Keepers' Diaries, September 2012

Nairobi Nursery Unit

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.

01 September 2012

Since the departure of Kasigau, and Ishanga (who used to be the Nursery bullies) Kilabasi has also turned into a bully of those younger. Today at the noon mudbath when Sities, Kainuk, Kanjoro and Sonje were enjoying themselves in the middle of the pool, she barged in and turfed them all out one by one, focusing on Kanjoro whom she pursued poking him with her short tusks as he tried to escape. She did not respond to the Keepers, until eventually Mutara intervened.

02 September 2012

On a beautiful sunny morning, the orphans enjoyed playing a game of Hide and Seek around the compound. Nyika is still extremely weak and withdrawn, not wishing to interact with any of the others. He has to be helped up each morning, as was Orwa, and was given 2 litres of Dextrose and Saline intravenously to boost his strength. He did not attend the noon mudbath along with the others but instead remained behind in the bush along with Mutara who chose to stay beside him.

03 September 2012

The days in Nairobi are warmer with the onset of September, so most of the orphans enjoy their noon mudbath, Ishaq-B always the last to go in. Sonje has been promoted to the Big Group, being very greedy at milk feeding times, when she has taken to pushing Ishaq-B and Orwa around. Today she pushed Faraja as he was standing peacefully beside the mudbath. She was disciplined by the Keepers, who sent her off to spend “time out”, the measure elephants themselves use against wrong-doers.

04 September 2012

Ishaq-B again pushed Faraja down as he was taking his milk near her. Then at the mudbath she pushed Kwale. Faraja is very fond of Nyika, today spending all day beside him. Nyika, who is still very weak, spends time lying in the long grass, with Faraja continuing to eat the grass beside him. Faraja prefers eating grass to browse, possibly because browse is sparse within his Amboseli home.

05 September 2012

Orwa has always been a very polite and gentle boy. As such he is a favourite with the Keepers and also enjoys “mothering” baby Kinango, even allowing the little one to suckle his tiny teats! Solio is very independent now, and continues to elude her Keepers whenever she feels that she does not want their company. These days, several White Rhinos come to take salt on the rocks near the mudbath, and Solio picks up their scent and follows them. Today she left her Keepers at 7.30 a.m. and did not return until 4 p.m. when she went straight into her Stockade.

06 September 2012

Shukuru is now back to normal, having been unwell several months back. She is now active again, and sharing possession of little Kinango with her best friend, Mutara, often taking leadership of the herd to and from the Stockades. Because it was a cold morning, Nyika remained indoors, and his friend Faraja went in search of him. It took the Keepers sometime to realize why Faraja was wandering around. When Nyika and little Kinango were allowed out to join the group, Faraja ran to greet Nyika, and escorted him and Kinango to the others.

07 September 2012

Barsilinga is a good feeder now, always running for his milk, and finishing it before his friend Kithaka even arrives. Today at 4 p.m. when all the babies were waiting for their Keepers to lead them back home, Faraja, Nyika and Bomani sneaked off on their own without the Keepers noticing. They called Faraja by name, and he returned, but there was no sign of the other two. Eventually, after a long search, the two were found sleeping in the long grass, side by side. Bomani must have been dreaming because when the Keepers woke him, he bellowed fearfully.

08 September 2012

Orwa tried to get his own back on Ishaq-B yesterday by mounting onto her as she lay in the red soil pile. She threw him off, and hurt his leg, because this morning he is limping. Ishaq-B tried to persuade the Keepers to return her to the younger Group, where she could bully the smaller elephants, but the Keepers resisted. She behaves well during milk feeds with the Bigger Elephants, aware that Sonje is at hand to discipline her! At 3 p.m. there was a Rescue alert, this time for a yearling calf who had wandered onto Settlement near Mt. Kenya. The baby bull arrived at the Nursery just after 6 p.m. and has a machete cut on his shoulder. He had apparently been sighted alone 3 days ago and has been named “Teleki”, the name of a valley on Mt. Kenya.

09 September 2012

Tano was the first to try and greet Teleki, who is still aggressive and refusing to take milk from a bottle. Mutara tried to reach him through the bars of his Stockade, but he retreated to the back. All the orphans then assembled at his door to welcome him, rumbling him a greeting before leaving for the field. There was another Rescue Alert this morning, this time for a calf rescued from Lake Jipe. The plane left at 8 a.m. and by 2 p.m. the baby, who was male and about 10 months old, was back at the Nursery but already on life support, being in a state of collapse. He was extremely emaciated, obviously having been without milk for a long time.. There was high drama involving Solio today at 6.30 a.m. while she was on the rocks near the mudbath area. A Black Rhino mother with a yearling calf and long sharp horns approached her at the run, and engaged her in a fight. Solio stood her ground, targeting the calf, who was being shielded by the mother. The Keepers kept calling Solio, but she did not respond, bent on battle, until eventually the mother rhino and her calf ran off, hotly pursued by Solio. We were all very fearful that Solio would be killed by a much bigger opponent, but she returned unscathed at 11.30 a.m.

