Keepers' Diaries, September 2011

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

As usual, the Nairobi Park lions have caused a stir around the Nursery this month. On the 8th a lioness chased a bushbuck who dashed past the elephants as they were browsing out in the forest, scaring them and causing a stampede in different directions. The Keepers had a busy time rounding them all up again. Later on that day the same lioness killed one of the resident warthogs near the Stockades, and having guarded the kill until the afternoon, then left it to collect her three cubs so that they could also share the prize.

As usual, the Nairobi Park lions have caused a stir around the Nursery this month. On the 8th a lioness chased a bushbuck who dashed past the elephants as they were browsing out in the forest, scaring them and causing a stampede in different directions. The Keepers had a busy time rounding them all up again. Later on that day the same lioness killed one of the resident warthogs near the Stockades, and having guarded the kill until the afternoon, then left it to collect her three cubs so that they could also share the prize.

Ishanga, who had a very dramatic rescue herself, (seized by a lion as the Rescuers were moving in) always takes it upon herself to comfort and take special care of all newcomers, understanding their trauma and their grief. She was there for Kilabasi and Dabassa, remaining close to them throughout the day, constantly comforting them with a gentle touch of the trunk, and being with them when they choose to feed slightly apart from the main group, as is usual when overcoming recent trauma and grieving the loss of loved ones. Likewise she was there for newcomer Rombo, when he was allowed out to join the other orphans for the first time on the 5th. Not so accommodating was Dabassa, who, perhaps jealous of Ishanga’s latest fixation, has continued to head-butt Rombo whenever an opportunity permits. Nevertheless Rombo is an integral member of Ishanga’s “special needs” candidates and since he has small tusks, as soon as his strength returns, undoubtedly he will settle the score with pushy Dabassa. For sometime Rombo was too fearful to come to the mudbath venue during the crowded open visiting hour, but has since plucked up courage to attend the Special Viewing Slot at 3 p.m.

The 5th brought a Rescue Alert, this time an orphan from the same general hotspot corridor linking Tsavo West and East that yielded Kilabasi, Dabassa and Rombo, settled by the brutal very un ele-friendly community that left Murka with a spear embedded deep into her skull and Rombo with a spear wound in the ear and shoulder. This new orphan turned out to be a yearling female whom we named “Mbuyuni”, but who arrived in a pitiful condition of advanced malnutrition, with a swollen under-belly and chin. It was not long before she fell into a coma, and although on life support, she died the next evening. Sadly this orphan was too far gone on arrival for us to be able to save.

The l0th brought another Elephant Rescue, this time a yearling female calf from the Kihari area of Mt. Kenya National Park (the same area that yielded little Mumbushi where there has been a spate of elephant poaching of late). This newcomer arrived with a still a lot of fight, but as usual, collapsed in the evening and had to be put on life support. This revived her but she remained too fierce for a Keeper to actually be in the stable with her, until Tano was moved next door and was able to demonstrate by example that the Keepers could be trusted. We named the new baby “Kihari” and once she began taking milk the next day, she calmed down sufficiently to be allowed out to join the other orphans four days later on the 14th, instantly welcomed into the fold by all the older females, as well as Ishanga, who, as usual, was eager to take her into her special needs orbit. However Mutara and Shukuru attempted to keep Kihari close along with Naipoki and Sities, Kainuk being the special baby of Turkwel. Unlike Rombo, Kihari was sufficiently confident to attend the noon mudbath during the Open Visiting Hour from day one, ignoring the hordes of visitors who come on a daily basis to see the orphans enjoy their midday milk feed and, weather permitting, a mudbath. Kihari decided to attach herself to Rombo, Kilabasi, and Dabassa rather than travel with the Juniors, and has since formed a strong bond of friendship with Rombo.

