Keepers' Diaries, August 2022

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Kaluku Neonate Unit

Kaluku has always been an eclectic environment, but the addition of five squawking hatchlings transformed the herd into a fully-fledged flock! At the end of May, our Galana team discovered newly hatched Egyptian geese who had been abandoned at a dried up water hole. They scooped them up and brought them to our Kaluku Field Headquarters. Our Field Manager spent the next several weeks hand-raising the five chicks in his house.

Although they are not quite ready to fly the roost, the chicks recently graduated to the orphan stable block, where they have their very own bedroom. In the morning, a Keeper opens their door and they noisily file out, making a beeline door for the plate of shredded fresh greens that they know will be waiting for them.

The geese love to be at the centre of the action. They swoop all over the compound, checking in on the orphaned elephants, keeping Twiggy company as she browses, and generally inserting themselves into any scene that catches their attention. Their ability to fly also gives them a unique exit strategy — much to the chagrin of the orphaned elephants, who are constantly trying to charge at them! Even our mischievous warthog girls, Scooter and Sprite, are no match for the Egyptian geese. 

Apollo the orphaned rhino:

For the past several months, Apollo has been exasperating (and exhausting!) all of us with his disappearing acts. Much to everyone’s relief, he seems to have finally lost the urge to run away. Although he is still milk-dependent, Apollo is slowly but surely reducing his milk intake, as vegetation becomes a larger part of his diet. In the morning, he now has just one bottle of milk, followed by a big bottle of water.

However, rhinos are ornery creatures, and Apollo has his own ideas about the amount of milk he should be given. He has taken to loitering around the milk mixing area, hoping another bottle will magically find its way into his stomach. Fortunately, Scooter provides the necessary distraction to entice him away. She and Sprite like to sleep in, so they are usually let out of their bedrooms after Apollo has finished his breakfast. When Apollo hears her noisily snorting her way across the compound, he forgets all about milk and chases her and Sprite into the bush.

Otherwise, Apollo’s routine remains unchanged. He likes to spend his mornings near the airstrip, before proceeding to the mud bath at 11 o’clock. After his midday milk feed and wallow, he relaxes under the big baobab tree until it cools down. 

The orphaned elephants:

Our cheerful boys Vaarti and Mayan remain best friends. They have such similar personalities, which makes them perfect partners-in-crime. Of course, they are too sweet to cause much trouble — they leave those mischievous antics to Rokka! 

Vaarti loves his afternoon routine. As soon as he finishes his midday milk bottle, he enjoys a spa-like wallow, followed by a long, luxurious dust bath. Like the rest of the Kaluku herd, Vaarti is obsessed with drinking cold water from the hosepipe — but unlike the others, he will never engage in ‘hose wars.’ Instead, he happily relinquishes the hose when any of his friends want a drink.

It has been dry and chilly in Tsavo for the past several months, which has caused Mayan to eschew the mud bath in favour of a dry dust bath. Lately, however, he has changed his tune and now eagerly joins the others in the water. We always say that Mayan is our friendly extrovert; if a stranger comes by, he will be the first to greet them in such a gentle, welcoming manner.

Rokka, on the other hand, is forever trying to be the tough one of the herd. She loves to mock charge, although she is all bravado and always stops short of actually completing the tackle. At heart, Rokka is just a mischievous tomboy who enjoys getting a rise out of everyone. She is very tactile and turns the simplest objects — a branch or even a blade of grass — into a toy. 

Although he is the most standoffish member of the Kaluku herd, Manda has a soft spot for one particular Keeper named Fred. He always singles Fred out and invites him to play. Manda is on a constant mission to establish himself as the herd leader. He has developed two effective strategies to achieve this: When the elephants move somewhere, he either wanders off-piste, to see if the others will follow him, or he nudges Mayan in the direction he wants to go, knowing the easygoing older boy will happily join him.

Twiggy the orphaned giraffe:

By now, Twiggy has sampled just about every single tree at Kaluku! She has decided to expand her horizons and now wanders off further than usual. She also enjoys supplementing her diet with the fresh lucerne we provide for the smaller orphans and the wild antelope. Twiggy doesn’t mind ungulate visitors, but she draws the line at primates: Given the prevailing drought conditions, food is scarce, so wild monkeys and baboons have started trying their luck at Kaluku. Twiggy really objects to their presence and chases them off, legs flailing. She is particularly suspicious of the baboons, for some reason.

Please note that we do not currently publish daily diaries for the Kaluku Neonate Unit. Instead, foster parents of our Kaluku orphans receive a dedicated monthly email, which contains a special video and additional photos of their adoptees.