Keepers' Diaries, September 2009

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

This month has been hectic, to put it mildly, or perhaps manic would be a more fitting description. The 3rd brought the rescue of tiny Shukuru from an open manhole on the Mombasa Pipeline; the 5th dealt us a blow - the death of precious little 5 month old Isiolo; the 5th saw the rescue of 2 year old Meibai from Wamba in Laikipia; the 6th the arrival of tiny Wamba also from Laikipia. We then enjoyed a reprieve of just a week until the 16th which saw the arrival of newborn Kigelia from Satao Camp in Tsavo East National Park, born during the night of the 14th and subsequently abandoned by her mother and taken to the Voi Stockades on the 15th. The 17th was another very sad day because we lost baby Wamba, as was the 19th when we lost newborn Kigelia. Two days later, on the 21st, there was the rescue of 2 – 3 week old Shaba from Shaba National Reserve in Laikipia, and the 22nd brought the rescue of 2 – 3 week old baby Kavu from Tsavo East National Park where the affects of drought and poaching have also taken a heavy toll!

This month has been hectic, to put it mildly, or perhaps manic would be a more fitting description.

The 3rd brought the rescue of tiny Shukuru from an open manhole on the Mombasa Pipeline; the 5th dealt us a blow - the death of precious little 5 month old Isiolo; the 5th saw the rescue of 2 year old Meibai from Wamba in Laikipia; the 6th the arrival of tiny Wamba also from Laikipia. We then enjoyed a reprieve of just a week until the 16th which saw the arrival of newborn Kigelia from Satao Camp in Tsavo East National Park, born during the night of the 14th and subsequently abandoned by her mother and taken to the Voi Stockades on the 15th. The 17th was another very sad day because we lost baby Wamba, as was the 19th when we lost newborn Kigelia. Two days later, on the 21st, there was the rescue of 2 – 3 week old Shaba from Shaba National Reserve in Laikipia, and the 22nd brought the rescue of 2 – 3 week old baby Kavu from Tsavo East National Park where the affects of drought and poaching have also taken a heavy toll!

Six newcomers to the Nairobi Nursery within the first 3 weeks of the month necessitated yet more hurried re-shuffling of the sleeping arrangements, whilst the death of 5 month old Isiolo was a shocking and unexpected tragedy, because we all thought he was gradually gaining strength and recovering from whatever had ailed him for such a long time. An autopsy was done which revealed that the cause of death to be a diseased liver, though why, remains a mystery that has baffled the Vets. The deaths of Wamba and Kigelia were not entirely unexpected, for Wamba was already in a frail state upon arrival in the Nursery, already suffering from serious life threatening diarrheoa and emaciated as a result, whilst Kigelia had a strong reaction to the infusion of elephant blood plasma, since we assumed she had not been able to suckle her mother, having been rejected by an obviously very frightened and inexperienced young mother soon after birth. Her immune system had been further compromised by the 2 day delay in being able to reach the Nursery, and the fact that because she was such a large calf, minus an umbilicus, we were unaware that she was, in fact, a newborn. It was only after having read the Satao Camp Blog on the Internet that the true story about her circumstances emerged.

Little Pesi, who came to us in August when just days old, began cutting his first molars during the month, something that usually triggers fever and diarrheoa. He was very unwell for several days, so we had to resort to injectible antibiotic. Blood in the stools was cause for deep anxiety, but this has been becoming less, and by month end had almost disappeared. Meibai and Enasoit, older Laikipia orphans of between 1 and 2 years both arrived in a severely malnourished state suffering the affects of milk deprivation. Meibai was unconscious and had to be put on intravenous drip life support before he even reached us, whilst being flown from Wamba. We doubted that he would ever be able to get to his feet, but miraculously he managed, and since then has been gradually gaining strength. Both these older elephants were riddled with stomach parasites, something that afflicts all elephants exposed to domestic stock. They were both de-wormed towards the end of the month when they were stronger, and both are now well on their way to a full recovery.

Our 28 Nursery orphans, 6 of whom are newborns, have had to be divided into three separate groups for ease of feeding and handling. The Baby Group has little Tano as the miniature Matriarch; the next age group is led by Suguta, and the Seniors have Kenia as the main Nursery Matriarch. However, all three groups spend time together, usually after the noon feed and mudbath public viewing hour.

As always firm friendships evolve during the Nursery period – friendships that will last a lifetime, since the orphans grow up as a family. Within the kindergarten group Tano and Mutara are firm friends, whilst Shaba, Shukuru and Kavu prefer to stick to their Keepers. Shaba is a very restless baby, who has been having difficulty sleeping, but Sandy Griffiths has been here again, instructing the Keepers about the use of Bach Flower Essences to ease the affects of trauma and restlessness.

