Keepers' Diaries, October 2010

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.

01 October 2010

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!

02 October 2010

Kitirua has calmed down now that she is taking milk. She even sucks the Keepers’ fingers. We made a little mudbath for her in her Stockade, which she thoroughly enjoyed, and when the other orphans pass by her Stall, she is eager to join them.

03 October 2010

Today, in the evening, Olare and Kibo, who now share a Stockade, began a Pushing Game which turned rough, Olare pushing Kibo to the wall, and back again. However, whenever Olare let up, Kibo tried to mount onto her, and wouldn’t give up! The game went on for a long time, intriguing all the foster-parents who were mesmerized!

04 October 2010

This is her fourth night in the Nursery, so Kitirua was allowed to join the other orphans in the field today. Once the sees all the other orphans taking their milk, she runs for her share, but still does not suck well, but somehow manages to down it nevertheless! Olare paid her special attention, welcoming her into the herd, and introducing her to all the others. Suguta remained behind for a short while, but as they moved out into the bush, she and Olare had Kitirua sandwiched between them. Kitirua was calm out in the bush, and presented no problem. She even came to the noon visiting venue, and no one present could tell that it was her very first day out! She even returned to her Stockade willingly in the evening.

05 October 2010

All the orphans headed to Murka’s and Kitirua’s Stockades to collect them in the morning. All was well until a group of buffalo disturbed the peace and all the orphans ran off. Kitirua got lost. While some of the Keepers guarded the Orphans during the public visiting hour, other Keepers went in search of Kitirua. Mercifully, just as Angela was about to call in aerial support to locate Kitirua, she was spotted heading towards the mudbath. The Keepers had her bottle of milk, which she took gratefully. Suguta’s team then arrived to calm Kitirua down and comfort her, because she had been “lost” for 2 hours by the time she re-appeared. We were all very relieved.

06 October 2010

Last evening, an alert came from Lewa Downs, Laikipia that they had a male orphaned elephant. The Rescue plane left at first light, but by the time the elephant reached the Nursery, it was in a state of collapse and could not stand. We put him on life support through a Dextrose drip in an ear vein, and although he managed to stand, with help, he was soon down again. He was still on the drip when dawn came, but he lost the battle to live, and died at 4 p.m. It broke our hearts not to be able to save him, despite trying so hard.

07 October 2010

During the Private Viewing at 3 p.m. today, Kalama put on a good show in the mudbath, wallowing enthusiastically, whilst Chemi Chemi enjoyed pushing the big elephants in when they stood on the slippery banks! When he pushed Kandecha, Melia ran to try and save him, but slipped in herself, which pleased Chemi Chemi!

08 October 2010

Melia and Murka are jealous of Kitirua, and push her away from the other orphans. Perhaps they react like this because she has displaced them in the Stockade they used to occupy! Kitirua is very fond of all the orphans, and whenever Melia and Murka chase her away, Mutara and Kandecha follow her and bring her back!

09 October 2010

Today, the latest rhino orphan, “Solio” for the first time, ventured out of her Stockade, although the Keepers have been trying to entice her out for sometime. Today, she hesitantly followed the Keeper who was wearing the special Rhino Coat that carries its own specific scent which she will recognize as “her” surrogate mother who gives her milk. She behaved extremely well once out, and obviously enjoyed being out and about again, but insisted on a Keeper being very close all the time, feeling very insecure, understandably.

10 October 2010

When we let Maalim out today, his legs seemed very weak, and he couldn’t walk far before lying down. He waits for the Keeper to put down his sheep skins, and then lies down. He is a very clever little chap. Solio again behaved very well today, following the Keeper, as she should.

11 October 2010

Very early in the morning, as we were preparing the early morning milk feed for the elephants, some lions began roaring at the mudbath, and also near the Elephant Crossing at the Stockades. The Milk Mixer came to alert the Keepers not to open up the elephants until 6.30 a.m.. When we did eventually open the Stockades and Stables for the elephants to emerge, they did not want to leave the Keepers, but hung around us, while Suguta and Olare trumpeted, with their ears out, warning the elephants to be careful! All the warthogs, who normally are up early, were conspicuous by their absence! Those that poked their noses out of their retreats, hurriedly went back in when they heard the lions roaring!

12 October 2010

Today saw the return of our little “Kimana” back to the Nursery fold, having been transferred to the Voi Rehabilitation Unit along with Dida and Ndii on the 11th May, 2010, where he has not been thriving as he should. When we landed at the Voi Airstrip, we found Kimana waiting for us. He was there with his Keepers and did not need to be tied with ropes or given Stressnil for the flight.

