Keepers' Diaries, April 2014

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Little Kamok, as “mini matriarch”, is very protective over Ashaka, meeting her at the stable door in order to escort her and Kauro for another day in the bush. Their days are spent playfully bumping and barging into each other, dust bathing with the fresh red soil and of course Keeper time. Their tiny trunks can only pick up small amounts of soil so the keepers happily assist them. All three babies are doing well, playing and putting on condition.

Little Kamok, as “mini matriarch”, is very protective over Ashaka, meeting her at the stable door in order to escort her and Kauro for another day in the bush. Their days are spent playfully bumping and barging into each other, dust bathing with the fresh red soil and of course Keeper time. Their tiny trunks can only pick up small amounts of soil so the keepers happily assist them. All three babies are doing well, playing and putting on condition.

On the 11th April the Nursery Unit welcomed a new arrival; Sokotei a young bull from Samburu National Reserve, whose mother sadly passed away from a prolonged illness. He was named after an indigenous shrub, because he gave his rescuers quite the runaround through thick Sokotei bush.

On arrival at the nursery Sokotei was extremely thirsty and drank lots of milk and rehydration straight away. He was pretty calm from the start, despite his ordeal, and joined the younger group of orphans just the day after he arrived. Little Oltaiyoni and Arruba welcomed him warmly, but the young boys Kithaka, Rorogoi, Lemoyian and Barsilinga were a bit too rough initially and had to be warned by the keepers. At first he was reluctant to enter his stable in the evenings, but Murera and Sonje gave him much comfort and helped him settle in so he soon embraced his new family. Initially he was in a stable next to Kauro, but he was later moved close to Barsilinga who was able to communicate more with him and he settled in completely. Barsilinga, Rorogoi and Kithaka helped escort him back in the evenings until he was comfortable on his own, but now days he is familiar with the routines.

The main preoccupation of the Boys is to play vigorous pushing games which normally start after the Big Girls, Murera and Sonje, have left their Night Stockades to go and check on the younger elephants such as Sokotei and Oltaiyoni. Mischievous Kithaka often challenges Balguda and Kithaka becomes very frustrated if Balguda wins. However, sparring with his best friend, Lemoyian, which often ends in a draw or Kithaka winning, usually cheers him up again.

There is never a dull day at the nursery when Kithaka is around. He is always the center of attention at the foster parent visit in the evening as he attracts people to his stable by waving his trunk and clambering on his stable door. He will resort to anything for attention. The public visiting hour and mud bath wallow always brings a lot of enjoyment for the elephant orphans. Lemoyian has started copying some of Kithaka’s bad habit’s and will deliberately bump into any guests within range. However, it was Teleki that won everyone over when he decided to do a head stand by putting his head in the mud wallow and lifting his hind leg in the air.

Of late Bomani has taken to separating himself from the other orphans and browses independently. As a young bull he is eager to demonstrate that he is self-sufficient and not reliant on his peers. Orwa and Teleki are the older boys who usually stick close to their best friends. Orwa enjoys being with Murera and Sonje while Teleki seeks out the likes of Ziwa, Lima lima and Quanza. Orwa, with his best friends Bomani and Teleki are nearly ready for the next phase and will be heading to the Ithumba rehabilitation unit in the coming months.

Our youngest nursery babies have had quite an eventful time this month. On the 14th of April two lions attacked and killed a young male warthog near where the three young orphans were browsing. They clung to their Keepers, who slowly walked them away as the lions dragged their kill into the bushes. The Keepers with the littlest orphans wear red Masai Shuka’s that act as a lion deterrent, but of course everyone has to be vigilant as they are vulnerable.

Later on in the month when a French TV Unit was filming the orphans, another two lions appeared in pursuit of a warthog who managed to escape in thick bush. The lions continued to patrol around searching for their lost meal as the keepers steered the young orphans away from the vicinity. All the action was caught on camera so the crew walked away with dramatic footage from that day. Once all the excitement had calmed down Kamok left the safety of her keepers to act as mini matriarch once again, attempting to push the filming unit away from Ashaka and Kauro.

On the 2nd of April, baby Ashaka developed some small swellings on the inner side of her left leg which exuded a little pus so were cleaned and anointed with green clay. They didn’t seem to inhibit her movement and she was still playful and happy. However, by the 6th little Ashaka appeared “dull”. A blood sample revealed she had a mild bacterial infection and she was medicated accordingly. A couple of days later she was looking herself again even putting on a great show for the public as her and Kamok enjoyed an exuberant dust bathing session.

Little Kauro has been struggling with teething this month, which always proves problematic for the young infants, and he has lost some condition because of it. The good news is by month’s end Kauro had finally cut his fourth baby molar and as result was much more lively and happy.

