Keepers' Diaries, September 2009

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!

01 September 2009

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!

02 September 2009

Maalim was in a very jovial mood following his noon mudbath, so he engaged two half-grown warthogs, who happened to be feeding close by. With them he enjoyed a pushing and kicking game, and emerged victorious when the warthogs took to their heels. This made Maalim feel very proud and happy. Kilaguni, who is having a course of homeopathy to ease the passage of stools through his constricted anal opening following the mauling by hyaenas, seems to be improving. He has had to be separated from his stockade-mate, Chaimu, because he keeps biting her tail; perhaps this is because he does not have one! Chaimu’s eyes are gradually improving following a long course of medication.

03 September 2009

Yet another elephant rescue this morning, this time of a baby elephant who had fallen into an open manhole on the Mzima- Mombasa water pipeline. The Rescue Team left with all the usual apparatus, and brought the newborn baby back. It was a tiny female of only about 3 days old, and was named Shukuru, the Swahili word for Grateful, since this baby owes her life to the compassion of the man who heard her cries, and discovered her down an open manhole on the Mombasa pipeline, and thereafter was able to retrain others with him from killing and eating the calf. The little elephant was in good condition, but had some abrasions and sun damage to her ears.

04 September 2009

Sabachi, who was formerly very attached to Mawenzi, has now transferred his affections to Shira, following her around wherever she goes. Today this made a photo call of the orphans difficult, because Sabachi shadowed Shira and kept on getting into the picture! Sabachi is a forceful character with a definite mind of his own. Little Shukuru was restless last night, but fed well.

05 September 2009

Yet another elephant rescue alert today, this time from Wamba in Laikipia district, so the Rescue team was once again hurriedly mobilized. Upon arrival at Wamba airfield, they found the young bull elephant orphan in a very weak condition, surrounded by hordes of curious community folk. He was too weak to care, and once loaded onto the plane, he collapsed, and so an intravenous drip was immediately inserted into an ear vein to sustain his life during the flight. He was still unconscious upon arrival at the Nursery, but revived during the night and took some milk. He was named Meibai at the request of the community, the word for something very precious, special and loved, in the Samburu dialect. The night turned unexpectedly tragic, because little Isiolo, suddenly and very unexpectedly died at midnight. Isiolo had been with us for 5 months, and we all thought that he was recovering after a long struggle with a mysterious ailment that baffled even all the Vets. He took his milk as usual at 9 p.m., lay down to sleep, and could not be woken up for his midnight feed, having died in his sleep. Everyone at the Nursery was shocked and distraught by such an unexpected tragedy.

06 September 2009

Yet another elephant rescue today, and again from Wamba in Laikipia District, where the elephants are suffering the affects of the current very severe drought conditions. This was another very weak, but very young bull calf of about l week old who was named Wamba. Meanwhile the autopsy carried out on the body of little Isiolo, revealed a diseased liver which was discoloured and very swollen, but there was no signs of any other abnormality except enlarged lymph nodes indicating an infection. Isiolo had undergone long courses of injectible broad spectrum antibiotics, plus oral Sulphadimidine so whatever damaged his liver must have been a very aggressive infection and something not encountered before in the Nursery.

07 September 2009

Since Meibai had been in the stockades for two days, and seemed to have calmed down, he was allowed out after the 9 a.m. milk feed to join Kenia’s Senior group comprised of Kimana, Naimina, Ndii, Sabachi, Enasoit, Olare, Mawenzi, Suguta, Shira and Bhaawa. Kenia and Naimina welcomed him very warmly, but Olare, Sabachi and Ndii resented him, and persisted in trying to push him away from Kenia and Naimina, being jealous of the attention he was receiving from the two older elephants. Although Meibai was still very weak, he pushed them back bravely. He chose to remain close to Shira and Enasoit for the remainder of the day, accompanying the group to the noon mudbath where he took his milk feed, and having downed it, followed the Keepers begging for more.

08 September 2009

Wamba spent his time attached to the Keepers, while the others in the baby group, namely Mutara, Pesi, Tano and Shukuru concentrated on their hung blankets. Poor little Wamba is missing his mother a great deal. He kept walking away on his own, and crying as though trying to call for his lost family, which disturbed Nchan, Kudup and Kenia who could hear him.