10 September 2012

The new baby boy remained on life support throughout the night, but sadly died at 3 a.m. Due to the newcomer’s arrival yesterday, Kihari had to vacate her stable for a Stockade, which she did not appreciate at all, spending a lot of the night screaming. Today in the evening, she ran back to her old Stable, so it took the Keepers sometime to get her into her new quarters. There was a slight drizzle of rain, so she made herself a small mudbath in the middle of the Stockade, after which she settled down.

11 September 2012

Teleki now accepts milk from a bottle with the Keeper standing beside him, unlike previously when, being too aggressive, he had to be fed through the bars of the Stockade. Today after the other orphans had come to greet him, he desperately wanted to follow them, pushing the door to try and get out. Again, there was drama getting Kihari to go into her new Stockade. She went to the door of her old bedroom, screaming and attempting to push it open. It took a reinforcement of Keepers to steer her forcibly into her new Stockade, previously occupied by Kanjoro, reminding us that “Elephants Never Forget”!

12 September 2012

After the mudbath, all the orphans gathered at Teleki’s Gate for him to be let out. He was ecstatic, in amongst the herd, with all the orphans wanting to touch him until Mutara pushed them all aside, wanting to have him to herself before leading the entire group out to the bush. Teleki was very well behaved, browsing nicely in amongst all the others without trying to sneak off. In the evening it began to drizzle with rain, so the orphans were returned to their Night Quarters early, Teleki surrounded by the others who escorted him back to his Stockade before returning to their own! He went straight in without any trouble.

13 September 2012

As from 7 a.m. we had a Brazilian film crew all day, who focused on Barsilinga with just one short break. They only stopped filming him when he lay down to sleep at 6 p.m. Teleki is such a nice, sweet boy who has adapted to his new environment very rapidly, sucking the Keepers’ thumbs one by one. Even during the public mudbath hour, he moves along the cordon greeting the guests in such a friendly way. In the evenings he willingly returns to his Stockade. Kanjoro is his best friend.

14 September 2012

At 11 a.m., when the public had arrived, Mutara took centre stage, running for milk, and then picking up the cut vegetation and throwing it around, before kicking over all the water troughs and then running along the line scaring all the guests. The entire crowd was cheerful, which encouraged her further to show off! Nyika is still not doing well, and is very weak, having to be helped up each morning, and not feeding on browse as he should. He was again put on a drip to give him a boost.

15 September 2012

Today a blood sample from Nyika was taken for analysis. He is still not doing well, and remains very weak, wanting to be on his own all the time, and not interacting with the others. Teleki, on the other hand, is doing very well, spending time with Orwa, Faraja and Bomani, who are all very friendly towards him. He is a cool and lovely young bull, with a lot of hair on his body, having been brought up on Mt. Kenya. He is still nursing the wound he received when he was attacked by tribesmen before being rescued.

16 September 2012

The results of Nyika’s blood analysis was heartening, for it showed a normal white and red cell count, so his weakness stems from abject starvation which always takes a long time to turn round. Little Kinango is doing well now, having cut his first molars. Mutara loves the little boy very much, and he, her.

17 September 2012

Today Solio was up to her usual trick, giving her Attendants the slip by running off into the bush, where she obviously wants to be alone without the encumbrance of human company so that she can make contact with wild living rhinos. She is becoming much more independent, an indication that she feels she is now accepted by her wild peers.

18 September 2012

As the Big Girls ran to greet the babies (Barsilinga, Kinango, Kithaka and Balguda), Orwa and Kwale enjoyed a Pushing Game which attracted the attention of Naipoki and Ishaq-B and this prompted the two boys to end their game. The two girls then began to play, hoping that this would tempt the boys back, but that tactic did not work! Little Nyika is still not doing well. He is now having Vitamin B complex daily in his milk, but can get up from a sleeping position unaided. He spends the Public Viewing Hour with Murera and does not attend the mudbath.

19 September 2012

Kihari is now comfortable in her new Stockade, having made such a fuss about the transfer initially. To begin with she always ran back to her old stable, which is now occupied by a new orphan, so she has understood that being upgraded should not be viewed as a punishment.

