Keepers' Diaries, February 2010

Nairobi Nursery Unit

An orphaned bull elephant, subsequently given the name “Chemi Chemi” was flown in from Loisaba Ranch in Laikipia on the 22nd, having been found alone on the Ranch boundary with Pokot country the previous morning, with no other elephants nearby. Ranch staff monitored the calf throughout the day, but he was quite obviously an orphaned victim of either poaching or human wildlife conflict, both of which are rife in the tribal country occupied by the Pokot people. He was held at the Ranch Headquarters overnight and flown into the Nursery the following morning. He was in reasonable physical condition upon arrival, although visibly very stressed, but he took milk from the bottle immediately, and very soon calmed down. The Nursery elephants were brought to meet him, and all greeted him very warmly, to which he responded instantly and positively.

01 February 2010

On this, the first day or a new month, the weather was chilly with a slight drizzle, so the small babies were not brought out at 6 a.m., but had to wait until it warmed up a bit. Mawenzi has made a very pleasing recovery since being treated for the two parasites identified in gut samples sent to Japan. She still takes her milk slowly, but is playful and bright now.

02 February 2010

Nchan is becoming a very caring Mini Matriarch in her own right. When Suguta is not close to the small babies, Tano, Mutara and Shukuru Nchan takes over and is therefore a Matriarch in the making.

03 February 2010

Olare shares a stockade with mischievous Sabachi, and she finds him something of a pain, because he wants to mount onto her and play-fight, something she resists. It usually ends up with Olare pushing him to the ground, especially at feeding times when he tried to hijack her share. However, separate the two doesn’t work either! Sabachi bellows all night and upsets all the other babies, including Olare, so the status quo remains.

04 February 2010

Suguta always bellows whenever she enters her night stockade, which she shares with Tumaren. This seems to be a daily ritual, and we are puzzled as to what she is trying to convey. Possibly, it is simply because she wants her milk in a hurry, or perhaps resents having to be separated from the small babies. It just seems to have become a habit. Even changing the Keeper in with her does not change this situation.

05 February 2010

Today a White Rhino came to graze close to the elephants out in the field, but as soon as it noticed the Keepers, it ran off. Several White Rhinos were moved into Nairobi National Park from Nakuru Park recently.

06 February 2010

Kimana has become the Protector of the Nursery elephants whilst they are feeding out in the bush. Today he dispatched a group of warthogs which were feeding near the orphans, chasing after each one until the whole group had vanished, and only then did he settle down.

07 February 2010

Kilaguni and Kibo remain best friends, who enjoy playing together and browsing together throughout the day.

08 February 2010

Sabachi enjoys feeling independent of his peers and often feeds well apart from all the others displaying his courage. However, today a giraffe approached the place where he was feeding and startled him, making him scream and retreat to the Keepers in a rush!

09 February 2010

In the absence of Suguta, Olare and Nchan, little Mutara wants to take on the mothering role of Shukuru, touching the little one all over with her trunk. This was the case today when the older elephants were ahead of Shukuru en route to the mudbath venue.

10 February 2010

Dida and Ndii are good friends, and are often feeding together. Today Kibo decided to devote some time to his old friends, and joined Dida and Ndii, feeding alongside them some distance from his friend Kilaguni, which was unusual.

11 February 2010

Chaimu, Melia and Mawenzi were close together all day. Previously Melia mothered Mawenzi, but today Chaimu decided to join them and spend most of the day close to the two girls. Turkwel and Kudup also try to join them, but remained only briefly. Kudup and Turkwel are happy to hang out with any of the elephants, and have no special friends. However, Kalama does not enjoy Turkwel’s company, and whenever they are together, a pushing fight breaks out.

12 February 2010

Tumaren has evolved into the greediest of all the Nursery elephants. She gulps down her three bottles of milk and then begins trying to get the ration of the others. Any milk left over from the feeds of the others, she happily takes, and would even finish l0 bottles were she given the chance!

13 February 2010

Shida gave all the visitors waiting in the Parking Area today quite a shock, when he emerged from the bush and walked majestically past all the people, escorted off by a Keeper! At one stage he tried to scratch himself against a car. Most of the visitors were scared and made a hasty retreat whilst others ignored the Keeper and wanted to move closer to the rhino to get a good picture. Fortunately Shida was in a good mood and caused no problem.

14 February 2010

As usual, a prolonged sparring match took place today between Shida and Maxwell. Even when Shida’s Stockade was opened up after all the evening foster-parent visitors had left, he did not want to come out, but continued the match!

15 February 2010

After the midday visitors had all left the compound, Maalim came in for his mudbath, and for the first time went straight into the big pool rather than the small mudbath prepared for him. He enjoyed it so much that he did not want to come out!

16 February 2010

Suguta seems to have been overtaken by Olare in terms of Leadership. Whereas previously it was always Suguta who was taking care of the small babies, Tano, Mutara and Shukuru, but now Olare seems to have taken over this role, although she concentrates on the smallest, Shukuru, lavishing more attention on her than the others. Suguta also loves Shukuru most, but Olare is possessive of the baby and does not want to share, which has generated some friction between the two older females.

