Keepers' Diaries, September 2008

Nairobi Nursery Unit

It has been an exceedingly hectic month in the Nairobi Nursery, with another 3 infant elephant orphans having to be rescued and air-lifted to safety, bringing the total number in the Nursery to 14 – the most that we have ever had to handle at any one time. This has necessitated re-shuffling stables and doubling up elephants within all available sleeping quarters as well as having to hastily construct another new Stockade for the larger elephants. First to come in on the 7th September (invariably on yet another Sunday!) was 2 week old Kungu, a tiny male calf from the Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy in Northern Kenya, extracted from a sand well dug in the steep Ngongu lugga 4 kms from the tourist Sarara Safari Camp. He arrived battered and bruised from his ordeal, but has rallied well and, so far, is thriving.

01 September 2008

Suddenly, the Nursery elephants were trumpeting and running here and there, and when we went to investigate, we found Shida (the large rhino) engaged in a play-pushing match with Lempaute and Shimba! As soon as Shida saw the Keepers, he ran off into the bush.

02 September 2008

At the mudbath, suddenly a group of tiny warthog piglets who were separated from their mother ran in between the elephants, which caused panic. The elephants ran trumpeting in all directions, even in amongst the visitors, as did the piglets!

03 September 2008

Dida is an up and coming soccer player who likes running up and down the line of visitors behind the cordon, smearing them in mud with her trunk in between pushing the ball along. Today, whilst engaged in this activity, she trod on the ball and fell, rolling over twice, which caused great hilarity amongst the crowd of visitors.

04 September 2008

Suguta is gaining strength, and is very bonded to the Keepers, sticking close to them all the time. Today, during the lunch hour, Lempaute came to join her and did her best to entice little Suguta away from the Keepers, but Suguta was having none of it.

05 September 2008

During the mudbath 2 female warthogs had a fight nearby which scared all the elephants, (and the visitors). The one that was eventually overpowered ran through the crowd of visitors who had to make way for her.

06 September 2008

Shida came in from the bush as usual at about l0.30 a.m., but today he arrived in a bad mood, breathing heavily and not as friendly as usual. He began heaving all the mattresses and blankets that were out to dry around and then went into his Stockade, to be locked in during the open visiting hour.

07 September 2008

Today saw the arrival of 2 week old “Kungu” from Samburu country. He was breathing heavily with a high temperature and nasty wounds on his chin from having fallen down a well.

08 September 2008

Today Kungu met Suguta, the other small arrival in the Nursery. Both enjoyed each other’s company, but because Kungu was still so frail and exhausted, they did not spend much time together. Kungu spent most of the day sleeping.

09 September 2008

Kungu’s temperature is still too high today, and his chin so swollen that he cannot lift his head to drink milk. Again, he spent most of the day sleeping.

10 September 2008

Today Suguta remained very close to little Kungu, sensing his pain and doing her best to comfort him, touching him with her trunk and smelling him.

11 September 2008

Today, the older elephants were brought in to greet the two new babies. Lempaute, Lesanju and Wasessa all showed great interest in the small elephants. Kungu was very interested in the older elephants, but Suguta stuck to the Keepers as usual and refused to respond to them. Taveta, who is also a relative newcomer to the Nursery became jealous of Suguta’s attachment to the Keepers, and knocked her down but the Keepers intervened rapidly and warned Taveta.

12 September 2008

Today, we received word that there was another elephant that needed to be rescued, but it was already too late to act. Instead, all the Keepers made preparations for an early start the next day.

13 September 2008

The new elephant, named “Barseloi” arrived in the Nursery at 2.p.m. Kungu and Suguta were introduced to him after he had settled down, but he didn’t show much interest in them, and wandered off, but was happy to suck on the Keepers’ hands.

14 September 2008

Today, all the three tiny Nursery babies were taken for a dust-bath. They enjoyed having the earth poured over their bodies.