09 September 2009

On their way back to the Stockades in the evening, Meibai suddenly veered off from the rest of Kenia’s Senior group, and ran off into the bush. The Keepers ran after him, but could not catch up with him, so they rounded up Kenia’s group and took them to him. Kenia and her entourage surrounded him, with lots of rumbling and trumpeting, and escorted him back to his stockade.

10 September 2009

Nchan is demonstrating good Matriarchal capabilities. She loves the small babies and wants to remain with them whenever she meets up with them at the mudbath venue. She and Kalama were reluctant to leave the mudbath today but hung back, wanting to remain with the small babies.

11 September 2009

Today, repairs had to be undertaken to Shida’s Stockade, because he and Max have been sparring through the separating poles, and had loosened the poles which threatened to collapse completely. New concrete had to be laid to secure the poles, and since this had to harden, Shida was barred from entering his Stockade as usual at the visiting times. He arrived at the door to find it locked and the Masons working inside, so he was very put out. A Keeper had to try and entice him away with some Lucerne and Copra cake in a wheel-barrow.

12 September 2009

Today Shida again turned up at 11 a.m. during the public visiting hour, to find the door to his Stockade still locked. Although a Keeper tried to entice him away with a wheelbarrow full of Copra and Lucerne, on this occasion he was reluctant to follow. Then he spotted the crowd of visitors gathered at the mudbath venue, and decided to go there instead. The small elephant babies, who were already there, had to be steered to one side of the compound, and the visitors dispersed, so everything had to come to a standstill until Shida decided to remove himself.

13 September 2009

Having been a starvation victim, Naimina is very greedy for her milk. Today, she spotted the Keeper removing all the empty bottles after the mudbath, and ran after him, thinking that they still might contain some milk, irrespective of the fact that she had already taken her ration.

14 September 2009

Enasoit is now a very calm elephant, just like the others. He was formerly in Kenia’s Senior group, but since has decided to put himself in with Shira, Olare, Sabachi, Meibai and Kimana. For some reason, he did not want Dida in the group, and kept on trying to push her away.

15 September 2009

Tumaren is now also becoming very greedy for the milk, like most starvation cases. Today she ran past all the other elephants and the Keepers and was going so fast that she breached the cordon that separates the visitors. Finding herself surrounded by humans, she trumpeted loudly, which scared the visitors, who then separated themselves into two groups, to allow space for Tumaren, who bent down and passed back under the rope, rushing for her milk.

16 September 2009

Today, another baby elephant orphan, who had been at the Voi Stockades overnight, having been rescued from Satao Lodge, was flown to the Nairobi Nursery. This was another very young calf, which apparently had been born during the night of the 14th at the Lodge and had been subsequently abandoned by its mother. She arrived in the Nursery and was named Kigelia after all the sausage trees that shade Satao Tented Lodge at a place called Mukwaju. Her arrival coincided with little Wamba showing signs of being unwell, with loose stools that had turned to life threatening diarrheoa. He was given the usual medication, plus rehydrants.

17 September 2009

Wamba was very weak this morning, with sunken eyes, so an intravenous drip of Dextrose plus normal Saline and elephant plasma was inserted into an ear vein. By the afternoon, he looked a little stronger, and was even able to walk back into his stable. Tragically, however, he died suddenly at 2 a.m. which again left the Keepers deeply depressed. The new baby from Tsavo East National Park called Kigelia joined the other tiny calves and was welcomed by Tano, who is the leader of that tiny group of newborns.

18 September 2009

Meibai has now settled into Shira’s group and likes being in the forefront of the group along with Enasoit, Olare, Sabachi and Kimana . Today, during the 3 p.m. feed, Meibai could not be found, so after the others in his group had taken their milk feed, the Keepers had to go and hunt for him, eventually finding him on his own not far from where the group had been browsing in the morning. New orphans often like to spend time alone, quietly remembering their former loved ones, saddened by their absence.

19 September 2009

In the morning, Kigelia collapsed, and was immediately put on a drip with elephant plasma added. She managed to stand after several hours, but was very weak, and soon collapsed again, breathing very heavily. However, she took her milk, but collapsed again, and died at midnight, leaving her distraught Keepers with nothing to say – only that the month of September had been a very tragic month at the Nairobi Nursery, with the loss of so many babies.