The arrival of Kihari necessitated the usual shuffle in the elephants’ sleeping arrangements, which on this occasion was met with little resistance. Tano was moved next door to Kihari, while Mutara and Shukuru (who had outgrown their stables) were upgraded to larger Stockades with Naipoki moved next door to Sities, (who was overjoyed to have the baby all to herself.) She and Naipoki are now very close. Ishanga has Kilabasi in the Stockade next door while Dabassa and Rombo now occupy the ones recently vacated by Kalama and Chemi Chemi.

There was another Elephant Rescue alert on the 22nd September, this time from Joseph Sauni, Head Keeper of the Voi Unit, who had a 2 ½ year old young bull rescued from the notorious corridor between Tsavo West and East around the Kasigau massif. The Rescue team were hurriedly scrambled and by 3 p.m. on the 23rd September, the young bull was back at the Nursery. He was named “Kasigau”; had small 2 – 3 inch tusks and a deep wound in the top of his trunk, caused either by a spear or an arrow. Although extremely emaciated and weakened, he was still far too fierce and strong to risk close Keeper contact during the night, but had to be helped to his feet the next day. He took milk from a bucket the next day, and then from a bottle held through the separating bars of his Stockade, which gave him sufficient strength to get up from a recumbent position unaided, but remained aggressively wary of close human contact, although by day three he enjoyed sucking on fingers, again through the separating bars of his Stockade only. His legs showed signs of swelling after day 6, so he was allowed out to join the others, rebutting Ishanga’s attempts to befriend him, but having to put up with Dabassa’s antagonism, who head butted him as he does Rombo, whenever opportunity permits. This Pushy Boy will be put in line when both Rombo and Kasigau regain their strength and settle the score!

There was drama after the Private Visiting Slot on the 29th when Tano and Naipoki competed to be closest to the leading Keeper. Believing they were running away because they were fearful, Kasigau took off into the bush at speed, hotly pursued by a Keeper, who promptly tripped over a stump. The other orphans assumed that a Charging Game had been initiated, and all took to racing around bushes, trumpeting and screaming with excitement, which sent Kasigau in retreat even faster and further. All the Keepers had to be mobilized to search for him, and eventually came across him hiding in a thicket. They surrounded him, while others tried to restore order to the Chargers and bring them back to escort Kasigau back to his Stockade. Meanwhile, all the chaos un-nerved rhino Solio who also took to her heels, and refused to return to her Stockade, until coerced back with a handful of Lucerne!
Of mounting concern this month has been Kainuk’s eye, which was apparently pierced by a twig as she was playing out in the forest. The white spot indicative of a corneal rupture has not responded to the usual antibiotic ointment, and the Eye Specialist feared a fungal complication which required another drug, difficult to source in this country. Thankfully, however, some was found at the Kikuyu Eye Hospital, and the eye is responding to this new treatment, although Kainuk’s vision will probably be impaired for life. Sities has been quick to take advantage of this handicap, approaching from the blind side to head butt Kainuk and settle an old score.

The Rhinos:- Maxwell just lives for interaction with Solio on a daily basis, when she leaves her Night Stockade each morning and indulges him with a spirited sparring match through the separating poles. Max is always there, ready and waiting for her, his tail erect denoting excitement, and in between bouts racing up and down his Stockade. He is then waiting for her return each evening, anticipating another session, which Solio may or may not give him. If not, eager to instead try and get her attention he sprays her with urine, something her Attendant Keeper could do without, since Max’s urine is exceedingly pungent, even transforming the nearby poles a pure white!

Solio is becoming much more independent – according to her Keepers, with a mind of her own, bent on doing her own thing rather than what the Keepers think she ought to be doing! She is now 17 months old, plump and growing rapidly!

September 2011 day to day

01 Sep

Kainuk has a very bad eye, having been playing out in the forest, where a twig probably pierced her eye. We have been administering antibiotic eye ointment, but the eye has developed a white spot, and she has lost her vision in that one eye. Turkwel, who loves her very much, has been comforting her. At the mudbath Ishanga head butted Kainuk, and Turkwel chased Ishanga out of the herd, angry at her behaviour towards little Kainuk.

Kainuk left and Shukuru

Ishanga on the left with Mutara

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