Keepers' Diaries, April 2010

Nairobi Nursery Unit

The very sudden and unexpected death of a great Nursery favourite, Nchan, during the early hours of 15th April came as a devastating blow for us all. We had nurtured Nchan in the Nursery for a full year and she had always been a very happy and playful little elephant who appeared to be in good health with nothing untoward to warn us of such an impending disaster. She was deeply loved, both by all her Keepers as well as the other Nursery babies - a very caring and gentle little elephant who had the makings of a wonderful Matriarch and who enjoyed life to the full right up until the moment she was suddenly taken ill.

01 April 2010

All the babies emerged from their Night Stables in a happy mood, with Sities the centre of attraction for the older females. Olare, Suguta, Ndii and Dida each wanted her, but it was Olare who won the little newcomer’s affection, touching her tenderly with her trunk and allowing her to suckle on her ears. Meanwhile Dida, Suguta and Ndii were pushing and shoving in order to get close to Sities, whilst Shukuru, Tano and Mutara played rolling games close to the Keepers and Kilaguni and Kibo engaged one another in a test of strength. However, due to heavy overnight rain, the two contestants kept slipping and falling down. Once out in the bush, the older elephants fed calmly, while Sities, Shukuru and Tano remained close to their Keepers. However, Mutara decided that she was now a big elephant, and joined the older group.

02 April 2010

All the elephants enjoyed an early morning mud game when Sabachi, Kilaguni, Kibo and Tumaren became so muddy that it was difficult to recognize who was who! Today, little Sities was taken by Suguta and enjoyed suckling on her ears, while Shukuru remained close rather than join Mutara and Tano. Kalama, Nchan, Turkwel and Kudup split from the rest of the herd to browse near a small running rainwater stream where Kalama and Nchan enjoyed taking water up in their trunks to splash onto Turkwel and Kudup. Chemi Chemi, who was watching from a distance joined in the splashing game, Turkwel and Kudup being the target. His intervention angered Kudup, who charged and knocked him over, but before the Keepers had time to respond to his bellows, he was up and off to join the others.

03 April 2010

A family of warthogs, who were feeding close to the elephants, caused a stir when they began to run. The orphans all headed in different directions – Dida, Kimana and Melia heading for the Stockades while Mutara, Chemi Chemi and Tano rushed to the Keepers. Olare, Ndii and Sabachi decided to be defensive, and began charging bushes and even birds flying above their heads. It took the Keepers some time to restore order, but even then Dida, Sabachi and Ndii were restless, constantly on the look-out with outstretched ears!

04 April 2010

The morning was dominated by frequent light showers, which meant that the orphans had to don rain-wear. However, the very small orphans, namely Tano, Shukuru, Mutara, Sities and Chemi Chemi had to remain in-doors, which they didn’t approve of at all! Meanwhile, the older elephants had a wonderful time slipping and sliding and playing in puddles, with the young bulls playing pushing games, Kilaguni as usual taking on Kibo while Sabachi engaged Kimana. By noon, the weather had cleared up, so the babies could appear for the mudbath hour and had fun sliding down a large pile of earth. Sities was very playful, climbing back up the pile after sliding down, and thereby winning applause from the visitors.

05 April 2010

Whilst the youngsters enjoyed playing in the compound before heading out to browse, Kibo, who was looking for his friend, Kilaguni, interrupted events by trying to mount Kudup, who was down on her knees. As the Keepers homed in to reprimand him, he rapidly left Kudup and again went in search of Kilaguni who was already on his way out to browse. Whenever the two meet, they always engaged one another in a test of strength, and today was no exception. Such contests are invariably won by Kilaguni, who is older and stronger, but who is always magnanimous when victorious over his best friend. At around 4 p.m. Suguta and her group found a large pool of water out in the bush and, led by Suguta, all then enjoyed cooling their bodies. Soon the entire group were plastered in mud - even little Sities, who although prevented by the Keepers from actually getting wet, nevertheless got muddy rubbing her body up against the others.

