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….
Here is a good article that outlines the effectiveness of Family Planning and, sadly, the consequences of cutting its funding. Population is the issue that international and domestic environmentalists are forced to ignore for political reasons but it is absolutely the most pressing issue (environmentally as well as politically) facing Kenya.
Two of our hardest to see animals are pictured here, a Bush Duiker and a male Bushbuck. While common in other parts of Kenya they are infrequent in our area and we see them only occasionally. Both of these animals have been spending quite a bit of time near our camp on the river recently and it has been nice to have them around.
Before saying anything i would like to state that i’m not a global warming sceptic. People have to do this these days so that they are not accused of being a Nazi empathizer or in the pocket of the oil industry. Human beings follow trends and one that has been quite long lasting has been a total focus on carbon emmissions. While there is surely some merit to these concerns I find that the carbon debate too often supersedes all other issues that could possibly also be influencing our weather. A principal and most basic example is deforestation. Kenya like much of the world has been deforested over a great majority of its arable area. If you take away the trees the rivers stop, the surface temperatures rise and weather patterns change. And yet despite these obvious repurcussions the international press remains confident that Africa’s problems are imposed utterly by greedy westerners watching their flat screen TVs. Does the western world use too much of the world’s resources? YES, again – obvious, but this is to me not the sole issue at play when it comes to droughts like the one that we are experiencing in Kenya now. If you remove a massive percent of a countries trees, there will be repurcusions. This is what i beleive is happening here in Kenya. And yet, there was this article in BBC yesterday about how many African Leaders are meeting in Addis to conspire how best to squeeze “Climate Change Cash” from the first world.
How many of these leaders have made forest conservation a priority during their time in office? How many of these leaders have safeguarded their own forest and water resources for the wellbeing of their people? “Climate Change Cash” is one of those sickening ideas that will spell nothing for the average African suffering from drought. “Climate Change Cash” is one of those ideas that will only improve the lives of the leaders who can grab it as well as their friends in the climate-NGO world who will broker the deal and drive all over Nairobi in their gas guzzling Toyota VXs.
One of the principal reasons that global warming is so resonant around the world is that so many people actually feel that their world is warmer than it was when they were kids. While this may be true, the majority of these people are from suburbs of large cities (nobody listens to people from the country). These suburbs are far less treed than they were when these people were young. Less trees, more concrete and tarmack parking lots and…. I think you know where I’m going. It may actually be that global warming would not be discernible to many world citizens if it had not been for localized deforestation during the course of their lives. Not surprising also, is that many of the temperature recording stations worldwide are located in these same suburban, degraded habitats and so have confirmed these suspicions by showing increases in localized temperatures since they began recording.
With all this said it does seem that global average ocean temperature (a much more improtant indicator) has been increasing but to all the members of the Global Footprint Army, I ask, How do you distinguish the influences of carbon from the influences of deforestation? Is the world all going to be saved if we all drive a Prius? What about the trees kids?
Tumaren, as our Elephant had become known, spent the night in Hassan’s room at our main Office/Camp. She had a very long night pacing and bellowing in a shriek-type call i can only compare to the noises Dynosaurs make in hollywood films. Because she was under the same corrugated iron roof as everybody else it was a long night for all. Our original plan was to keep her window open so that she could check on me in my bed that i had set just beneath it. I had gone with this idea rather than sleeping inside the room because Tumaren was still quite feisty and she would have squashed me while i slept. The problem though that i found just as i was saying goodnight to Tumaren through the window was made quite clear as she launched both front feet up onto the sill and used her head and trunk to drag the rest of her body up so that she was teetering on the sill, trying to escape completly. Now i found myself in the strange position of wrestling an elephant alone at night in a window. I screamed for help. With the assistance of Leshilling and Tation we were able to get Tumaren back into the room. We then had to seal the window to prevent any further escapes.
After about 2 am Tumaren calmed a bit and while he kept pacing he stopped screaming. I got up every few hours to look in on him and allow him to smell me and be reassured.
