, she is doing very well, adored by Mutara (who is next door to her at night) and loves to “mother” her. Mutara has the makings of a very caring Mini Matriarch, eager to step into the current role of Suguta and Olare when the time comes. Wasin spends most of her time with the Keepers close to the compound, and has not yet joined the Juniors out in the bush. She is a very loving baby, and adores her human family, orphaned too young to really recall her elephant one.

Naisula, understandably, although a gentle little elephant, is also a very nervous character, easily “spooked” by encounters with other species out in the bush and not that trusting of the Keepers yet either. This month antelopes, baboons and buffalo have triggered orphan stampedes, when the Keepers have to set about searching for all missing members of the herd, and rounding them up again. Sities remains the darling of everyone – a very clever little elephant, who charms the mudbath visitors with her antics,

Lions have paid several visits to the Trust compound this month, roaring loudly, and towards the end of the month made both the Keepers and the elephants very nervous during a close field encounter. In fact, the lions are interested in the warthogs more than the elephants who are accompanied by their Keepers at all times, but nevertheless the elephants instinctively react to a possible threat. (Whereas the Tsavo lions sometimes kill young elephants, the Nairobi lions are not used to them and are timid of humans)

Chemi Chemi remains a pushy little elephant, and this month was severely disciplined by Suguta for jumping onto little Sities. Suguta grabbed him by the tail, forcing him to flee before finding his tail chomped! Thereafter, Suguta forced him to spend time out on his own, sending him back whenever he tried to return into the group. This left him feeling vulnerable and insecure, rumbling and crying for assistance, until the Keepers took pity on him and escorted him back! ”Time Out” is how bad behaviour is punished in Elephant Society, and because elephants are essentially fearful, and rely on the protection of the herd, it is a severe punishment.

Rhino Orphans:- The loss of precious little Maalim has been a bitter blow for us, especially as he was nearing his second birthday and had been doing so well. The fact that his pneumonia might have been initiated from an ingestion into the lungs of milk has made his loss even more tragic. However, Maalim greatly enjoyed his short life in our care, and was pampered and deeply loved right to the end. The arrival of little Solio has mitigated that loss somewhat, for she is a charmer who has totally captured Maxwell’s heart, so much so that he insists on sleeping right up alongside her in the adjoining stockade, come rain or shine, nuzzling her sleeping body obviously deriving immense joy in the fact that she is there! It was not always thus, however. When she first arrived and Max became aware of the scent of “a stranger” nearby, he was anything but friendly, and hammered the separating poles with such force that we feared they might cave in! Likewise, she reacted aggressively, but since then an exchange of dung has worked its magic, and he is totally captivated by her! Even the daily arrivals of Shida now seem inconsequential for Max!

Shida, who is usually a very mellow fellow was just mildly interested in the new rhino arrival, but seems more focused on the hand-out of Copra and Lucerne that always awaits him back in his old Stockade whenever he chooses to return back “home” for “viewing” during the usual Visiting Hours. With Rhino poaching now becoming a serious problem and rhino horns disappearing mysteriously from Armouries in the country, we are always relieved to see Shida (and his horn) on a daily basis!

Little Solio, who was extremely fierce upon arrival, has turned into a gentle little rhino who loves her Keepers, and who thoroughly enjoys her daily excursions around the wild rhino dungpiles and urinals to contribute her own “visiting card” by way of introduction into the resident community. Often she is reluctant to return to her Stockade in the evenings, and has to be enticed back by a bottle of milk. However, once in her Stockade, she enjoys a tummy rub and soon falls into a deep sleep, impervious to the attentions of Max next door!

October 2010 day to day

01 Oct

After a long struggle trying to get the new rhino “Solio” to accept milk, we were joyful when she began sucking the mattress where some milk had fallen the previous day. We prepared milk for her, knowing that once she got used to the milk, she would calm right down. She remains very wary of humans, but is gradually becoming calmer. Kitirua, who is also relatively new, is very dehydrated and thin, so the Keepers held her for her Nuroclav injection and forced her to taste the milk. She took 5 pints hungrily, and at the 9 p.m. feed she came to the Gate, wanting her milk, and finished it all within minutes!

Solio relaxing

Kitirua ready to charge

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