Keepers' Diaries, October 2011

Nairobi Nursery Unit

The 8th brought not just one Elephant Rescue Alert, but three, all within minutes of one another, presenting us with an unwelcome challenge! Two orphans, said to be about 2 years old, were in the North, one from the Imenti forest which was to be airlifted from the Lewa Downs airfield, and the other from Meru National Park airlifted from Meru Mulika airstrip. The third orphan (also a 2 year old) was from the Tsavo Conservation Area – in fact, the same hot-spot that yielded Murka, Kilabasi, Rombo, Kasigau and others. As it turned out, KWS Rangers failed to capture the Imenti forest orphan, so the only one to be airlifted to the Nursery that day was the 2 ½ year old from Meru, who was already in a pitiful state, emaciated, riddled in worms with maggots even crawling from the mouth. Meanwhile the Voi Elephant Keepers assisted by the Ziwani De-Snaring Team went by car to capture the Tsavo orphan, which they managed to accomplish. It was decided that this calf, named “Kivuko”, and also 2 years old, should remain at the Voi Stockades since space was not available in the Nursery to tame down another 2 year old. Several days later another Tsavo female orphan, also a two year old, was rescued at Emusiya on the Galana River, and given the name “Emsaya”, so this one joined “Kivuko” at the Voi Stockades. Full marks to Julius and the Voi Keepers for coping so proficiently with these two new orphans, administering the prophylactic Nuroclav injections, plus the de-wormers, getting them used to taking milk from a hand-held bottle and calming them down within just a day or two. By month end both were out and about with the resident Voi orphans under the leadership of Lesanju.

01 October 2011

As soon as the orphans Stockades and Stables were opened in the morning, Ishanga walked to Kasigau’s Stockade to greet the new Boy and waited patiently outside his gate for him to be let out. Once he emerged, she embraced him warmly, and escorted him to the other Orphans where he was greeted by Kihari and Rombo, his closest associates, who like to spend time with him. The orphans enjoyed an active mudbath today since the weather was conducive, after which Naipoki, Sities and Kainuk ran up and down the visitors’ cordon while the older orphans such as Makireti, Mutara, Dabassa, Tano and Ishanga entertained the audience by sliding into the wallow and bumping into one another playfully.

02 October 2011

At 6 a.m. Rhino Solio encountered a buffalo bull in the bush below the mudbath who, upon spotting her and her Keepers, ran off. Solio immediately charged after the retreating buffalo, snorting loudly, which made him accelerate all the more! Thereafter Solio was on full alert and obviously nervous, only settling down after several hours had passed. At the 11 a.m. mudbath the orphans put on a spectacular display, little Naipoki scratching her bottom on Turkwel’s head and the others sliding and bumping into one another. Sities misbehaved by pushing Kainuk and was warned by the Keepers. She and Kainuk are not overly fond of one another.

03 October 2011

The orphans were out early as usual, Mutara, Turkwel and Shukuru running to embrace the younger babies while Bully Boy Dabassa was busy trying to express his strength against bigger girls such as Tano and Kilabasi and was warned by the Keepers. Today, the Orphans had a Filming Crew who were greeted by Mutara who introduced the visitors to her family. However, newcomers such as Dabassa, Rombo, Kilabasi and Kihari who were not used to such attention from strangers tried to steer clear of the filming crew, accompanied as usual by Ishanga, who always looks after newcomers.

04 October 2011

The orphans browsed peacefully all morning. Kasigau came to the mudbath, and is becoming more confident. At 2 p.m. the orphaned herd was frightened by a troop of baboons, the more established orphans running to their Keepers for protection, but Kihari, Rombo, Kasigau and Ishanga running in a different direction. It took the Keepers time to locate them having chased the baboons off.

05 October 2011

On the way out into the bush Makireti and Dabassa engaged one another in a Pushing Bout. Dabassa enjoys challenging the bigger females in order to assert his dominance. Shukuru came to back up Makireti, and Dabassa had to surrender. By midday it was very hot, so as soon as the Orphans had downed their milk, they dashed into the mudbath and put on a spirited show for the audience of visitors and school children. The spear wounds that Rombo had on arrival through one ear and into the neck have healed well, as has the spear wound that Kasigau had at the top of his trunk. Both bulls are gaining weight rapidly, and settling well into the Nursery routine.

06 October 2011

A light shower of rain fell during the night, so the Orphans enjoyed playing in the puddles on their way out into the bush, only Kihari and Kasigau focused on browsing while the others enjoyed rolling in the dampened earth. Kihari is still mourning the loss of her elephant mother and family, and is not yet interested in playing. After the loss of Mumbushi, who was deeply loved by Tano, Tano has focused on Naipoki and lavished her with love, something that Naipoki relishes. Tano is a quiet and polite individual and easy to handle, as is Turkwel whilst Mutara is a fine Matriarch, ably assisted by Shukuru.

