Keepers' Diaries, December 2015

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

At the Nairobi Elephant Nursery a huge amount of rain fell throughout December and the very wet conditions proved challenging for the little orphans, as well as for their Keepers. However the Nairobi National Park, home to the Trust’s Nursery Unit since 1978, is looking more beautiful than ever with flowing streams, filled waterholes and green grass in abundance. Our older Nursery orphans have relished the muddy and wet conditions, but we have had to be mindful of the cold and chill factor with the younger orphans, keeping them inside their stables when the conditions were extreme.

At the Nairobi Elephant Nursery a huge amount of rain fell throughout December and the very wet conditions proved challenging for the little orphans, as well as for their Keepers. However the Nairobi National Park, home to the Trust’s Nursery Unit since 1978, is looking more beautiful than ever with flowing streams, filled waterholes and green grass in abundance. Our older Nursery orphans have relished the muddy and wet conditions, but we have had to be mindful of the cold and chill factor with the younger orphans, keeping them inside their stables when the conditions were extreme.

Early in the month a couple of huge tropical storms accompanied by lightning and thunder rolled across the plains of Nairobi Park keeping everyone awake, and stressing the orphans. The babies find these noisy thunderstorms very frightening and need the comfort of their Keepers more than usual at such times.

A problem child this month has been Olsekki, who has become extremely greedy around milk feeds, pushing and shoving the Keepers in an effort to snatch bottles of milk belonging to others. Thankfully at such times when his hectic behavior has proved too much for the Keepers to manage, our older Nursery orphans such as Arruba, Suswa, and Mashariki step in to take over and mete out discipline to the naughty boy, giving him a sharp shove with their little tusks!

Another orphan who came to us the day she was born is little Kamok. Now two years old, she has become a very mischievous little elephant. This month on occasions she has evaded the Keepers and returned to the stockade compound just to make a nuisance of herself, squashing metal buckets and tugging at blankets hanging outside to air. However, such behavior is mitigated by nurturing and loving behavior towards the other orphans, as she displays signs of potentially morphing into a very diligent mini matriarch, albeit one with a very premeditated mischievous streak!

Kamok has been playing “Mummy” to the babies whisking Ngilai, Godoma and Naseku away from the others and even the Keepers, eager to have exclusivity of the babies! She lavishes nurturing and love on baby Ngilai who has, for a long time, been hooked on Elkerama. This is a timely change as Elkerama, Arruba, Mashariki, Embu, Rorogoi and Suswa have been earmarked to make the journey down to Tsavo now that the rains have broken and Tsavo is so beautifully green. They are now of an age when they are ready for the transition to the next phase of their journey to becoming “wild” elephants again, and need exposure to the older Tsavo orphans and to wild herds as well. Of course they will remain dependent on us for many more years even once down in Tsavo as the process of going wild is a journey that takes time, since at any age an elephant duplicates the age of a human counterpart.

The rainy season brought on some unusual behavioral traits in Pea and Pod, the orphaned ostriches who are very much part of the orphaned herd of elephants having been raised in their midst. One day early in the month, they attacked a Keeper with front kicks, repeating this three times throughout the day until everyone realized that it was the raincoats placed over the dustcoats to which they had an aversion! Now that they are so big, their displeasure can be extremely alarming, so the keepers have opted for umbrellas and getting wet rather than face the wrath of Pea and Pod!

Our orphaned giraffe Kiko, who bumbles around very much marching to his own beat under the watchful eye of the Keepers, has come into contact with wild giraffe and joined their midst for short periods of time. The month brought some close shaves with the Nairobi Park lions, which one day dashed towards Pea and Pod scattering the whole herd of elephants, the giraffe and the Keepers in the process. Fortunately the lions’ halfhearted attempt was foiled and peace was restored again. More lion encounters can be read though within the daily diary entries written by our Keepers. The Keepers on duty with the baby herd where Kiko is most comfortable wear red dustcoats made out of Masai Shuka fabric, in an attempt to deter the lions since all lions have an innate fear of the Masai, having been speared by them in cultural ceremonies for centuries. Fear of the Masai and red “shukas” now seems to have become an innate genetic memory in lions making the red shuka a deterrent.

On the 4th of December the first of our older orphans made their journey to Voi. These were Arruba, Mashariki and Rorogoi who obediently succumbed to their fate entering the Elephant Moving truck with little fuss, although this was for the second time in their case, the first having to be aborted two weeks before due to a terrible traffic jam on the Mombasa road resulting from torrential rains. Now, with a window in the weather, they were off and although they will be sorely missed at the Nursery, we comfort ourselves in knowing they are going to a better place, and will ultimately be happier surrounded with elephants of all ages and immersed in ideal elephant habitat along with our many orphans who have made the journey before them. Besides, they will still remain very much in the DSWT fold for many years to come.

