It has been an especially trying month this September with too many orphaned babies pouring through our doors, victims of the ongoing drought in large parts of the country, meaning that mothers cannot produce the milk required for their young babies and are even collapsing and dying from exhaustion themselves. It is heartbreaking to watch another factor contributing to the decline of this species when they already have so much to contend with; aside from poaching and clashes with communities they now have to face shortages of food. We work hard on the ground in Tsavo, home to Kenya’s largest population of elephants, contrasting and maintaining our wind-powered boreholes, to alleviate the pressure of water shortages but we know the main contributing factor this year is the scarcity of vegetation. Our DSWT funded Kenya Wildlife Service Mobile Veterinary teams have been kept very busy on the ground too, attending to multiple cases and assisting in rescues as well. The younger orphans have come to the Nairobi Nursery for the more intense treatment and care they require, whilst other older orphans have been taken to our Voi Rehabilitation unit to assimilate back into the wild with our dependent orphans there. Orphans Maisha, Namalok, Sapalan, Sagala and tiny Pili were all rescued from across the country this month, as the drought grips large areas of the country and not just Tsavo, and are currently in our care at the Nursery. We received a couple of showers at the Nairobi Nursery this month that were very welcome and good for settling the dust and reviving the parched flora, but much more is needed and we hope will come in the impending short rains.
Luckily our bore hole in Nairobi means that the Nairobi Nursery orphans are unaware of such water hardships and are looking healthy and plump with all the lucerne supplements they are getting! They continue to fight over these and Tamiyoi especially is an ardent fan. When the decision was made to cut down slightly on this nutritious snack, she was the first to notice and was almost distraught, running from one end of the mud bath area to the other and inquiring with outstretched trunk from her keepers where they might be. Jotto and Malima were spotted arguing over lucerne pellets by Maxwell’s stockade one morning, an argument which Tamiyoi soon joined in. Unfortunately, Jotto used dastardly measures by biting Tamiyoi’s tail to get the pellets for himself, but his triumph was short lived as Mundusi came along and pushed him away.
Mundusi, Ndiwa and Mteto are being little trouble makers these days, especially during the morning public visit. They are giving their keepers a hard time as they are supposed to go down for their milk in the second group but they have learnt how to dodge the keepers to get their milk faster! Ndiwa is the group leader, but the keepers have cottoned-on to her tricks and have learnt how to prevent their escape! Enkesha can be a naughty girl at times as well but all the orphans are very good at disciplining one another and keeping each other in check. Her trunk continues to heal very well after it was almost severed in half by a wire snare, and she still enjoys mud baths the most, come rain or shine, as it must be soothing for her injury.
Fortunately for all our new arrivals, the majority of the Nursery females are extremely welcoming and understanding. Females like Kuishi, Malkia, Maramoja, Godoma, Tamiyoi, Tagwa, Maramoja and Mbegu will all mill around outside a new arrivals stockade desperate to meet and comfort the traumatized orphan. One morning we couldn’t help but smile as Malkia tried to open Maisha’s door, before realizing she could communicate through the partition from Musiara’s stable – we watched on as Malkia, Tagwa and Tamiyoi all tried to fit through the door at once, desperate to be the first one to greet her. Maisha, rescued at the beginning of the month, settled in very well and soon became very attached to Emoli who was rescued only the month before. The two are always together and the keepers have observed them to be like brother and sister, with Maisha usually trailing behind her ‘brother’ Emoli in the lead.
Murit and Luggard are known for being caring bulls towards the little ones as well, but occasionally some of the other boys surprise us, like when Ngilai, normally known for pushing some of the other orphans around, was spotted allowing the tiny new baby Pili to suckle his ears, a comfort he used to receive from Elkarama when he was young. Another morning when Ngilai was in a very playful mood and none of the other orphans or keepers would indulge him, he invited the youngsters Maktao, Musiara and Sattao to come and play with him; this is most out of character for the young bull but he had a lovely morning with the babies rolling around in the dust as they clambered and slid down his big body on the ground. Normally it is Malkia and especially Tagwa looking after Sattao and often they do not let him out of their sight. One morning at mud bath Sattao got stuck in the mud and couldn’t right himself but before he could even yell for help these two girls were there in a flash. Between them they helped support him upright and escorted him out of the mud bath. It is remarkable to witness such caring acts as these between our orphans, seeing how they truly care and watch over each other, despite coming from different families and parts of the country and knowing what they have gone through to arrive at the Nursery.
The other orphans in our nursery are getting on just as well. Kiko, the giraffe, has been behaving himself this month, but the elephant orphans are still having none of his company, preferring to charge at him and chase him away than browse in his company. Maxwell the rhino was spoilt with Solio’s company numerous times this month, as he always enjoys her visits, and they charge up and down either side of this stockade wall together. One night Solio was so bothered by three buffalo bulls after the lucerne grass the keepers had given to her that she had to escape into a nearby stockade, assisted by the keepers, until she left around 8am the next morning and the buffalos were long gone.