07 October 2011

Friday is the day that the Orphans’ skin is anointed with coconut oil after the 9 a.m. milk feed. Today, Rombo, Kasigau, Kihari, Dabassa and Ishanga tried to avoid oiling but the Keepers rounded them up. After oiling, all rolled in the soil, Naipoki, Tano, Sities and Kainuk keeping clear of pushy individuals such as Ishanga and Dabassa. Since it was a cool day, only Kilabasi and Kasigau dusted themselves with loose soil while the others just stood around browsing on the greens that had been provided for them.

08 October 2011

As soon as the Orphans reached the forest, Makireti, Shukuru, Sities and Kainuk initiated a Bush-Bashing game, running around trumpeting. Soon the entire herd was involved, including Kihari, Rombo and Kasigau who are not usually playful. Just past 11 a.m. the Keepers received not one, but three Rescue alerts, one from the Tsavo Conservation Area, one about a calf from the Imenti Forest which was to be collected from the Lewa Downs airstrip, and the third one from Meru Mulika airstrip. A Rescue team of 4 Keepers were soon ready to board the two chartered planes for the Meru and Lewa orphans, while Joseph Sauni left by road from the Voi Stockades to retrieve the Tsavo orphan from the same Hot Spot that yielded Kilabasi, Rombo and Kasigau. It was decided that the Tsavo orphan remain at the Voi Stockades since space was short in Nairobi for two large two year olds who would need Taming Down. In the end just the young bull from Meru Mulika arrived, aged 2 ½ and in a desperate state of emaciation, riddled in worms, with maggots even emerging from his mouth. He soon collapsed and was put on Life Support throughout the night. The orphan from the Imenti Forest could not be captured by KWS personnel and never arrived.

09 October 2011

The Orphan from Meru rallied during the night, and much to everyone’s surprise was standing and taking milk in the morning, greeted very warmly by Mutara and Makireti, although Shukuru seemed afraid of this newcomer, standing with her ears out and walking away. Perhaps she sensed that he had no hope of recovery, because he collapsed again later in the day, and although again on Life Support, died the next morning – 10th.

10 October 2011

It was a sad morning having to bury the new calf. Only Ishanga ran to his Stockade that morning and finding the newcomer gone, rushed to Mutara rumbling as she went. All then stood in silence for a short while, before resuming their usual morning routine, obviously sensing the tragedy. All enjoyed the mudbath, but at 5 p.m. Kihari refused to go into her usual Stockade. The Keepers had to bring Tano to entice her in.

11 October 2011

As the Orphans were browsing out in the bush, they were scared by a male impala’s alarm snort. Naipoki, Sities, Tano and Kainuk led the rush back to the Keepers, followed by the others, with Mutara, Makireti and Shukuru standing guard in the background, all with outspread ears! Dabassa has turned into a very greedy Feeder, which is usual amongst orphans who have arrived emaciated and starving through milk deprivation. He has already learned how to hold up the bottle himself and downs his share rapidly before trying to grab that of others. The Keepers have to warn him, and feed him away from the rest of the herd.

12 October 2011

It was a cold morning and the Orphans woke up in a dull mood. However, a drizzle of rain interspersed by sunshine brightened them up and all embarked on the Bush-Bashing Game. As they arrived at the mudbath, a BBC crew were there with Big Cameras which daunted Dabassa, Rombo and Kasigau who are still camera-shy! The filming focused on newcomer Kihari who was most nervous of all and when she arrived at her Night Stockade, she noticed the Camera already in situ. Again Tano had to be brought out to escort her in, after which she pressed close to the partition in order to be close to Tano. The camera was removed after the 9 p.m. feed.

13 October 2011

Kihari, who is still grieving, likes to feed apart from the others, accompanied by Ishanga, Rombo and Kasigau, who are also newcomers. For this reason the Keepers usually escort the orphans to a new location each day, so that the newcomers are not familiar with the terrain and do not wander too far from the Keepers. However, it was a wet, drizzly day and the three boys kept going deeper and deeper into the forest refusing to come to the 3 p.m. Private Viewing. The Youngsters came first, followed by the older girls, but the older Boys declined completely, and just waited out of view in the bush, taking their milk after the Private Viewing Guests had left early due to the rain.

14 October 2011

The rains continued throughout the night and the most affected by it was Sities who was agitated all night, rumbling and screaming. This upset Naipoki as well, so both babies had a sleepless night. Due to the rain the Orphans were allowed out of their Night quarters at 7 a.m. instead of 6 a.m. while Sities and Naipoki were left in, which upset them even more. The Keepers prepared their raincoats for them so that they could join the others. All then enjoyed rolling in the mud all morning. The one who appreciated the rain most was Solio, who began wallowing and playing in her Stockade and had to be let out. She kept the Keepers on their toes all day, running hither and thither and rolling in the mud – by far the most excited orphan of the day, so the Keepers were happy for her!

