Keepers' Diaries, December 2014

Nairobi Nursery Unit

Ziwa gave us a good scare this month when he went missing after a dramatic thunderous rainstorm. He took off deep into the Park and despite a desperate search was not found and he spent the night out. No one slept a wink with lions and hyaena calling throughout the night we feared terribly for his life. Thankfully that drama ended well and he was located early the next day. This month we have watched in awe and wonder as our little tiny babies like Ndotto and Lasayen have turned the corner and really begun to thrive. We have been able to enjoy our recently rescued Roi’s progress as she has found true happiness once again. Little Mbegu despite her desperate beginning, coming to us with multiple spear wounds, is now turning into a nurturing mini Mum despite being a baby herself, giving generously of her time and love to those even younger than herself. This has all been the balm for the hard times we have encountered this month, and there have been sadly too many.

01 December 2014

Ziwa became separated from the group during a huge thunderstorm and despite hours and hours of searching until 8.00pm he was not located. It was a long and a horrible night for everyone at the nursery as we worried about Ziwa, who spent a cold and frightening night out alone. The lions and hyenas were roaring and whooping all around making everyone fearful for his safety. As dawn broke a search party immediately was dispatched. Everyone was greatly relieved when Ziwa was found, trying to make his way back home, thankfully none the worse for wear for his ordeal! Ziwa was led back to the stockades for a nice, calming bottle of milk and then he went back out to be with the other elephants. Roi was especially happy to see him and stayed by his side throughout the day whilst he recounted his adventures to the rest of the group who were making a fuss of him. After his tale was told Murit accompanied Ziwa back to the stockades. It was clear the Nursery orphans group had been equally as concerned about Ziwa’s ordeal and he had developed heroic status as a result.

02 December 2014

It did not rain today but it was very cold and damp today, especially for the young ones. Ndotto, Lasayen and Nkii didn’t venture far from the stockades, going in and out until it had brightened up considerably outside. After the 3pm milk feed trouble started. Kithaka, our naughty boy, started assembling the other elephants for a bit of mischief, having his eye on one particular prize, the parking lot. This is his usual place for mischief-making, namely chasing and playing with the drivers who stay there! However he knew, being such a trickster, that it was likely that he would be caught so he led Lentili, Arruba, Ashaka, Kauro and Sokotei into the parking lot to distract the keepers whilst he had his fun. Nkii came to us emaciated and with little reserves and she has been scouring which is a worry. Of course we are working hard to pull her through.

03 December 2014

Usually the orphans are oiled with coconut oil on a Friday but as it was raining then it had been postponed until today. Some of the young orphans are still getting used to it and Roi, Enkikwe, Sirimon and Olsekki gave the keepers the runaround before coming in to be oiled. After everyone had been oiled it was time for soil dusting. The older females, Mashariki, Arruba and Suswa have all mastered the art of dusting, digging up the earth with their feet before picking it up and flinging it over themselves. The younger orphans employed help from the older ones to break up the soil and once it was done, everyone had a grand time rolling and dusting themselves all over!

04 December 2014

Enkikwe is becoming naughtier as time goes on, becoming more and more like Olsekki. However it is good that his adopted mother, Embu seems like she is not going to tolerate that kind of nonsense! For a few days now, after finishing his bottles of milk, he goes around charging and pushing the rest of the feeding group. Sometimes he even butts the keeper who has been feeding him! Today when they were having their 9 o’clock milk out in the park, Enkikwe went crazy, wildly rumbling and knocking everybody around him! Embu watched these proceedings whilst finishing her bottle of milk, which was too delicious to abandon, but as soon as she had finished she sprung into action enacting swift discipline upon Enkikwe. In the process however Embu succeeded in knocking down Dupotto and her keeper, resulting in an elephant ‘time out’ for Enkikwe until public viewing at 11 o’clock on top of his scolding by Embu.

05 December 2014

Ngasha has been making friends with Kithaka today. In the morning Kithaka was out first and feeding on Maxwell’s Lucerne when Ngasha arrived to join him. Kithaka walked off but Ngasha followed. Whenever Kithaka picked a branch Ngasha copied him and followed him wherever he went. Eventually they had a wrestling game but Kithaka still was not quite sure about Ngasha and went to join Mashariki for games of hide and seek and catch. Ngasha did not give up but intercepted them, standing between the two until Kithaka agreed to play with him again. Ngasha’s trick worked as Kithaka then played and spent the rest of the day with him which please Ngasha no end.

