Keepers' Diaries, August 2022

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

It is still winter here in Kenya, so August began on a cold note. Even Maxwell was hesitant to wake up, preferring instead to remain snuggled in his cosy bed of hay. Out in the forest, all the orphans huddled together, drawing warmth from each other. 

Kerrio, Choka, Taabu, Latika and Sileita couldn’t decide who to cuddle with. They kept moving from one orphan to another, testing who was the warmest! Kerrio had little choice in the matter; Naleku, Kindani, and Olorien refused to leave her side and followed her around the forest. 

The resident warthogs remain the source of great entertainment for the young bulls. En route to the forest one morning, Bondeni, Esoit, Taabu, and Choka came face-to-face with the resident warthogs as they headed into Maxwell’s stockade. They boys decided to chase after them, playfully rumbling and flapping their ears. The warthogs have size and agility on their side, so they were easily able to outmanoeuvre the elephants and scamper away. 

We have never seen an orphan as obsessed with the translocation lorry as Neshashi is. She, Roho, and Oldepe have been busy training for their eventual graduation to a Reintegration Unit, which will take place when drought conditions improve. All three have been great students, but Neshashi is on another level. She takes every opportunity to sneak back to the translocation lorry. One morning, she even escorted Roho and Oldepe back, so they could have their milk bottles there. It is almost like she wants to establish a ‘big kid’ club, with the lorry being club headquarters!

Since his rescue, we have been working hard to build trust with Tingai. He came to us understandably suspicious: Human-wildlife conflict claimed the life of his mother and left him with a spear wound. We knew he would embrace his Keepers when he felt ready. At last, that moment has arrived. Tingai was very cuddly with his Keepers this month, approaching them for snuggles and suckling their fingers for comfort. He even went so far as to be possessive of his Keepers, shoving his best friend Lodo away when he tried to join the cosy sessions. It was a big breakthrough for our shy boy.

We also saw some wonderful progress with Mukutan this month. Although he always puts on a big show during milk feedings, he is generally quite reserved. Finally, he has started challenging the other bulls to strength testing matches, which shows that he is gaining confidence. He chose a wonderful sparring partner in Taabu, who is always so welcoming and gentle. The boys spent many afternoons together, finding each other in the forest at different points and picking up their wrestling match where they left off.

Rafiki, who was rescued in July, is another introvert. Although he readily embraced his Keepers, he is still getting to know the other orphans. One day, he snuck away from the Nursery herd three times. The first time, he went back to his stockade and spent some time relaxing inside. The second, he was found hanging out with the chef at the canteen. The third, he wandered down to the mud bath, where he waited for the milk wheelbarrows to arrive. Each time he snuck off, a Keeper followed him from a distance, giving him space but also ensuring he didn’t venture too far.

As orphans grow more established in the Nursery herd, new sides to their personalities are revealed. For instance, Kamili was very shy and gentle when she first arrived. Recently, however, she has been bullying some of the other orphans. One morning, she kept antagonising Mageno at the mud bath. Each time the Keepers told her off, she would angrily trumpet at them in protest — as if they, not she, were doing something wrong!

Latika, on the other hand, continues to be such a polite girl. She is always friendly to the rest of the Nursery herd. Ziwadi has taught her where the best greens are located in the forest, so she often wanders off for her own little browsing sessions. Despite the fact that she has an exceptionally short trunk, she is one of the most effective browsers at the Nursery.

Kinyei also enjoys her space and independence. However, she never strays too far from the herd, as she likes to keep tabs on her best friends, Bondeni and Kindani. Kinyei also loves to spend time with her Keepers. She happily rumbles as they scratch her chin or embraces them with trunk hugs.

Ziwadi isn’t known for causing drama, but one morning, she stirred up quite a situation as the orphans ventured into the forest. As usual, she forged her own path and made a beeline for her favourite browsing spot. All of the sudden, she did a 180 and came charging back to the herd, rumbling and trumpeting in fear. The Keepers combed the area, but they didn’t find anything amiss. Nevertheless, the entire herd was now very frightened and huddled around the Keepers.