15 October 2011

It began raining again during the night. What a night for Maxwell, whose Stockade turned into one huge mudbath. He kept running from his sleeping shelter to the end of the Stockade, trying to encourage Solio to engage with him through the separating poles of their two enclosures, but she was not interested, being already exhausted herself from the day’s mud activity! Max kept pushing the poles of his Stockade, and by the morning he too, he too was spent, and spent most of the day sleeping. The elephants enjoyed the sunshine when the rain cleared in the morning, wallowing at length both out in the bush, at their noon mudbath and at the Private Visiting slot. Today Rombo defended himself against Pushy Dabassa whilst feeding, pushing Dabassa away with his tusks. He also defended Kainuk from Ishanga who was trying to bully her, sending Ishanga off as well!

16 October 2011

Solio is proving challenging for the Keepers. Some days she comes out of her Night Stockade and just runs off into the bush. Today, the Keepers followed her for a full hour, but she has become very disobedient. Today, as the Keepers were trying to get her back, she came across the midden of a wild rhino, and having sniffed it, went running off again. At the Public Viewing, the younger orphans enjoy entertaining the visitors by walking along the cordon line, but when it began to drizzle, they all wanted to shelter under the bushes. At the Private Viewing slot, it was still drizzling, so the orphans were not anxious to even appear. The Keepers had a hard time persuading them to comply.

17 October 2011

A nice warm day greeted the Orphans, so they had a lovely time. All enjoyed the mudbath until the warthogs arrived unexpectedly, and scared them all. Having confirmed that the intruders were mere warthogs, Makireti returned to take them on, trumpeted on by Mutara and the cheering of the visitors! Kihari has decided she does not like the blanket and almost hurt the Keeper who tried to put it on. Despite having been in the Orphanage for two months, she is still not friendly towards either the humans or the other elephants, obviously still traumatized by what she witnessed on Mt. Kenya involving her elephant family. Tano tried very hard to come close and comfort her, but she keeps on moving away. At night Tano is always standing close trying to hug her through the bars to comfort her but she has not yet settled.

18 October 2011

The newcomers who have previously liked to remain together, are beginning to split up now. Dabassa is joining the main group of Mutara while Kihari tends to favour being nearest to Tano, Rombo and Kasigau are best friends. They often come late for the noon mudbath, walking in together to take their milk, Rombo taking his milk rapidly, while Kasigau takes his time. Again, in the evening, the two return after their peers, and are suspicious and nervous of anyone who walks behind them. This is not surprising after having seen their mothers killed by humans, and themselves wounded.

19 October 2011

On a beautiful morning the Orphans made their way into the bush, Tano hugging Kihari as she walks alongside, Mutara leading the way and Shukuru bringing up the rear of the column. In the Old Days we always had rain in October, but latterly the rains have been late, starting in November. Today it began raining again at 1.30 p.m. and went on for 2 hours, all the elephants enjoying rolling in the mud, except Naipoki and Kihari.

20 October 2011

Ishanga and Shukuru often play-fight, but today it turned into a real battle royal. The Keepers intervened but Ishanga continued to push Shukuru who was already on the ground, screaming. Kainuk enjoys playing with Naipoki, lying on the ground so that Naipoki can climb onto her, overseen by Tano. Today Kihari was attracted by the game but when she approached, Kainuk got up and pushed her. Turkwel then intervened to stop Kainuk driving her away, and then spending a long time “talking” to her. Kainuk is her favourite, but when Kainuk tried to follow Turkwel, she was again pushed away to spend time out. Today Solio led the Keepers a dance. She ran up to the Banda Gate on her own, and was away for l ½ hours before turning up again.

21 October 2011

It was an overcast day, so the Orphans were not active. At the mudbath all huddled together without paying much attention to the audience. Again in the evening, having downed their milk, all save Kilabasi went straight to sleep. Strangely, Kilabasi, who normally pays no attention to strangers, felt duty-bound to entertain the foster-parent guests who came to view the Orphans in the evening, and found most under blankets! Kilabasi kept sucking up water in her trunk and spraying it over the guests, making them laugh, which she obviously enjoyed!

22 October 2011

Turkwel seems to be distancing herself from Kainuk these days. Normally she and Kainuk take their milk side by side, but today whenever Kainuk came close, Turkwel moved off. Even in their adjoining Night Stables, when usually the two sleep close to one another, today Turkwel slept at the far end, which upset Kainuk who had a sleepless night as a result. It is good for Kainuk to become less dependent on Turkwel who will soon have to be upgraded to one of the Rehab facilities in Tsavo.