The Big Girls, Murera and Sonje continue to separate Orwa, Teleki, Jasiri, Faraja, Quanza, Zongoloni and Lima Lima from the other orphans and take them deeper into the forest. When found by the keepers they are often reluctant to return for the evening, but they are still too young and vulnerable to be left on their own. On the 4th April they even walked as far as Banda Gate, where they have never been before on their own. At over five years old, Murera feels sufficiently confident to act like a wild elephant and will shortly be moving to the new Rehabilitation Unit in the Kibwezi forest, along with her best friend Sonje, once the new facilities have been completed.

Murera and Sonje have on many occasions acted as the protectors of the other orphans which suggests they will make excellent matriarchs in the new Kibwezi Forest Unit. One day the young boys were playing when they happened upon some sleeping buffaloes. Oltaiyoni, Kithaka, Lemoyian, Rorogoi and Barsilinga panicked and rushed back to their keepers trumpeting, but Murera and Sonje initiated a bush bashing display to scare the buffaloes away, protecting the younger orphans and their Keepers. The next morning, Jasiri, Faraja, Teleki, Nelion, Lentili and Lima lima were scared by a bushbuck scampering past them. They embarked on a trumpeting “bush bashing” display which attracted the rest of the herd, who joined in. It was Murera, Sonje and Orwa that remained behind to continue threatening whatever had scared the youngsters. Then during the night of the 16th hyenas were howling whilst prowling around the stockades scaring all the orphans. Murera and Sonje charged their stable doors in an attempt to deter the hyenas and make them leave. Even when Solio, the rhino ex-orphan encountered the elephant orphans, Murera and Sonje, with the backup of Quanza and Orwa charged her, prompting her to hasten her progress along with her tail up.

Nelion and Tundani remain best friends and share their night stockades without any friction whatsoever, with good friend Lentille next door. They are all really sweet to observe as they are never far from each other. Ngasha is growing apace and sleeps in a stable next to Lemoiyan, but is fast outgrowing the stable and will shortly need to move into a stockade once some of the older orphans progress to the rehabilitation units. We anticipate Ziwa will also be relocating to Ithumba soon. He has settled well and will enjoy the company of the older ex orphans there, along with the wild elephants. This is because he remembers his elephant family having been orphaned much older and recently. Zongoloni’s road to healing has been long and painful as she remembers her lost mother vividly and the terrible circumstances surrounding her end. In the recent weeks she really does seem to be finding happiness once more. Suswa is a wonderfully gentle elephant, but for a long time she was not putting on condition which worried us; with a change of milk her condition has improved enormously as have her energy levels.

The Rhinos:

Maxwell is always visibly delighted when Solio comes back to the Stockade for a visit, as are all the DSWT staff. Her first visit was on the 7th April when she came in the early morning whilst Maxwell was still sleeping. Solio gave a loud snort which instantly woke Maxwell who jumped up to greet her. As usual they locked horns through the stockades and spent a few hours together. When Solio decided to leave, Max cried after her desperate for her to stay a little longer. However, we know Solio is enjoying her wild status amongst her wild rhino friends and has even befriended a female rhino with a calf about Solio’s age.

It wasn’t until the 26th April that Solio returned to see Maxwell again who was wildly excited by her appearance as always. They played through the stockades for a while before Solio returned to the safety of her stable to rest. Maxwell lay by her side and was visibly disappointed when she decided to leave. Sadly, with Maxwell’s genetic eye condition he will never be able to have a wild life like Solio, but everyone at DSWT nursery spoils him so he is never short of treats or attention and we are confident he is genuinely happy having known nothing else.

Solio paid Max another visit on the 29th April. En route back to the Stockades she startled the elephants orphans for a second time, who ran back trumpeting to their Keepers, unsure of what had disturbed them. Solio spent a long time inspecting all the interesting rhino scents on the rocks beside the forest on her way back, while the Keepers rounded up the nervous elephants, some of whom had run back to the Stockades! As usual Max was overjoyed by yet another Solio visit. It is amazing knowing that Solio remembers she has a safe place to stay and visits regularly, instantly returning to the stockade reserved just for her. The strong bond that has developed between these two rhino’s is incredible and it’s wonderful that Maxwell can still have the company and companionship of another rhino.

April 2014 day to day

01 Apr

Tiny Kamok woke up in a happy mood, and immediately went to Ashaka’s stable door to collect her, playfully bumping into one another as they then went o Kauro’s door where they waited for his Keeper to let him out. As soon as he merged, they greeted him warmly, and all three then made their way out into the bush, pausing en route to take a dust bath in loose soil. As they could only pick up a little in their tiny trunks, the Keeper assisted them.

Kamok sucks the keepers fingers, Kauro follows

Ashaka loves her keeper