06 December 2014

Everyone was extremely sad this morning as little Nkii passed away in the early hours. Her end was peaceful, she just fell asleep and slipped from consciousness. Ndotto was especially upset as Nkii had become a close friend and they had shared some good times together. Lasayen was quite comfortable being in the company of Ashaka and Kamok but Ndotto stayed on his own, just with the keepers. He missed having a nap with his little friend.

07 December 2014

Barsilinga and Tundani had a lovely time playing together from morning until night. Their games were fairly played with no dirty tricks to spoil the fun. The others left them alone and the only interference was from the warthogs and their piglets. When they came along Barsilinga and Tundani would break from their games to chase them off into the bushes. All the orphans, big and small, spent some time together in the morning and Mbegu was able to babysit Ndotto and Lasayen for a while which she absolutely adored doing. Despite being a tiny elephant herself her nurturing nature is strong. Later the mid-age and older ones went far out into the Park but Mbegu stayed behind with the baby group. She was kind and gentle with them all, unlike the last time when she only had eyes for Ndotto.

08 December 2014

Ziwa and Balguda had everyone worried when they disappeared today. Ziwa had become used to walking long distances when he was relocated to Tsavo and, being weak on his return to the nursery, he was initially happy with the shorter walks of his nursery peers. Now he is better he just wants to take off which is what happened after the public visit today. Instead of waiting for the older ones to join them before heading off to the bush, Ziwa, Balguda and Roi slipped away. A search was initiated and an hour later Roi came back of her own accord but the others had vanished into thin air. Just after 5pm they were found they were found deep in the bush 4km away from the other orphans. They were browsing happily with no sign of coming back home, oblivious to the trouble and worry they had caused or how vulnerable they were to predators.

09 December 2014

The orphans were in a very happy mood for some reason today. Ngasha led the way out to the park trumpeting in happiness. Ashaka, Oltaiyoni, Kauro and Suswa also joined in the celebration, trumpeting together like a choir. The elephants all rushed about charging, ears flapping and jumping on bushes as if they were dancing to the sound of the trumpets. It was beautiful to see them all so happy and the keepers reminded themselves about the traumatic journey each of these orphans had undergone as it was easy to forget when you watched them today so generally happy and playful and content with life. The special friendships within the group along with the love of their human family. Even little Roi who came to us not so long ago is extremely happy.

10 December 2014

During milk feeding sometimes even the most disciplined orphans can exhibit bullying tendencies. They are just like small children, thinking that someone else’s share is always bigger or better. Jasiri was naughty today; firstly going for Kauro’s bottle then, after Kauro had shouldered him away, going after Ziwa’s bottle. Jasiri still even had his own bottle held fast in his trunk when he charged into Ziwa, knocked him to the ground and attempted to mount him. The keepers jumped to Ziwa’s aid and Jasiri got ‘time out’. Enkikwe and Olsekki were a bit idiotic when all the orphans were running in for their milk at the public visiting time. For some reason they broke from the line and dashed to the stockades instead, ears raised and rumbling. They were very confused when there was no one there to meet them and returned to the mud bath when they came back to their senses. By this time everyone else had finished their milk so Olsekki missed his chance to try and pinch anyone else’s bottle. Today was heartbreak as Kili lost his struggle for life. He had not been the same since the lion attack, being scared to stay out in the park. He lost his appetite and was scouring, finally collapsed although the keepers were able to help him recover enough to walk around the stockades. The vet visited again but while administering an intravenous drip Kili passed away. None of us could believe it, as up until the lion incident he had been thriving and had become such an important member of the Nursery unit. We loved him dearly.

11 December 2014

Lasayen and Ndotto accompanied the older orphans for a long walk in the park today. Arruba and Mashariki enjoyed their company and tried to separate them, Mashariki taking Ndotto under the trunk and Arruba with Lasayen. This did not really work as Mbegu, when not with her adopted mum Oltaiyoni, is also very fond of the babies and they like her so all five ended up being together most of the time. Where one went they all followed. It is good for the young ones to spend time with their elders. They feed on their dung, which helps their digestive systems and learn to feed on vegetation by copying the older ones. The long walks are also good exercise, keeping them healthier.

