Keepers' Diaries, September 2013

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

What a month for the Nairobi Nursery, with nine Elephant Rescues, a freak lightening strike that took out all our installations on the 20th, followed by the Terrorist attack on Westgate Mall on the 21st! With Daphne and Robert in America for the Jackson Hole Film Festival, where they were needed for a Fundraiser in support of our work, and where Daphne was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award, poor Angela who was left holding the fort having to deal with the host of dramatic events single-handedly!

What a month for the Nairobi Nursery, with nine Elephant Rescues, a freak lightening strike that took out all our installations on the 20th, followed by the Terrorist attack on Westgate Mall on the 21st! With Daphne and Robert in America for the Jackson Hole Film Festival, where they were needed for a Fundraiser in support of our work, and where Daphne was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award, poor Angela who was left holding the fort having to deal with the host of dramatic events single-handedly!

The first new arrival of the month was baby “Kamok” from Ol Pejeta Ranch near Nanyuki on the 8th, who was born with shortened tendons inhibiting movement and probably could not keep up with her mother. The l0th brought 18 month old “Suswa” to us, an orphan from the Kedong Valley near the extinct volcano of Suswa as well along with a young bull from the Aberdares who died the following day, un-named. This orphan came in with his back legs shattered by bullets and had to be euthenazed the next morning.

The 17th brought l8 month old “Saseni”, severely emaciated and an obvious orphan who had fallen into an erosion gully near a hill of that name in very un-ele-friendly territory. He died the following night just as another young 3 ½ year old bull named “Bongo” was driven in by KWS, having been found abandoned near Karatina at the foothills of Mt. Kenya.

The 22nd brought another double rescue – 1 month old “Empaash” from Amboseli National Park, extracted from a well, (and whose digestive system was in turmoil, exacerbated by the onset of teething and passing watery mud in his stools) On the same day an 18 month old female named “Zongoloni” was airlifted from the Taita Sisal Estate abutting Tsavo West National Park after her Elephant Mother was euthenazed by our Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit, poachers’ bullets having shattered her shoulder leaving her immobile. Hers was a particularly poignant and tragic story, since she had to watch her mother finally succumb to a slow and agonizing end remaining by her side until she died, and forced to drink the mother’s urine in order to try and survive herself.

Lastly, but by no means least, yet another double rescue on the 26th, this time of two newborn babies, both aged about 3 weeks and both from Tsavo East National Park. Baby “Shujaa” (whose name means “Conqueror”) was extracted from the mud of the leaking Mombasa pipeline and “Mshindi” found strolling along the main Nairobi – Mombasa highway near Mackinnon Road, his presence reported to KWS by a Truck Driver.

As usual all the newcomers were warmly welcomed by all the resident female orphans who never fail to rush to a newcomer’s Stockade or Stable as soon as they are let out of their Night Quarters in the morning, to meet and greet. Kihari and Naipoki now share Matriarchal leadership duties with Laragai, Ishaq-B, Lima Lima, Sonje and Narok while Quanza and Arruba are now also beginning to take an interest in any younger newcomers. Up until now Murera has kept herself somewhat removed, but when the newborns came in, all that changed. All the Nursery females sensed the presence of the Nursery’s four tiny newborns the moment they arrived, and were over the moon when they were eventually introduced and allowed to spend time amongst them. Nursery bulls are also always intrigued by new arrivals, but tend to size them up with a view to strength-testing - the favourite pastime of young boy elephants. Orwa is now the oldest boy in the Nursery whom Teleki and Bomani usually join forces to test, but have yet to overpower. It was moving to see Nelion begin play-pushing against Jasiri and Faraja and Vuria, who is still not sufficiently strong to take on most of the others, tried his luck this month on Garzi until Balguda interrupted the contest. Nelion is very close to Mashariki who has embraced newcomer Suswa and who was escorted out to join the others for the first time on the 13th sandwiched lovingly between Kihari, Naipoki, Ishaq-B, Lima Lima, Quanza and Narok.

Nelion, Garzi, Mashariki and Suswa tend to remain together as a group, separating themselves from the main herd to feed slightly apart from the others, all relative newcomers still mourning the loss of their Elephant Families.