06 April 2010

As soon as the orphans were let out of their night quarters, they all ran to greet one another, Dida, Olare and Ndii running towards the babies’ stables to meet up with Sities, whom they all adore. Suguta and Tumaren were put out, because Dida, Olare and Ndii managed to sandwich Sities in between. Suguta feels that she has more right to the baby who is within her group, and as the older elephants pushed and shoved, little Sities spotted Suguta and ran to her, welcomed by a loud rumble. Once out in the bush Chaimu and Kimana lagged behind the others, being occupied with a pushing game which Chaimu easily won. All browsed calmly until the 9 a.m. milk feed, which the babies took first, followed by the others. Later the older group game across a muddy pool into which Kilaguni, Olare, Chaimu and Ndii jumped, leaving the others browsing.

07 April 2010

On another beautiful morning, Sities, as usual, was mobbed by all the bigger girls, whilst Shukuru ran around searching for her favourite Keeper, Mischak Nzimbi, whom she adores, as, in fact, do all the orphans. Kimana and Chaimu appeared to have an old score to settle. They engaged one another furiously, while Sabachi and Tumaren also enjoyed a more peaceful pushing game, and Kilaguni invited Olare to a contest, not having found Kibo. Suguta meanwhile was very happy mothering baby Sities, until it was time to be led by the Keepers out into the forest to browse.

08 April 2010

Since the arrival of Sities in the Nursery, Shukuru, who used to be the smallest, and as such the favourite of all the older females, has been over-shadowed by the latest tiny arrival. Olare, Ndii, Suguta and Tumaren are always pushing and shoving to be close to Sities, rather than paying attention to Shukuru. Olare always manages to commandeer Sities until the Keepers separate them, when Suguta takes over.

09 April 2010

Early in the morning, Tano, Shukuru and Mutara had a wonderful time chasing the warthog piglets around the yard until the piglets disappeared from view behind a bush. Chemi Chemi’s character reflects that of Sabachi. He is a glutton, and very pushy towards all the others, targeting even those a lot older and bigger than himself. They merely ignore his aggression and do not retaliate, as though they understand that he is still mentally angry at having lost his elephant family. The Keepers have to keep him from the smaller babies, Tano, Shukuru, Mutara and little Sities, because he cannot be trusted to be gentle with them.

10 April 2010

It was a hot day, and the baby group, led by Tumaren, all enjoyed a mudwallow after their noon milk feed, rolling around in the mud and kicking the football around in the pool. The Keepers had difficulty keeping Sities from joining in, fearing that she might be inadvertently harmed in the melee. Instead they made a little mudbath for her on the side, which she greatly enjoyed. At the 3 p.m. feed out in the bush Turkwel and Kalama, who are arch rivals, had to be separated by the Keepers and fed apart from one another, having engaged one another in a fierce fight.

11 April 2010

First thing in the morning saw the usual female scramble to take possession of little Sities, Olare pushing Suguta, Ndii, Tumaren and Dida aside to gain access, offering her ears to be sucked. Nchan and Kibo enjoyed a pushing game before Kilaguni who happened to be passing by in his search for Kibo, intervened and broke the game up.

12 April 2010

On another beautiful morning, the Nursery elephants were happy to meet up outside their stables, with Suguta, Ndii, Dida and Olare, as usual, all eager to get closest to baby Sities, all wanting to mother her. Once the Keepers escorted the older elephants out into the bush to browse, Suguta took over and led her group in a different direction to the others, allowing Sities to suckle her ears. Once Kilaguni had conquered his friend Kibo in a test of strength, he took on Sabachi who enjoyed the contest immensely.

13 April 2010

The morning began as usual, with all the older females vying with one another for Sities, and the young bulls engaging one another in tests of strength. Whilst the older females were in competition for Sities, it was Sities herself who settled the dispute by choosing Suguta, planting herself firmly under Suguta’s chin embraced by Suguta’s trunk! This angered Olare and Ndii, who demonstrated their frustration by knocking down small bushes on the way out to join Dida, who had capitulated earlier.

