Keepers' Diaries, December 2020

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Due to the short rains experienced recently we have had some very clear days where temperatures have reached soaring heights. On such days our black rhino Maxwell couldn’t be persuaded to leave his mud pool even when tempted with his most favourite greens tantalizingly displayed before him. He would spend most of the day submerged in his mud pool punctuated only by short walks before he’d flop once more back into the cool mud. On those mornings when it did rain, it’s always interesting to watch the different reactions between the elephant orphans; those who don’t mind the rain and are quick to embrace the day, and those others who take much convincing to leave their covered bedrooms! It seems to be Larro and Naboishu who take the most coaxing out of their bedrooms on those days. 

Rain or shine however, little Roho loves to mud bath and he will enjoy the main mud wallow no matter what. He is confident that Maisha or Kiasa will follow him in too. One day he played a little too vigorously though and ended up losing his balance and getting stuck in the thick drying mud. Maisha is so fond of little Roho that she even abandoned her second milk bottle so that she could run to his aid. 

Little Naleku, the youngest in the Nursery, still loves the attention of older bull Mukkoka, even over the older females. Mukkoka was her very first neighbour when she first arrived here in the Nursery and clearly that impressionable time left its mark as she seems to still love spending time with him the most. The very first thing she does in the morning, as soon as she comes out of her room is rush to find her best friend Mukkoka and welcome him as he exits his stockade. The Keepers wonder if maybe she has learnt some of her wrestling tactics from him too. She and Roho are still like two naughty little siblings and are fighting and wrestling all the time, but Naleku is such an independent girl and despite being the youngest she is very competitive and stands her ground and doesn’t allow Roho the upper hand. Maisha is such an attentive matriarch, and is always quick to step in to interrupt any game that she deems slightly too boisterous. As a result Roho will always snuggle up to his Maisha and follow her after any disagreement with Naleku, whereas Naleku is happy to wander off in her own direction, more often than not towards Mukkoka.  

Maisha put an end to a wrestling game between Mukkoka and Kiombo too one day. This was after she saw Kiombo, who has quite long tusks now, take on Mukkoka a little more seriously than expected and she didn’t want anyone getting hurt. She is extremely patient and friendly with the older bulls in the Nursery like Mukkoka, Maktao and Kiombo, unlike Nabulu who sometimes gives them a hard time and pushes them around a bit, especially when they are misbehaving with the youngsters; she instead likes to remind them who is in charge!

Maktao and Kiombo are still the best of friends and are always challenging each other to a strength-testing match. They are also often joined by Mukkoka and on occasion by Naboishu too. Bondeni is always eager to watch the big bulls wrestle but he hasn’t yet really shown any interest in joining in; he is still far too small. When the big bulls really start to push each other around, Bondeni quickly moves away to join the others such as Kindani, Kinyei, Olorien and Ziwadi who are all usually busy browsing. 

Bondeni, Kindani and Olorien remain very close friends. Kinyei joins them too but she has developed this independent streak that means she likes to wander off on her own, or occasionally with Ziwadi too. Towards the end of the month she even teamed up with Naleku, Mukkoka, Larro, Naboishu and Nabulu, who are fond of sneaking off from the rest of the herd to walk deeper into the forest to browse. Kinyei and Ziwadi seem very similar too, and when the rest of the Nursery herd are messing around and in a hyper mood, Ziwadi and Kinyei simply carry on browsing totally unperturbed by what is going on around them. These two babies aren’t fond of messing around like the others and would never get involved with charging and trumpeting all over the place.

Bondeni is so full of personality it is very apparent if he is ever feeling off colour. He went quite quiet for a few days this month and we were monitoring him closely but he soon bounced back and was his old self again. His favourite games are to chase after warthogs, should any ever choose to browse close to the elephant orphans, and also to tip over the water troughs at the mud bath area and kick them around. 

Bondeni might be one of the slowest drinkers in the Nursery, savouring every last drop, but Kiasa is the fastest. Kiasa is very caring, but when it comes to milk she often tries to steal from the others and is quick to forget her manners, even when it comes to the younger orphans! This is why she is fed in the last group as it gives the smaller orphans enough time to finish and move away. Her moods tend to chop and change, but she often picks on Naboishu, perhaps as they are often fed around the same time. This might be why he has developed the habit of waiting to go for his milk feed with Nabulu! He is still very quick to run for his bottles, and has retained the habit of yelling just before he has his bottle – we have never heard quite such a noisy orphan around milk feeds!

Ziwadi is such a creature of habit that it is easy to see when she isn’t quite feeling herself either. The first thing she does in the morning is come out of her room and head over to Maisha’s water trough where she has a drink of water, as she still likes to drink with her mouth and doesn’t use her trunk. Once she’s finished drinking she moves straight off out to the forest to find her favourite greens. Olorien noticed that Ziwadi wasn’t feeling well one day and chose to stay with her friend the entire day. After each and every milk feed she would go off in search of her friend again to stay by her side. Ziwadi’s quiet demeanour soon improved though and she was fine the following day. Ziwadi is unique in that we have never had an elephant that suffers from epileptic fits before; in the past she has had seizures that last as long as ten minutes. Thankfully she hasn't had one for very many months now and seems to be growing out of them slowly but surely. 

Blind rhino Maxwell likes to listen for when the elephant orphans come out of their rooms in the morning and sometimes he stands beside the gate to his stockade so that orphans like Mukkoka and Kiombo see him standing and waiting there, so decide to engage him in fun and games by pulling on his ears with their trunks, which Maxwell really likes. His reaction makes the elephant orphans happy too. One day Maxwell was standing by one of his stockade gates and Mukkoka went over and touched his ears, which Maxwell enjoyed and he stayed very calm and still and he allowed this to go on for a good long time. 

As we reached the end of a difficult year we couldn’t help but reflect on the hope that each and every one of these babies in the Nursery represents; we feel buoyed by their happiness and optimism as they embrace each day despite their difficult beginnings. 

December 2020 day to day

01 Dec

Naleku has always enjoyed leading the orphans with Mukkoka. Whilst in the forest she will often lead the orphans in the direction she thinks there are the best greens. Mukkoka, who now knows the forest as well as Maisha and the others, will also direct the young girl making sure she does pick the best locations. Naleku more recently has also been seen copying Ziwadi and walking off to browse on her own or even following Ziwadi on her adventures. 

Maisha, who is a fantastic matriarch, still seems to dote on little Roho the most. When all the orphans are out browsing in the forest, she will often be found near Roho and Naleku. Unlike Roho, Naleku will know always stay right by the older girls and Maisha and she will move between the other orphans, and browse near Mukkoka and Olorien as well as the rest of the Nursery orphans. 

Although each orphan has their own personality, they all enjoy each other’s company and most of the time will all browse together in between each of their milk feeds. Sometimes they will form their own groups and will wander off together, but they are also just as happy being altogether.  

Naleku near Mukkoka drinking his milk

Ziwadi browsing with her Keeper nearby

Roho snuggling up to Maisha