The Nairobi Park remains lush and green in contrast to our Tsavo Elephant Relocation Units, so our baby elephants have had plentiful food. Nairobi temperatures have been extraordinarily cold for this time of year, for close on three months now. Apparently, according to the weather man, these chilly conditions are set to continue! Our infant orphans have had to be bundled up tight to keep warm and protected from the elements, and our older orphans have been less than enthusiastic about their mudwallow in recent months, opting instead for a red earth dust bath. Lorry loads of red earth are brought in for them to enjoy, which gives them hours of joy.
Orphan Rapa’s pushy behaviour continues to irritate his peers, but he is never far from Tusuja, his best friend. However his bullying of others often results in him being excluded from their games and they tend to abandon them and walk away at Rapa’s approach, knowing from experience that he might play rough! Tusuja is a gentle and calm elephant who is extremely polite to the younger boys, even when he is engaging in wrestling bouts. Although very tolerant of Rapa’s naughty behaviour, he does not stand in the way when the older girls mete out discipline, understanding that at times this is needed! Rapa was one of five naughty orphans that we wisely chose to keep away when nine First Ladies, included amongst whom was our own, H.E. Margaret Kenyatta who joined another eight from Africa, amongst whom was the Japanese First lady H.E. Akie Abe. It was wonderful for the First Ladies of so many African nations to be able to visit the orphans and see for themselves the direct result of the Ivory Trade in such a tangible and graphic way, as our orphans imparted their magic to each and every one. All our VIP visitors were visibly moved, particularly the Japanese First Lady. Tamiyoi along with the other miniature orphans were some of the babies shared with our visitors, as well as Oltaiyoni, Kauro, Mbegu, Ndotto and some of the others bigger ones. The naughty group predictably consisted of Kamok, Naseku, Roi, Galla, and Rapa, and when they saw their friends return from this visit, they began fighting to get down to the feeding area for extra milk which was not there for them - a good lesson for them!
Kauro is the oldest bull in the orphan family at the Nursery and he often likes to reinforce his status by wrestling Tusuja to prove this point! In a show of independence he sometimes chooses to browse away from the others, rather like a big bull. One day he spirited away a little group with him and didn’t return home to the stockades on time with the others. However, Oltaiyoni wisely waited and did not return either, as she must have realised that some members of her herd were missing. The Keepers were forced to mount a search but thankfully Godoma’s bellows once she realised they had been left behind made it easy to locate them. Even then Kauro strolled nonchalantly bringing up the rear, in no hurry to return home!
Oltaiyoni is a wonderful role model to the other orphans. When all the others are running for their milk bottles, she walks behind with great dignity, slowly and patiently. She has not been overly friendly towards new arrival Maramoja however, perhaps because Maramoja is of a similar age. One day she even snatched a branch that Maramoja was eating and shared it with Mbegu instead! She still remains a very proficient Matriarch, and the love between her and little Ambo is as strong as ever. Mbegu continues to watch over all the babies and one day even refused to go out with the others into the forest until the babies joined them. When her adopted baby, Jotto, joined her they all walked out together. The babies surface a little later than the others, once the temperature has become warmer. One day when Tagwa was proving a handful and demanding more milk than her share, knocking over and picking up bottles, spilling milk everywhere, Mbegu took control and removed her from the group, thereafter keeping a close eye on her until the end of the feeding session. Such assistance to the Keepers by the bigger girls is illustrated daily since they understand what is required and step in when help is needed. This is, of course, a great relief for the Keepers who have so many elephants in their care.
Little Esampu, despite her young age, is proving very caring and shows signs of becoming quite the leader, although she is a very greedy baby. Tagwa is the greediest of the young babies and along with Naseku, Roi and Godoma, she is always first in line for milk. Esampu is growing into a strong and energetic little girl which we are so delighted to see, since upon arrival from Amboseli she was skeletal and in very poor condition. Her improvement resulted in her graduation to the older herd this month, outgrowing the baby group and even her first ever appearance at the Public Visiting hours, between 11 and 12 noon, went very well indeed since she appeared to already know the ropes having taken her cue from the older orphans.
