Keepers' Diaries, December 2022

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

This month, we have been reflecting on our ‘Kaluku trio’ and how far they have come. Kinyei, Kindani, and Bondeni are still best friends — nothing has changed there — but they have each evolved in their own ways.

Calm, caring Kinyei is an independent young lady. She often likes to do her own thing, but she is absolutely devoted to her best friends. One day, Bondeni trumpeted loudly as he ran in for his bottle of milk. Although he is old enough to hold his own, Kinyei immediately swept over to check on him. She has also developed a fondness for little Shujaa and gets very jealous when the other girls try to spend time with him.

Kindani is known for being a very stolid girl, but even she has her moments. One morning, she woke up in a real out-of-character grump. This led her to instigate a noisy squabble with Taabu, in which she grabbed him by the tail and dragged him round the mud bath. Stripped of his dignity, the young boy trumpeted loudly in protest.

Sagateisa, on the other hand, seems to be in a permanent grump these days! She is clearly outgrowing the Nursery and could stand to be one of the younger members of a new herd.

Luckily, that event is on the horizon. Sagateisa, Naleku, and Suguroi are in the thick of graduation training. Following in Neshashi’s footsteps, Suguroi and Sagateisa like to run into the truck first thing in the morning to munch on lucerne pellets. Sometimes, they even sneak back to the truck in the hopes of finding an extra bottle of milk. 

Meanwhile, the younger orphans have their own fun traditions. ‘Coconut Oil Friday’ is one of them. The oil is very good for the orphans’ skin, helping to keep it free of ticks. Some of them really enjoy the ritual, others have little patience for it. For instance, Kamili, Iletilal and Sileita are determined not to be doused, whereas Kinyei, Naleku, Olorien, Elerai, Nyambeni, Mzinga, and Shujaa obediently enjoy their coconut oil massage. 

Quiet Latika is still best friends with Kamili, but she is starting to branch out. One morning, she and Kerrio had a fabulous time playing with baby warthogs! Kerrio was browsing quietly when some piglets trotted over to her, which instigated a chasing game. Observing the fun, Latika couldn’t resist joining in. The two girls were trumpeting in excitement as they charged around, trying but failing to follow the nimble piglets’ zigzagging patterns. The mother warthog mother watched placidly from the side-lines, knowing it was all in good fun.

Maxwell the rhino also had his fun with the warthogs this month. One morning, he woke up in a very playful mood, charging up and down his stockade as the big boys Taabu, Esoit and Bondeni chased him from the other side of the wall. Right on cue, the warthogs and their piglets arrived for breakfast with their rhino benefactor. Maxwell shifted his attention to his small friends and started chasing them around instead! Playtime soon came to an end as the crew settled down to eat lucerne pellets together.

Muwingu is an unusually independent little girl, hanging out with everyone and also with no one. Her best friends remain Weka and Kitich, but she is very happy to hang out with the big girls and boys, too. One day, we witnessed her wallowing with Suguroi, Naleku, Sagateisa, Esoit and Sileita. It was funny to watch the big elephants wallowing enthusiastically, as tiny Muwingu happily chilled at the centre! 

Muwingu’s sidekick, young Weka, is becoming a wanderer! She likes to explore the forest and is very much at home out in the bush. One afternoon, she quietly led Muwingu, Kitich, Kamili, and Mzinga deep into the forest. The Keepers found them happily browsing in a glade. It is particularly nice to see Kitich so at ease among the orphans, as he used to be very anxious and shy around the others.

On the topic of shy orphans, Rafiki and Lodo have struck up quite a rapport. They often engage each other in vigorous wrestling matches. Lodo sees himself as an independent oy and prefers to hold his own milk bottle rather than be fed by the Keepers.

Once the baby of the herd, Naleku has stepped firmly into the role of mini matriarch. She commands the respect of both the little ones and her age mates. We were reminded of this one morning, when the blanket babies remained behind in their stables, on account of the cold, while the older orphans headed out into the bush. Suddenly, Naleku decided to return to the stockades to look for her beloved youngsters. To the Keepers’ surprise, the whole herd followed her, even though they had just arrived in the forest. Everyone follows Naleku’s lead, quite literally! 