In the morning we made a plan with some Kenya Wildlife Service representives to inspect Tumaren’s mum and get the go-ahead to send Tumaren to the orphanage in Nairobi. Mr. Dixon Too, Senior Warden for Laikipia and Senior Elephant Programme Co-ordinator Mr. Moses Litoroh.
After having a look at Tumaren’s mother they concluded, as we did the day before, that she should be put down. Afterward, It was a releif to know that she was no longer in pain and it was also good that we had removed Tumaren the night before so that she was not present at such a horrible moment.
As soon as we we able to, we called The Sheldrick Trust to notify them that Tumaren was ready for pick up. When back at the office we entered Tumaren’s room to calm her a bit before moving her. She was drinking well and even eating soft grasses that we picked for her.
After tying her legs, placing a blanket on her head and wetting down her skin a bit we drove Tumaren on her side to the Kimanjo Airstrip. From there she was picked up by a Boskovitch Airways Flight and brought successfully to the Orphanage.
We will keep you all up on Tumaren’s news as she fits in with the other orpahns. We are told to expect that she will loose some condition in the next week as she deals with the stress but that she should begin to regain condition after that period. Good Luck Tumaren!
Yesterday afternoon we received a report from one of our returning walking safari teams that they had passed a dying mother Elephant with one small young. The guys said that the elephant had appeared like it was sleeping but it was shortly realized that it could not stand up even as it struggled with the fear of approaching humans. Our team left the mother and young and returned to our camp to report what they had found. We jumped in the car and found this sad scene, the young female nibbling on her mums ear and appearing stressed and worried.
After deciding that the mother had a very short while to live, we decided to take the young Elephant to our camp rather than risk an almost certain death at night by Lion or Hyena. When we approached the little ele tried to defend her mum which was very heart breaking.
After a bit of a struggle we got the little elephant to the ground tied her feet and covered her eyes with a blanket to reduce stress. We then drove her to our camp where we lodged her in Hassan’s room.
With orphaned baby elephants it is important to reduce stress (as much as humanly possible), retain warmth and keep fluids up. This is why we had to keep the blanket on our little friend and also why I remained inside her room for long periods of time so that she would become accustomed to us and to realize that we were not going to threaten or kill her. To begin with she would ram me with incredible power into the wall. I learned to use the mattress below to divert her from squashing me completely matador style and then stroke and comfort her so that she knew that i was not going to harm her.
Conclusion of our long night to be told tomorrow as i slept very little last night. In the course of the evening we decided that our little friend should be named Tumaren.
It is too easy to give animals human attributes, particularly when you have an animal dealing with the death of one of its own. Yet the following pictures, that were taken over a 24 hour period after a young female elephant’s death, are compelling and leave little doubt that animals mourn.
In the next two shots the mother lies down beside her calf and sleeps for several hours. At this point the young Elephant had been dead for more than 12 hours.
In the past month a number of Elephants in our area have died of a strange, yet undiagnosed (atleast by us) disease. Our tracker Leshilling Lemanyass says that he has seen this problem with Elephants many times and that he suspects it effects their stomach and digestion. We have found two sick animals on us both of whom appeared to have trouble passing their manure (legs spread in a prolonged and uncomfortable looking way). Our guys who work for us as Rangers and as trackers on our safaris have also described skin problems corresponding with this disease. If anyone knows anything about this disease which has been killing many elephants in the greater Laikipia / Samburu area we would love to know the what it is. These sad pictures are of a young female that we found this morning as it was dying. Its mother was still guarding it and it was only for a few minutes that we were able to get to her. We assumed that she was already dead but she was still breathing but with no movement from any other part of her body besides her blinking eyelid. Very sad.
This is an image of the mother and matriarch guarding the body:
30 Wilddog at Tumaren yesterday drinking water about our river camp! I sent the pictures to the Laikipia Wilddog Project with two close ups of 2 of their collared animals. Kayna from the LWP was able to confirm the identity of both dogs based on markings, one of which was the alpha male. This particular pack also is one that typically spends more time north of here and it was informative for Kayna to know that they sometimes also frequent our area. Now she says that when she cant get a signal during their tracking flights that they will remember to cover our area as well to see if they are in our neck of the woods. Such incredible animals.