Keepers' Diaries, April 2019

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

It was very hot at the Nursery as we built up to rain and waited anxiously for its arrival, mindful of the fact that as the vegetation dried the orphans had to walk further afield in search of adequate browse.

It was endearing to watch the likes of little Larro and newcomer Kiombo following Malima and Sagala around, both of whom have become more ‘motherly’ and caring towards the youngsters recently. They, being older and taller, reached up into the higher branches of the trees and pulled them down so that the younger and smaller ones could feed on the high branches as well. Malima might be kinder to the little orphans these days, but she is still very cheeky and sometimes doesn’t listen to her Keepers, along with her friend Kuishi as well. These two naughty girls might be the first to move to Tsavo at the end of the month, so they can be taught some manners by the older dependent elephants at our Relocation Units. Kuishi likes to try and suck up the spilled milk in the wheelbarrow at feeding times, and she doesn’t like to share this with any of the other babies. She can cause a bit of a fracas at bottle feeding times, as well as Kiasa who still is as mischievous as ever. One day she couldn’t find any spilled milk in the wheelbarrow, and in protest she started flinging the empty milk bottles out with her trunk!

Emoli seems to be the naughtiest boy presently in the herd, and even though others like Musiara like to play, they do their best to avoid him. Mini-matriarchs Malima and Tamiyoi very much keep an eye on him however, and are quick to discipline him if he is naughty with any of the other orphans. Mukkoka as he grows older is developing a bit of a naughty side too, and has been seen picking on new arrival Kiombo. Kiombo, despite Mukkoka’s antics, seems to be adapting well to life in the Nursery. He sometimes appears to do his own thing and can been seen browsing on his own. Most of the time, however, he is seen with Kuishi and Malima who both protect him fiercely from naughty boys such as Mukkoka.

Tagwa is still a fantastic matriarch, and has tuned into her favourite baby Sattao’s voice. If she ever hears him crying out for any reason she will always run to his aide. Enkesha is becoming a good little leader as well, and seems determined to form her own little splinter herd so she can lead them around. Early one morning she was seen leading Luggard, Nabulu, Kiombo, Mukkoka and Larro into the deep thicket. The seven stayed away from the orphan herd for so long that the Keepers had to go in search of them when it was time for their 9am bottles of milk. They were all found with Enkesha in the front and Larro and the others following closely behind. 

Nabulu has settled in very well now into life at the Nursery. She now knows the milk feeding times and knows that after having her midday bottle of milk, she is to have a mud or dust bath before heading back to the forest. Although she has adapted well, she is still cautious of the naughtier characters such as Kiasa. Kiasa, Maktao, and Dololo can often be spotted trying to climb on her back and disturb her during her mud bath sessions. However, she is often found hanging out with Tamiyoi, Malima, Sattao and Larro as they all appear to enjoy her company enormously. 

Musiara and Luggard are two orphans who are night stable neighbours and who are a good example of how neighbours very soon become best friends. With the limp he suffers from, Luggard doesn’t move very fast and Musiara knows this as well; he never walks very fast either. Since the other orphans are always on the move looking for enough browse to fill them up, the two bulls lag behind as the others disappear off into the thicket. Jotto is very mindful of his friend Luggard as well, and doesn’t like to leave him on his own. One day when Luggard was lagging behind, Jotto kept going back to check on him, and at one stage he even pushed Luggard gently from behind, as if to try and make him keep up with the others! In the end the two friendly bulls ended up browsing in each other’s company.

Contrary to what we normally find with stockade neighbours, Maktao is still at odds with Kiasa and they seem to constantly be in dispute over each other’s greens in the evening, pushing and pulling each other’s’ branches through the divider – sometimes there is nothing the Keepers can do to stop them, and they have to put up with their antics all night long!

When the rains finally began towards the end of the month, this meant the youngsters like Larro, Mukkoka, Dololo and Maktao had to be protected from the cold and wear blankets to keep them warm. If it is raining hard they are escorted back to their stables until it passes, and out in the forest the older orphans take refuge under the trees, or even sometimes try to squeeze under the Keepers’ umbrellas! Before the rains the orphans were plunging into the mud bath as usual to keep cool, and Musiara in particular is fond of the mud bath. Sattao and especially Dololo are not so keen however, and with regards to Dololo we are sure this is because of his ordeal when he was found and rescued, stuck fast in a muddy pool with only his trunk held aloft out of the water so he could breathe. Under such circumstances it is no wonder he has bad feelings about muddy bodies of water. 