12 December 2014

Embu shares a stockade with Enkikwe who loves to be close to her. Embu also often has Dupotto in tow. Enkikwe can be quite grumpy and doesn’t really get along very well with the other orphans. He doesn’t really seem to trust the keepers much either and often even head-butts them when he is having his bottle. This morning he engaged for a long time with Sokotei in a pushing match but neither was prepared to back down so the keepers ended up separating them. Sokotei ‘s huge wart on his truck that worried him for some time has completely vanished thanks to homeopathic medication.

13 December 2014

Kauro went out with the older ones and was looked after by Jasiri, Faraja, Nelion, Tundani and Barsilinga. They were very gentle with him, especially Nelion with his long tusks, and broke off high soft green branches to feed him. After a while they took a break from feeding to play with Kauro. Barsilinga rolled in the long grass allowing Kauro to climb on him and afterwards Faraja held his tail gently pulling him backwards. Nelion showed him some wrestling tactics with his long tusks and Kauro had a lovely, fun packed time.

14 December 2014

Some of the orphans are much more disciplined than others, especially at milk feeding time. It’s not that they don’t enjoy the milk but they are just much more obedient and respectful of the keepers. Olsekki was in trouble with Oltaiyoni this afternoon as, having finished his bottle, he then tried to push the keeper away and snatch hers. She was not having this and abandoned her bottle for a while to chase him off. Meantime Tundani, who had been one of the last to come in, was standing by patiently, just waiting for a keeper to finish feeding one of the others so that he could have his turn. Tundani is a very well mannered boy, along with his best friend Nelion. The orphans that come to us as starvation victims are the ones that become obsessed with their milk feeds. Everyone had a good splash in the mudbath after their milk as it was a very hot day. The visiting public today between 11 -12 noon had a spectacular performance!

15 December 2014

Some baby elephants like playing in the water and others do not. It was very hot today and all the orphans bar two have been wallowing and playing in the mud, both at visiting times and out in the wild. Kauro and Tundani though just stayed on the sidelines watching the others play. Mbegu and Kamok were the stars of the show. Mbegu just loves the mud and Kamok was really in the mood for it today. As everyone was crowded in the pool Lentili had some fun charging and pushing Roi and Enkikwe out. Again the main focus was the mudbath with so much fun and games happening at that time.

16 December 2014

Barsilinga and Lemoyian were bothering Mashariki and Rorogoi today. The two boys chased and mounted the two girls incessantly, even though they ran away, and prevented them from browsing. Finally Faraja and Nelion came to the girls rescue, driving Barsilinga and Lemoyian away and standing by Mashariki and Rorogoi for a while to ensure they did not return. Embu has not been very nice to Enkikwe recently. It is maybe her way of ensuring Enkikwe becomes better mannered.

17 December 2014

Whilst out browsing Balguda busied himself chasing Rorogoi in and around the thicket trying to mount her. She rumbled out for help bringing Suswa and Arruba to her aid. This encouraged Balguda to desist and go off to join his usual browsing companion Ziwa. The orphans spent much of the day feasting on the great browse thanks to the rain. Also the mud pools out in the forest provide good distraction. Little Ndotto and his best inseparable friend Lasayen are having fun together and are becoming increasingly playful.

18 December 2014

Early in the morning, after leaving the stockades and walking to the bush, Kamok and Mbegu had a great pushing game. Then they encountered some warthogs and started to charge and chase them in and out of the bushes instead. The warthogs soon disappeared and they settled down to browse. Barsilinga made a nuisance of himself chasing Mashariki and trying to mount her. She deterred him by running into dense bushes but he did not give up eventually the keepers had to intervene so she could have some peace to browse.

19 December 2014

Lasayen and tiny Ndotto quickly downed their milk and were playing with sticks with their tiny trunks when a warthog and her piglets rushed into their group. They spread their tiny ears to try and scare them off but this did not really frighten the warthog! Lasayen tried to chase them but it was a challenge as he kept falling over when he tried to head-butt them. Little Ndotto just kept flapping his ears at them but did not run after them due to his sore foreleg from a tumble which is still causing him to limp, although it is getting much better. Lasayen settled down after the keepers had chased the warthogs away, being afraid that they would injure each other. Solio has not visited the stockades for a long time. As black rhinos are strictly territorial it may be that she is staying within her territory in the park and we can only hope that she is still safe and well amongst the wild rhino population in Nairobi National Park. There is no reason for us to think otherwise as no incidents have been reported. Maxwell is a very big boy, in beautiful condition, and still enjoys the company of the young orphans in the early mornings. He very much is a creature of routines and is predictably in various parts of his stockade at various times of day. The evening visitors are a huge attraction for him, he loves the attention and the scratching and of course the handouts of sugar cane that he gets at this time. Shabby his Sacred Ibis friend is constantly by his side. In the nights he is visited by wild rhinos and huffing and puffing can be heard in the darkness when visitors come to his gate under the cover of darkness. This interaction is important for Maxwell, because although he remains safe from these wild visitors the interaction is important for his wellbeing.

