Keepers' Diaries, October 2012

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

The unexpected death on October 15th of the Nursery’s favourite - baby Kinango, left us all gutted. Having lost body condition during the teething process, he was again unwell on the 3rd, despite having managed to push out his first four baby molars, during which time he underwent several intravenous drips to counter dehydration caused by the teething “loose stool” syndrome. Due to his compromised immune system, he lacked the reserves to withstand another health issue, despite putting up a brave fight, and in spite of us doing everything in our power to get him through but it was not to be. Kinango had always been Mutara’s special baby, and she mourned his loss just as deeply as did his many foster-parents all over the world. Post-mortem results indicated a mild infection of the gut, which, under normal circumstances, would not have taken cost his life. Little Kinango now rests in peace in the nearby natural forest along with others who never made it.

The unexpected death on October 15th of the Nursery’s favourite - baby Kinango, left us all gutted. Having lost body condition during the teething process, he was again unwell on the 3rd, despite having managed to push out his first four baby molars, during which time he underwent several intravenous drips to counter dehydration caused by the teething “loose stool” syndrome. Due to his compromised immune system, he lacked the reserves to withstand another health issue, despite putting up a brave fight, and in spite of us doing everything in our power to get him through but it was not to be. Kinango had always been Mutara’s special baby, and she mourned his loss just as deeply as did his many foster-parents all over the world. Post-mortem results indicated a mild infection of the gut, which, under normal circumstances, would not have taken cost his life. Little Kinango now rests in peace in the nearby natural forest along with others who never made it.

The Nursery received 3 new orphans this month – 8 month old Narok, flown in from the Masai Mara town of Narok on the 4th, followed by 3 month old Lemoyian rescued from a well in the Amboseli region and airlifted to the Nursery on the 9th. Sadly, the mother of this calf was still living and at the well, but fled when the Masai began bringing their cattle. This baby was friendly from the start, just happy to have been saved and have milk and another elephant and human family. He was out and about with the herd the very next day, lovingly sandwiched between Big Girls, Mutara, Shukuru, Tano, and Kilabasi, all vying to be as close as possible. Then, on the 30th l0 – 11 month old “Quanza” came in, her famous Amboseli Mother, the Matriarch Quomcat (born in l969) gunned down along with three others within the family by Tanzanian Poachers near the Kenya/Tanzanian border on the 28th. Qwanza was the first calf born in Amboseli following the devastating drought of 2009, hence her name, which in Swahili means “first”.

Mutara had a busy time trying to wrangle all the new babies along with Kinango, a longtime firm favourite, that Naipoki stepped in to help, taking over Lemoyian and Rukinga illustrating matriarchal aspirations, until Shukuru took over baby Lemoyian as her special favourite.

Ngasha, rescued from the Tsavo ranches at the end of September was sufficiently calm to be allowed out of his Taming Stockade a day or two later, on the 2nd October. He stepped out, similarly sandwiched between the Big Girls who escorted him to the bush and who were at hand to assist the Keepers to round him up when he attempted to escape. Since then he has bonded with Kwale, Teleki, and Faraja, other relative newcomers, who, like him, are still grieving the loss of their elephant family. These 4 boys often separate themselves from the mainstream to reflect in quieter surroundings, which is normal during the grieving process of those orphaned old enough to remember their wild life and family.

Sities was the first to rush over and greet newcomer Narok, followed by all the others who are always eager to embrace and comfort newcomers. In view of how the Masai Mara Elephants have suffered at the hands of humans, Narok was very aggressive and fearful to begin with, but accepted milk from a bucket. However, by the 8th she tolerated the presence of a Keeper inside her Stockade with her, and taking her cue from the others who were fed nearby, she soon began taking milk from a hand-held bottle. Two days later (on the l0th) she was sufficiently calm to be allowed out with the others and has behaved impeccably, befriended by Naipoki, Kainuk, Ishaq-B and Turkwel. Hitherto Ishaq-B has been “Pushy”, but obviously she is now overcoming the post-traumatic stress and beginning to behave more normally, as a female elephant should.

Sonje has been another who has been labeled “Pushy”, but under the influence of gentle Murera, she has developed a fondness for little Rukinga, even postponing her milk intake in order to oversee Rukinga taking his against his hung blanket. As he made up his mind as to where to place his trunk, she became impatient with the Keeper, suspecting that he was withholding the baby’s milk! (New babies need the trunk to feel comfortable, resting against something soft and warm that duplicates their mother’s body, before agreeing to suckle.) As for our miracle Murera, she is now sufficiently confident to be amongst the Big Girls, but she remains apprehensive of being approached from the back.

Big Girls Mutara, Kilabasi and Shukuru are next to be promoted to the Ithumba Rehabilitation Centre, all now Big Girls over the age of 3 years. They began their training to the Elephant Moving Truck parked up against the Nursery Loading Ramp on the 5th, and whereas Shukuru and Kilabasi were soon happy to oblige by going in for their milk, Mutara remains deeply suspicious, and prefers to even forego the milk feed in order to avoid going in, having obviously seen others before her mysteriously disappear once they have got used to going in! The translocation of these three Big Girls will take place just as soon as rain has again greened the arid Tsavo landscape again after a prolonged drought period.

