Keepers' Diaries, September 2000

Voi Reintegration Unit

September has been a month of hardship as the current drought tightened its stranglehold on the country, apparently the worst experienced for the past 50 years. Our older orphans have been regular visitors to the Stockades to benefit from a hand-out of extra rations in the form of Coconut Copra cakes, and the left-overs of the greens cut for the younger elephants and placed in the Stockades at night. Lissa and her wild born calf, Lara, have joined Dika, Edo and Ndume up at the Stockades on several occasions and it is interesting to learn that Malaika allowed Lissa’s calf to suckle her as the date of parturition came ever closer. It is interesting that all our orphans are within a loose "family" which although not as closely bonded as a natural blood related family, nevertheless are loosely affiliated with a special "orphan" bond. As Malaika’s pregnancy advanced, the animosity between her and Emily evaporated and Loisaba came to look upon her as a "mother" and was inseparable from her. Lewa continued to spend time with the Big Boys, as did Uaso. Most gratifying is the fact that Natumi and the eight ex Nursery babies, although moving as a group independent of the others, because they still need milk at regular intervals being in their weaning year, have become closely attached to the older orphans, and also comfortable meeting up with wild herds. Natumi and Edie are good pals, as are Laikipia and Salama, and little Nyiro is the special favourite of Aitong, who has loved and wanted him as her special baby from the start.

10 September 1999

The 9th was uneventful but on the 10th the orphans and Edo spent 3 hours with a wild herd.

01 September 2000

Natumi’s group (the eight ex Nursery babies) left the Stockades along with that of Malaika and Emily who then separated to go further afield. Emily and Malaika met up briefly with a wild group at 8.30 a.m. Meanwhile Lewa spent the day with Dika and came back to the Stockades with him at 4 p.m. Emily and Malaika and their respective charges joined up with the babies at the mudbath, when Natumi played with Mweiga and Emily, as usual, played with Imenti.

02 September 2000

The elephants all left together in the morning and soon joined a wild herd with whom they spent l hour. Natumi remained close to a wild mother and was with her for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, as usual, Loisaba stayed very close to Malaika, whom she loves dearly. At the mudbath Natumi, Edie and Salama enjoyed climbing on Emily who lay down for them to enable them to do so. Uaso and Lewa went with Dika and Edo in the morning, but joined up with all the other orphans at 3 p.m. Malaika and Emily were with the babies throughout the afternoon, and came back to the Stockades in the evening with them. Keepers’ comment:- “Icholta is a bit selfish and quite tough. She knocks the others if the others are being paid more attention, but she has high respect for Natumi”.

03 September 2000

All the elephants left the Stockades together as usual but then Emily and her group with Malaika and Loisaba peeled off heading towards the West side of the hill. Imenti chased a buffalo on the way. Keepers’ Comment:- “Lewa is very fond of pushing others, even his seniors and especially Aitong, who does not retaliate”.

04 September 2000

Today Edo and Dika joined the others when they left the Stockades in the morning, but then separated heading towards the Airstrip. Loisaba was with Malaika who also had Lewa and Uaso with her. Aitong stayed close to Nyiro all day, escorting him to the milk lorry for his bottle. She joined Imenti in chasing some zebra. Keepers’ Comment:- “Aitong is generally kind to other elephants. She does not take revenge even after being pushed. She loves Nyiro and is always concerned about him. She likes to possess him and also likes to explore new wild groups especially the babies.”

05 September 2000

All the elephants left together, except Dika who remained behind at the Stockades. Edo left the others at 7.30 a.m. heading towards the Airfield and at 8.30 a.m. the orphans mingled with a wild group when Malaika kept a very close eye on our babies. The babies were escorted to the Milk Truck by the bigger elephants for their 10 a.m. feed and as the Truck drove off, Emily and Imenti gave chase, something they enjoy doing. Everyone enjoyed the mudbath together today. Keepers’ Comment:- “Emily likes to explore new people bringing the trunk to sniff them. She likes playing chasing running vehicles”.

06 September 2000

They all left the Stockades together, but then Emily and her group went towards the West side of the hill returning later to meet up with the others just before mudbath. Natumi and Edie enjoyed chasing some waterbuck for 10 minutes, but Icholta, Nyiro, Lolokwe stuck close to the Keepers. Again Aitong escorted Nyiro to the Milk Truck, walking with her trunk lying across his back with Lolokwe coming along as well. Aitong was also very attentive to Nyiro during the mudwallow. At 4 p.m. the orphans were joined by a wild group, when Salama played with a wild calf of his size. Back at the Stockades Dika and Edo were joined by Lissa and her calf, having come back at 5.30 p.m. Keepers’ Comment:- “Loisaba is very nervous of people when alone. She is very attached to Malaika and considers Malaika her mother”.