14 April 2010

On their way out to the forest, the orphans came across two female warthogs and their piglets. Dida, Ndii, Sabachi and Chaimu began to charge at the warthog family, who frustrated them by not running off. Instead, confronting them in between Dida and Sabachi. This left Dida and Sabachi badly shaken, prompting them to run to their Keepers, followed by the entire herd, who clustered around their Keepers, unsure of what to do next! Meanwhile Chemi Chemi continues to head but all the other elephants for no apparent reason, and has earned the unenviable nick-name of Osama!

15 April 2010

It was a very sad day in the Nursery, because we lost Nchan, a dearly loved elephant, who had been with us many months, and who suddenly refused her 3 p.m. feed, obviously suffering stomach pain. The Vet came to assess her, and gave her an injection of Buscopan, which made her feel a little better, because she took her 6 p.m. and midnight feed. However, she then blew up like a balloon and began rolling on the ground in great pain, surrounded by Daphne and Angela Sheldrick and her grieving Keepers, who could do nothing to help or save her. The entire establishment was left in shock because Nchan was a particularly endearing little elephant and a great favourite within the Nursery. There were no dry eyes that day.

16 April 2010

As the orphans gathered outside their stables in the morning, it was obvious that the death of Nchan had not gone un-noticed by all the elephants, and especially Tano who spent a long time in Kalama’s stable next door to the one that had been occupied by Nchan. Tano then went to the sleeping stables of Kibo, Kudup and Turkwel searching for Nchan, and having not found her, sought comfort with Kudup who is always gentle and welcoming. During the noon milk feed Chemi Chemi abandoned his bottle to head but Mutara who was taking hers quietly close by. He was firmly admonished by the Keepers. An autopsy on the body of Nchan was undertaken by the Vet in the morning, and revealed that she had died of peritonitis caused by a burst duodenal ulcer, and that nothing anyone could have done would have saved her. The Vet felt that the ulcer must have been caused by the stress of falling down the Milgis well, and having been pulled clear just before the lugga flooded, being left unattended and feeling vulnerable to attack from hyenas, who were never far away, but kept at bay by her rescuers throughout the night. Everyone hoped that her elephant family would return and reclaim her, but sadly this did not happen and she was flown to the Nursery the following morning.

17 April 2010

It was another chilly, rainy morning, so the small orphans had to remain protected by blankets in their night quarters until the weather cleared. The older group were allowed out wearing rain gear and thoroughly enjoyed the wet conditions, playing in the puddles and the mud. Chaimu, Sabachi, Melia and Kimana found a small stream and enjoyed playing in it, dashing up and down the running water making as much splash as possible. Later, when the weather improved, they were joined by the babies, led by Mutara who also all enjoyed sliding and rolling in the mud.

18 April 2010

It was another chilly, wet morning that kept the babies inside their stables for several hours until the weather improved. Kilaguni and Kibo enjoyed a tough pushing game, complicated by the muddy conditions, closely watched by Sabachi, who was anxious to join in. Today Kibo managed to get the edge of Kilaguni, who slipped in the mud and lost his balance!

19 April 2010

Suguta and her group had a lot of fun out in the bush. Chemi Chemi still acts rough, and never misses a chance to head but anyone in front of him. The Keepers have nick-named him Alkaida! This morning he tried to target Sities, who was very close to Suguta, and found him charged by Suguta, forcing him to run off screaming! Kalama and Kibo dispersed a family of warthogs who were feeding nearby while Tumaren embarked on a dustbath at a pile of soft earth which attracted Shukuru, Sities and Mutara. Tumaren then lay down to entice the three babies to enjoy playing on top of her which they did.

20 April 2010

Olare gave the babies a demonstration of how to deter intruders, charging at anything she saw in their path as they ventured out into the forest, even birds that flew overhead. She trampled small shrubs trumpeting with her ears outspread. Mutara, Shukuru, Tano and Turkwel emulated her and likewise began running around with their ears at right angles whilst Chaimu who was feeding nearby with Dida and Kimana then also joined in, running towards Olare with her trunk curled under her chin. While the girls were tutoring the babies about charging, Kimana decided to look for his friend Sabachi and having met up, they engaged one another in a thrilling highly charged test of strength.

