The very unexpected and sudden death of yearling “Nyika” on the 20th September left us numb, for even though this calf arrived in July feeble and emaciated, we have managed to pull others through who arrived in worse shape - e.g. Orwa. Nyika took his milk feeds well and a sample of his blood gave no indication of anything untoward. We thought it would be just a question of time before he picked up condition again but he was reluctant to browse. We can only conclude that what he had witnessed, which left him an orphan, psychologically scarred him so seriously that he simply lacked the will to live. He spent a lot of time away from the others on his own, which in itself indicates deep grieving. Over the years there have been others like him who have simply died of a broken heart.
No less than four Elephant Orphan Rescues during the first 8 days of the month highlighted the extent of the current poaching pandemic. Out of these all but one were too far gone to retrieve, the only survivor being the l0 month old baby bull from Mt. Kenya given the name “Teleki”, who came into the Nursery on the 8th with a nasty machete gash on the shoulder, the result of having strayed onto community land. This calf owes his life to a member of the Bill Woodley Mt. Kenya Trust, who was able to restrain his attackers. Not surprisingly the baby was extremely aggressive upon arrival, bent on protecting himself from further injury at the hands of “the enemy” so it took the Keepers two full days to calm him down sufficiently to accept milk from a hand-held bottle. However, by the 12th) he was calm enough to be allowed out with the other Nursery inmates and, as always, was welcomed with unbridled elephant joy. He is a very friendly little elephant, gentle and according to the Keepers, polite! So far, he is thriving and has settled remarkably well, just happy to be amongst friends again.
On the self same day that Teleki was rescued, another orphan from Lake Jipe was not so lucky and one of those already too far gone to save. When spotted, the calf was already near dead, guarded by two adults, a bull and a cow, who refused to be driven from the dying baby until the late evening when they voluntarily walked away. Rangers who had been monitoring the calf then moved in, suspecting that it must now be dead, and were surprised to find it still breathing, but only just. They carried it to their base camp, gave it water and alerted us that a plane was needed the next morning to airlift it to Nairobi. However, by the time the Rescue Team arrived the calf was already comatose. It was put on life support for the flight back, arriving at the Nursery by 2 p.m. It was a baby bull, aged about l0 months, who remained on life support throughout the night, but who sadly passed away at 3 a.m. without having regained consciousness. Yet a third rescue that same day was for an orphan from the Wamba area of Laikipia, but that calf died before the plane even managed to take to the air. All this simply illustrates the strain we have been under during September 2012! Yet another tragic poaching victim from the Kilabasi corridor between Tsavo West and East, found beside its poached mother who had succumbed to arrow poison died at the Voi Stockades before being airlifted to the Nursery. This calf had also been arrowed by the poachers who hacked out its mother’s ivory, and although still alive when rescued, it also succumbed to the affects of arrow poison, despite the Mobile Vet’s best attempts to save it. The brutality and ruthlessness of the killers is illustrated for they showed no compassion for the tiny infant who was devoid of ivory.
There were two further rescues one on the 27th, and another on the 30th, both baby bulls from Rukinga Ranch bordering Tsavo East. (These ranches straddle an ancient migratory route ingrained in the elephants’ genetic memory and trodden by elephants throughout millennia, but now occupied by very un-ele-friendly tribes, including an influx of Somalis. It is a poaching hotspot where most of the KWS anti-poaching forces are stationed, desperately trying to save the elephants that use it as a corridor between Tsavo West and East.) These two arrivals are 1 month old “Rukinga” and l0 month old “Ngasha” (his name taken from a hill close to his rescue site). So far, both are thriving bringing the number in the Nairobi Nursery at the end of September 2012 to 25.
Happier news is that Murera, for the first time since she came in totally incapacitated in February, brought herself to the Orphans’ noon mudbath during the Public Visiting Hour, and her joy and happiness at being able to frolic in the mud and take a dustbath afterwards was uplifting for all who watched. Murera is surely the Trust’s living miracle, particularly as the Veterinary prognosis was far from encouraging - that she may never be able to walk again, and would probably be better off euthenazed! Today Murera is the living example of Nature’s powers of recovery for she is not only free if pain and able to walk, but can also run and is the epitome of sheer happiness and gratitude for those who have saved her. She is the living miracle of which we are so proud.
Naipoki promises to be a very caring Matriarch. She and Sonje (who usually is somewhat “pushy”) adore little Rukinga, leaving the Big Girls to concentrate on tiny Kinango. Teleki, who is one of this month’s newcomers, has surprised everyone with his cleverness, separating from the main group in order to lead Faraja and Kwale back to the Stockades ahead of time in the late afternoon, already totally familiar with the routine! Ngasha has also settled in very well, teaming up with the other newcomers to form their own little group of newly orphaned baby boys, all with one thing in common – grieving for their lost elephant mother and family.
The Rhinos:- Solio has been up to her usual pranks again, giving her Keepers the slip by galloping off into the bush in order to loose them! However, on the 9th the Keepers were at hand to witness her first confrontation with a wild rhino - a large cow with a yearling calf at foot who met up with Solio on the rocks near the mudbath venue at 6.30 a.m. in the morning. Solio stood her ground, concentrating on the baby, who was more her size, but whom the mother was anxious to protect. Hence Solio and the mother clashed horns several times, Solio at a distinct disadvantage being much younger with a much shorter weapon! However, the yelling of the Keepers to break up the fight deterred the wild cow and her calf, who ran off down the hill hotly pursued by Solio. Expecting the worst, we awaited her return anxiously, and were mightily relieved when she turned up unscathed and obviously very pleased with herself!
White Rhinos have visited the Salt Lick on the rocks near the mudbath several times during the night and late evening, when Solio follows their scent trail the next morning, anxious to make contact. Wild rhinos probably also visit Max at night, no doubt sparring with him through the separating poles, which Solio does several times a day, and which he loves. Interaction between rhinos, whilst appearing confrontational, is obviously relished and very important to their social wellbeing.