Keepers' Diaries, September 2010

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

There have been 4 Rescue alerts this month – the first on the 23rd September when a yearling rhino calf was retrieved from Solio Ranch in Northern Kenya, its mother having been shot. The female calf was too wild and strong to risk being airlifted back that evening, so the Rescue Plane returned empty, two Keepers left in situ to spend a cold and uncomfortable night guarding the young rhino which had been secured in a large crate. Meanwhile, hurried arrangements were made to try and source a truck that could drive the rhino to Nairobi overnight, and thanks to Richard Moller, it was arranged that one be loaned by the Lewa Conservancy for the purpose. The young rhino, said to be 6 months old (but looks as though it could be older), arrived at 5 a.m. on the morning of the 24th and it took all the ingenuity of Robert Carr-Hartley to get the Crate and its hefty occupant off the lorry safely and hauled on poll rollers into the Stockade. Once the door was opened, and the rhino came out, everyone had to take hurried evasive measures, since it was extremely strong and aggressive, repeatedly charging all in sight and crashing against the poles of the Stockade until it looked as though the small horn on the end of its nose might be dislodged. This was very much a “pocket rocket”- but within 2 days she was totally docile and trusting of the Keepers, having been “scratched” through the separating poles by a bottle-brush attached to a long stickuntil she became more malleable and a Keeper could risk putting in his arm! The way to a rhino’s heart is through fondling, because they are such sensuous animals. The female calf was named “Solio”.

There have been 4 Rescue alerts this month – the first on the 23rd September when a yearling rhino calf was retrieved from Solio Ranch in Northern Kenya, its mother having been shot. The female calf was too wild and strong to risk being airlifted back that evening, so the Rescue Plane returned empty, two Keepers left in situ to spend a cold and uncomfortable night guarding the young rhino which had been secured in a large crate. Meanwhile, hurried arrangements were made to try and source a truck that could drive the rhino to Nairobi overnight, and thanks to Richard Moller, it was arranged that one be loaned by the Lewa Conservancy for the purpose. The young rhino, said to be 6 months old (but looks as though it could be older), arrived at 5 a.m. on the morning of the 24th and it took all the ingenuity of Robert Carr-Hartley to get the Crate and its hefty occupant off the lorry safely and hauled on poll rollers into the Stockade. Once the door was opened, and the rhino came out, everyone had to take hurried evasive measures, since it was extremely strong and aggressive, repeatedly charging all in sight and crashing against the poles of the Stockade until it looked as though the small horn on the end of its nose might be dislodged. This was very much a “pocket rocket”- but within 2 days she was totally docile and trusting of the Keepers, having been “scratched” through the separating poles by a bottle-brush attached to a long stickuntil she became more malleable and a Keeper could risk putting in his arm! The way to a rhino’s heart is through fondling, because they are such sensuous animals. The female calf was named “Solio”.

The next Rescue alert came on the 25th from Head Keeper Benjamin at the Ithumba Stockades, who had rescued a female elephant calf found bogged in the Black Cotton mud of the Ithumba dam. It was decided that since this orphan was over a year old, it could be taken directly to the Ithumba Stockades to complete its milk dependency there, rather than flown to Nairobi. At Ithumba it would benefit from the input of the other older elephants and perhaps even have a chance of becoming reunited with its original elephant family once Keeper Independent. By month end, the calf, named “Ithumbah”, was calm, taking milk and doing well, almost ready to join the others on their daytime bush excursions.

Yet another rescue alert that same day (25th September) this time another Ziwani calf found alone in Southern Tsavo West National Park. Fortunately, it had managed to escape the mutilation meted out to poor Murka and many others at the hands of irate Masai tribesmen from that particular area. This orphan was a young bull, roughly the same age of “Ithumbah”, so the Rescue Plane was instructed to fly it directly to the Ithumba Stockades, where it would be company for the other new arrival. The young bull was named “Salaita” and at month end was also doing well.

