Keepers' Diaries, August 2019

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

When raising baby elephants one has to understand and be prepared to succumb to the emotional roller coaster that is inevitable and comes with the territory. Dame Daphne always would say that they are the hardest animal to raise, and just when you cross one hurdle and feel you are out of the woods, something can happen to remind you just how incredibly tricky these extraordinary creatures are, when raised without the perfect situation - mothers milk. 

We were devastated when confronted with one of these times on the 19th when we lost our dear Dupotto after such a long uphill battle. Having raised her from six months of age, her loss was one particularly hard to bear. Something we have learnt over time is the importance of picking oneself up to concentrate on the living and those that will need our care, love and attention in the future, but despite trying to focus on such an outlook these moments are often very hard for the whole team.  

Tagwa recently moved to our Voi Reintegration Unit in Tsavo East in June this year, but over the two months she has been there she has lost condition, mainly we think because she was battling with a tusk pushing through her skin and not the right hole for the tusk; not something entirely unusual as we have seen this many times before, but that and the dry season had taken their toll and so we took the precaution of bringing Tagwa back to where the conditions were favourable and where we could treat the sepsis her tusk had caused. She arrived like an old hand, familiar with everything and all the babies and slotted right into proceedings. She has willingly taken on the motherly role once again, and enjoys looking after the littlest baby in the Nursery, Larro, giving her other doting nannies like Enkesha and Tamiyoi a break from their matriarchal roles.

Larro is actually a very spoilt baby to have so many older females so eager to look after her, but it has resulted in her developing a somewhat spoilt nature as well, especially with naughty Kiasa keeping an eye on her too, and teaching her some of her bad habits. She seems to know that she has the constant protection from the older girls in the herd and that no one will be able to bother her. As a result she can be very pushy around milk feeding times and push those still trying to drink their milk bottles, even if they are older than her! The Keepers try their best to bring her in last for the milk feeding these days, to avoid her naughty behaviour. 

Some of the other babies have developed a real taste for the formula as well though. Dololo has become a lot livelier around milk feeds and has acquired the habit of hanging around the milk wheelbarrow holding all the bottles, trying to suck up all the remnant milk inside until he is moved away by the Keepers. Mukkoka still yells as he runs in for his milk, anxious that he won’t be first to the feed and yelling out in protest should any of the others be running faster than him. Ziwadi is such a clever girl, and doing much better in the Nursery although we have had a couple more short seizures take place. She is a bit slower than the others, but has developed a taste for the sweet milk formula too. She knows she is not as strong as the others, and slower, so she walks to where the milk feeding point is ahead of time and does this quite happily on her own as well. She has never been able to suckle a bottle with as much gusto as the others, but the Keepers always allow her to feed with the first group. She is starting to get a bit closer to Maktao and Musiara as well, and is looked after by Tamiyoi and Maisha too. Sometimes Tamiyoi will make the herd walk slower so that Ziwadi and Luggard can keep up with them all. Nabulu, Kiombo, Ziwadi and Musiara love to accompany Luggard out to the forest.

Kiombo has his own funny habit of finishing his milk bottle and then wandering off on his own to go back into the bush, apparently unconcerned about waiting for the other orphans. The Keepers must keep a close eye on him some days, making sure he doesn’t wonder too far off whilst the others finish their milk. Musiara is also often seen some distance from the Nursery herd happily browsing on his own. One day he was browsing so contentedly on his own that he didn’t see his friends walking down for their 11am milk bottle and the Keepers had to circle back to retrieve him and lead him to the rest of the herd.

Kiko is growing into a healthy, playful and imposing giraffe who really enjoys being out and about browsing, although he can be rather naughty and likes to do his own thing, ignoring all instructions from his Keepers. Before the midday feeding time and mud bath the Keepers usually walk Kiko back to the stockade neighbouring Maxwells’ stockade to make sure that he is safely inside whilst the Keepers are busy with the orphans at the mud bath, this is because there is every chance he would gate crash the mud bath and visiting time, and become a handful amidst the visiting public. He has an offensive habit of walking over short people, seemingly oblivious of their presence, and then there are days when he can be so sweet and charming that one is quick to forget his contrary side.  

Kiko appears to enjoy Maxwell’s company given that they spend neighbourly time together as his long neck can bend over the stockade fence to sniff out his neighbour. Maxwell has grown accustom to Kiko and is undaunted, but does investigate Kiko when her returns to the stockade each and every time.  Maxwell has enjoyed some rather unexpected but heavy downpours of rain this month. His stockade becomes a muddy quagmire during these storms, just how he loves it the most, and this you can tell by how frisky he becomes, barrelling around his boma excitedly. He has a large covered area that he can retreat to in order to lie on a soft bed of hay should he wish to have some respite from the damp conditions. Maxwell’s sacrid ibis friend ‘Shabby’ has been missing this month, and for sure this would not have gone unnoticed by Maxwell either as this unlikely couple were firm friends. We hope ‘Shabby’ is just out and about cruising and joining ibis friends on the Nairobi National Park dam where hundreds congregate every day, and will return home soon.  

August 2019 day to day

01 Aug

Poor Dupotto continues to struggle with her health; despite her continued treatment the Keepers see no great change in her condition. She has better days than others, where she is happy to have her milk and browse with the other orphans, whereas other days she seems to struggle and prefers to keep to herself. 

It has been amazing to watch the other orphans interact with Dupotto as it seems that they know she is unwell and that she needs their company and affection. When she lags behind the group, Tamiyoi, Maisha, Nabulu, and Enkesha could be seen walking after her and holding up the rest of the Nursery herd to wait for her. The orphans can be seen doing the same for Luggard, when he lags behind Nabulu, Kiombo and Ziwadi love to accompany him out to the forest. 

Kiko is growing into a healthy and playful teenager who really enjoys being out and about browsing. Some days he can be a little naughty and decides to do his own thing as opposed to follow his Keepers. Today, he decided to wonder off and browse in the general parking area where he was curiously watching some of the guards at the gate. When the Keepers tried to get him to move back into the forest he refused and kept walking in the other direction. Eventually he agreed to follow his Keepers and head back into the forest. 

Dupotto out in the field

Luggard walking to get his milk

Kiombo browsing