Keepers' Diaries, September 2007

Nairobi Nursery Unit

It has been an exciting month for the Nursery elephants, with the arrival of two newcomers, one a l0 month old baby from Amboseli National Park rescued on the 13th having been retrieved from a pit near the Tanzanian border, and then a tiny month old calf from Tsavo, rescued on the 28th having fallen down an open manhole on the Mzima/Mombasa pipeline – (as have three of our other orphans, namely Ndara, Buchuma and Maungu (who later died from an embolism that blocked an artery to the heart). The rescue of the Amboseli calf, named “Sinya” by the Researchers, was dramatic, since by the time the elephant was brought in, the plane had been forced to fly back to Nairobi. Hence the calf and the Keepers spent a very uncomfortable and cold night in an open shed at the Amboseli airfield, with a pack of eager hyaenas prowling around outside, plus a herd of grazing buffalo. No-one slept a wink that night faced with the challenge of trying to subdue the terrified baby and ward off the hyaenas.

01 September 2007

On a sunny day, as the baby group of the Nursery were heading out, Shimba pushed Lesanju, which initiated a fight between the two, in which Lempaute joined on the side of Lesanju. The fight went on for sometime, until we intervened to restore order.

02 September 2007

Lenana is the Leader of the older Nursery orphans, always wanting to take Makena and Chyulu in a different direction. The two boys, Kamboyo and Zurura, who are the same size as Lenana don’t care, and simply do their own thing.

03 September 2007

The resident warthogs around the Trust compound are very used to the elephants. Today when Makena tried to chase them, they simply ignored her and refused to budge, until in the end she had to give up.

04 September 2007

It was a hot day, so the elephants were eager for their mudbath. Lesanju went straight in, followed by Lempaute, and then Shimba. Lempaute then, as usual, ran to the line of tourists along the cordon, showering them in mud. Some screamed and ran away, but others enjoyed the contact and began to play with her, which she enjoyed greatly.

05 September 2007

During the visiting hour Kamboyo and Zurura had a test of strength which lasted for the entire hour. The Keepers tried unsuccessfully to separate them, but they insisted on continuing the wrestling match.

06 September 2007

During the 3 p.m. feed, having finished his own milk, Zurura went to try and wrestle Chylu’s bottle from her. He refused to listen to the Keepers, but Kamboyo intervened to push him away, which triggered another battle between the two boys

07 September 2007

As Lesanju’s team of youngsters were heading out to the bush in the morning, a herd of impala came running towards them, not having seen the Keepers who were following behind. The antelope all jumped over the baby elephants, which scared them and sent them all off screaming back to their Keepers.

08 September 2007

Three baby warthogs were busy mudwallowing in the orphans mudbath when the elephants arrived. Makena chased them round the waterhole, until one ran into the crowd of visitors, causing an uproar. This excited Chyulu, who went to help Makena, after which both took to chasing the remaining two little warthogs who fortunately decided to take another direction.

09 September 2007

Shimba enjoys being slightly independent from the two little girls, Lesanju and Lempaute, feeding apart from them, whilst they choose to remain close to the Keepers. Today an impala scared him making him bellow and run back to the Keepers for protection.

10 September 2007

We had fresh red soil put out in the mudbath today, which all the elephants relished and spent the mudbath hour dusting themselves and rolling about in the soft earth.

11 September 2007

Zurura and Kamboyo no longer want to obey the Keepers, nor do they take heed of Lenana who is the Matriarch of the Nursery. They like to bully the girls by trying to mount onto them. Today, at the visiting hour, Kamboyo tried to mount onto Lenana and would not desist when the Keepers warned him. It is time that the two boys are upgraded to Ithumba where they will be disciplined by bigger elephants and as soon as the rains break in Tsavo, they will be off.

12 September 2007

Having taken lunch, we heard a young warthog screaming loudly and the mother grunting. The Keepers went to investigate and found that the sound was coming from the top of a tree where a leopard had taken the little piglet. It fell to the ground, rapidly followed by the leopard who was roaring loudly, so the Keepers beat a hasty retreat.

13 September 2007

It was a cold day so none of the elephants wanted to go into the mudwallow during the visiting hour until Makena ventured in. Afterwards she played football with the ball for the entire hour, the game reaching a climax when she broke the cordon in half chasing the ball which had gone amongst the visitors. Everyone screamed and retreated, but in retrospect enjoyed the incident.

14 September 2007

It was a peaceful and beautiful day until 3 p.m. when a call came from Amboseli National Park that a baby elephant had been stuck in a deep hole for two days. Three Keepers quickly boarded the chartered plane and headed for the rescue, but arrived too late in order to bring the rescued calf back the same day. Instead we endured a long and very cold night in the airstrip Hangar, with a pack of eager hyaenas around eater to try and get at the calf and a herd of buffaloes just outside. Not one of the Keepers slept a wink.

15 September 2007

The stable occupied by Lesanju and Lempaute was cleaned thoroughly in preparation for the newcomer in the morning, and the intersection of another two stables removed, so that Lesanju and Lempaute could occupy a big area together, since they refuse to sleep apart. The new baby arrived at 11 a.m., named Sinya by the Amboseli Researchers, (the name of the area where she was found near the Tanzanian border). She is about l0 months old, roughly the same size as Chyulu. The tip of her trunk had been chewed by hyaenas whilst she was down the pit, and she had serious bruising along the spine and a suppurating wound on one foreleg. She was very exhausted and confused, and slept almost the entire day in between her milk feeds. The Keepers who had accompanied here were also exhausted.

