The Death of Kimana

Yet another heartbreak – the sudden and unexpected death of “Kimana” which occurred on Heartbreak Sunday the l7th October, 2010,  just one hour after Maalim died

Yet another heartbreak – the sudden and unexpected death of “Kimana” which occurred on Heartbreak Sunday the l7th October, 2010,  just one hour after Maalim died.  

Kimana was orphaned when just 3 weeks old in May 2008 when he walked into a Masai manyatti near the Kimana Swamp on the periphery of Amboseli National Park.   During his time in the Nursery, he thrived accept for the fact he never grew and was fast overtaken by many younger than him.  He was transferred to the Voi Rehabilitation Unit on the 11th May 2008 along with Dida and Ndii, apparently, in every respect other than his stunted appearance a healthy two year old.   However, in July he suffered early on from swellings of the legs and underbelly, for which he underwent a course of injectible  antibiotic followed by a second course as he remained below par.   Although, the swellings went, thereafter, he became steadily weaker, struggling to keep pace with the others, and labouring up the hill back to the Stockades during another Tsavo challenging dry season.

Eventually, the lymph nodes became enlarged, and it was then that the decision was made to fly him back to Nairobi on the 11th October 2010 where he could benefit from more intensive care and undergo further veterinary tests.  Blood tests revealed no blood parasites, the stools were normal, but upon arrival in Nairobi, he sank into deep psychological depression and obviously now lacked the will to live, obviously missing Kenia and Ndii sorely, whom he loved dearly, even though he rememberd all the current Nursery elephants.   He began to refuse his milk feeds and spent time away from all the others, on his own, which is a sure sign of grieving.   We began to doubt that we had made the correct decision to return him to the Nursery, but in this we had little option, because we could not allow his condition to compromise the progress of the other healthy Voi Unit orphans during the challenges of a hot dry season when the search for browse becomes paramount.   Moreover, Kimana had not grown as he should, so obviously he had a chronic condition that needed further investigation.  

His death was rapid, peaceful and painless, surrounded by his grieving Keepers.   The post-mortem revealed, aside from the enlarged lymph nodes, an enlarged left ventricle of the heart, but no other abnormalities to explain such a rapid and unexpected death.   The digestive tract, small intestine liver and kidneys were all normal, but we hope to learn more from further screening of the lymph nodes, plus the fact that he had a high white blood cell count.   What we do know, aside from some mysterious chronic deficiency, little Kimana simply lacked the will to live, initially because he could not keep up with his peers down in Tsavo, and upon his return to the Nursery, because he missed Kenia and Ndii so sorely, both of whom he adored.