The 29th saw the arrival of the third new orphan this month - another young female elephant aged about 15 months from Amboseli National Park who had been spotted wandering alone for some time. She has been named “Kitirua” by the Amboseli Elephant Researchers. The mother is suspected to have become a poaching victim although this has not been confirmed. The calf was quite thin, and had obviously been without milk for some time although she was still strong, and put up a spirited fight upon arrival in the Nursery. However, by day three she was taking milk, sucking the fingers of the Keepers, and had calmed right down.

At the Nairobi Nursery rivalry between Suguta and Olare for possession of little Sities seems to at last have been settled and by Sities herself, who has chosen Suguta as her favourit “mother”. However, Suguta magnanimously shares Sities with Olare, and the baby is often found sandwiched between the two Big Girls. Every morning as soon as Sities emerges from her night stable, she rushes around to Suguta’s Stockade to suckle on an ear and the night the lions prowled around nearby, Suguta rushed to Sities’ stable in the morning to reassure herself that the precious baby was alright!

Sities is an active and playful little character. She enjoys entertaining the human mudbath visitors, running up and down the cordon that separates the visitors from the elephants and scaring the small African school children most of whom have never set eyes on an elephant before! She is very possessive of Suguta, jealous when any of the other small babies come for loving from Suguta. Shukuru, especially, is needy, and often finds herself rudely shoved away from Suguta by Sities.

On the 16th Suguta enforced discipline when Turkwel and Chemi Chemi took on each other. Turkwel is not overly fond of Chemi Chemi who has always been a very “pushy” little boy, not known as El Quaida by the Keepers for nothing! Suguta rushed in between the contestants and stood there with her ears outspread and her trunk curled up beneath her chin in charging mode! Chemi Chemi hurriedly took off to join his friend, Kibo, and Turkwel, obviously feeling chastened, went to hide behind Maxwell’s Stockade!

The resident warthogs who hang around the yard, and beg tidbits from the Staff canteen choose to remain close to the elephants and their Keepers, feeling safer if they do. They, too, often also aspire to taking a mudbath at noon when the elephants are there, something that invariably triggers expulsion by Suguta (as long as they run away) backed up by Olare and the others. Of these pushy little Chemi Chemi and Mutara are always eager participants in the warthog chasing. However, encounters with other animals leave the elephants much less confident so they embark on the “bush-bashing” deterrent display, charging around downing small shrubs with outspread ears, trumpeting, and putting on a good show of aggression hoping that the intruder will begin to run away. Only then do they pluck up sufficient courage to embark on a charge. On the occasion that the elephants came across some buffaloes, they relied on the Keepers to get rid of them, and thereafter indicated unease by browsing very close to their human family for the rest of the day Likewise, intercepting a herd of impala on their way out to browse in the morning also brought on the bush-bashing syndrome followed by the same nervous reaction!.

The warthogs are often targeted by the few lions left in Nairobi Park, one of whom appeared during the mudbath, hungrily eyeing the pigs who were near the orphans’ wallow. Then during the night of the 26th about 4 lions roamed around the stables and Stockades, roaring loudly, and terrifying all the occupants as well as the Keeper on Night milk mixing duty, who felt very exposed and vulnerable and had to be escorted by the Night Security Guards! Suguta added to the commotion by bellowing loudly so not much sleep was had by anyone that night until the rowdy lions took themselves further afield! The next morning Suguta and Olare with Sities sandwiched safely between them, led the other orphans out very cautiously, raising their trunks frequently to test the wind!

This month Mutara has been contesting Leadership of the Baby Group, despite being younger than Kalama, Kudup and Turkwel, all of whom obviously feel she is acting above her station! On the 20th Turkwel gave her a reprimanding shove from behind and when Mutara retaliated she head-butted Kalama instead who was perfectly innocent. Kalama then reacted angrily until Kudup moved in to re-instill order.

