Keepers' Diaries, August 2018

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

July and August have been bitterly cold in Nairobi so we abandoned the mud bath with temperatures too chilly for the orphans to even contemplate getting wet and instead we replaced it with large soft red earth piles which the elephants favor in the cold season. The babies love to roll down the sides of these tall piles of earth, with the younger ones doing their best to climb on the backs of the older members of the herd, although not always managing to because of their short legs and rather rotund tummies!

Towards the end of this month as things warmed up, it was time to excavate the mud bath once again. It was Enkesha and Emoli who prompted us to rejuvenate the mud bath as warmer days started to permeate the cold ones, and they resorted to sneaking off to the swampy area adjacent to the mud bath to satisfy their love for mud. Emoli’s character is really developing and he is becoming much more playful and bullish, always requesting pushing games from the other young boys like Sattao and Musiara, but they are not always interested in his games. When the others choose to ignore him he makes his own fun, like one day when he emptied one of the water troughs and started kicking it around like a football. Another day Tamiyoi and Enkesha had to intervene and send him away to give his friends Sattao, Musiara and Maktao the chance to browse, as he was pestering them for pushing games so much.

Kiasa is still as naughty as ever at feeding times and is still brought in last for the milk feeds. She is determined to try and steal another bottle from her age mates once she is finished, forcing the Keepers and other elephants still feeding to turn in tight circles to try and avoid her demands. The matriarch Tagwa keeps a vigilant eye on Kiasa and does try to instill some discipline where she can, chasing Kiasa away from the group when she is causing too much trouble. Despite being a year older, Malima is another mischievous one. She is not so naughty at feeding times, but prefers to take on roguish tasks, like knocking and pushing on all the milk buckets in the stockade compound, or knocking into visitors standing along the rope cordon during the public visiting time.

Of course all the orphans’ behaviour is much affected by what mood they are in as well. Ndiwa is not normally an elephant who is very attentive towards the youngsters, but one day we were surprised to see it was she who went to help Emoli when he got stuck in a swampy area. Tagwa is the most caring of all the young babies in the Nursery and she has had this character trait since she was a little calf, which is what makes her such wonderful ‘matriarch-material’. Sana Sana is also very good at assisting her in this regard though, and is starting to watch over the little ones just as much. Sattao and Ambo seem particularly attached to Sana Sana, and if they ever happen to yell out about anything, Sana Sana is there like a shot to check on them.

Maktao, Emoli and Kiasa are also very curious elephants – perhaps as youngsters they are still learning about lots of different things in the forest, and always want to know what is going on around them. One morning all the orphans were browsing but this trio were off busy charging and chasing after a small nursery of little impala antelopes who were hiding in the thicket close by. The young impalas avoided the boisterous trio by sprinting off into the thicket, kicking their legs high in the air as they went. As the impalas left, Maktao came across a huge tortoise lumbering along the ground at its own very slow pace. The tortoise saw the elephants and put its head inside for safety, but when it popped it back out again this gave Maktao a huge fright and he ran off yelling towards where the older elephants were browsing looking for safety from this strange creature!

Little Enkesha is a polite and gentle girl who is much happier these days now that her trunk is not bothering her as much as it used to. She likes to play with Maisha, another little girl with a character similar to her own. Out in the bush the two can usually be seen attached to one another, and sometimes with Sattao, Luggard and his friend Musiara too of course. It is amazing to see how Enkesha draws water through her trunk, considering her injury and the open hole, and blows it into her mouth. To do this she has to contract the many muscles in her trunk to close the gap that exists about half way up, caused by the wire snare that almost severed her trunk completely off. She can use her trunk almost like any of the other babies now, and there is almost nothing she can’t do with it.

Jotto and Ambo are the oldest boys in the Nursery now, and are becoming very good playmates, starting to show off their dominance to each other. Ambo is still obsessed with the delicious lucerne pellets, and when he Malima, Ndiwa and Tamiyoi are not trying to steal them through the bars of Maxwell’s stockade, he is squirreling them away in his secret place where only he knows where to find extra pellets which have spilled out of the store area. Maxwell, our blind black rhino, was delighted to find that we extended the bedroom section of his stockade this month, by knocking through the wall to another stockade. Obviously fairly confused at first, he tentatively paced out his new area, making sure he found and mentally mapped every new corner. He is already very comfortable with his new space and likes walking through it to where his favoured hay bed is.


Kuishi and Malkia are still acting quite harshly towards the young growing boys Jotto, Ambo, Emoli and especially Mapia. They are often seen bullying them and making sure they know who is boss. Their harshness means these boys often try to avoid encountering them whilst out browsing! Ndiwa and Sagala are still fond of going on deep forays into the forest, and often try to encourage the rest of the herd to follow them. Tagwa seems to be the decision maker however, and if she does not want to, then the rest of the herd tend to stick with her.


Kiko is very naughty and gives the Keepers a headache doing exactly as he pleases on a daily basis. Whoever is tasked with looking after him for the day certainly draws the short straw in the daily duties! He is determined never to be left out and wants the Keepers to pay as much attention to him as the elephants; if he ever feels ignored he storms over, loping into the herd of elephants and causing a commotion. In one of his more mischievous moods one day he decided to stay after the milk feeding and kick the wheelbarrow containing the empty bottles; when his Keeper tried to move him away he stole his hat, before dropping it on top of a thorny acacia tree!

August 2018 day to day

01 Aug

Sometimes Kiasa can be a nice girl and want to play and interact with the Keepers. The problem is that she can fight is such a rough way, just like Emoli. Musiara has even started avoiding Emoli because he is too rough, even when they are just meant to be playing. This morning during the midday feeding time when the public visit as well, Kiasa was in a very good mood and was playing with the Keepers. She was moving from one to the next, just like a little baby looking to get what she wants; if she was not suckling a finger she was hugging and play-pushing. At one point she even tried throwing a playful back-kick! If denied what she wanted she would mock-charge the Keepers with her ears spread wide until they gave in.

Kiasa and Ndiwa head down to the mud bath area

Ambo follows Kiasa and Ndiwa to mud-bath

Enkesha with Sana Sana

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