Keepers' Diaries, April 2023

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Kaluku Neonate Unit

April stands out as the month that Rokka 'discovered' Twiggy. They have been stockade neighbours for more than a year, but until now, our plucky little matriarch didn’t have much time for the giraffe. She was far more concerned with looking after her orphaned elephant herd. For some reason, however, Rokka has recently become enchanted by her leggy neighbour. She often tries to follow Twiggy off into the bush, pumping her short little legs as she struggles to keep up with the giraffe’s stride. While the Keepers love to see these evolving friendships, they now have quite a mission to keep the elephants together!

Apollo the orphaned rhino:

To date, we have successfully raised 17 orphaned rhinos. One thing we know about this quirky species: always expect the unexpected, particularly as they get older! Now that he is four years old, Apollo has become rather unpredictable. At times, he is very quiet and docile, only to suddenly explode with energy. This shift in character has caught many of his Keepers off guard — they’re used to the generally sedate Apollo of days gone by! They have to be wide awake, always poised to predict what will come next. 

While his unpredictability is new, Apollo remains as stubborn as ever. He goes where he wants, when he wants, and nothing nor no one can persuade him to shift his course. Given that it is still quite warm in Tsavo, he has been enjoying his mud baths — all the better if his Keepers coat him with shovelfuls of cool, gloopy mud.

The orphaned elephants:

Doldol is such a little character. She enjoys being the ‘queen bee’ of her side of Kaluku, especially now that she has some new friends to lord over. She loves to lead her mini herd down to the beach, although she demands compensation for her navigation skills: Upon arriving on the sand, she stands expectancy with her trunk extended, waiting for her Keepers to give her tasty branches as a reward. 

Fortunately, Doldol has almost stopped her habit of eating stones. We suspected that she probably craved something salty, so instead placed a ‘salt lick stone’ in the vicinity of the stables, which she enjoys enormously. After her savoury snack, Doldol toddles over to the dust bath — in fact, she enjoys this activity so much that she often indulges in a second dust bath later in the day!

At the larger orphan compound, Mwinzi continues to enchant everyone with his larger-than-life personality. ​​He is quite the gourmand when it comes to water, and prefers drinking it fresh and cool, straight out of the hose pipe. This month, we were intrigued to see a growing friendship develop between Mwinzi and Vaarti. We often witnessed the bulls standing side by side, sharing turns at the hose or enjoying a gentle wallow.

As bulls get older, their personalities often shift — but not Vaarti! He has not veered off course from his inherently gentle nature and probably never will. A consistently soft young bull, he is welcoming and friendly to all. Although he is good friends with Rokka, he has a rivalry with her when it comes to water: Vaarti happily shares the hosepipe with anyone, particularly Mwinzi, but when Rokka toddles over, he is uncharacteristically covetous. Perhaps he knows that she is quite greedy and, left to her own devices, would hog all the best water!

Mayan is currently the fattest elephant at Kaluku. That is quite remarkable, when one thinks back to where he started in life: Rescued from a septic tank of Manyani Prison, Mayan collapsed soon after his arrival and then spent more than 90 days on a glucose drip, as we struggled to keep him alive. Nobody dared hope that he would make it — yet here he is today, fat and healthy.

For a long time, Manda was quite unpredictable and boisterous. These days, however, he is on his best behaviour. We wonder if the arrival of several new, infant rescues put him in ‘big brother mode'. He really enjoys feasting upon the wild lavender shrubs, which are blooming in abundance thanks to the recent rain. Manda can often be seen wandering off to the side in search of his favourite snack, which he digs out using his feet.

Our little matriarch, Rokka, is another reformed mischief maker. She has blossomed into an excellent leader and nurturer. Despite the fact that she is younger than Manda, Vaarti, and Mayan, Mwinzi and the other newbies recognise her as the uncontested leader. They love to follow her around, knowing she will look after them and introduce them to the best browsing spots.

Twiggy the orphaned giraffe:

Twiggy has a very active social life. She loves to hang out with the elephants during the morning hours. Upon leaving their bedrooms, they stick together as a little unit until the midday mud bath. After that, Twiggy follows her Keeper, Peter, back to the stockades and then explores the office area for the rest of the afternoon. She is such a gentle, quiet presence — everyone really looks forward to her visits, as she makes her way around Kaluku! Twiggy really enjoys being outside and would not return to her stockade, were it not for the temptation of a bottle of fresh camel milk.

Apollo taking a morning drink
Doldol loves the beach
Mwinzi mud bath
Twiggy with the Kaluku elephants
Vaarti and his signature foot up pose
Twiggy heading to mud bath
Rokka, Mayan, Vaarti and Manda
Doldol fully flopped enjoying a sand bath
Rokka and 'her' hose
Twiggy enjoying a stroke from Peter
Twiggy browsing with the elephants
Mishak and Peter taking Doldol and her friends for a walk
Doldol dust bath
Nini and Twiggy join Apollo, from a distance
Beach bathing for Doldol
Mwinzi and Jackson
Twiggy on look out during a river bed stroll
Peter picking long grasses for Doldol
Doldol scratching on a rock
Twiggy ready for her close-up
Mwinzi itching a scratch
Doldol mini mud bath
Morning Mwinzi shadow
Rokka, Mayan, Vaarti and Mwinzi
Kaluku orphans relaxing in a dried river bed
Twiggy likes to sit down and eat
Vaarti post mud bath
Rokka out browsing
Nini, our rescued Thomson's gazelle
Apollo enjoys a water top up at dust bath
Mayan enjoying some water
Doldol and Mishak