Choka has a contentious relationship with Kerrio, who he treats like a pesky little sister — which, to be fair, is not an entirely unwarranted characterisation! This month, he had a great time playing with Latika, who is several months his senior. At one point, Taabu even joined forces with Latika. Far from being deterred by the two-against-one odds, Choka relished the challenge and managed to keep them both at bay. He is such a happy-go-lucky young bull.

Our baby ‘blanket brigade’ is spending more and more time with the rest of the Nursery herd. The older girls constantly shower Mzinga and Nyambeni in love. We wondered if this would make Kerrio jealous but she has been nothing but welcoming towards them. During the midday milk feed, she spends most of her time watching over the little girls. As Mzinga and Nyambeni headed back to the forest one afternoon, Choka came running over to walk alongside them, but Kerrio did not want to share their company and promptly chased Choka away. It was actually quite amusing: Each time Kerrio banished Choka, he would wait a few moments until she let down her guard, before circling back to try to join Mzinga and Nyambeni again. 

Mzinga and Nyambeni have also helped bring Sileita out of her shell. She really enjoys looking after the little girls, and spends most afternoons peacefully browsing alongside them. It is great to see her being such a caring nanny.

The third member of the ‘blanket brigade,’ Mageno, quickly learned the Nursery routine. When it is time for the orphans to run down for their bottles, he is often at the front of the group. He leads the younger orphans down to the mud bath, staying close to his friends Nyambeni and Mzinga. Mageno even knows when it is time to leave the mud bath, at which point he rounds up the rest of the ‘blanket brigade’ and ushers them back to the forest. The Keepers are so impressed by his organisation.

Suguroi continues to be our wildcard. She is constantly on guard, ears spread wide and ready to charge. Although she only mock charges, the Keepers always have to put her in the naughty corner during milk feeds, because she is so unpredictable. To her credit, Suguroi respects authority and listens when she is told off. She reminds the Keepers of Kiasa, who was a real menace whenever milk was part of the equation. 

Bondeni and Taabu have been neighbours for a few months now, and they really are a match made in heaven. They often race each other back to the stockades in the evening, then continue the fun long after bedtime, peeking over the partition wall and stealing greens from each other. 

Our graduates-in-training have become very close with Maxwell. After their morning training sessions, Roho, Oldepe, and Neshashi always stop by the rhino’s stockade to say hello. Max has figured out when they will be passing and now waits by his gate for their arrival. Sometimes, the trio are having so much fun with Max that they refuse to head into the forest!

August 2022 day to day

01 Aug

It was another extremely cold morning in the Nairobi National Park, as Nairobi’s winter months continued. Even Maxwell was struggling to wake up this morning, as he remained in his warm bed of hay for quite some time, not even waking up to greet the orphans as they were moving about the stockade compound. Once in the forest, none of the orphans were particularly energetic but instead chose to stick to themselves, focusing on their browse. Although they were all busy browsing, they all remained huddled together to keep warm.

Kerrio, Choka, Taabu, Latika and Sileita, couldn’t decide who to stand next to keep warm and were seen constantly moving from one orphan to the other, as if they were testing who was warmest. Naleku and some of the other girls, such as Olorien, all wanted to dote upon Kerrio and were seen following her all over the forest.

Down at the mud bath, once the orphans had downed their midday bottles of milk, none of them even dared to test the temperature of the mud bath they all just resumed their browsing activities. Mzinga, Nyambeni and Mageno, all remained with their blankets on throughout the day, ensuring that they stayed warm. Once the orphans had finished all the greens at the mud bath, they returned to the forest for a very quiet afternoon of browsing.

Maxwell finally up and about

Naleku and Kerrio in the forest

Mageno, Mzinga and Nyambeni in their blankets