Keepers' Diaries, December 2018

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

On the 4th December, Sana Sana, Malkia and Ndiwa made the all familiar graduation to the Ithumba Reintegration stockade in Tsavo East, first opened in 2004, which has since then seen over 90 orphans pass through on their journey back to a wild life. It is important to understand that this is a journey, and one that takes many years, sometimes up to as many as eight to ten years before an orphan has the confidence to spend protracted time away from their human family.  

Despite our previous apprehensions, Malkia boarded the moving truck as good as gold, and it was actually Ndiwa who gave us some trouble being closed into her compartment on the specially customized translocation lorry. She soon settled down though and entered the lorry so they could all begin their journey, with the two Nursery Keepers to accompany them for the journey and first few weeks of transition. Everyone who witnessed their departure wished them a successful ride and future ahead, albeit with a lump in their throats, because while they will remain Keeper dependent for a good few years, it is the Ithumba Keepers who will watch on and usher them into their wild future. Despite it being a few months until Malkia’s third birthday, she has become more independent of late and is a very grown up elephant. We have no concerns moving her to Tsavo at this age and in the company of her best friends Sana Sana and Ndiwa, and as the others before them, we knew they will embrace and love their new home. It is so important to move our elephants in their friendship groups as much as possible, so that they can continue these relationships into the next phase of their lives. Friends they make in the Nursery remain friends for life.  

Back at the Nursery, Tagwa was quick fill the gap and pick up the mantle of matriarchal duties, with little Tamiyoi by her side. The morning after the three had departed, she watched over the herd with great intent. Sagala, who was quite attached to Sana Sana and Ndiwa, spent her day close to Tagwa and Kuishi, drawing comfort, as she missed her friends who she used to go for walks with. The orphans browsed close to the Keepers and did not wander off into the forest, as Tagwa and Kuishi are not that fond of going on long walks, and prefer to keep their beloved Keepers in site at all times. Everyone in the Nursery rapidly adapted to the new set up with the three big girls absent, and the new big girls in charge. 

Lately we have witnessed how Enkesha likes to browse away from the others. We suspect this is because she is a little polite girl and she doesn’t like to get into arguments with the others, nor does she like to be bullied, so she just chooses to spend some of her time separate from the main group in an effort to avoid any incidents. Sometimes she sneaks off in the morning and hides herself in a certain place, enjoying the vegetation to be found there. When the Keepers come for her, as they know all her hiding spots, she looks very happy and makes happy rumbling sounds and playfully swings her trunk as she follows the Keepers back to the other orphans. She is such a gentle girl who does not like to cause any trouble.

Our young bulls however are particularly playful and sometimes they take to charging around the place. One day at the mud bath Maktao, Musiara, Sattao and Emoli couldn’t keep still and were chasing each other around the mud wallow, trying to climb on each other’s backs. Emoli feels like the boss of this the younger group now, and he started a funny game of trying to climb on Sattao’s head when Sattao challenged him. This habit was later copied by Maktao, who saw him and decided to try this on Enkesha. To watch them all playing and messing around was very amusing and is always a welcome sight. 

Malima and Tamiyoi are also two girls who have a particularly playful character. They like to charge at Kiko, the orphan giraffe who cuts quite an intimidating figure these days. He grew up with Tamiyoi and over the years has dwarfed her! Whenever he comes too close to the elephant herd he attracts some action and playful games. Malima likes to bump into visitors when she is all muddy too, dirtying them and enjoying all the visitors’ laughter as she does this. Tamiyoi, when she feels the opportunity is there, sometimes sneaks back to the stockades in the morning to try and grab as much of Maxwell’s lucerne pellets as she can. She always protests when caught in the act, and trumpets loudly as she is led back out to the forest by one of the Keepers. 

December is characteristically a lot warmer than the preceding rainy months, as we move into the hot weather of January, and all the orphans have been playing in the mud bath on a regular basis. Kiasa likes to be the centre of attention, and takes to submerging herself in the mud bath at visiting times. She then starts to splash mud on her back using her trunk, and splashes visitors behind her with muddy water as well, caught unawares! Dololo is one baby who does not actively enter the mud bath, as he is still regaining his strength, and he probably harbours bad memories of water pools as well considering his rescue. Instead, on hot days, he delicately splashes himself with water from one of the water troughs. He and Mukkoka, our most recent elephant arrivals, are doing so well, and on the few rainy days we have had this month, they have worn blankets to keep them warm. It is so touching to see the older babies care for the youngsters when it is colder. On one cold day Tagwa had Mukkoka on one side of her and Maktao on the other. Kuishi, who is becoming more motherly recently, kept the skinny Dololo by her side too, to help provide additional warmth. Sattao is a good friend to Dololo as well, and also happens to be his neighbour in the stockade compound. We have noticed that recently Malima is becoming quite close with Musiara. She spends a lot of time beside this little boy, which is surprising considering her rough and playful character. 

Ambo is becoming a firm boy who spends his days out in the forest throwing his weight around against his play mates Mapia and even big boy Jotto too! As the orphans settled out in the forest one morning, he was spotted wrestling with Jotto, but Jotto is soft with the younger bulls and eventually he gave up. He then went to find Mapia, who was busy teaching Emoli pushing tactics. Being proud of feeling strong, Ambo approached Mapia and Emoli by playfully charging over and bashing the bushes, trying to get Mapia’s attention so he would abandon his game with Emoli and play with him instead. When Mapia saw how Ambo approached him he too started stamping his feet as he got ready to take on the proud Ambo! They tackled each other and vigorously wrestled, with neither one wanting to give up against the other. Their wrestling match was badly timed however, as the 9am milk feeding time forced them to end their game. 

Before she left for Tsavo, Jotto used to play with Sana Sana quite a bit as she was the oldest, and biggest, girl in the Nursery, but now Tagwa is trying to step up and play with him a bit too. Kuishi hardly ever plays with him and this is because she is a little rough when she plays games. In most cases Jotto and some of the other more gentle elephants try and avoid playing with her completely! 

Tiny Maarifa, the infant white rhino presently in our care, is doing so well in the Nursery and is growing strong, putting on weight and giving her Keepers a right run around. She loves her Keepers and will not walk anywhere without them. She is also very playful and when she goes out to the bush she enjoys charging and chasing after little warthog babies. It is good for her to start to meet the other animals around the forest. She is also quite clever as she knows where her stable is and sometimes, when she comes back in the evening, she runs in front of her Keepers to go straight into her stable without them having to show her the way.

December 2018 day to day

01 Dec

Sana Sana, Ndiwa and Malkia only have a few days left in the Nairobi Nursery now, before they graduate to the Ithumba stockades in Tsavo. They have been undergoing their practice sessions of entering the lorry for a few weeks now, and while Sana Sana and Ndiwa have been doing well and easily having their bottles on board, Malkia has been shying away. Malkia made much more progress today and almost made it all of the way on to the lorry. There she had her bottle while the other two were very comfortably exploring their surroundings, playing with the doors and knocking them as they moved from one compartment to another. They were on the lookout for the lucerne pellets which had been placed inside so that they would move around the lorry and feel comfortable inside. We have great hope that on the day all will go well and Malkia will enter the lorry, as she is getting better and better – before she would not go anywhere near it and now she will have her bottle almost all the way in, so that is some progress. 

Orphans heading to 9am feed

Orphans at the 9am feed

Orphans carry on browsing after 9am feed