20 December 2014

It was extremely hot at mud bath hour so most of the orphans took a lengthy wallow to cool off. Sirimon, Sokotei and Olsekki spent quite a while climbing on Embu and Balguda. Embu kept pushing them up the mud wall and out of the wallow once her babies, Enkikwe and Dupotto joined her. The young ones sandwiched her between them as they lay comfortably in the mud. Embu did not want their relaxed time to be spoilt with bullying from the boisterous boys. Embu’s body condition in the recent weeks has really improved because she came to us in such an emaciated state, but slowly slowly we are seeing her morph back into perfect condition but it has taken a very long time.

21 December 2014

When the orphans went into the bush early this morning they encountered a lone buffalo. He ran away on seeing them coming towards him but took a sudden change of direction which frightened the orphans. They charged about bush bashing Lentili, Arruba, Rorogoi, Kithaka, Ziwa and Balguda went in a different direction to all the others, going down to the mudbath, through to the stockades and back to where they usually have their 9am milk feed. Kamok, Ashaka, Kauro, Mbegu and Murit made their way back to the stockades to avoid the charging and bush bashing of the older orphans who were trying to flush out the buffalo that has long since disappeared. The keepers had a hard time trying to calm the herd and were glad when Lentili and the others who had disappeared returned to the group. Only Ziwa had not come back as he is fond of being alone, but he was found just before the 11am visiting hour. It seems he has not learnt from his frightening night out on the 1st of December.

22 December 2014

The morning was very chilly so Ndotto, Lasayen and Murit stayed indoors snuggled under their blankets to ward off the chill while the rest of the orphans went out and were very happy enjoying the frequent early morning showers of rain. They spent quite some time mud bathing and the older ones had pushing matches slipping and sliding. Kithaka took on Lemoyian, Nelion took on Jasiri and Ngasha took on Barsilinga. Kauro had some fun bumping and climbing on Tundani as he relaxed on the ground soil bathing and polite Tundani obliged. They carried on like this until it was time for their 9am milk feed. As the day warmed up the tiny tots were allowed out and able to get some sun and join in the fun and games.

23 December 2014

A female baby elephant was rescued from Mount Kenya region today. She was seen by community members wandering alone so they contacted KWS who picked her up and kept her overnight before contacting us. We sent a team to airlift her back to Nairobi from Nanyuki airstrip, where the KWS rangers brought her to meet the plane. The baby was extremely young. We are not sure what she was fed before coming to us but we suspect possibly some cow’s milk as she had a terrible upset stomach which is a real worry. Blood tests were done and showed that she had a severe infection so she was given antibiotics. At the nursery, the orphans found a small mud cliff which they played on and browsed around. Dupotto especially had great fun sliding down the edge and the other orphans joined in by pushing him.

24 December 2014

The new baby has been named Chehe. She spent a very disturbed night crying and missing her mother although she has taken the milk well. On coming out of their stockades Arruba, Mashariki and Suswa went to investigate the new arrival having heard her cries throughout the night. They hung about a bit hoping that the baby would be let out, Arruba even knocked on the stable door. On realizing they were not going to see her they rushed off running and trumpeting their disapproval. The morning was too chilly to let the calf out and given her state we were being very cautious.

25 December 2014

Chehe woke up looking quite strong despite another disturbed night crying for her mother. She happily accompanied Ndotto and Lasayen out to the field today but stayed close to the keepers. Her stools were very frequent and very loose giving concern about dehydration. Kamok and Mbegu came to greet and check on Chehe. They followed her around for a long time, trying to comfort and persuade her to accept their care, but she just wanted to stick close to the keepers so eventually they gave up and left her to it.