13 October 2010

At about 3.30 in the afternoon, we received a report from Lewa Downs that there was a baby elephant in need of help, likely to be a victim of poaching from the nearby Chinese Road Camp on a main elephant migratory route from Meru to Samburu Reserve. The baby arrived at about 8 p.m., a female of about 2 years old who was unusually friendly to the Keepers, and taking milk eagerly. She was given the name “Naisula”, which is a Samburu name given to girls which means “Victory”.

14 October 2010

Very early in the morning, as soon as the orphans were let out of their Night quarters, we took them to greet the new baby, “Naisula”. Suguta, Olare and Kalama remained behind when the others wandered off, because they wanted the new baby to join them. She was let out to join them, and they all crowded around her, trumpeting excitedly and screaming. Suguta and Olare kept a close eye on the newcomer all day, who gravitated towards the other newcomer, “Kitirua” from Amboseli. The two instantly formed a strong bond of friendship. However, Murka and Melia appeared jealous of Naisula, pushing her away from the others whenever possible.

15 October 2010

Kimana is very weak, showing symptoms similar to those of Mawenzi, with swellings on his legs. He is very stressed, refusing his milk feeds and collapsing from time to time when the Keepers have to physically help him up. Olare is very concerned about him, and when he trails all the others, she remains behind to keep him company, but Kimana prefers to try and be alone, apart from all the others, leaning against trees due to weakness.

16 October 2010

At the mudbath Sities demonstrated her skills, copying Kalama. She jumped in and splashed the water vigorously, while Kalama watched approvingly from the sidelines. Sities then got out and rushed towards the football, kicking the ball and running towards the visitors until she is in amongst them, with them all applauding and laughing. She then runs back again and jumps into the pool. The second time she emerged, she came face to face with Chemi Chemi, who head butted her, sending her flying back into the pool. The Keepers were very angry with the naughty boy, but sensing their disapproval, he ran off!

17 October 2010

It was a day of very mixed feelings. We went by air to bring back a tiny orphaned elephant calf from the Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy who is only about a week old, but at about 6 p.m., as we returned with the new baby, our little orphaned rhino, Maalim, very suddenly died. As we were coming to grips with this tragedy, Kimana died just 30 minutes later. Everyone was so shocked, that they could not speak and the entire compound fell silent and very down-hearted. However, life must go on. The new baby took her milk well, and the other orphans continued with their usual activities.

18 October 2010

KWS arrived very early to take Maalim’s body away for autopsy. During the night a Ranger was detailed to sleep close to the body to guard the horn. Meanwhile, the orphans enjoyed their usual morning games at the Stockade Compound. Naisula got very scared when two warthogs began chasing one another. She ran off and hid behind the bushes. It took the Keepers about an hour to retrieve her and when she was ushered back, her friend, Kitirua, welcomed her back very warmly. After that Naisula and Kitirua remained close to Olare and Suguta for protection.

19 October 2010

After the usual Compound games in the early morning, the elephants headed out to browse, led today by Shukuru. As they were making their way out, two impalas rushed past chasing each other, and this caused the elephants to flee in all directions. Suguta and Olare rapidly rounded up Shukuru, Sities and Turkwel. Naisula and Kitirua ran in opposite directions, Kitirua back to the Stockades, and Naisula ran into the bush. The Keepers split into three groups, one remaining with Suguta, Olare and the babies, and the other two searching for Kitirua and Naisula. Eventually all returned safely.

20 October 2010

Today the orphans enjoyed browsing close to a herd of impalas and a teenaged bushbuck, Sities being well guarded by Suguta while Olare and Tumaren also stood by to ensure that Sities was safe. Sities had her ears out, wanting to chase the antelopes. Meanwhile Chemi Chemi and Kibo who were engaged in a Pushing Match, had not noticed the antelopes, until they were very close. Immediately both charged and all the other orphans joined in, turning the bush chaotic! It took the Keepers half an hour to restore order and round up their charges again.

21 October 2010

Naisula and Kitirua are now settling down well, and are putting on weight rapidly. Naisula, who is a very gentle elephant, sometimes gets nervous when Kalama, Shukuru and Mutara start playing their charging game, when she is inclined to panic and flee. Hence the Keepers have to be vigilant, remaining close to her to ensure that she does not become “spooked”. This pattern was repeated after the mudbath when the babies began their charging game, and Naisula again took off at speed. It took the Keepers l0 minutes to bring her back!