Mbegu loves to play with the younger orphans in the loose soil dust-bath. One day Sana Sana began to play with Mbegu in the mud bath even after both had doused themselves in the loose soil. Ndotto then climbed onto Mbegu whilst Sana Sana scratched her hind legs on Mbegu’s muddy head! Sana Sana, who is an enchanting little girl, cute as can be and a firm favourite with the visitors, got a terrible fright this month when she came across some animals in the park she had not seen before - namely a couple of silver-backed jackals! These jackals are, of course, too small to prove a threat and in fact had been chasing a dik dik which ran right through Sana Sana’s legs as she browsed away from the others which was an extremely daunting experience for her! She ran screaming back to her Keepers, while the jackals also turned tail and ran in the opposite direction – a very fortunate ending for the intended dik dik!
Later on in the day as the herd carried on with their usual routine, little Jotto came across six lions, three females and three males. Jotto was playing, running up and down in the short bushes and rolling in the long grass when he saw them. He boldly tried to charge towards them but when they paid him no attention, he became unnerved and immediately turned running back to the protection of his Keepers. It was a good thing Jotto raised the alarm, and thereafter orphaned ostrich Pea and the orphaned giraffe Kiko were hastily escorted back to their stockades for the rest of the afternoon.
Because of the dry and cold weather this month, and subsequent lack of mud bathing, we have been rigidly following the coconut bathing day on Fridays without fail, since the oil is a great conditioner for the orphans’ skin in this weather. Tusuja, Kauro and Tagwa love the oil and even draw it from the buckets to spray over themselves. One day Oltaiyoni and Mbegu were also busy rubbing their trunks on the bodies of Tagwa and Kauro to gather more coconut oil with which to cover themselves further. Meanwhile Maramoja, Rapa, Godoma and Naseku do their utmost to avoid the oil and run around giving the Keepers a hard time on oiling days. The 19th of the month happened to be a coconut oil day and Godoma mistook the wheelbarrow for the milk wheelbarrow! However, once she realised it was the oil she turned tail and together with her friend Naseku disappeared into the bushes giving the Keepers the slip!
At the beginning of the month little Ngilai experienced some stiffness in his legs which was of great concern, but it cleared up the next day and he has been fine ever since. It was very touching to see Kamok’s concern for this little one whilst he was unwell, and in fact he is a favourite among a number of the older girls, primarily Kamok, along with both Roi and Dupotto as well. He is lucky to have such doting ‘older sister’ role models, albeit some naughty ones, which has rubbed off on him somewhat! It is interesting to see how influenced the babies are when surrounded by mischievous others!
Ex orphan rhino Solio visited a couple of times this month which always delights our resident blind rhino, Maxwell. At times sometimes Solio indulges in greeting Max and at other times she is more interested in the lucerne! She is looking happy and healthy and has been sighted often in the company of wild rhinos. Under cover of darkness Maxwell is visited regularly by Solio and her wild friends. “Shabby”, our sacred Ibis orphan who was hand raised is a chick now has a multitude of differing relationships. He is extremely attached to Daphne, following her every morning as she walks onto the veranda to feed him and share his food with a myriad of smaller bird opportunists who join them both each morning at such times. Shabby has wild sacred ibis friends who also join him at the mud bath and waterhole areas, searching for frogs. He also has a special attachment to Maxwell, often sitting close to him while they both rest sometimes for hours at a time. This relationship has spanned many years and it is mutual.
Our orphaned giraffe, Kiko, is growing huge, almost dwarfing his extended and very tall stable. This month he has been extremely playful, chasing warthogs at every given opportunity. He has also spent a lot of time in the stockade compound of his own free will making short work of the pot plants, returning from the forest during the late morning. He enjoys browsing on the thorn trees within the compound area but is still not overly confident when meeting wild herds of giraffes. However, this will take time, and being of the reticulated variety he will eventually be translocated to join his northern race of brethren. We are therefore actively seeking a good home for Kiko given how fast he is growing. This is something that needs to be done sooner rather than later!