07 September 2000

Dika and Edo left with the others, but then Dika went separately. Emily escorted her special baby, “Mweiga” with Natumi’s group to the Milk Truck for the 10 a.m. feed. The had an “exciting” wallow together today and at 3 p.m. the Big Boys peeled off. Emily and her group also separated from the babies at 3 p.m. and met up with Malaika and Loisaba on the way back to the Stockades in the evening. Lissa and her calf were already there and Loisaba enjoyed playing with the calf who is named “Lara”.

08 September 2000

Dika and Edo left with the others, but then peeled off and went on their own. At 8.30 a.m. Imenti spent 20 minutes chasing two buffaloes around. Emily went separately to Natumi’s group but joined them again at the mudbath as did Malaika, Edo, Lewa and Uaso. At 4.45 p.m. Natumi’s group met a herd of zebra, and all gave chase, led by Natumi. Lissa and her baby were with Dika and Edo up at the Stockades when the others returned in the evening.

09 September 2000

Dika and Ndume left with all the others in the morning, but left them at 8 a.m. heading towards the Airfield. Malaika and Loisaba left the Stockades earlier than Emily along with Lewa and Uaso. Emily met up with the babies later and escorted them and Mweiga to the milk Truck for the 10 a.m. milk feed. They all wallowed “merrily”together and later in the afternoon Emily’s group left the babies to join a wild group. Emily spent 30 minutes playing with an age-mate.

10 September 2000

Natumi’s group left with Emily’s group who were with them until after the 10 a.m. milk feed. At 10.30 a.m. they bumped into some Buffaloes who scared the babies, whilst Imenti and Emily put on a brave show charging the buffalo and kicking bushes. Malaika and Loisaba met up with the others at the mudbath and later left with Emily and her charges, joining the babies later at 3.30 p.m. and returning to the Stockades along with them.

11 September 2000

Edo, Lewa and Uaso left with the others in the morning. Natumi’s group were feeling the heat today and enjoyed the wallow. Malaika and Loisaba left the others in the afternoon and returned to the Stockades at 4 p.m. Ndume turned up at the Stockades at 11 a.m. and Dika and Edo at 3 p.m.

12 September 2000

Emily and her group along with Malaika, Loisaba, and Lewa left with Natumi’s group in the morning but then separated. They joined the babies again at the mudbath and spent the afternoon with them. Malaika left earlier with Loisaba and Lewa and came back to the Stockades at 5 p.m. Lissa and her calf came with Dika, Ndume and Edo at 5.30 p.m.

13 September 2000

Emily and Malaika left with the babies and were joined by Edo, Lewa and Uaso after the l0 a.m. milk feed. The babies wallowed before Emily and her group. Malaika, Loisaba, Uaso and Edo were there but parted from Emily’s group at 3 p.m. On the way back to the Stockades, Natumi’s group met two buffalo and Natumi and Edie put on a good demonstration, charging towards them and kicking the bushes, but rushing back to the Keepers for reassurance after each charge.

14 September 2000

Emily’s group left with the babies, but then separated, joining them later at the mudbath after which they remained with them all afternoon and returned with them to the Stockades in the evening. Malaika and Loisaba were on their own all day and returned to the stockades at 5 p.m. as did Dika and Edo.

15 September 2000

Emily and Malaika left with the babies in the morning along with the Big Boys, but Dika left them below Daniel’s house. Because the weather was cold, there was no mudwallow today but Natumi and Ilingwezi joined forces with Emily and Imenti to chase away a buffalo.

16 September 2000

The elephants all left together in the morning and Emily and Malaika were with the babies until the 10 a.m. milk feed, after which they left. Emily joined the babies at the wallow at 12 p.m. Malaika and Loisaba headed back for the Stockades at 3.30 p.m. where they met Lissa and her calf, who were already there. Lissa’s calf, “Lara” suckled Malaika and Malaika did not mind. Lewa Uaso and Edo returned at 5.45 p.m. just after Emily and the babies.

