Keepers' Diaries, April 2020

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

The Nairobi Nursery remains closed to the public for the time being but the work very much continues, as is the case with all our projects across the country. With the routine no longer dictated by the midday mud bath return to home, the orphans have been enjoying different feeding locations out in the Park for their milk feeds, but they still enjoy coming down to the mud bath where they can have fun on the soil piles. As it has been quite grey and overcast this month still, with the occasional rain storm, the orphans have hardly used the mud bath, and prefer instead their dry soil bathing sessions which fast become very exuberant occasions.  

Tagwa loves the soil mounds most of all. One day we saw her watching Dololo, Kiombo, Maktao and Sattao all playing and pushing each other off the top of the dust mound, but she decided to interrupt their game and walk over to lie down right across the top of the mound, spreading her weight across and blocking their game. She likes the feel of the cool soil on her tummy and this is her favourite pose. The boys appeared most unimpressed with her however and moved away so that they could continue their game elsewhere.

Tagwa seems to be outgrowing the Nairobi Nursery and we can sense her becoming more impatient with the youngsters here. She is a good matriarch and the orphans obey and follow her lead, but sometimes she can be impatient with all but the youngest, Roho and Naleku. It is Maisha who really seems to be stepping up to fill her shoes and matriarchal duties. She dutifully looks after little Roho and Naleku, waiting to escort them from place to place and allowing them to learn from her, particularly what vegetation is good to eat. Roho will do this by taking leaves right out of her mouth sometimes.

Roho is picking up other habits from the Nursery babies, but not all of them good! Just like Mukkoka, Roho has recently become quite greedy for his milk bottle, and speedy just like him too. He has started running down for his milk bottle whilst yelling and trumpeting, as if he is forewarning the Keepers of his arrival. Now Mukkoka has some competition for his milk-sprints to get to the bottles first, as little Roho is often right by his side, even trying to push in front. 

Despite being initially so shy, Naleku is a tough little girl and she stands her ground against the bulls, including little Roho who doesn’t always want to share the attention of the older girls. He sometimes tries to push Naleku away, but she is always sure to stand fast and push him back just like the older female elephants do; beneath every female baby lies the makings of a leader. She has really grown in confidence lately, and has enjoyed leading the orphans whilst out in the forest. 

On the 11th we decided our new arrival Naboishu was ready to join the others out in the forest having become significantly more settled in his new environment, and used to the Keepers. The herd was fed next to his stable, so he could see how relaxed the orphans were with the Keepers and how they had their milk feed, and when they had all finished, Naboishu’s stockade door was opened for him to come out and join the herd. Tamiyoi as usual was the most welcoming and kind, stepping forward to enter his stable and greet the new bull. Naboishu was nervous at first and mock-charged a bit, but once he was out in the forest he immediately calmed down and spent the rest of his day in the company of Ziwadi and Maisha, who were both happy to oblige. 

As to be expected, Naboishu is still trying to figure out the Nursery herd and who his friends are. He has been struggling with Dololo a bit, who is becoming increasingly boisterous, but the Keepers and older girls are always on hand to discipline Dololo if he is too rowdy. Musiara, who has also always been a gentle bull, has become quite protective of Naboishu and is always sure to push orphans like Dololo away should they try and bother him. Naboishu prefers to spend his days with Nabulu and Kiombo mostly, and sometimes Ziwadi too, remembering her early kindness. 

Although not as maternal as some of the other females, Nabulu is good at looking after Kiombo and has struck up a friendship with Naboishu too. One day, in the early hours of the morning, they could be seen nuzzling one another through their shared partition and rumbling at one another. When the orphans were eventually let out their stockades around 6am, Nabulu decided to wait for Naboishu, and as soon as he was let out of his stockade he ran over to Nabulu and then they both walked off to join the others who were already walking out to the forest. Although he is still a little nervous of the Keepers, Naboishu loves feeding time, and is always eager to follow the others to the milk feeding point, and then happy run to up to his Keeper to get his bottle.

Ziwadi and Luggard have become close friends and are often seen browsing near one another. Luggard spends less time with Musiara and the other bulls these days and more with the females like Ziwadi. Ziwadi is a lovely companion for Luggard as she walks slowly too and does not rush off like many of the other orphans. Perhaps as a result of her past seizures, Ziwadi is still figuring out how best to use her trunk, especially when it comes to drinking water. She seems confused by the notion of sucking water up using her trunk to then spray it in her mouth, and much prefers still to just dunk her head in the water and gulp. When she has a mud bath she also ends up throwing mud all over the place, missing her body entirely, and will eventually just lie down in the mud and roll around to cover her whole body.  

A budding friendship is occurring between Larro and Maktao, which is lovely because when they were younger they certainly didn’t like each other very much and were always pushing each other around! Maktao has been Larro’s neighbour for a long time and they seem to be growing closer; they can often be seen browsing together and even sometimes having their own wrestling games. 

Kiasa still has a split personality. On the one hand she is an incredible caretaker of the younger orphans, and has taken on full responsibility as one of Roho and Naleku’s dedicated little nannies; so although she can be very well behaved and a great role model, she does still sometimes slip into her old mischievous ways trying to steal extra milk at the feeding times – becoming quite the handful for the Keepers at those feeding times, and at her age she should certainly know better!

Maxwell has really improved this month and is full of energy, thoroughly enjoy his morning Lucerne pellets and a wide selection of cut-greens offering him the variety of vegetation he would otherwise have if he was roaming out in the wild. The orphans have been enjoying playing games with him in the early morning before they go out to the forest, charging up and down with Maxwell chasing after them to meet them at the top gate, before charging back down to the bottom gate. The elephant orphans are always so excited when Maxwell plays with them. Maxwell loves this early morning activity before going to find a quiet spot where he can take a nap in the first of the morning’s rays.

April 2020 day to day

01 Apr

As the orphans finished their midday bottles of milk, Tagwa seemed to be in a naughty mood and wanted to sneak away from the Keepers. As the Keepers were standing next to some of the orphans, Tagwa snuck around gathering Sattao, Kiasa, Kiombo, Nabulu, Enkesha, Larro, Mukkoka, and Naleku to all sneak off together. As the Keepers were finishing their lunch, they suddenly noticed Tagwa and the others disappearing into the bushes and they quickly called out to her and some of the others. 

Tagwa put her head down as she knew she had been caught red handed and was now in trouble. With nowhere to hide she decided to turn back with her small group and return to the Keepers and he rest of the Nursery herd. 

When the keepers were finished with their lunch, they got all the orphans together, including little Naleku who was so eagerly following Mukkoka around, and led them deep into the forest for an afternoon of browsing. 

Tagwa and Kiasa playing in the mud

Nabulu and Enkesha having a trunk hug

Kiombo, Kiasa, and Mukkoka browsing