Keepers' Diaries, April 2022

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Kaluku Neonate Unit

Our eclectic Kaluku orphan herd is doing very well. Everyone develops their own friendships and routines: Some orphans relish group activities, while others prefer to go about their days solo. It has been particularly special to witness Sala become a godmother figure to so many. An orphaned kudu, Sala was rescued in 2017 when she was just days old. Now, she is a stately beauty and living a fully wild life. However, she continues to be involved in our orphan herd. Aside from raising her own wild-born baby, Sala also looks after several of our young orphans, including Munyu and Lali the kudus, and sometimes Fumbi the impala.


Most adolescents go through a rebellious stage, and Apollo is no different. Some days, totally unprovoked, he goes dashing through the bush. He can run quite fast when he sets his mind to it, and more than once, it has taken a search party to track down our wayward rhino. Funnily, he shows no hesitation about following his Keepers home when they finally catch up with him. Clapping hands and an encouraging, ‘C’mon, Apollo!’ is all it takes to get him to change direction and follow them home.

While Apollo prefers to do his own thing, he is very curious. In fact, we think he is a bit of a busybody. He goes to the mud bath first, then is ushered down to the big baobab tree so the elephants can have their turn. Very often, however, the Keepers on elephant duty catch a glimpse of his perked ears poking above the underbrush: Ever so quietly, he sneaks back to observe the elephants wallowing!

However, Apollo has no shortage of friends. The varied members of our orphan herd — Kwale the hartebeest, Susu the eland, Mkubwa the buffalo — link up with him just before mud bath and then spend several hours in his company. While Apollo rests under the big baobab, he often has a napping partner. Rukinga, an orphaned oryx who is now largely living wild, appears on the dot, as if it was a pre-arranged date! While Apollo sleeps beneath the big branches, Rukinga settles down a short distance away. Between Apollo’s increasingly hulking horn and Rukinga’s sceptre-like set, they make for quite a formidable team, even in repose.



It remained very hot throughout April. However, the orphans have cleverly adapted to the conditions. They may be young, but their wild instincts are strong! They know that when conditions are so dry, they must forgo the usual fun and games in favour of browsing. Diligence pays off during the dry season, when they must work hard to get ample food.

Little Rokka continues to be a force of nature. She does exactly what she wants, when she wants. Unlike the three boys, she is a water lover of note. Long after everyone else has vacated the mud bath, she can be found splashing around, blithely ignoring the Keepers’ requests to get a move on. One day, it took a full half hour to coax her out of the water! Every time the Keepers called out to her, she flopped her head beneath the surface, as if to say, “I can’t hear you!” Although she is the smallest member of the group, all the boys defer to her. Even when she is being a diva in the water, they all wait patiently in the shade. No one will move to the next activity until Rokka takes the lead. It just goes to show how deeply ingrained a matriarchal society is in elephants, even youngsters.

Mayan has always been very inquisitive. He is the first to playfully chase off any ‘interloping’ orphans — although Susu, Kwale, and Rukinga know he is all bluster, and just halfheartedly run a few steps when he swings his trunk at them with great self-importance! This month, Mayan became fixated on Apollo. He knows that the rhino rests beneath the baobab after his mud bath, and he started devising all sorts of ruses to sneak over and observe him. By the end of the month, his plots had grown quite elaborate. He identified a tree halfway between the mud bath and Apollo’s baobab and used it for seemingly innocent scratching sessions. The moment the Keepers’ heads were turned, he would make a run for it over to Apollo!

Vaarti and Manda round out the herd. Vaarti is a little ray of sunshine in elephant form. He is never in a bad mood and always seems delighted by what each new day brings. Manda, who was rescued in December, is steadily coming into his own. Although he does not have the cheerful confidence of Mayan or Vaarti, or the commanding presence of Rokka, he is forging his own place among the Kaluku herd. He and Mayan are aspiring explorers, while Vaarti and Rokka are more comfortable in the direct orbit of the Keepers.



Twiggy has called Kaluku home for four months now. It is extraordinary to see how the shy, frightened giraffe we rescued has flourished into an inquisitive, confident young girl. She and her Keeper have been exploring further afield, with Twiggy often choosing the direction. With her long neck and finely tuned senses, she must have an incredibly deep understanding of the sights, sounds, and smells unfolding around her!

The other orphans love to follow Twiggy around. It has become a common sight to see a giraffe, eland, buffalo, hartebeest, oryx, and tan-coated Keeper making their way through the bush as a little unit. Twiggy is enchanted by the elephants and usually stops by their 11 o’clock mud bath. While Mayan and the others used to chase her away, they are now totally comfortable in her presence. She quietly browses as they splash around, everyone happily coexisting.

Twiggy is very sedate, but she can be frisky when the mood strikes her. These bursts of energy are always short-lived, a frenzy of flailing legs and swaying neck. You see the ground-level orphans marvelling at the shapes this lanky creature can make. We are just delighted with her progress and growing confidence.

Please note that we do not currently publish daily diaries for the Kaluku Neonate Unit. Instead, foster parents of our Kaluku orphans receive a dedicated monthly email, which contains a special video and additional photos of their adoptees.