17 September 2000

All left together as usual with Lewa, Uaso and Edo in tow, who left soon afterwards heading towards the Campsite. Natumi’s group wallowed at 11.20 a.m. and Emily and her charges at 12 p.m. when Mweiga played with Salama for 10 minutes. All the Big Boys (Edo, Ndume and Dika) were present in the evening, bringing back Lewa and Uaso.

18 September 2000

Emily and Malaika left with the babies. At 10 a.m. Aitong escorted Nyiro to the Milk Truck, standing by him while he took his bottle. Malaika and Loisaba had a “dramatic” wallow with the babies before being joined by Emily and her group, who arrived a little later. Malaika and Loisaba left the others at 4 p.m. to return to the Stockades where they found Dika, Ndume and Edo who had arrived at 3 p.m. Imenti and Emily chased away 3 buffalo during the afternoon.

19 September 2000

Emily’s group and Malaika, Loisaba, Uaso and Nyiro left with the babies in the morning, but Malaika and Loisaba separated from the others at 8 a.m. Salama and Nyiro had a disagreement today. After mudbath Malaika and Loisaba left the others at 3 p.m. heading for the Stockades whilst Aitong and Imenti enjoyed stampeding six 6 zebra, “yelling” at them! Imenti and Lewa arrived up at the Stockades late, and in the process scared the little ones.

20 September 2000

All left together as usual. Natumi had fun played with Edie at 9 a.m and at 8.20 a.m. they were joined by Dika. Emily and her group spent the day with the babies during which time Aitong enjoyed a long game with Uaso. Malaika and Loisaba left the others early to return to the Stockades.

21 September 2000

All left together as usual. Salama played with Laikipia at 8.30 a.m. and again Aitong escorted Nyiro to the Milk Truck at 10 a.m. They all wallowed together, including Lewa and Uaso. Lissa and her calf were at the Stockades in the evening with Dika, Ndume and Edo.

22 September 2000

All left together as usual, this time along with Uaso and Lewa. They all enjoyed a “spectacular” wallow together. Back at the Stockades, Lissa came for water at 10 a.m., leaving her calf below the Research Centre with Mpenzi, who is the Nannie. After mudbath Malaika and Loisaba left early for the Stockades where they met up with Lissa and her calf. Again “Lara” suckled Malaika for some time.

23 September 2000

Today Ilingwezi has a swelling on her neck, which was reported to Nairobi by phone. All left together with Dika and Ndume, who separated heading towards the Airstrip. Uaso and Lewa had a game and then joined Malaika and Loisaba who left the others at 9 a.m. After 10 a.m. the babies were joined by a group of wild elephants, with whom they interacted for over an hour. When the wild elephants wanted to leave, Laikipia and Salama followed them for 10 minutes before returning to the Keepers. The babies wallowed at 11 a.m. and Emily and her group came in at noon. At 3.30 p.m. the babies met another group of wild elephants, who joined them, but this time Nyiro and Lolokwe were afraid. Malaika and Loisaba returned early to the Stockades.

24 September 2000

At 8 a.m. the babies met up with Lissa and her calf, plus Mpenzi. Natumi played with Lissa’s calf for 10 minutes. At 11 a.m. Lissa left the babies to join another wild herd. The babies had a very exciting wallow when Laikipia played with Salama. Later they were startled by coming upon a herd of buffalo. On the way to join the others at the wallow, Emily’s group was joined by a wild male elephant who spent 10 minutes with them and at 3.30 p.m. a different wild bull joined Malaika and came along with her to join Emily’s group. Emily reacted “negatively” to this bull.

25 September 2000

Today Loisaba has a swelling near her genitals, and this was reported by phone to Nairobi by phone. It was too cold for a wallow today, but Aitong and Imenti chased off a buffalo. Emily went to the East side of the hill with Ndume and Edo.

26 September 2000

Malaika is not well today. At 8 a.m. she lay down, stretching, and we suspected that she had started labour to give birth to her calf. She was surrounded by both Natumi’s group and also Emily and her group who did not feed and appeared anxious. At 8.45 a.m. Malaika lay down again for the third time, and again all the others clustered around her, not feeding but clearly concerned. However at 10 a.m. Emily left to accompany Natumi and the babies to the Milk Truck for the 10 a.m. milk feed, but Loisaba remained behind with Malaika. Later Malaika began to follow the others very slowly heading for the mudbath with Loisaba walking close to her. She tried to wallow with the others, but was clearly in pain At 4 p.m. Malaika tried to feed a bit, returning slowly to the Stockade along with Loisaba and Emily’s group, and arriving at 6 p.m. Meanwhile Lewa and Uaso spent the day with Edo. Dika and Ndume came to the Stockade at 5 p.m. as did Lissa and her calf.

