We went recently to visit Tumaren at her new home at The Sheldrick Trust Orphanage. What a pleasure it was to see how happy she was with all her friends foraging in natural bush within Nairobi National Park.
I couldnt determine if Tumaren recongnized me after our long streesful night together a while back but his keeper felt that she did. She and many of the other young Elephants would suck our fingers which evidently allows them to get to know us. Another common method for greeting an elephant is to blow into its trunk.
After hanging with the Ele’s out in the bush for a while the keepers whistled and told them all it was time for milk. It was amazing to see how quickly they responded to the command, knowing exactly the routine and lining up for their march back to their comfortable quarters.
Back at milk time we met with the other group of orphans returning from their afternoon foraging. At the Sheldrick Elephant Baracks we were so impressed by the comfort and care provided to each and every orphan. Above each enclosure there was a hanging cot for each keeper. With baby elephants this is necessary as they are rather ‘needy’ and can deteriorate without companionship.
This year the orphanage has received more elephants than ever. The drought here is stressing the herds and many younger elephants are dying of starvation and even adults like Tumaren’s mum are succumbing to drought related illnesses. In times like this we must be very thankful that there is such a warm and caring place as the Sheldrick Orphanage.
Excellent news, the baby Aardvark (who we may have named Aarthur) has survived his operation. For three hours Dr. Dietter Rottcher and Dr. Sanjay Gautama worked on a broken hind femur which was snapped clear in 2. They put in a metal pin, a standard operation for a dog but for a species as different as an Aardvark, rather unchartered territory. Both Doctors reported just how different his anatomy was and how the articulation at the joints was utterly odd. Their best accesible anatomy book was for a Dog’s muscles which is rather like using a Ford Fairmount Manual to drive the Space Shuttle. The most frightening part of the surgery though was the anaesthesia.
As part of our research we contacted a series of specialist Vets and Curators connected to American Zoos. Dr. Roberto Aguilar Veterinary Advisor – Xenartha Taxon Advisory Group was very helpful in recomending specific drugs and techniques that have worked well for him in surgery with Aardvarks and Pangolins. I cant remember the specific drug that Dr. Rottcher used but he mentioned that it was an ‘old fashioned’ one and that he did not have access to many of the modern drugs mentioned in the email from Dr. Aguilar. This had us worried, especially when it took Aarthur so long to come out of his drugged state. When we visited him in the evening at 7pm Aarthur was still totally out of it and unable to drink or eat. This was 4 hours after the surgery. Under the close and compassionate care of the Rottcher Family though, Aarthur made it through the night drinking roughly 90 Ml of his milk and termite milk shake when he finally stirred in the early hours of the morning.
Now Arthur has been home with us for a full 24 hours. He is eating well and sleeping well and is living now by the foot of our bed in a wooden box to contain his movement of his injured limb. We are feeding him every 2-3 hours but hope that we can find an easier schedule as we get to know Aarthur’s needs. A number of people besides those mentioned above have been very helpful advising us on how best to care for an Aardvark. We thank them for their kindness and they are mentioned in no particular order below:
This baby Aardvark was found during one of our camel safaris on Aug. 28th. This morning I took him to the vet for an x-ray after sleeping with him in the same bed. He has a broken leg and rib. The leg surgery on Thursday will be long says Dieter Rottcher the leading wildlife vet here. We just hope he will make it till thurs….