Mischievous Kithaka (with the “small man” syndrome) can always be counted upon to be up to some nonsense, especially during the Public Viewing Hour when he enjoys walking along the cordon deliberately bumping into the ranks of local school kids, scaring them and leaving them screaming, after which he strolls back to join his partner in pranks, Lemoyian, who is also his best friend. Barsilinga is also a close friend, who loves interacting with the evening foster-parents, climbing his door to extend a prickly trunk in greeting. Barsilinga, unlike Kithaka and Lemoyian, is not as mischievous but can be counted upon to charm all the human visitors. Kithaka and Lemoyian thoroughly enjoyed teaming up to dispel the old resident warthog named “Pembe” (who has been around the Trust H.Q. a long time, and who has become an old wild favourite). She strolled through the visitors and the elephants one day, heading for the mudbath. Having executed a successful charge, Kithaka and Lemoyian then kept vigil at the fringe of the thicket into which Pembe retreated, to ensure that she did not return, thoroughly basking in the approbation of all the human onlookers who found the incident amusing! On another occasion whilst Ngasha and Tundani were engaged in a serious Pushing Bout, Kithaka head-butted Ngasha to interrupt the game, and having been chased off by a furious Ngasha, returned to nip his tail. Since Kihari, Sonje and Murera were close by and would have responded to Ngasha’s bellows, Kithaka hurriedly made himself scarce before they could move in to discipline him, knowing full well that tail-biting is not tolerated in elephant society!

It was Laragai who spear-headed a charge against the resident Impala herd whom the orphans encountered on their way out into the bush on the 4th , backed up by Quanza, Narok and Arruba, as well as boys Ngasha and Balguda, all of whom then took to the usual Bush-Bashing exercise to celebrate victory having seen the impalas off! Elephants are naturally fearful, so victory over those who obligingly always run away is celebrated in this manner!

The four tiny newborns, Kamok, Empaash, Shujaa and Mshindi, all of whom had an infusion of elephant plasma upon arrival, made an endearing foursome when they made their debut at the Public Open Hour towards the end of the month. Being a well victim, tiny Empaash came in with gut problems but stabilized briefly, until the onset of teething, which triggered renewed diarrheoa. However, little Kamok, as well as Mshindi and Shujaa were all doing well at month end, Kamok introducing the others to the delights of a soft earth pile in which to play.

The condition of Kwale remains cause for concern, having so far puzzled us and all the Vets. He obviously has a chronic health issue which has not responded to any of the suggested curative aids. Arruba was another whom the Keepers reported “dull” during the month, suffering from a bacterial infection identified in a blood sample, which responded to an injectable course of Penstrep. She was soon back to normal, but sadly, not so poor Kwale.

The Rhinos:- After long absences, Solio returned twice during the month to spend time with Maxwell, initially on the lst when she treated Max to a day long sojourn, sparring with him in between resting in her old Stockade next door to his and enjoying her hand-out of Lucerne and Dairy Cubes. She was in good shape, and Max was over the moon to see her, since she is the light of his dark life. She was back again in mid-month, seeking out Max, who was sleeping at the time, by circumventing his entire enclosure before locating him next door. As soon as he sensed her presence, he was up and game for their usual interaction, again delighted to see her again.

Max is contented within his known territory, never having enjoyed vision to be able to source extensions further afield which could be contested by more dominant bulls. Since rhinos are essentially creatures of habit, he thrives where he is comfortable and safe, enjoying the attention of all the visitors and the odd sweet treat, offered only to him since he can never lead a normal wild life being blind.

September 2013 day to day

01 Sep

The month began well, with the appearance of Solio first thing in the morning, having been absent for several days. As usual she circumvented Max’s Stockade to interact with him, but she eventually found him asleep on his bed of hay under shelter. As soon as Max heard her footsteps, he woke up instantly, and was ready and waiting for her when she appeared next door. Solio spent the entire day in her old Stockade next door to that of Maxwell, enjoying his company as well as the handout of Lucerne and Dairy cubes.

Max in his stickade

Ellies in the bush

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