16 September 2007

Today, for the first time, Lesanju, Lempaute and Shimba welcomed the newcomer, who initially pushed them away, but soon settled down and got on well with them. The Vet came to wash and treat her wounds.

17 September 2007

During the mudbath, Sinya appeared afraid and confused, running away whenever the Keepers approached her. The Keepers gave her a finger to suck, which calmed her down. Maxwell is growing apace and we look forward to enlarging his stockade once Zurura and Kamboyo head down to ithumba which will happen when the rains break. Shida visits Maxwell daily which makes him very happy indeed to smell the presence of another rhino.

18 September 2007

Two mother warthogs who are residents around our compound gave birth recently, and brought their tiny piglets out onto the rocks near the mudbath. Immediately the other pigs began to chase the tiny piglets, intending to kill them, which is the way of warthogs whenever new babies appear for the first time. The mother warthogs tried to protect their piglets, but to no avail, and the piglets were scattered far and wide. The disturbance excited the little elephants, who were bystanders and wanted to join in, but the Keepers restrained them.

19 September 2007

During the mudbath, a group of baboons were seated on the rocks nearby as Shida the rhino was taking his ration of copra cake handout. Two female baboons began an altercation, and both came running to the mudbath area where all the visitors were standing. This scared everyone, and also made the elephants restless. Zurura, Kamboyo, Lenana and Chyulu raised their ears and prepared for battle, and the baboons then headed off in another direction.

20 September 2007

Lesanju emerged from her Night Stockade in a hurry and in a happy mood. She rushed to Sinya’s stable and reached her trunk over the door to greet the new arrival. Sinya responded by waggling her trunk. Lesanju then rushed to Shimba’s stable and did the same, whilst Lempaute enjoyed a game with the Keepers. This indicates that Lesanju is a very caring mini Matriarch, since from the time of her arrival she has been lording it over the baby group of Nursery elephants and refused to be possessed by the older girls.

21 September 2007

Sinya’s wounded trunk appeared to be blocked, and she was having difficulty breathing and also feeding. We called the Vet who arrived to give the trunk a thorough clean, since it had become very swollen and infected.

22 September 2007

Having been anointed with coconut oil, something that happens every Friday in the Nursery, Lempaute rushed straight into the mudbath at noon. Young Sinya was feeling the heat and was desperately trying to join Lempaute, so the Keepers doused her with water behind the ears. However, she was determined to get in, although the Keepers tried to prevent her, fearing that the mud would further infect the wound on her leg.

23 September 2007

It was an unusually hot day, so Lempaute ran straight into the mud without bothering to take her milk. Lesanju and Shimba followed having taken theirs.

24 September 2007

We had a private visit appointment with the elephants at 3 p.m. Zurura kept on following Sinya, all the time smelling her, and pushing Lesanju away whenever Lesanju tried to get close to the newcomer.

25 September 2007

Sinya is now firmly attached to Lesanju, which is making Lempaute jealous, since she has always enjoyed the status of Lesanju’s “favourite”. Sinya is in the stable next door to the other two little females during the hours of darkness.

26 September 2007

It was a joyful mudbath for the many tourists today, since Lesanju and Lempaute displayed their footballing skills and Shimba and Sinya enjoyed a wallow in the mud. All the visitors loved this joyful scene, and did not want the elephants to leave.

27 September 2007

After the mudbath the Keepers had a difficult time trying to prevent Kamboyo from disturbing Makena and Lenana by mounting onto them and causing them to scream. This forced us to keep changing direction so that they didn’t stay long at one place.

28 September 2007

AT about 12 p.m. a call came from our Tsavo unit to alert us to the fact that a baby elephant had fallen down an open manhole on the Mzima – Mombasa pipeline and was only about l month old, having been taken to the Voi Stockades. We immediately flew out for the rescue in a charter plane, and were back by 4.30 p.m. with the tiny calf, who has been named “Dida” (the Mliangulu word for “place” , the name “Dida Harea” being that of a waterhole not far from where the new baby was found). Because she is so small, she is very calm and trusting of the Keepers. She was very tired, and slept most of the night in the stable next door to Shimba.

29 September 2007

For the first time baby Dida went out with the other Nursery juniors and immediately attached herself to Lesanju. Both Sinya and Lempaute were jealous and wanted to push the new baby away, but were restrained by the Keepers. She was put into the stable next door to Shimba for the night, but kept crying, so in the end we put her in with Shimba, after which she calmed down.

30 September 2007

There was competition to be close to Lesanju between Sinya and Dida this morning as the orphans headed out. Lesanju favours Dida, which has bred dissention. Also, because Sinya has to have her wounds cleaned regularly, which involves pain, she does not like being close to the Keepers. Maxwell was in an extremely playful mood today, leaping around randomly, so the Keeper on duty had to be extremely careful as Maxwell's movements were most unpredictable. Shida came back to visit and Maxwell and Shida spent hours communicating through the gate partition to their two stockades.