Keepers' Diaries, December 2021

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

December began on a cheerful note for our Nursery herd. We have rescued so many orphans over the past few weeks and months, so there is a curious and convivial air about the Nursery.

The longstanding orphans are always eager to become acquainted with the newcomers. Even while new rescues are too weak and unsettled to join the rest of the herd, the others still make them feel welcomed. Naleku is especially conscientious in this regard. Before heading out into the forest, she makes a point to stop by each new arrival’s bedroom.

At three and four years old, Larro, Mukkoka, and Naboishu are ready to embark on the next stage of their reintegration journey. To prepare them for their graduation to our Ithumba Reintegration Unit, we started familiarising them with the translocation lorry. The first training session was timed around the mid-morning milk feed. While the rest of the orphans went down to the usual feeding point, our Nursery seniors followed their Keepers back to the stockade compound, where the lorry was parked. Lured by milk bottles, Larro and Mukkoka walked straight onboard. Naboishu was not as easily convinced and ran back into the forest. After that, however, every training session went flawlessly. By the end of the month, all three were completely comfortable with the lorry, which bodes well for their move.

As we prepare to say goodbye to our next graduating class, know the Nursery herd will be left in the care of some capable elephants. Naleku continues to be an exceptional nanny. She is always looking after the younger orphans and newer rescues. She is particularly smitten with her little angel, Kerrio. On chilly mornings, we often keep Kerrio and the other babies in their stables until it warms up. Naleku loathes these mornings. The Keepers catch her sneaking back to the stockades, where she loiters until it is time for Kerrio to emerge. 

Kindani is another girl who takes her nanny responsibilities very seriously. She is constantly looking after her best friends, Kinyei and Bondeni, but also some of the newer rescues, such as Latika and Kamili. Like Naleku, Kindani goes out of her way to visit the new rescues’ stables and stockades. Paradoxically, she can also be a bit of a bully, but this is only because she treasures mini herd so much.

Like Kindani, Suguroi is an interesting mix of nurturing and bullying. However, she has really bonded with Barnoti over their shared love of milk. Both orphans quickly memorised the different milk feeding times, and Suguroi always tries to be the first to get her bottle. Because Barnoti is older, he is supposed to go with the later groups. He has a burgeoning friendship with Rama, another gentle boy, and they often run down for their milk bottles side by side. 

As we often see with orphans who were rescued around the same time Latika and Kamili have become fast friends. By the end of the month, they had welcomed Mukutan into their trio. The girls took a liking to him as soon as he arrived. They diligently checked up on him while he remained in his stockade, and when he joined the herd for the first time, they made sure to keep him company. 

Kamili seems particularly keen to take on some nannying responsibilities. However, she got a bit ahead of herself this month. She tried to lead a little group to the feeding point in the forest, but she got her locations confused and took them down to the mud bath instead. Once, she got so turned around that she led everyone back to the stockade compound. The Keepers are happy to see her growing in confidence, but they hope she starts to understand the feeding routine!

Ziwadi continues to be the gentle auntie of the Nursery. Although she is not as attentive as the others, the younger and newer orphans gravitate towards her peaceful presence. She also has a knack for finding the best greenery in the forest, so Kerrio, Latika, Mukutan, Taabu, Kamili, and Choka often seek her out. She hasn’t had a seizure in a long time and seems to be thriving, although the Keepers always keep a close eye on her condition. 

While she is now much happier to remain in the bosom of the herd, Ziwadi occasionally pulls her old disappearing acts. One afternoon, she snuck off with Barnoti and Choka. As the Keepers were tracking the trio’s footprints, little Choka emerged from the nearby bushes. They found Ziwadi and Barnoti shrouded in the vegetation, peacefully browsing. 

Our gentle boy Rama is doing so well. Ziwadi remains his closest friend, but he has also been branching out and spending more time with his fellow bulls. We have even started to see him display an amusing naughty streak. One evening, he kept stealing his neighbour Olorien’s greens. Every time Olorien separated her greens, Rama would come over, snatch what he could, and pull it through to his stockade. Even after the Keepers warned him to stop, Rama kept coming back for more. The pillaging only stopped when he fell asleep!

