Keepers' Diaries, April 2022

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Each elephant has a unique personality. Our ever-expanding Nursery herd reminds us of this fact every day. Some orphans are introverts, others are extroverts; some have a flair for drama, others just go about their business. 

While Kindani has always been a low-key elephant, she is quite a diva when it comes to her sleeping quarters. With all the new rescues coming in, we had to do some room rearrangements last month. Kindani, Kinyei, and Bondeni were moved into open-air stockades. Although they had outgrown their stables anyway, Kindani was not happy about her new accommodations. She remained on edge during the night, constantly listening to what was happening outside. This vigilance will be a good trait when she is watching over her own herd in the wild, but as a youngster, it made for a very tired girl during the day! She resorted to taking long naps in the forest, watched over by Bondeni and Kinyei.

We soon realised that Kindani wished for her room to be in between her best friends, so we did yet another round of rearrangements. The effect was instantaneous: Now in a stockade sandwiched between Bondeni and Kinyei, Kindani finally started sleeping soundly. She comes barreling out of her room with enormous energy in the morning and no longer needs daytime naps. We are glad that she made her objections known!  

As the new arrivals settle within the Nursery herd, they form fast friendships — many which will continue into adulthood. Lodo and Tingai have become closer and closer, spending all day together while out in the forest. They share several things in common, namely that they were both rescued from Laikipia and are quieter than many of the other orphans. Lodo is still very shy around the Keepers, although he becomes more open during milk feedings. He and Tingai are very unhappy when they are separated into smaller groups during milk feeds, as they want to run down together.

Sagateisa, Latika, and Kamili have also formed their own little girl gang. They spend most of their time together, following one another throughout the forest and browsing near one another. They are all such gentle girls and get along so well.

For such a small elephant, Latika has an enormous appetite. Every spare moment, she is either on her knees getting the freshest bits of grass or reaching up to get the best branches. She only takes a break from eating when she is down at the mud bath. During this time, she takes a break from browsing to interact with the other orphans.

Neshashi, our big girl, has settled into the Nursery routine. Just like most orphans, she loves her milk and has fully mapped out all the feeding times. If her first bottle of morning milk is late, she starts to complain and knock at her stockade door. By the time the Keepers rush over, bottle in hand, she is trumpeting and rumbling impatiently!

Meanwhile, Taabu, Choka, and Esoit are earning a reputation for being our calm, gentle bulls. They are happy-go-lucky and just like to play amongst themselves. Although Choka can be a bit naughty and will join Kerrio in chasing after Mukutan, Taabu and Esoit are always gentle towards the other orphans.

Much like Bondeni and Roho, Esoit has a notably playful nature. One morning, he saw a troop of baboons in the forest and immediately ran after them. Bondeni immediately joined him and started charging around, but they were both quickly stopped by Roho — not because he wanted to end the game but because he wanted to have all the attention!

Mukutan continues to be our little enigma: He is very shy, but very noisy. He likes to complain for no reason, yelling out and rumbling constantly. Kerrio and Choka delight in instigating his outbursts. At the mud bath, they spring out to scare him or try to push him to the mud bath. Luckily, Oldepe, Lodo, Latika, and Kamili are always welcoming towards Mukutan and help him get away from the young rascals.

We are so pleased with Sagateisa’s progress, especially when we remember how far gone she was when we rescued her. She is growing in both condition and confidence. Now, she stands her ground against her friends when they playfully push her around. She has also started to push against the bigger orphans such as Kindani, Kinyei, Naleku, Bondeni, Suguroi, and Esoit. 

On 18th April, just as the Nursery herd was heading back for the evening, the heavens suddenly opened. This caused chaos amongst the orphans. Some made a beeline for their bedrooms, but Ziwadi, Lorigon, Tingai, Lodo, Neshashi, and Suguroi ran off into the bushes. The Keepers were able to quickly locate everyone but Lorigon, who was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly, they spotted him peacefully walking back to the stockade compound, completely oblivious to the fact that he was the subject of a search party. 