Alamaya, our eunuch elephant who survived a significant operation to repair his urethra, has grown more confident, happier and becoming more forceful. With the absence of some of the bigger girls Oltaiyoni is taking on matriarchal duties and is quick to discipline bad behavior. Alamaya has felt the brunt of her displeasure when his more assertive behavior is perceived as bullying, as has Rapa, who despite being a very young boy, can still pack a punch and is prone to bullying others.
Our little female Roi, rescued when her mother died on the plains of the Masai Mara from a spear wound to the cheek, is a very rotund, happy and playful little elephant who has some mini admirers in the form of Ndotto and Lasayen along with Godoma and Rapa. They welcome the opportunity of playing with her whenever she invites them by lying on the ground to allow them to clamber all over her. Enkikwe, on the other hand, is becoming difficult for even the Keepers to handle around the milk times, being very pushy and spreading his ears out in an effort to intimidate. At the onset of the cool season in Tsavo (May 2016) he along with Olsekki will be considered as candidates for relocation to Tsavo where older orphans can administer some much needed discipline.

This month frail little Murit had a close encounter with a swarm of bees which jolted him out of his usual slow pace to full speed ahead as he took immediate evasive action. Clearly he knows that they pose a threat, for even at his tender age he clearly has great respect for them. The condition that plagued him towards the end of last year has improved enormously but even so Murit does seem to not have the robust health of others around him. He remains small for his age and slower than the other, but nevertheless is certainly happy and playful which is always a comforting sign.

On the 14th of December, after an aborted trip due to torrential rain the previous morning, Embu, Suswa and big boy Elkerama made their move to Voi. They went into the Truck in the early hours of the morning like little lambs, the loading process taking around only eight minutes! Their journey went well until the last three kilometers when the truck became stuck in mud. Fortunately due to swift action the truck was pulled out in no time and its cargo delivered safely to Tsavo before 11.00 a.m. in the morning. The delight of Suswa when she saw old friends Arruba, Rorogoi and Mashariki was moving to watch. Elkerama seemed delighted to be amongst big elephants once more, and Embu was delivered still sleepy from having been tranquilized for the journey. We knew that those left behind would miss these six big elephants, but their move relieved congestion in the Nursery making space for newcomers should they arrive. Surprisingly Dupotto and Ngilai regrouped and recovered more rapidly than we anticipated, despite the absence of their special friends.

Kauro is growing into a huge elephant, a growth spurt that has left his Nursery peer Murit behind. He is quite a character - a little bull who loves to express himself through joyous playing. With impeccable genes due to natural selection in a challenging environment, we feel sure he will grow into a fine young bull one day, as he is extremely big for his tender age. Boromoko, Sirimon and Tusuja are polite little bulls who spend much of the time strength testing with each other, jousting for hours on end.

Maxwell, our resident blind Black Rhinoceros who has been with us a good long time now, has become very frisky with all the rain and mud, and one night pushed down the partition between the top and bottom part of his stockade. He huffs and puffs and gallops around his enclosure, familiar with every square inch, so much so that it is hard to believe that he is without sight when he is in his playful moods. Our female orphaned rhino Solio has been absent most of this month, clearly enjoying the bountiful rains and vegetation and frolicking with wild friends within Nairobi National Park. Her reintegration back into the wild rhino community, which for rhinos is a very complicated process, has been most successful and she seamlessly moves between both her worlds, visiting Maxwell and her human family from time to time although not in daylight this month, but probably under cover of darkness. More stories can be enjoyed throughout the Nursery Keepers Daily entries.

December 2015 day to day

01 Dec

It was later than usual for the orphans to go out into the bush today and this was because of the rain and we have been experiencing huge rain in Nairobi, El Nino rain. Kiko stayed in his pen until the rain had eased slightly, but Pea and Pod the ostriches left with the older orphans looking wet and bedraggled. The older girls such as Rorogoi and Mashariki don’t like seeing the ostriches close to their young peers and they, together with Arruba sometimes, chase them away from interrupting their feeding time. Kauro doesn’t like getting wet and he stayed under a tree whilst the others browsed and played in the drizzle. Ndotto and Ngilai were at Elkerama’s side. Olsekki and Sirimon had a great time wrestling, mounting each other and rolling in the mud at length. Mwashoti also had some fun playing with Siangiki who hardly plays at all so this was a nice change in mood. Mwashoti engaged her in a pushing game that lasted for quite some time until they finally called it off. Seeing Mwashoti with his leg that was nearly severed by a cable snare doing so well and totally healed and becoming more mobile all the time is extremely satisfying for the DSWT team. When the second group came down for visiting the greedy boy Olsekki gave the keepers a very hard time as he was very difficult to control. He had arrived together with the first group including Siangiki, Boromoko and Sokotei for their milk, but he went on fighting and pushing everybody trying to snatch other elephant’s milk share including those of the last group of orphans to descend on the midday mudwallow time, these included big orphans like Suswa, Elkerama, Rorogoi and Arruba. He tried to fight for Arruba’s bottle but in vain. He ended up pushing the keeper that was feeding Arruba and when she saw that she abandoned her bottle and drove him away dishing out some much needed discipline and helping us Keepers, poking him with her tusks, before returning to finish her bottle.

Kiko going out into the forest

Rorogoi doesn't like the ostriches near the babie

Ngilai browsing with Elkerama