Maxwell, on the other hand, of course loves the rain and all muddy bodies of water as he began charging up and down his stockade and rolling around in the mud at the first hint of rain. By the end of one particularly rainy day, Maxwell, as well as the walls of his stockade, were all covered in mud. Although the wild warthogs are always welcome around the stockade compound, for some reason Maxwell decided not to welcome them into his stockade recently. Most days, they squeeze through the gates to his stockade and share in his morning Lucerne pellets, but some days Maxwell did not want to share his pellets. When he heard a commotion at the top end of his stockade, he went charging over to find the warthogs already depleting his pellets. This appeared to annoy Maxwell so he immediately chased the warthogs away, cornering one of them at one end of his stockade. The warthog, seemingly afraid, began to squeal loudly. One of the Keepers heard the noise and came rushing over and ushered Maxwell away, giving the warthog an opportunity to escape through the bars of the gate. Max is always happy to play with the elephant orphans however, and one morning was spotted happily charging up and down his stockade on one side, while Ambo, Tamiyoi, Maisha, and Kiasa ran around on the other, before they ran off into the forest for the day. 

Some excellent news is we have recently caught up on Solio’s news and she has relocated deeper into the Park with a territory change. It is possible an older female and calf who live close to our nursery have caused this move, as rhinos are notoriously territorial and being bigger and older this female would certainly be capable of dominating in the territory stakes - but Solio seems happy and thriving and very much an integral part of Nairobi National Park’s rhino population. 

On the 8th we rescued a little female elephant orphan from the Masai Mara. Estimated to be 10 months old, she was put into the stockade neighboring Maktao’s. Maktao seemed afraid of the new arrival at first, but later calmed down and then moved closer as if to investigate first, and then reassure her.

Kiko is back to his old self and stomping around the Nursery compound doing exactly as he pleases and not listening to the Keepers until such time as he feels like it. One day when he was escorted out of his open stockade next to Maxwell’s into the forest at noon; at first he followed his Keepers, but then decided to do a quick u-turn and ran all the way back into the trees near the car-parking area, where he decided to stay and pretended to browse just to annoy his Keepers. He then walked to the milk mixing area to browse on the tasty acacia trees there, which he enjoys more for the company, because the truth is there are plenty acacias further afield as well, before walking down to the elephants mud bathing area. There he browsed on the greens and on some of the flowers in Daphne’s garden, before following his Keeper finally later in the day. Despite being such a headache for the Keepers, they are so happy he is back to his old self having fully recovered from his lion encounter. 

April 2019 day to day

01 Apr

Today Kiko decided to spend his day in the compound just walking around and browsing on the trees in the area. He did not even try to go and see the elephants in the forest. Most of the time when he tries to join the elephants they just charge at him and chase him away, so he decided just to stay in the compound today and mind his own business.

Tagwa has mastered Sattao’s ‘voice’ very well. Whenever he yells or shouts out, regardless of how far he is from Tagwa, she will always hear his cry and respond. Today all the orphans were in one area and all mixed together. Tagwa, Sagala, Kuishi and Jotto were some meters away from the group. Mapia decided to push Sattao as they fought over a branch of leaves and Sattao yelled out loud. Tagwa heard and came charging over in his direction. Poor Mapia was still standing next to him and he had the branch taken away from him by Tagwa, who handed it to Sattao as they both walked away from the others.

Sometimes Luggard wants to keep up with the rest of the herd and sometimes he will keep his distance even when they are all walking in a line to a different area of the Park. After the 9am feed this morning and the orphans were all walking in a line to go back out to browse, Luggard stayed right at the back. Jotto however, an old play mate, didn’t want to leave him all on his own, and every few minutes he would walk back to check on him. At one stage he even pushed Luggard from behind, as if to try and make him keep up with the others! In the end the two friendly bulls ended up browsing in each other’s company.

Mapia after Tagwa reprimanded her

Luggard trailing behind the rest of the herd

Tagwa and Ambo at the mud bath