17 February 2010

Turkwel and Kalama remain at odds with one another. Today, their dislike of one another disrupted the midday feed at mudbath time, so the Keepers had to remove the rest of the orphans from the two warring parties and feed them apart from Turkwel and Kalama.

18 February 2010

Shida appeared at the mudbath today ahead of the elephants, and as all the guests were assembled along the cordon. Everything was put on hold as the guests were asked to move back since Shida was wanting to be friendly and approaching them. Shida remained at the mudbath for about l0 minutes, before moving off to make contact with blind Maxwell, escorted away by a Keeper. All the guests could then return, and the elephants were brought in as usual.

19 February 2010

Today Nchan put on a wonderful show for the mudbath visitors, running up and down the cordon kicking the football ahead, followed by little Shukuru, who was attempting to do the same. This so charmed all the visitors that the two received a lot of adoptions today! All the crowd were so enchanted that the Speakers voices were drowned out!

20 February 2010

Chaimu still has to have medication put into her damaged eye three times a day, something that the Keepers do at milk feeding times. However, Chaimu has got wise to this, and as soon as she finished her 9 a.m. feed, ran away bellowing and trumpeting. The Keepers decided not to follow and catch her to hold her, but instead surprised her at l0 a.m. when she had calmed down. She again attempted to escape at the noon feed, but the Keepers managed to restrain her. Chaimu hates the cortisone eye treatment which has been going on for a long time, but Dr. Schwendermann, the eye specialist, says that it is necessary to save the sight of that one damaged eye.

21 February 2010

Shukuru is very selective about which Keeper feeds her and who spends the night with her. Her favourite Keeper is Mischak Nzimbi, which comes as no surprise, because all the elephants love Mischak most.

22 February 2010

It is easy to differentiate between the different characters of the Nursery elephants, when the entire Nursery herd is together. The older females all aspire to being the main Matriarch, and in this quest Olare is emerging as the main one. Today during a Private Viewing session Olare did not want the visitors to come too close to Shukuru, who is her favourite baby. Today, in the early morning, there was a rescue alert from Loisaba Ranch in Laikipia to bring back an orphaned bull of about 7 – 8 months of age, who was not in bad condition, but extremely stressed. Since he was captured in the vicinity of a spring, he was given the name “Chemi Chemi” which is the Swahili word for “Spring”; the Samburu word (Piguan) being considered not suitable for an elephant.

23 February 2010

After the 9 a.m. milk feed, the orphaned herd was brought back to the Stockades to greet the newcomer, Chemi Chemi. He was greeted very warmly, initially by Olare, followed by Ndii, and later on Dida, Kilaguni and Sabachi, all of whom lay their trunks across his back in a loving gesture. Baby Mutara was also not left out, and came up to Chemi Chemi to welcome him into the orphaned fold. He responded positively to the other orphans and was allowed out with them, tightly sandwiched between Olare and Ndii. Meanwhile, the Keepers kept a close watch in case he was tempted to try and run away. He was returned to his stable during the mudbath hour but again joined the orphaned herd after the visitors had left. He thoroughly enjoyed his first day out in the Nursery, and by nightfall was settled, and happy to find himself next door to Melia for the night.

24 February 2010

Chemi Chemi seems very settled today, responding positively to all the other orphans and also the Keepers, and taking his three hourly milk feeds without any hesitation. Whereas he looked fearful and desperate on the day he was brought in, now he has a happy face finding himself in a loving environment. Today was the first mudbath for him, but he was not daunted by the visitors, took his milk happily and even went into the mudbath. Escorted by Tumaren, Mutara, Kalama and Kibo he even walked along the line of the cordon and allowed the visitors to touch him.

25 February 2010

Our new arrival is doing very well. He has not chosen a particular friend as yet, but communicates with the entire group. Olare and Ndii are keeping a close eye on him, and remaining close to him throughout the day.

26 February 2010

Today, we received unseasonal rain throughout the morning, which meant that the smaller orphans, along with Mawenzi, were kept under cover in order not to get chilled. They bellowed their protest, and eventually the Keepers brought Melia back to join them and calm them down, which calmed Mawenzi down, who was the most vociferous.

27 February 2010

We received another Elephant Rescue alert today from KWS. Apparently 2 cow elephants were poached for their ivory in Kora National Reserve, spotted from the air, and both had milk dependent orphaned calves. We waited all weekend, hoping that news would come that the calves had been found and captured, but there was no further news forthcoming from KWS, only that they had not been able to locate the two orphaned calves. Meanwhile, Olare is now lavishing more attention on Chemi Chemi than Shukuru, which has given Suguta the opportunity to reclaim Shukuru as her special baby.

28 February 2010

Ndii is now also taking a keen interest in Chemi Chemi, along with Olare following him closely. He is a great favourite amongst all the elephants, as well as the Keepers.