Keepers' Diaries, February 2015

Nairobi Nursery Unit

February was a month that saw no new arrivals come into our care, but January's arrivals Siangiki, Hamsini and Boromoko have continued to settle. Hamsini is a tiny calf that we have not yet placed on the fostering program because his road has been fraught. Firstly because of a horrible injury to his spine which continues to plague him and cause him great discomfort, but also because he was teething throughout this month as well. Teething in baby elephants not on perfect mothers milk can be life threatening. He is an incredibly strong and brave little fellow who despite his trials and tribulations has continued to fight to survive and has not gone off his food for a minute. He remains incredibly thin and his life has hung in the balance for much of the month, but finally his teeth pushed through and his injury and the sepsis on his back has almost healed completely and he is now in a lot less discomfort. His favorite friends are Ndotto and Lasayen, who together form the baby group.

01 February 2015

February is very hot and sunny and during the public visiting hour all the orphans quickly down their bottles and rush into the mudbath. Today they had great fun rolling in the wallow with many of the orphans rubbing up, scratching and bumping against each other. The boys, Sirimon, Olsekki and Enkikwe enjoyed climbing all over each other as they took their time in the pool of mud. Lovely Oltaiyoni rolled dramatically, playing happily and then charging out of the pool with her ears spread wide. She ran along the rope cordon, brushing her trunk along it with all the guests getting painted in red mud, and then she turned to the water barrel, head-butting it before putting her head deep inside and spinning her trunk around. Her antics left the visitors astonished! Today she was certainly the star of the show.

02 February 2015

Balguda has been having blood tests which showed he has a bacterial infection. More were done today which show that the infection is still not under control and has necessitated another five day course of antibiotics. Little Hamsini is still fighting hard to recover. His blood tests have shown that he has low blood sugar which is now being treated. The bruises on his body are causing him great discomfort with pus forming under the skin from the trama during his time trapped within the well, with a very severe one on his spine. Despite being in so much discomfort he remains active and loves his food. His stools are also good, all of which are positive signs.

03 February 2015

After the orphans settled at the browsing area in the early morning Tundani and Barsilinga started to challenge each other. They vigorously pushed each other as they tore through the bushes, neither prepared to surrender. After about an hour their antics attracted Nelion’s attention and he went over to join in. This resulted in the two boys giving up the game as they did not want to take him on with his long tusks that they have huge respect for. Nelion tried to persuade them to continue the game but to no avail and he was left with no choice but to continue browsing as the other two walked away. Little Ndotto and Lasayen remain hooked on their Keepers but Ndotto is becoming naughtier by the day, even prone to pushing his Keepers given half a chance. Despite being tiny he is beginning to throw his weight around. This pleases us no end as the desire to play and increased strength is always an indication of good health.

04 February 2015

The orphans left their stockades in the morning in a less active mood than normal. They were all eager to settle in to browsing and each elephant seemed to think that the one next to him had found some nicer treat as they competed for the fresh shoots. Mashariki took offense with young Sokotei when he tried to eat some particularly tasty leaves she was browsing on and she gave him a sharp poke with her long tusks. This caused Sokotei to yell loudly as he moved away from her and settled down near Suswa, who can also be quite severe with the young boys. During public visiting it was hot and sunny so everyone had great fun enjoying a lengthy wallow and red dust bath. The guests who visited today had a thrilling time. Solio has not been spotted back at the orphans stockades at all yet this year, but there is no reason to think that she is anything but happy and well within the wild rhino community of Nairobi National Park, this is because she has been visiting the mudbath during the night with much huffing and puffing, and has been seen in the company of another female and her calf. The Rhino monitoring team also report to us when they have positive ID's of Solio, who thankfully has been sighted by them on a number of occasions throughout the month. We are still hopeful that a baby might be on the way.