27 September 2000

Emily escorted the babies but left them at the Spring Gate to join Dika. The babies had a happy mudbath today with Imenti lying down so that they could all clamber on top of him. Lolokwe and Salama had a good game together. Meanwhile Malaika spent the day with Loisaba, lying down periodically, but feeding a little in between bouts of labour. She was secreting heavily from the temporal glands and also the ears (a sign of extreme stress) but fed in between lying down, and she joined the others at the wallow at 11.30 a.m. Loisaba would not leave her and they came back to the Stockades together at 5.30 p.m. Lissa, Mpenzi and her calf were there already. The Vets flew down from Nairobi to try and rescue a calf reported at Taita Hills Hilton Sanctuary that had a snare around its leg, but the snare had already cut so deep that the calf could not be saved because the leg was about to fall from the bone. This calf, which was over 2 years old, and the snaring in the Sanctuary has reached epidemic proportions. Nairobi sent down the Colloidal Silver machine and homeopathic remedies so that both Ilingwezi and Loisaba could be dosed with silver and homeopathy for their abscesses.

28 September 2000

Salama and Mweiga had a “dramatic” play at 6.45 a.m. Emily had Uaso with her today and she and the babies met up with a wild group on the Eastern edge of the hill. They wallowed at 11.30 a.m. and later were very scared by the appearance of an eland. Malaika left the babies at the Spring Gate and with Loisaba went towards the hill, secreting fluid from her genitals. The temporal glands and ears were running as well. Later, accompanied by Loisaba and Lewa, we encouraged her to go into the fenced perimeter area surrounding the Headquarters at the suggestion of Mrs. Sheldrick in Nairobi, so that she could have privacy and not be disturbed by the appearance of the Big Boys. By 9 a.m. it was apparent that she was in a great deal of pain, secreting heavily from the temporal glands and ears and moving backwards, lifting one back leg, and refusing all food and even water. We brought Copra cakes for her and later she only ate a little. Today the secretion from her genitals was bloody in appearance. We brought her water and more Coconut cakes but she refused both food and water and continually stretched, lifting one hind leg. Meanwhile back in Nairobi, Mrs. Sheldrick and Jill were in touch with Vets in U.K. and with a Veterinarian in Holland who had experience of elephant births in Zoos and had witnessed birthing problems. Lissa Ruben and Simon Trevor were in Voi constantly monitoring Malaika and reporting back as to her progress and condition and she had two Keepers with her throughout the night as well as by day. Having established that labour can last up to 5 days to deliver a live calf, and l0 days to pass a dead one, the Vets in Nairobi were reluctant to intervene, uncertain as to what they could do to help if they did, and doubtful whether in fact there would be anything they could do under field conditions, anxious also in case it was premature to risk stressing Malaika further. They felt that we should wait the full 10 days, and if Malaika had not managed to pass what by now was becoming apparent was probably a dead calf, they would do what they could, but were gloomy about the prospect of being able to save her if the complications were serious. (Apparently, a Caesarean section in an elephant is not an option¸ according to all who have tried this procedure. No elephant cow in a Zoo has ever survived this type of surgery, and even if she did, the uterus would probably rupture next time round, bearing in mind that an elephant foetus weighs over 100 kilos at full term).

30 September 2000

Emily and the babies left together and spent the morning feeding, moving slowly towards the mudbath venue. The morning started with a small group of the babies playing, especially Salama with Laikipia and then Mweiga with all the others. Aitong kept following Nyiro, but today they did not wallow, because it was too cold. The afternoon was spent all together, when a small nap was taken under a tree at 2.30 p.m. after which Emily left the babies, arriving up at the Stockade at half an hour after Natumi’s group which came in at 6 p.m. This morning Malaika seemed a bit more comfortable and began feeding quite well. She was very thirsty, so we brought water to her in which was mixed homeopathic “Traumeel” and Rescue Remedy. Fluid was still running from her ears, but today the secretion from her genitals appeared clear. We brought her sugarcane, bananas and oranges, and in the afternoon she seemed a little more comfortable than before. Loisaba and Lewa were with her remaining close by at all times. Uaso came to the perimeter fence to try and be with Malaika, but left later because he did not know how to get in. In the afternoon Edo, Ndume and Dika reported back to the Stockade.