20 September 2012

It was a very somber mood that greeted this morning, for poor little Nyika died at 7 a.m., soon after all the other Nursery orphans had paid him a visit before moving out to browse in the forest. At least they were able to say goodbye to him and he died surrounded by a loving human and elephant family. He will be sadly missed by us all and by all his foster-parents. In another way, today was a special red letter day for Murera who, for the first time ever, accompanied the other elephants to the mudbath. Her joy was something wonderful to see, and her happiness in the mudbath was shared by all the others, as well as the visitors. Murera truly is the Trust’s living miracle, especially as none of the Vets believed that she could ever heal enough to ever walk again, but she rolled in the mud and the loose soil with gay abandon – a living miracle to be sure!

21 September 2012

Murera again visited the mudbath with the younger elephants, and again loved taking a mudbath. All the visitors were very moved to hear her tragic story.

22 September 2012

Teleki is such a gentle little elephant but is still nursing the machete wound on his shoulder. He and Faraja are great friends, and spend most of the day feeding close together out in the forest. Kilabasi has become something of a bully, targeting poor Kanjoro and trying to drive him away from the others. Because she is so big, she does not listen to the Keepers’ warnings, so it is time that she was upgraded to be disciplined by bigger elephants!

23 September 2012

This morning Bomani and Orwa enjoyed a Pushing Game, which ended when Orwa bit Bomani’s tail. Bomani then went to play with Teleki who was rolling in some soil. Since Ishaq-B was upgraded to the Big Girls’ group, she has become well behaved and no longer pushes the Youngsters around, seemingly understanding that it was because of bad behaviour that she was transferred.

24 September 2012

The day turned very hot so at the mudbath hour the Junior orphans downed their milk rapidly, all eager to get into the wallow and cool themselves down. Bomani and Balguda proved the best wallowers and were reluctant to come out when the time came to leave. In the afternoon the Keepers noticed that Kwale, Faraja and Teleki had separated from the others. The Keepers found them heading back towards the Stockades, Teleki leading the trio. This was surprising in view of the fact that he is very new in the Nursery, but already knows the routine!

25 September 2012

It was another hot day, so the orphans were eager to get into the mudbath. Kihari and Kainuk entertained the visitors by sliding in and out of the mudbath from the slippery banks. Murera is now a very happy elephant, with a reason to smile, because she can now be part of the Orphaned herd, keeping pace with all the others.

26 September 2012

On the way out into the bush this morning, the orphans encountered a herd of impala. Mutara charged forward, trumpeting and bush-bashing sending the antelopes into retreat. Kilabasi, Shukuru and Turkwel then joined in the celebrations, bush-bashing, trumpeting and tossing sticks into the air. Their game soon ended when little Kinango cried in frustration for not being able to reach Naipoki’s teats, prompting all the Big Girls to rush back to him. Mutara took charge of the baby, offering him her teats for suckling!

27 September 2012

Just past 3 p.m. news came from the Voi Stockades that a baby elephant who had sought company amongst community cattle herds, had been rescued from Rukinga Ranch abutting Tsavo National Park. The calf was a baby Bull of about 1 month old, subsequently named “Rukinga”. He was airlifted back to the Nursery from the Park airstrip and arrived in good shape, too young to be fearful of human company.

28 September 2012

As soon as the orphans were let out of their Night Quarters, Mutara, Shukuru, Sities, Kihari and Tano all rushed to the new baby’s stable, previously occupied by Kihari, eager to welcome and greet little Rukinga. Mutara tried to open the door to gain access, but could only reach in with her trunk. At 8 a.m. the new baby was allowed out to join the other orphans, who all surrounded him, each one vying to be as close as possible. The newcomer was delighted to again be amongst a loving herd and the focus of their attention! He attended the noon mudbath, taking his milk eagerly, and now enjoying the attention of all the human onlookers!

29 September 2012

On his second day in the Nursery, Rukinga has befriended Barsilinga, who is his night-time neighbour. The two are usually close to one another, with Naipoki and Sonje focusing on the new baby out in the field. Naipoki promises to be an excellent Matriarch, being very caring of the babies.

30 September 2012

At 8 a.m. another Rescue Alert was received from the Voi Rehabilitation Stockades, this time of a young bull elephant of about 10 months, who had wandered into Maungu town, desperate for company. He is believed to have originated from Rukinga Ranch and has been named “Ngasha”, the name of a hill near to where he was found. He arrived at the Nursery in reasonable health, with no external injuries, and responded positively to milk and the Keepers.