26 December 2014

Chehe lost strength and collapsed at around 3am. She was put on a dehydrating drip to combat the effects of diarrhea. At around 8am she seemed to recover her strength, standing up whereas before she had just lain hopelessly on the straw. She managed to drink some milk, giving her more energy, and walked around the stockades a little. Further blood test revealed she was still fighting the bacterial infection. More medication was administered. It was a hot morning and the orphans emjoyed their mud bath. Mbegu, as always, put on a great show and had to use his trunk to wipe the mud from his eyes. After the bath, Murit and Ashaka found a post to scratch on. In the afternoon Kamok spent some time by himself playing and rolling on the ground before going back to join the others.

27 December 2014

Olsekki is the greediest of the orphans and very rough at feeding time. At the 9am bottle feed he downed his milk then bumped against Roi, head-butting her away from her bottle and sending her sprawling. Roi cried out as she tried to get to her feet and the keepers intervened, chasing Olsekki away to spend some ‘time out’ for his bad behavior. He is fast becoming a real handful. He spent a while away from the rest of the herd feeling sorry for himself and crying out so that the keepers allowed him back, a very subdued little elephant by this time. The time out is what our orphans do naturally for bad behavior and it is very effective.

28 December 2014

It was a very sad morning for everyone as poor little Chehe passed away at midnight. Early in the morning Suswa passed by Chehe’s stable to try and greet her, spent a few minutes then shook her head and moved sadly away realizing that the baby was no longer alive. Suswa trumpeted loudly as she made her way to join the other orphans, attracting the attention of Lentili, Oltaiyoni, Rorogoi, Mashariki and Arruba. After meeting with Suswa they all made a low rumble, with ears erect, and rubbed up against each other. Then they were silent before melting back into the bushes. It was as if Suswa had given them the message about Chehe’s passing and this was a mourning ritual for the dead baby. Our orphans have learnt over the years that sadly we lose as many as we save. Raising these orphans is incredibly challenging and we certainly do not have all the answers, but just try our level best. Different circumstances each time make every case unique. Chehe never thrived and was an extremely stressed calf. Of course we tried to counteract the stress levels with medication but the stress she had experienced to this point influenced her gut too. With Chehe we were on the back foot from the beginning. Today us Keepers concentrated on our miracles, little Ndotto, and Kamok coming the day they were born, Kithaka this strong boy today who came as a tiny little calf from Imenti Forest. Then Ashaka and Mbegu, Kauro and Murit – little Lasayen. Jasiri and Faraja our little albinos. Infact all our happy babies are miracles emerging from extremely challenging beginnings. We concentrated on them and the positives to turn the page and to get the strength to carry on.

29 December 2014

The orphans were subdued this morning. The usual play pushing was absent even amongst the most playful boys, Kithaka, Lemoyian, Jasiri, Nelion and Barsilinga who just browsed. Young Murit is the only elephant in his group that still likes to browse in close company with the keepers. He also still likes the security of a blanket to take his bottle feeds by and is usually the first to lie down and sleep when the orphans return to the stockades for the evening. He is very gentle and polite which is why he is Ndotto and Lasayen‘s favourite young bull. He is always calm and welcoming when he is with them. Murit was a very difficult baby to save as he came with a raging bacterial infection having ingested the spring water. This became chronic. But this month his condition and energy levels are really so much better and he is becoming very playful too. He is a lovely little fellow with excellent manners.

30 December 2014

During the 11am public visiting hour it was very hot. Most of the orphans downed their bottles of milk and ran quickly into the mud bath to cool off. Lovely Roi even left her bottle to jump into the mud for a dramatic roll before returning to finish it off. Quickly afterwards she returned to the wallow accompanied by Mbegu, the mudbath lover! They were later joined by Ashaka, Enkikwe, Kauro and Dupotto and within minutes the whole group was happily splashing. In the bushes close by warthogs were also waiting for their chance to wallow but Oltaiyoni, Kamok and Olsekki had great fun thwarting them and charging at them. It was a fun filled mud bath hour for everyone, not least the visiting pubic who were thrilled by the antics.

31 December 2014

The orphans came out of their stockades in a very jovial mood, scampering about amongst the adjacent bushes. Oltaiyoni, Sirimon, Roi, Sokotei and Enkikwe started the game rushing around and bush-bashing. This attracted the attention of the boys, Barsilinga, Kithaka, Lemoyian, Ngasha, Faraja and Jasiri, Tundani and Nelion along with Balguda and the big girls, Mashariki, Arruba, Suswa, Rorogoi and Lentili. They had a great time charging and trumpeting for a good 20 minutes. The keepers have noticed that the orphans often act in such a happy playful way when a new elephant is expected and they were not wrong this time as a rescue was underway.