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.
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:
A baby elephant was found dead today on us below our dam in an area the elephants have been spending a good deal of time. The carcass appears to be about three days old. There were lion tracks nearby as well as Hyena but our rangers felt that neither killed it. Because not all of the carcass was yet consumed they thought he may have died from disease and that the hyenas had then fed on it. We have put the camera trap on the carcass. Poor little thing.
After about 6 months of large herds of elephant on us the groups are beginning to disperse with only the odd bull passing through. this is in a way a relief. our poor trees need some time to grow a bit and recover from all the damage. pictured below is the big boss bull we call rob with some females behind.