22 October 2010

Out in the bush today Suguta, Tumaren, Olare and Sities decided to split from the rest of the herd and browse some distance away, leaving Melia in charge of the rest of the herd. All was well until a troupe of baboons arrived near the Melia group. Melia charged them, backed up by Mutara (who aspires to being a Matriarch one day) prompting Chemi Chemi and Kibo to follow suit. The baboons scattered in all directions, causing panic amongst the babies. Surprisingly, today Naisula and Kitirua were not bothered!

23 October 2010

Naisula and Kitirua are now firm friends, often putting their heads together as though whispering to each other. Only Murka remains jealous of them and likes to head butt them, but when they notice her intention, each runs in a different direction, which confuses Murka! Sities was head butted by Turkwel today, and was so angry that when Suguta was close enough to provide protection, she head butted Turkwel several times in revenge before running to Suguta.

24 October 2010

Tiny Wasin spends most of her time with the Keepers, since she has not yet joined the other elephants who spend their time out in the bush. She loves playing with her blanket, and is very fond of the Keepers, running to them whenever the warthogs come close.

25 October 2010

Out in the bush Kitirua and Naisula browse very close together, on occasions standing silently with heads together, probably reflecting on their lost elephant mothers and family. Mutara and Tano join them on occasions, showing them empathy and love and trying to comfort them. Melia and Murka resent the two new girls, perhaps because the newcomers now occupy their former stockade. Melia, especially, is proving a hard nut to crack, despite being warned by the Keepers.

26 October 2010

As soon as the orphans emerged from their Night Quarters in the morning Kibo and Kandecha began their usual wrestling test of strength. The orphans enjoyed their mudbath today, since the temperature was conducive for wallowing. Tano, Sities, Makireti, Turkwel, Chemi Chemi, Shukuru and all the rest enjoyed sliding down the slippery edge of the mudbath, and plopping into the water. As soon as the orphans had settled into their Night quarters, two lions appeared from the forest, roaring loudly as they walked through the compound. Melia, Tumaren, Suguta, Olare and Murka all raised their trunks in silence to test the scent.

27 October 2010

At dawn, Solio is ready to be let out of her Stockade, and follow her Keeper around the forest visiting the dungpiles and urinals of Shida and the wild rhinos of Nairobi Park to leave her own “visiting card”. She is a very gentle and alert little rhino, who now loves her Keepers. Sometimes out in the bush she charges the warthogs when they come too close and if anything startles her, she runs to the Keeper for protection.

28 October 2010

The orphans emerged in a joyous mood, all the youngsters rushing around the compound playing their usual games, while the Seniors indulged in bush-bashing to welcome the new morning. Once out in the field, they encountered the herd of impalas so Olare mobilized Kudup, Tumaren, Kibo, Kalama and Kandecha to disperse them. The impalas gave the elephants a good run around the bushes, leaving Olare and her satellites bush-bashing instead. During this encounter, Suguta was busy overseeing and calming the youngsters.

29 October 2010

When it was time to move off in the morning, all the orphans lined up behind their Keepers and began heading out, the older orphans pausing to throw dust over their bodies on the way. Kalama, Mutara, Shukuru, Sities, Chemi Chemi and Makireti also enjoyed a dustbath, overseen by Suguta. During this dusting session, Chemi Chemi tried to mount onto Sities, which angered Suguta who moved in to grab his tail, forcing Chemi Chemi to escape whilst he could! Afterwards, he had to spend “time out” from the group. Whenever he tried to come back, Suguta sent him off again as a punishment, which left him rumbling and crying because he felt insecure on his own. In the end the Keepers took pity on him, and helped him to return to the fold.

30 October 2010

After the 3 p.m. milk feed, Mutara, Shukuru and Tano enjoyed soil bathing in a warthog burrow. Mutara enjoyed lying in the soil whilst Shukuru bumped into her so that they both slid down the burrow. The game attracted the attention of Kibo and Kandecha, who moved in to expel the girls and take over, but then couldn’t decide who should dominate the burrow. Kibo won the challenge, prompting Kandecha to move off.

31 October 2010

The orphans hurried out this morning to enjoy some fresh green shoots that were sprouting after a rainstorm a few days before, but were very scared en route when they heard lions roaring close by. The orphans took to their heels, racing back to the Keepers for protection. Suguta, Tumaren and Melia spread their ears, and all was silent as both the Keepers and the elephants tried to identify the exact location of the lions. For the rest of the morning the orphans remained very nervous and the Keepers on full alert. At around 7.20 p.m. two lions were spotted near the stables that house Wasin, Turkwel and Mutara. All three elephants Turkwel, Mutara and Wasin were already fast asleep, so did not react.