Balguda has long been Kilabasi’s chosen favourite, enjoying the privilege of suckling her ears, but newcomer Ngasha is now wanting to do the same. This has created “sibling rivalry” between these two orphans, with Ngasha bellowing every time Shukuru dislodges him from an ear, and Balguda furious with him for even attempting to suckle an ear and also for disrupting his own pleasurable ear suckling by yelling! Kilabasi has had to move between the two on several occasions in order to restore order before ushering Balguda away from Ngasha.

Newcomers to the Nursery, who have suffered milk deprivation, invariably turn very greedy at milk feeding times and become “pushy”. By mid month Narok was no exception. She simply could not get enough, bellowing every time she finished her quota, then chasing after the Keepers begging for more, and even running to the bucket hanging outside her Stockade door to try and force her Keepers to understand better what she was demanding. This is in spite of downing 36 pints reinforced with cooked oatmeal porridge in a 24 hour period!

Young bulls, suffer the same milk deprivation symptoms, exacerbated by male rivalry for dominance. Prior to Orwa being promoted to the Big Girls’ Group, Kanjoro had been the only boy in that group, and as such ended up a bit cowed by so many Big Girls who were quick to discipline every time he challenged an age-mate to a test of strength.. However, this changed as soon as Orwa joined the group. Instantly he pushed Orwa down, an event witnessed by Kihari who took it upon herself to drive him away to spend “time out” (the way elephants discipline wrong-doers!) The departure of Orwa from the Junior Group, resulted in Bomani taking his place as a bully, such being the dynamics of the Nursery boys! Meanwhile, tiny Kithaka, enjoys being “pushy” in another way - during the Open Viewing hour, cruising up and down the cordon and shoving any visitor who reaches out to touch him. Because he is so small, people are amazed at his strength, and their mirth induces him to show off all the more, rolling in the ground, tossing his trunk in the air, standing on his head etc., all to great applause from the audience. According to the Keepers “Kithaka is now “a happy boy” and we are delighted to see him so!

Towards month end, anxiousness over little Rukinga, whose teething was causing him so much trouble, turned to deep concern, since matters were becoming life threatening. Very fortunately, Blood Diagnostic equipment, donated by a kind South American donor, turned up just in time, along with Dr. Clay Wilson, so we were able to analyze his blood within moments of taking a drop or two, and understand what organs were compromised, namely kidneys due to dehydration caused by the diarrheoa, and, of course, the onset of a bowel infection, indicated by his rising white blood cell count. Dr. Clay Wilson then took over, and we were all cautiously optimistic that the life of this precious baby will be able to be saved. Sadly, however, it was not to be.

The Rhinos:- Maxwell remains very contented with his captive existence, familiar with his daily routine, reveling in a sense of security since he knows every inch of his enclosure through memory and scent, and having been born blind with no retina or optic nerve in both eyes, he could never cope with a wild existence. As it is, he is happy, excited daily by the reappearance of Solio, with whom he enjoys sparring through the separating poles of their two Stockades. The two rhinos are psychologically extremely dependent upon one another, and through their behaviour are teaching us some of the secrets of Rhino Relationships. Solio is also comfortable with her daily routine, rhinos being very much creatures of habit. She enjoys luxurious nights sleeping on a soft bed of hay sheltered from the elements, returning to a bottle of porridge (with just a taste of milk now) and handsome Maxwell within sight and sound just next door! Sometimes she is happy to have her two Attendants with her as she walks the bush, and at other times she would rather not be encumbered by them, giving them the slip easily, and enjoying the feeling of independence, often putting herself back in her Night Stockade during the Public Visiting hour so that she can be just as admired as Maxwell next door!

Others:- Geri, the orphaned Thomson’s gazelle, who was spared being “lunch” for a bushmeat Poacher, is growing apace, and an antelope of two worlds. She enjoying the days out and about with her many “friends” (the wild impala herd who passes by regularly, the wild bushbuck who frequent the Trust compound, the friendly warthogs who prefer to hang around the elephants and the Keepers, and being a herd animal, even the daily visitors, (although only Sheldrick family members are allowed the privilege of physical contact) not to mention “Tickle” the family domestic (once ferrel) cat. Each evening Geri voluntarily returns to Angela’s house to sleep in the Office where she enjoys a bowl of Cornflakes and, strangely enough, a taste of Tickle’s “GoCat” supper! Geri is quite simply, exquisite!

October 2012 day to day

01 Oct

The presence of a newcomer in the Nursery (Ngasha rescued on the 30th September, did not escape the notice of Mutara, Turkwel, Sities and Tano, who hurried to his stable as soon as they were let out in the morning. Their presence outside his Stockade door reassured him, but he remained aggressive towards the Keepers, understandable in view of what made him an orphan. Little Rukinga has now completed his 5th day in the Nursery, and so far, is doing well. Naipoki is giving him a lot of attention when Mutara divides her time between him and little Kithaka, of whom she is very fond.

Turkwel watching over the youngsters

Sities reaching for browse

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