15 September 2008

It was a quiet day. Little Kungu's chin is less swollen and he is now taking his milk more easily but is still in pain. The three small babies spent the day out in the bush with their Keepers, apart from the older group, who have to go further afield to browse.

16 September 2008

Today saw the arrival of yet another baby, this time a 14 month old male calf from Tsavo West National Park. He was very weak and frail on arrival, indicating that he had been without his mother for a long time. He has been named “Mzima”.

17 September 2008

Kungu, Barseloi and Suguta again enjoyed a sand-bath, Barseloi kept on following Kungu, laying his trunk across Kungu’s back, something Kungu did not much like because he kept moving away.

18 September 2008

It was a very hot day, and Kungu obviously felt the heat, breathing heavily and sleeping a lot. His appetite was also not good. Barseloi kept on trying to climb on him, so the Keepers had a busy time keeping Barseloi away so that Kungu could rest.

19 September 2008

Wasessa is still psychologically disturbed – very nervous even of the Keepers and intolerant of any newcomer introduced into the group. She kept on pushing little Mzima away, so Mzima chose to isolate himself from the others. The Keepers kept on consoling him.

20 September 2008

Taveta is always very conscious of the feeding times and today sneaked away ahead of time to try and intercept the Mixer who would be bringing the milk out. Lesanju noticed his absence, and rushed around knocking down small bushes, trumpeting to alert the Keepers. The Keepers went to bring Taveta back into the fold. He is a very independent character.

21 September 2008

This morning Mzima was so anxious for his milk that he almost swallowed the whole bottle, forcing it into his mouth, and pushing the Keeper who was trying to rescue it. In the end another Keeper had to come and assist. Having been starved, Mzima is very greedy for his milk.

22 September 2008

It was a hot day, and so the small babies were taken to the mudbath ahead of the older elephants. They all wallowed happily in a small puddle that had been prepared for them. Barseloi kept on trying to mount onto Kungu, while Suguta wallowed happily. All the visitors were overjoyed to see the three tiny elephants, so cameras were snapping constantly!

23 September 2008

Taveta has turned into a very gentle and polite little elephant. During the mudbath he walks along the line, greeting all the visitors. Today, Mzima has taken a cue from him and did the same, moving along the line and allowing the visitors to give him a friendly touch. This made Taveta slightly jealous because he tried to push Mzima away.

24 September 2008

Today, Mzima was given de-worming medicine, because worms were noticed in his stool. The Keepers had to be vigilant by not allowing the other elephants access to his stools for fear of contamination from the drug.

25 September 2008

Mzima is not quite himself today. He refused his 3 p.m. feed, and kept on lying down, obviously suffering from stomach pain. In the evening his stomach was bloated. He was given a buscopan injection.

26 September 2008

Mzima seems better today. Taveta, Kimana, Wasessa and Mzima sneaked away from the others ahead of time to make contact with the wheelbarrow bringing the milk out in the morning. As soon as they spotted the wheelbarrow, they rushed towards it, and took their milk ahead of all the others.

27 September 2008

As the Keepers were escorting the older elephants out into the bush in the morning, a buffalo rushed out of a thicket, scaring everyone. Fortunately, it simply went on its way, but it left a lot of confusion amongst both the elephants and the Keepers in its wake!

28 September 2008

Returning in the evening, Lempaute went into her old Stockade, which is now occupied by Shimba, and refused to budge. It took many of the Keepers to persuade her to go into the new Stockade with Lesanju and Sinya.

29 September 2008

Dida remembered to go and spend time with Maxwell, the blind rhino, who was waiting at his Gate for the usual morning elephant greetings. She spent a lot of time touching Maxwell gently with her trunk, seemingly aware of his need for contact.

30 September 2008

It was an exciting morning for the three new tiny babies. Suguta came out of her stable in a jovial mood and began playing by pushing Barseloi and Kungu up and down. They were all very active, which is a good sign.