We believe that lovely Olorien has the makings of a mini matriarch. She has strong maternal instincts and loves to look after the little ones, particularly Mzinga. When Naleku and Suguroi graduate, we suspect that Olorien will step up as mini matriarch.  

Bulls will be bulls. Bondeni, Esoit, Taabu, and Choka are our most energetic boys. This month, Bondeni showed interest in recruiting little Muridjo as a sparring partner, but the younger bull prudently decided to spend time with elephants who are more his size. Luckily, Bondeni is never short on playmates.

The boys put on a good show, but the girls rule the roost. One day, Esoit made the mistake of trying to playfully mount Sagateisa. Sassy Sagateisa trumpeted her annoyance and bit the young bull’s foot in retaliation, which sent him running away with his tail metaphorically between his legs. Esoit soon regained his composure and spent the rest of the time hanging out with the boys.

Ziwadi is a young lady with the most individual habits. She is fond of a late afternoon disappearing act, leaving the others in the forest and sneaking back to the stockades on her own. Her motive is milk — she wants to have her share peacefully, before the others return!

In our Nursery herd, agemates tend to develop sibling rivalries. This is particularly true among the youngest orphans, who get embroiled in all sorts of petty arguments. For instance, fiery Nyambeni has a contentious relationship with Shujaa. The two often engage in play-fights, their small ears flapping as they butt their heads. It is interesting how Mzinga, the other blanket baby, rarely gets involved in their nonsense.

The Nursery is a formative stage for any orphan, and as such, we see their personalities evolve over weeks and months and years. For example, Tingai is becoming a confident young bull, shedding away his anxiety and shy layers. He is starting to assert himself among the other bulls and seems to really enjoy playing with Mukutan. 

Kerrio is becoming rather assertive, especially when bottles of milk are involved. One day, she brashly strode up to Mageno and attempted to wrest his bottle away from him. The young boy stood his ground and a confrontation ensued. The Keepers got involved, separating the two squabbling toddlers and giving the bottle back to Mageno.

Since the big boys graduated from the Nursery, three-year-old Esoit has become the dominant male. This young bull is liked and respected by the herd. He is unusually respectful, treating the younger orphans fairly and following the Keepers’ instructions. However, he never tires of wrestling with his best friend, Bondeni. Esoit’s strength is matched by Bondeni’s determination!

Our newbies are doing very well. Since joining the Nursery herd, Kitiak, Elerai, and Iletilal have become close friends, as often happens to elephants rescued around the same time. All three babies are still shy and reserved, preferring to browse at a distance from the others and choosing to observe rather than play with the older elephants. 

2022 ended on a peaceful note, as the orphans set off for a fun day out in the forest. We know it will be another year of personal growth, fun, and games for this special group of orphans. 

December 2022 day to day

01 Dec

On a cool, cloudy morning, the Keepers led the orphan herd out into the forest to browse and play. The elephants wandered along behind the lead Keeper in small groups, with the blanket babies staying close to the older females. Apart from the occasional rumble from an orphan or whistle from a Keeper, the elephants walked silently, padding along on their fat spongy feet.

Calm, caring Kinyei is an independent young lady. Although she is good friends with Kindani and Bondeni, she often browses at a distance from the herd while out in the field. Today, she chose to go off on her own, taking little Shujaa with her.

Later in the afternoon at the mud bath, Bondeni trumpeted loudly as he ran in for his bottle of milk, maybe because some nearby impalas had given him a surprise. Kinyei immediately ran towards him to check on her friend. Looking back, she noticed that Suguroi was standing close to Shujaa, stretching out her trunk and pulling the little boy under her neck. Kinyei turned around, charged back and drove Suguroi away. The Keepers had to step in to restore the peace!

Sagateisa is outgrowing the Nursery – she is ready to graduate and to become one of the younger members of a new herd. Today, she was asserting herself by pushing around Kitich, Mageno and Ahmed, until mini matriarch Naleku stepped in to protect the little ones and reprimand her friend.