23 October 2011

Ishanga is a very pushy girl. Today she went to push Mutara, probably thinking that she was Shukuru, and instead of apologizing, decided to embark on a fight and got roundly trounced by Mutara and driven out of the herd. Ishanga spent most of the day apart from the others. It was a lovely sunny day, and Mutara spent the entire mudbath hour in the wallow, joined by Makireti periodically, but Mutara never got out once!

24 October 2011

The orphans emerged in a playful mood, Naipoki coming to greet her favourite Keepers before joining the rest of the group. The orphans are fed in two groups, and amongst Mutara’s group is greedy Dabassa, who holds his bottle himself but his eyes keep roaming around sizing up which one to try and snatch next! Today, Rombo game to try and take Dabassa’s bottle, so he ran off with it, but having finished the milk, he returned to deal with Rombo, who ran off screaming! The Keepers have now decided to stand between the two naughty boys at feeding times.

25 October 2011

The Orphans again met outside their Night Quarters in the morning, Naipoki and Sities engaging one another in a friendly Pushing Match while Shukuru and Mutara stood close by to ensure that Naipoki was not hurt. Rombo is more familiar with his new family, and tried to mount onto Kihari, who had to take evasive action. In the forest Sities and Kainuk had an old score to settle, over which the Keepers had to intervene, since Kainuk still does not have full vision in the damaged eye which gave Sities the upper hand.

26 October 2011

Once out in the morning, the Orphans enjoyed their usual Compound games, charging about, and challenging one another to Pushing Games of Strength, Rombo engaging Makireti, while Kasigau took on Dabassa. At the mudbath all save Kihari enjoyed a wallow since it was a hot day. All browsed quietly throughout the afternoon, although Sities and Kainuk had their usual confrontation.

27 October 2011

A light drizzle of rain during the night gave the orphans a wet morning, which they thoroughly enjoyed, rolling in the mud and playing in puddles. Mutara, Shukuru, Sities and Naipoki were the most active. Ishanga has always been a pushy elephant, and today knocked down little Kihari who screamed for help. Mutara, Shukuru, Makireti and Turkwel along with the Keepers rushed to prevent Ishanga from pushing Kihari again. During the afternoon Ishanga head butted Shukuru, which initiated another confrontation in which the Keepers had to intervene.

28 October 2011

Heavy rain and thunder during the night disturbed Sities and Kainuk, both of whom screamed fearfully and had a sleepless night. Once again the lions prowled around the Orphans’ Stockades, disturbing Dabassa, Rombo and Kasigau who are in adjoining Stockades. In the morning Ishanga and Shukuru again battled, necessitating intervention by the Keepers. Kasigau enjoyed playing with Makireti. After the mudbath Naipoki and Kihari led the orphans to the bush. The afternoon passed peacefully until Kihari came running to the Keepers, which caused the others to panic. The Keepers went to investigate and came face to face with a bull buffalo. Solio is becoming difficult to manage. She doesn’t pay much attention to the Keepers now and has a mind of her own!

29 October 2011

There was gentle rain during the night, so the Orphans enjoyed the wet conditions. Kihari, Kasigau, Rombo and Dabassa were led deeper into the forest by Ishanga, who likes to have them to herself. Naipoki and Tano remained close to the Keepers, while the other orphans browsed with Mutara and Shukuru. Suddenly, Ishanga and her group came sprinting back to the Keepers, their tails in the air, and this triggered a general stampede. The Keepers gathered the group together, having learnt that it had been gunshots fired in the air to subdue striking Catholic University students that had frightened the elephants. Then the report came in about the baby elephant with an injured leg near the Tana River Delta in Ijara district, so the Rescue team left at 11.30 a.m. heading for Masalani airstrip in the North. It so happened that a torrential downpour interrupted the Rescue, so the plane had to return empty-handed to Nairobi leaving the Rescue team behind who spent the night in the remote village of Ijara, first having had to spend several hours trying to extract the vehicle that came to pick them up out of mud.

30 October 2011

At first light the Rescue Team who had spent the night at Ijara village near the Tana River Delta set off in a Tractor (the only vehicle capable of moving in the flooded area). Eventually, the team reached the area where the calf was being kept under surveillance and managed to capture it without much resistance, since the baby could barely move because of a hugely swollen back leg. The tractor journey back to Masalani airstrip, where the plane was waiting, was slow and treacherous but after a flight that lasted 1 1/2 hours, the orphan was safely back at the Trust’s Nairobi Nursery.

31 October 2011

Ishaq-B, the new orphan from far-off Ijara was overjoyed to be out with the other orphans today, Makireti, Mutara, Shukuru , Tano and Turkwel all competing to be closest to her, touching her with their trunks and rumbling to her lovingly. She is obviously so relieved to have found a new elephant family again having been alone under such hostile conditions for a long time.