Kenia adores Bhaawa, so the two now share one of the new Stockades. Kenia’s adoration of little Bhaawa has somewhat displaced Dida in her affections, but Dida trails along never far from Kenia and in the next door Stockade. Mawenzi and Melia have formed a strong bond of friendship, Mawenzi seeking comfort by sucking on Melia’s ears, something that Melia tolerates well. Sabachi, being a tough and resilient little character, is the one who has to share a sleeping stockade with Naimina, who is still somewhat psychologically disturbed, and as such apt to throw her weight around, which is not unusual when an elephant is suffering post trauma stress, but is out of character for settled female elephants. Obviously still troubled by the loss of her natural family and the fact that she might well have been party to their demise at the hands of humans invariably takes a toll which only the passage of time can heal. However, Sabachi is well able to cope, even taking on Kilaguni in pushing matches, although Kilaguni is much bigger than himself. Other psychologically troubled members amongst the older elephants are Meibai and Enasoit, who are prone to seeking time out alone, away from the others, which is indicative of grieving for lost loved ones. Nor are they yet comfortable and trusting of their human Keepers having been in conflict with humans during their short lives in Nothern Kenya where elephants are at risk every time they step out of the safe havens on privately owned ranches or wildlife coservancies.

Suguta and Tumaren are close friends as are Kimana and Ndii, Ndii also often spending time with Kenia and Dida who are longstanding Nursery buddies. Nchan, Kalama and Kudup likewise share a firm friendship and are anxious to embrace Turkwel into the fold, but she is still something of a loner, rescued under gunfire and obviously having been witness to terrible tragedies taking place in the veritable tribal war zone near South Turkana her birth place. Kilaguni and Chaimu are attached to one another, although Kilaguni, in the absence of a tail of his own, tends to bite that of Chaimu, so the two, who share a stockade, have had to be separated at night by a partition to avoid Chaimu losing her tail! The Keepers are convinced that Kilaguni is jealous of Chaimu’s tail, since his disappeared down the throat of a hyaena who came to feast on his dead mother! Scar tissue has constricted Kilaguni’s anal opening which inhibits defecation, so there are times when he needs the help of the Keepers to expel boluses of faeces that accumulate now that he is consuming more greens. Molasses in his milk helps to keep the stools softer, and a team of osteopaths from U.K. guided by Tony Nevin have been working on him, carrying out internal gentle massage of the rectal muscles. We hope that the healing powers of Nature, and the input of the homeopathy and the osteopaths will be able to circumvent surgical intervention which would undoubtedly be a very painful procedure for him.

Nchan is a very mischievous little elephant, not unlike Lempaute. At mudbath having been plastered in red mud, she enjoys walking along the visitors’ cordon, putting a little mud on all the spectators’ clothes, which they seem to enjoy! It is almost as though she has been trained to do so! This charms the visitors and wins her many new foster-parents.

The Rhinos:- Maalim continues to grow apace and is now a sturdy little 9 month old with all the usual rhino idiosyncrasies. His days consist of walking round the dungpiles of the wild community, as well as getting exposure that of Max and Shida closer to home. Meanwhile, Max’s Stockade has been enlarged to allow him more space to romp around, which he does on a daily basis, tail in the air, and in the process creating a huge dust-storm, which is not popular! Half-grown warthogs that manage to squeeze through the bars of the steel doors to his compound provide him with much excitement. He chases them around so accurately that none of us would ever know he was blind, such are his skills of hearing and scent. The warthogs have a hard time to escape being skewered when Max is after them.

Shida continues to turn up as usual twice a day, planting himself back in his old Stockade to be viewed by all the visitors and enjoy a handout of Lucerne to keep him quiet. At such times the door to his stockade is firmly closed, and because he has a long forward pointing horn, a box-shaped cordon in front keeps spectators clear of his horn, He and Max still enjoy sparring through the separating poles of their stockades, and with such power that the poles became loose, so Shida had to be enticed away for several days whilst the poles were again secured in concrete which didn’t suit him a all!

September 2009 day to day

01 Sep

The usual 9 a.m. milk feed for the orphans who were out in the bush was a little delayed today, so Olare, Melia, Mawenzi and Enasoit decided to sneak away from the main group, unbeknownst to the Keepers, and make their way back to the Stockades. En route, however, they met up with 2 Keepers who were on their way out, and being guilty, they panicked and fled back to the rest of the elephants out in the bush, who in turn took fright, thinking that something dangerous had frightened the truants, so they, too, fled! The Keepers tried to call them, but to no avail, so the Keepers had to divide themselves into two separate groups and go in search of their charges in order to round them up for their milk feed!

Enasoit

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