Keepers' Diaries, April 2018

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Losing Dame Daphne has been monumental and as you can imagine we are all so very saddened by this, but everyone understands too that the days have to continue as usual, as they have always done, mindful that we have to persevere and continue Daphne’s important pioneering work just as she would have wished. Daphne would have been especially gladdened by the news that Luggard has been improving daily and the swelling in his leg has reduced significantly. Towards the end of the month he was even trying to run to keep up with his friends when it was time for their milk bottle feeding. This is such positive news for us and this wonderfully brave little bull, which was dealt such a cruel beginning to life.

This month saw even more rain than we could have imagined. For nearly two weeks it poured almost every day with the consequence of massive flooding throughout the country, and especially around the edges of our main rivers in Kenya. It was not lost on us all that the heavens were weeping too. Some of the young orphans were very unimpressed by it all. Musiara, Maisha, Maktao, Sattao and Emoli tried to stay in their rooms on the colder and rainy mornings, even shouting in protest when the Keepers opened their doors for them to come out, just like a child that doesn’t want to get up for school in the morning! Often the Keepers just left them to it, and allowed them to join the others when they felt ready. Little Emoli is one orphan who really doesn’t like the rain when he is in his stable at night. The noise on his roof makes him very restless, yelling and even pulling the blanket of the sleeping Keeper in his room. Despite their best efforts nothing will calm him, and we just have to wait for the rain to abate for him to settle down! This is unfortunate for his neighbours as well. Being a drought victim all this rain is very much a new phenomenon for him.

Kiasa has again started her trick of refusing to enter her stockade in the evenings. We did wonder if she too did not like the sound of rain at night. She is becoming more and more like Esampu these days and is a little trouble-maker at feeding times. Kiasa has become so naughty and disruptive at that time we have had to consider not only feeding her last, but possibly graduating her to the older group like we were forced to do with Esampu, in order for the older elephants to naturally discipline her bad behaviour. Apart from being naughty at feeding times Kiasa has also picked up the bad habit of biting tails when she doesn’t get her way, which is of course very unpleasant for the others in her little group! It is so interesting how one disruptive naughty baby can influence others, and Esampu has quite possibly been the naughtiest baby we have ever had, so her influence can be felt. All this is entertaining and certainly keeps the Keepers on their toes at all times.

Shukuru is also improving at the Nairobi Nursery having been brought up from Ithumba in December to recover from blood parasites and her chronic condition. She is eating well and playing which is always a positive sign. Shukuru is a beautiful, gentle and well behaved elephant, who being much older likes to wander off and feed alone without the boisterous babies around her ankles, although she enjoys the company of free spirited elephants like Ndotto, Ndiwa and Mundusi who often join her.

Mbegu, Ngilai, Tamiyoi, Murit, Ndotto, Godoma and Kuishi have not lost their love for lucerne pellets. The Nursery orphans are not being fed them these days due to the abundant rain and vegetation, but Maxwell the rhino is, and it is funny to watch these orphans in particular constantly rushing to Maxwell’s stockade to find and collect up his leftovers. Tamiyoi yells in protest when the Keepers tell her to stop and move on, but Maxwell has his own way of getting rid of these pesky thieves. When he hears Mbegu and the others greedily trying to pick his pellets he turns around and sprays the area with urine! The elephants obviously find this most disconcerting and are quick to retreat.

In stark contrast to Esampu, Murit is a gentle polite elephant most of the time and has a good play-mate in Jotto. Jotto loves learning new wrestling tricks and Murit is happy to oblige and isn’t too tough on the young bulls. One day he decided to pick on some of the other younger orphans in his group, but he didn’t count on how seriously Godoma takes her matriarchal duties. The usually polite Murit was severely disciplined for prodding some of the youngsters with his small tusks and sent off into the bushes by the matronly Godoma for a time out!

Watching the orphans in the mud bath is always a source of great joy as they are so playful and carefree. Seeing them at play and without a care or worry, considering their traumatic past, is certainly uplifting. On those few days where the rain stayed away it was hotter than usual, building up to the next rain storm, and the orphans enjoyed playing and frolicking in the mud bath. Kiasa and Enkesha are avid mud lovers, but some of the others are much more discerning regarding the mud bath, and need fine weather in order to partake. The two little mud babies cannot resist come rain or shine. On several days we saw games ensue in which the obvious mud babies were joined by Malima and Tamiyoi and Emoli too, all enthusiastically engaging in pushing games with some of the others on the outside of the mud hole. Sometimes this resulted in the ones on the outside losing their footing and slipping in too.

Kiko was on good form this month, for the most part. There was one morning where he was particularly naughty by not allowing his Keeper to open his door properly, and when he finally managed, he bolted out and proceeded to cause trouble for the orphans and Keepers in the forest chasing them all. He seemed to enjoy this game, and he is certainly getting very grown up these days, so does command respect! One day he came across a lioness out in the Park and instead of running away he decided to sidle up to it. The Keepers called him and he eventually came back to them and the lioness ran away. He was very brave and there is no doubt a kick from Kiko could do significant harm to a lion, but we do not want to take any chances and he was taken back to the stockades for his own protection.

Maxwell has had a very wet and muddy time, with much of his boma his own mud bath this month – like most rhinos he actually loves this and becomes very playful, huffing and puffing and galloping around, but he does have his covered shelter with a bed of soft hay to retreat to if and when the rain and mud becomes too much for him. Some night time visitors have been keeping him occupied as well, with wild rhinos often coming under the cover of darkness to fraternize with him through the bars of his stockade.

Daphne had a very special friendship with Shabby, a sacred Ibis that Roan (Daphne’s youngest grandson, now 17) raised from infancy and Shabby has chosen to stay close to home despite having Nairobi National Park filled with haunts full of Sacred Ibis just a few flaps of his wings away. This has been the case for well over six years now, and Shabby has always been incredibly attached to Daphne, and the family, but also to Maxwell. These two have made an unlikely couple over the years, as Shabby’s friendship has never faulted. He spends endless hours perched on one leg next to a slumbering Maxwell, both attached to each other’s company. This enduring but unlikely friendship is incredibly heart-warming to watch, particularly as Shabby is free to be anywhere really. Shabby certainly has felt Daphne’s absence, and has instead become a clinging vine with the family now, sitting outside, and very often inside the house, being spoilt rotten with additional treats, but more than that, just comforted by being close while everyone comes to terms with events.

April 2018 day to day

01 Apr

Tiny Musiara seems to be missing the company of his friend Luggard who has not been accompanying the others out to the forest recently due to his poor swollen leg. Recently he has started to look better and the swelling has gone down a lot which eases his walking as well. Today Musiara came out of his room and went straight to Luggard’s door and pushed on it, as if to alert Luggard that it was time to walk out together like they used to do before his leg became so swollen. When the door to Luggard’s stable was opened Musiara rushed in and they entwined trunks which is a sign of morning greetings. Luggard takes some time to warm up for his walk outside into the compound and beyond, but Musiara walked behind him and pushed him from behind, and that was all the encouragement that Luggard needed and he happily walked out with Musiara walking behind him to make sure they both walked out to the bush together. They stayed together up until the morning bottle feeding time, after which Musiara went to join the other group leaving Luggard happily browsing with his keeper.

Little Musiara misses his friend

Luggard out in the bushes

Luggard following the other orphans and Kiko