Taabu is such a fun-loving, curious young bull. One particularly hot afternoon, several of our resident warthogs were keen to cool off in the mud bath. He and Kinyei started patrolling the area, so as to keep the interlopers at bay. Every time a warthog approached, Taabu would hold his head high and flare out his ears, rumbling at the warthogs and chasing them off. He only stood down when the rest of the herd headed back into the forest.

Of course, no one is as fun-loving as Bondeni. He is the undisputed star of the midday milk feed and mud bath. He is always showing off to the Nursery’s visitors, scampering around and trying to cause as much mayhem as possible. These antics continue throughout the day, and it has become a full-time job managing Bondeni’s mischief! He has great friend in Esoit, who shares his love of fun and games. Both bulls often charge around the forest, chasing nothing in particular and making a great racket.

This has been a year of growth for Roho. He has come a long way since his rescue, in terms of size and maturity. Despite this, we still see glimmers of the annoying little brother he used to be. He loves climbing games, but now that he is one of the bigger boys in our herd, he must be mindful of his strength. The Keepers always intervene before he gets too rowdy. Naleku, who has always had a “sibling rivalry” with Roho, doesn’t tolerate his nonsense and shoves him right back.

We had several exciting debuts over the course of the month. On 7th December, Oldepe joined the Nursery herd for the first time. He quickly adopted a naughty habit of playing hide-and-seek with his Keepers, especially in the evenings. During one of his early disappearing acts, the Keepers kept catching glimpses of him in the bushes, only for him to disguise himself in the thick vegetation. They quickly caught onto his game and decided to just wait for him back in the stockade compound. Sure enough, Oldepe emerged from the forest within minutes.

We rescued Sagateisa at the end of November. Like Oldepe, she is a drought victim, so it took her a few weeks to regain condition. On the 10th, she was finally ready to have her first day out with the Nursery herd. When it had warmed up sufficiently for her to leave her stockade, the Keepers assembled a special welcoming committee to accompany Sagateisa into the forest. Ziwadi, Kinyei, Olorien, Naleku, Kindani and Taabu surrounded the newcomer and introduced her to the daily routine. 

Just four days later, Ltingai had his first day out in the forest with the Nursery herd. Roho, Larro, Kinyei, and Kindani greeted him with a chorus of rumbles and raised trunks. Ltingai didn’t show any apprehension and followed the herd down to the mud bath, guzzling his milk as if it was something he had done many times before. As the month wore on, Ltingai took a shine to Rama and turned into his little shadow. The Keepers always enjoy seeing these new friendships develop. 

Between all the rain and cool weather, Maxwell had a wonderful month. He may be blind, but nothing escapes our resident rhino. One afternoon, a tortoise managed to sneak into his stockade and took up residence in the long grasses for most of the afternoon. While he was a rather innocuous guest, Maxwell was not hospitable at all and paced about his stockade, kicking up his back legs and charging against his walls in protest. The tortoise seemed to realize that he was not welcome and scurried out of the stockade, leaving Maxwell in peace. Rhinos always make their wishes known!

December 2021 day to day

01 Dec

This morning, as the orphans were peacefully browsing in the forest, Kinyei and Naleku were enjoying a playful moment together, rolling around on one of the slopes, climbing on top of each other and rolling down the slope and then running back up. Their game continued for quite some time, which exhausted Naleku, as she was often being climbed on by Kinyei.

As Naleku grew more tired, she began to yell out in protest. This frightened Kinyei, who ran away. Naleku was struggling to get up on the slope and she began to really yell out. Kerrio, who was nearby browsing with Larro, Mukkoka and Olorien, was the first to run over and check on her nanny. Sadly for Naleku, Kerrio was not strong enough to help her out, but she was accompanied by Larro and Mukkoka, who both tried to help her up. Larro and Mukkoka didn’t manage to get her up, but fortunately the Keepers were just behind and saved the day.

Kinyei climbing on Naleku

Kerrio browsing near Larro

Olorien browsing with Mukkoka