20 September 2009

Tano, Mutara, Pesi and Shukuru definitely missed little Kigelia today, even though she had only been part of their group for just a few days. All were very depressed, hanging around outside the stable that contained her body, waiting for her to emerge and join them Eventually, led by Tano, Shukuru, Pesi and Mutara followed the Keepers, but Tano kept looking back, and crying, sensing that something was seriously wrong. It was difficult for the Keepers to hide their sorrow from the tiny calves, who are very sensitive to ‘vibes’.

21 September 2009

After the Keepers had taken their lunch, Tano’s group all lay down and slept beside their Keepers until it was time for the 3 p.m. feed, when the Keepers had to awaken them to take their milk. This was unusual, and must have been because they had been so upset the previous day over the death of little Kigelia. Meanwhile, there was another elephant rescue, this time of a 2 – 3 week old baby bull calf from the Shaba National Reserve in Laikipia, who had simply followed a boy back to his manyatta the previous day. KWS alerted the Trust that a plane was needed to take the elephant to the Nursery. We were delayed 3 hours, waiting for the KWS Vet who apparently had been detailed to accompany us. The tiny newcomer was named Shaba and was in reasonable condition upon arrival. From an inspection of his feet and ears, we decided he was probably 1 – 2 weeks old, and had probably benefited from his mother’s first colostrum milk.

22 September 2009

Yet another elephant rescue today, this time a tiny calf found alone and reported by a tourist on a game drive from Galdessa Camp in Tsavo East National Park. The baby was flown to the Nairobi Nursery and is approximately 2 weeks old, but very emaciated and with bad diarrheoa. He was immediately given the usual anti-diarrheoa medication, and is being monitored carefully, in case an intravenous drip is needed. The calf was named Kavu, which means dry, since he is a victim of the current devastating drought that is taking such a toll of wildlife throughout the country, and orphaning so many elephant calves.

23 September 2009

The two tiny newcomers in Tano’s team of miniatures, namely babies Shaba and Kavu are still somewhat confused about the new routine. They are still unable to differentiate between the Keepers and other humans, and follow whoever happens to be passing by, whether a Keeper in a green dust-coat or just another human. They never want to find themselves alone again!

24 September 2009

All the orphans left in a happy mood. Sabachi decided to challenge Kilaguni to a pushing match whilst Kibo and Kudup enjoyed an entertaining game of push and run. Kimana went to help Sabachi who was being overpowered by Kilaguni, backed up by Suguta, who waded in to separate the boys, without favouring either one!

25 September 2009

Nchan is a very mischievous little elephant. Today at the mudbath, having rolled in the mud, she went along the line of visitors, putting some mud on each one, as though taught exactly how to do so. All the visitors laughed and enjoyed it!

26 September 2009

The smallest six babies, i.e. Tano Mutara, Pesi, Shukuru, Shaba and Kavu spent the entire day under shade. Tano and Mutara battled each other for the Keepers’ fingers to suck on – the first time the two have competed, showing that Mutara is becoming much stronger.

27 September 2009

After the 9 a.m. feed, Kibo and Nchan challenged one another to a pushing match. As the challenge became more serious Tumaren, who has always been a very quiet member of the middle group, came in to separate the two sparring partners, displaying good female tendencies.

28 September 2009

Mawenzi has become very fond of Melia, preferring her now to Suguta, who used to be the favourite. Mawenzi keeps on sucking on Melia’s ears, which Melia tolerates very politely. Suguta is somewhat jealous of this new relationship and tried to separate the two whenever they were together.

29 September 2009

Dida is jealous of Bhaawa’s attachment to Kenia. Bhaawa is glued to Kenia’s side all the time, so Dida keeps on following them. When the orphans come back to their Night Quarters, Dida always wants to go in with Kenia, but the Keepers separate them, because Kenia pushes Dida away from Bhaawa. Dida wants to be close to Kenia and won’t take the hint!

30 September 2009

With the large Safari Trucks parked against the Loading Bays at the Nursery, waiting for the first rains in Tsavo before moving some of the older Nursery orphans, Kenia and Naimina have no problem with going in to take their milk. However, Shira refuses to go anywhere near the trucks, and will even forego her ration of milk rather than go in. She remembers the truck that was used to carry her to the Amboseli airfield when she fell down the well at the foot of Kilimanjaro, and so the trucks hold sinister connotations for her.