Most rewarding has been the recovery of Murka from the previous extremely aggressive two year old, bent on retribution for the injuries she sustained at the hands of humans, to a gentle, loving and forgiving elephant, who has now befriended the Keepers and even comes to them to suck on a finger. The deep axe wounds on her body have healed miraculously, leaving hardly any trace of even a scar, and the hole in her head has also now closed, enabling her to draw water a little way up into her trunk to spray over her body during the mudbath. She still appears reluctant to use the trunk to drink water, but we are hopeful that this resolve in time. Murka has been one of the Trust’s greatest challenges who has ended up one of our greatest miracles!

The Rhinos:- Of ongoing immense grave concern has been the ongoing respiratory difficulty of little Maalim, who has not fully recovered after suffering a bout of pneumonia. Still his breathing is laboured with wheezing and it doesn’t seem to be improving despite everything we can possible think of. He has also had a very sore rump and back legs from all the injections he has had to endure – a long course of Nuroclav followed by another long course of Enrofloxacine, bronchial dilators and now Nuroclav yet again. However, he has not gone off his milk, although refusing greens, and he spends most of the time resting, too weak to move more than a few paces at a time. This has resulted in pressure wounds which we are treating with Green Clay while fluffy sheep pelts are provided for him to lie on. Having been so premature, the Vet says that he will invariably be vulnerable to respiratory problems – not a good prognosis for the survival of this very precious baby. However, while there is life there is hope, and we continue to pray for another miracle!

Shida’s daily and sometimes twice daily visits continue - the highlight of blind Maxwell’s restricted world. Max can predict Shida’s approach long before he actually turns up, testimony to the very acute hearing and other mysterious senses of these ancient and highly sophisticated animals. Max races around his Stockade with tail erect to spray his urine at each corner and claim ownership and as soon as Shida arrives, the sparring bouts ensue, horns clashing through the gaps of the poles that separate their two Stockades. Another new diversion for Maxwell has been the arrival of baby Solio, whose Stockade abuts another part Maxwell’s. On her first day Max got such a shock to sense that there was another intruder that he furiously attacked the poles of the partition with such force that we feared he might break through. However, since then he has become accustomed to her scent, especially since her dung is put inside his stockade and his in hers. Rhino introductions happen through scent.

One day this month Shida turned up earlier than usual and remained in his Stockade the entire day, obviously having been threatened by a wild opponent with whom he was not anxious to mix, especially having been once knocked over and suffered a prolapsed rectum! His longer than usual presence next door left Max very unsettled until Shida removed himself at 8 p.m., deciding to sleep near the Orphans’ mudbath instead where there was less nocturnal activity surrounding three hourly elephant milk feeds!

Solio –the latest rhino arrival in the Nursery who was extremely aggressive upon arrival on the 24th is now calm, thoroughly enjoying all the pampering she now has. Initially, she was far too fierce to risk contact, so the body “scratching” had to be done with a bottle-brush attached to a long stick inserted through gaps in the enclosure. This had the desired affect, and it was not long before an arm could be safely inserted to rub her body and face. Very soon, a Keeper could be beside her, doing the same. At first milk was offered via a hose-pipe attached to the bottle, but now she is happy to suck the rubber nipple. Soon she will be ready to embark on the rounds of the wild inhabitants’ dung piles and urinals, so we are very pleased with the progress of the “pocket rocket”!

September 2010 day to day

01 Sep

On a beautiful September morning, the orphans left their Night Stockades for the bush, led by Shukuru who was followed by Murka. The Vet came to look at Maalim, who has been unwell, breathing heavily and off his food, as well as the head wound of Murka. Maalim had suspected pneumonia, and was given his first injection of Nuroclav. Murka was escorted to her Stockade to be sedated for her Veterinary examination, escorted by Suguta, who refused to leave her, and once Murka was inside the Stockade, Suguta kept pushing the Gate to try and get access to her. Murka was then sedated, whilst Suguta watched from outside the Gate, and as soon as Murka was revived, she joined Suguta and was escorted by her back to all the others. The Vet was very pleased with the progress of Murka’s spear head wound, although she still cannot use the trunk to suck up water.

Maalim

Shukuru racing for her milk

Murka

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