Keepers' Diaries, September 2006

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

There have been two important events in the Nursery this month - the arrival of little Lenana from Ol Pejeta Ranch near Nanyuki on the 19th, whose mother died of septicemia the previous day and the departure for Ithumba of two favorite Nursery inmates, Lualeni and Kora.

There have been two important events in the Nursery this month - the arrival of little Lenana from Ol Pejeta Ranch near Nanyuki on the 19th, whose mother died of septicemia the previous day and the departure for Ithumba of two favorite Nursery inmates, Lualeni and Kora.

Little Lenana arrived at 11 a.m., quite calm, having had a mild sedative for the flight, but by 4 p.m. had recovered fully, and was giving the Keepers a hard time. However, at 6 p.m. she accepted a milk feed from the bottle, always a good omen. After just one more day incarcerated in the “Taming Stockade” with the Keepers, she was sufficiently quiet to be allowed out with the other Nursery elephants, but once in the forest, although she kept in amongst the group, she was not sufficiently confident to accept her milk from a Keeper, and consequently lost quite a lot of condition. Once back in the Stockade, she took her bottle, but was kept back in the Stockade for another two days with two Keepers beside her to gain her friendship and confidence. On the third day she was out and about with the others, and is now a very friendly member of the Nursery Group, particularly fond of Kora, who is her neighbor at night in the next door Stockade. She likes to remain close to him throughout the day.

Attempts to get Kora and Lualeni conditioned to going into the large Safari Trucks parked at the Loading Ramps prior to the journey to Ithumba, proved fruitless. They simply refused to have anything to do with them, having witnessed others before going in and never returning, so the vehicles obviously held sinister connotations for them. However, just before dawn on the 30th September, and thanks to the expertise and skill of both Robert (Angela’s husband) and his father Roy Carr-Hartley, Lualeni was propelled in protesting loudly, using a technique perfected over the years, one hand exerting slight pressure behind one ear, and a rope concealed in the bed of hay which when pulled exerted pressure on a foreleg knee. Taken unawares, a sharp shove from the Keepers behind got Lualeni inside, and once the back door was closed, she resigned herself to her fate, a Keeper beside her. Kora was then enticed to the loading ramp by his bottle of milk, and the same technique got him inside, so by first light, the two trucks departed to the usual tearful farewell. All were very sad to say goodbye to both these elephants who had been with us since early infancy. Kora was just 6 months old when he came in with a shattered jaw, and Lualeni was just three months old, when she was found waiting to die all alone beside a bush near a place of that name bordering Tsavo. Kora was now a strapping two year old, and Lualeni just a few months younger, so both were now ready for the transition to Tsavo.

En route Kora became restless, bending the back door of his truck in an attempt to break out, but some tasty greens picked for him by the roadside calmed him down for the rest of the trip. By noon, he and Lualeni were being unloaded at their new home, where Kora was instantly embraced by his former best Nursery friend and pushing partner, Buchuma. Newcomers are always embraced excitedly by the entire Ithumba unit, and the reunion with old friends is always an emotional affair. Yatta, Mulika, Nasalot and Kinna, the four older females who were brought in from the Voi unit, are always delighted to see their herd increase, so the trauma of the morning had a happy ending for Lualeni and Kora, although Lualeni felt a little misplaced, obviously missing Makena. However, she will soon settle down under the care of three previous Nursery Matriarchs who loved her dearly in the Nursery, namely Wendi, Sunyei and Naserian and in the fullness of time, Lualeni will again be with her.

Back to the Nursery elephants, Sin immediately slotted into the Matriarchal role, and seemed pleased to be able to do so. Makena instantly battened onto her in the absence of Lualeni and did not appear overtly distressed during the day. Zurura obviously missed his friend Kora, but gave up looking for him to occupy himself with his rival, Kamboyo and his favorite teasing target, Makena. Loijuk, as usual, was totally focused on little Chyulu whom she has taken into her big elephant heart, always close beside Chyulu, with eyes for no one else. There has been some competition from Sian for possession of the baby, who one day made an attempt to coax Chyulu away from Loijuk, but Loijuk made such a fuss, that Chyulu went back to her, and has been with her ever since. Meanwhile, Zurura, who has suddenly had a growth spurt, and is now quite a big boy, seems to have restricted his targeting of Makena, to concentrate on making sure that Kamboyo knows who is “boss” of the boys, particularly as Kora is now sporting small tusks. Kamboyo has made himself unpopular with Loijuk by trying to mount little Chyulu, something that incurs Loijuk’s wrath and usually ends up in a punch-up. Meanwhile, before her departure, Lualeni was still besotted with Makena, who, like Loijuk, adores the Nursery baby, little Chyulu.

Kora’s jaw wound continued to heal over for as long as a week, and then ooze small quantities of pus again through a minute opening. He is still having all the homeopathic remedies, and swabs of urine and pus are regularly monitored by experts in Holland, who adjust his medication accordingly. .
The Rhinos:- Shida is always full of surprises, now confident to explore the Park without his Keepers, and deliberately giving them the slip in order to be on his own, which means that he is now successfully integrated, and comfortable to face the wild residents that utilize his part of the Park. There was a surprise when he suddenly appeared and interrupted a noon mudbath giving chase to Magnum, who is twice his size. We can only conclude that this was a friendly bout, because had it been serious, Magnum could have trounced him! Magnum has appeared back at base only very occasionally, and is now a fully fledged wild resident of Nairobi Park, something of which we are very proud. So far, Shida looks like following suit, and has behaved in an exemplary manner, happy to be a wild rhino who brings himself back home as and when he feels like doing so, and who spends time with his Keepers only when he feels like it, responding to all the Keepers rather than just a few particular individuals.

September 2006 day to day

01 Sep

Makena continues to show special concern for little Chyulu. Today Chyulu felt tired and wanted to sleep, and whereas all the other elephants continued feeding, Makena remained behind standing close to the sleeping baby

Makena lying down with Chyulu next to her