The next morning, it was very wet and chilly after the heavy rains. Many of the orphans were reluctant to leave their rooms. As they came out, it was as if they were tiptoeing around the muddiest parts and trying to keep their feet as dry as possible. All of them were protesting and rumbling at the Keepers for making them head out to the forest.

Bondeni continues to be such an imp. He loves to show off during the midday milk feed, when all the visitors are around. Recently, he has developed a naughty new habit to increase his chaos. As soon as he downs his milk, he quickly charges off towards the bushes, runs straight through the crowd, and hides in the bushes. Once no one is looking, he comes charging back, giving everyone a fright. The Keepers have to remain on high alert to make sure he doesn’t barrel into the visitors!

Naleku has recently joined the older group of orphans for her milk feeds. As a result, she has not been running down with her honorary baby, Kerrio, which really bothers her. Each day, she fights with her Keepers, but the Keepers know it is important for Kerrio to not depend on her so much, and vice versa. With that said, there were a few instances where Naleku managed to sneak past the Keepers and rejoin her beloved Kerrio!

We are worried about Rama, who has been having issues with his left hind leg. They are bowing further, swelling and painful which makes it hard for him to walk deep into the forest. We have been in close consultation with veterinarians about his condition, which is the equivalent of Blount’s Disease in humans. In the meantime, he is staying closer to home. His special friend Ziwadi comes over to keep him company for much of the day but Rama is becoming a real worry as his condition worsens as he grows.

The wild warthogs usually enjoy a friendly relationship with Maxwell the rhino, but one morning, he woke up in a terrible mood. He did not want to share his lucerne pellets with his warthog friends and kept huffing and puffing at them, kicking up his back legs in protest. They wisely made themselves scarce, knowing that Maxwell’s mood would improve after a long nap in the sun.  

26th April was a very sad day, as we lost our dear friend Barnoti. He never fully thrived after his rescue, but in the week prior to his death, he lost his appetite and started collapsing. Despite the Keepers’ tireless efforts and many visits from the vets, his condition has continued to worsen. The orphans knew that he was not well and always checked on him, which must have been a great comfort. 

Barnoti was such a gentle bull. We will remember him as being calm, patient, and kind to everyone in his orbit, from his fellow orphans to his Keepers. Rama and all his friends had a very subdued day, mourning their departed friend.

However, the month ended on a hopeful note, as Roho, Oldepe, and Neshashi started training for the next step in their reintegration journey. Neshashi was so relaxed about the whole exercise and walked straight onto the truck. Oldepe was a bit more hesitant, but after some encouragement from his Keepers, he happily boarded the truck and enjoyed his milk. Roho, on the other hand, was having none of it. He would not even get close to the lorry and just watched from afar. It took several days to convince him to step onboard! The time is not quite right for them to graduate yet, but we are excited for this milestone to unfold in due course.

April 2022 day to day

01 Apr

Since Kindani has been adjusting to her new room, she hasn’t quite enjoyed the open stockade in the evenings compared to the closed smaller stable she used to be in. As of late, she is always really happy to see the Keepers walking around in the morning to let all the orphans out. In the evenings, although she does sleep, she is more alert and constantly listening to what is happening. Being alert like this will be such a good trait when she is watching over her own herd in the wild. 

As the Keepers let her out this morning, she went running over to Maxwell’s gate, where the large rhino was standing to greet her and the other orphans. After a brief interaction with Max she ran up to the top of the stockade compound where she greeted Neshashi and shared some of her greens with her. She then proceeded to greet some of the newer rescues who were remaining with their stockades for the time being. 

When it was time for the orphans to head off to the forest, Kindani was happily in the front running and trumpeting as she led Naleku, Kerrio, and Rama. Rama, who was born bow legged, has been having some issues with his one hind leg being swollen and as a result he has not been running around as much and didn’t follow the girls. 

Once in the forest, Naleku and Kindani were busy running around chasing away all the baboons that were busy foraging. Later in the day, Kindani walked over to her best friends Kinyei and Bondeni, where she enjoyed a long nap. It is always so sweet as Bondeni and Kinyei stay close by her side watching over her as she sleeps. 

Kindani giving a trunk wave

Rama and Kerrio browsing

Kinyei, Naleku and Roho in the forest