21 April 2010

As soon as she was let out in the morning, Suguta ran to baby Sities stable to greet her. However, there she found Olare blocking her way, so she pretended to walk away but then turned round rapidly and charged Olare, knocking her down. Suguta then ran behind the stables to avoid Olare’s retaliation, which was aimed at Sabachi instead, who just happened to be standing close. Olare then went in search of Suguta, but the Keepers read her intention, and moved the Senior group away before Suguta was found.

22 April 2010

Out in the forest today Turkwel and Mutara were overjoyed to be given the chance to baby-sit Sities whilst Suguta took time out to play with her friend Tumaren. Whilst the two older girls were occupied Turkwel and Mutara differed about whose ears the baby should suck which ended in a fight, both head butting each other in the contest to be closest to Sities. Kudup ran towards the two and separated them, pushing Turkwel away first and then Mutara in a different direction, before returning to baby-sit Sities until Suguta took possession of her again.

23 April 2010

Ndii and Olare were enjoying a pushing game just outside their stables in the morning. Kilaguni passed by, looking for his friend Kibo, and decided to join in, which interrupted the girls’ game. As the two girls moved off, Kilaguni resumed his search for Kibo, swinging his trunk happily from side to side. As soon as the two boys met up, after the usual friendly greeting, they began their usual strength testing game.

24 April 2010

Suguta and her group enjoyed the late afternoon sun. Whilst some enjoyed a soil dusting, Turkwel and Kudup browsed nearby until a family of warthogs appeared from behind a bush. Suguta immediately kept an eye on them, waiting for them to come closer, and then charged at them at high speed, which dispersed them in all directions. Suguta then targeted the oldest piglet to run after, with the National Geographic Cameraman hot on her heels. Suguta did not like that, and having seen off the piglet, charged at Nick, sending him running away!

25 April 2010

It was a dull, cloudy morning, which dampened the spirits of the orphans somewhat and left them subdued. Even Kilaguni and Kibo forwent their usual pushing match. Suguta stayed close to Sities, while the others browsed not far from the Stockades. After the noon milk feed, dark clouds obscured the sun, so the orphans remained close to shelter in case it began to rain. Chemi Chemi and Kalama had a brief pushing game.

26 April 2010

After the 9 a.m. feed Turkwel and Shukuru engaged one another in a pushing game, Turkwel kneeling down to make the match more even. Whilst the two girls were enjoying their game, Chemi Chemi tried to join in, but was rejected! He head butted Shukuru, knocking her down screaming, so Turkwel swiftly moved in to corner him, head butting him hard several times before he managed to escape.

27 April 2010

Today Chemi Chemi was moved into the stable next door to Kalama once occupied by Nchan. Kalama has been accommodating towards the Nursery rough boy and today attempted to play with him out in the bush, but was knocked down instead! However, Kalama returned to try and indulge Chemi Chemi, who is now her night neighbour.

28 April 2010

The character of Turkwel has changed, who in the beginning was also pushy and naughty, but who, having seen the behaviour of Chemi Chemi, is now much more responsible and peaceful. She enjoys being loving towards, and taking care of, baby Sities when Suguta and Tumaren are otherwise occupied, and never displays aggression against the others. We are sure that Chemi Chemi will be the same once the lingering resentment of losing his elephant mother and family has been erased by the passage of time.

29 April 2010

Every morning there is a contest between Olare, Suguta and Ndii over sweet Sities, Olare always emerging the winner offering Sities her ears to suck. Kilaguni and Kibo as usual engaged one another in the usual pushing game until they spotted Kimana trying to make up his mind to disperse some warthogs who were feeding nearby, and decided to reinforce the chase. Having had fun with the warthogs for about 30 minutes, all the orphans resumed browsing.

30 April 2010

Very light rain dampened the earth, so the orphans enjoyed rolling games outside their stables in the morning. Chaimu and Tumaren chose an incline and had fun sliding down it in turns, joined by Chemi Chemi and Shukuru. After about 20 minutes the Keepers led the orphans to a clearing out in the forest so that they could be anointed with coconut oil, something that takes place every Friday.