05 February 2015

The orphans went to browse and soil bathe in the shade of the trees after the public visiting time. Sirimon and Enkikwe had a pushing game to gauge each other’s strength and it was fun as they were evenly matched. Sirimon ended up holding on to Enkikwe’s foreleg to stop him retreating, whilst paradoxically Enkikwe held on to Sirimon’s ear for the same reason. When Sirimon realised they were both going nowhere he changed tack and tried to mount Enkikwe’s head, an act that had him sprawling in the dust, so Enkikwe climbed on top of him and sat on his head! Sirimon yelled out and the keepers cautioned the two boys prompting them to settle down in the shade where the others were sheltering from the very hot sunshine. Arruba, Mashiriki, Rorogoi, and Suswa looked on disapprovingly at this rough behavior.

06 February 2015

The orphans walked out of their stockades and occupied themselves with greeting each other for a while. Ziwa and Balguda started the day with a strength testing pushing match showing that Ziwa is back to full strength following his long period of illness and that Balguda is recovering from his bacterial infection. Balguda has responded well to his treatment and is showing much improved signs, which has pleased us all. At the public visiting time it was all fun and games as the soaring temperatures saw all the orphans frolicking in the mudbath. Nelion loves to lie down in the mud, but had a hard time getting back to his feet as Tundani and Barsilinga piled on top of him to slide and scratch themselves. The keepers had to give them a warning as things got a bit out of hand, and the two left the mudbath and went to soil dust as Nelion regained his feet and left the pool. The day was so hot though that a short time later they were back in the pool wallowing contentedly. Waterbaby Mbegu was in the mud with her friends Kamok and Ashaka close by her side. Kauro was taking the opportunity to clamber over them with Murit joining in the fun too. Murit's improvement is significant as he grows stronger and stronger by the week.

07 February 2015

Yet again the temperatures soared and the orphans browsed quietly until it was time to flop gratefully into the cool of the mudbath wallow. Once the public visiting is over Rorogoi, Ziwa, Lentili, Kithaka, Barsilinga, Tundani and Nelion have got into the habit of leaving the others and heading off deep into the forest. Sometimes they are even reluctant to come back for their bottle feeds and have to be persuaded to return by their keepers. These bigger elephants are outgrowing the Nursery and it will not be long before they head to Tsavo. We are waiting until after the rains.

08 February 2015

When they left their stockades in the morning Lemoyian, Olsekki and Kauro went over to Maxwell’s stockade and tried to steal his lucerne as he was eating it. This had Maxwell bashing hard against the stockade gate to scare them away. Lemoyian and Olsekki ran off trumpeting loudly, which had Maxwell charging around his stockade with his tail aloft. He only settled down when the keepers called his name, which always calms him. The boys ran, still trumpeting, into the bushes and disturbed the other orphans browsing there until the keepers managed to calm everyone down. Dupotto and Embu remain inseparable. Roi is still a little weary of the Keepers, preferring to stick with the older elephants rather than seeking out human company.

09 February 2015

After leaving the public visiting tiny Ndotto and Lasayen had a busy time charging and chasing the ostrich chicks, Pea and Pod, who are growing up quickly. Pea and Pod spend the day with the elephants, following them and their Keepers even coming to the midday mudbath when we are open to the public. They dust bath during this time, having not quite plucked up the courage to plunge into the mud wallow, but on these hot days you can see they are tempted. Today the ostriches challenged the baby elephants as they dashed in and out of the bushes, spreading their wings wide and spinning around. Ndotto was frightened and ran back to his keeper for security but Lasayen was brave enough to endure the frightening display! The ostriches enjoyed the game, which kept them busy and happy until the elephants went back to their keepers. Then they went off deep into the bushes to peck around for food. They feed constantly. The three littlest elephants; Ndotto, Lasayen and Hamsini, are all doing well although Hamsini is still recovering from his wounds and has lost condition.

10 February 2015

Lentili and Rorogoi are still bullying Siangiki our new little arrival. Whenever she approaches the rest of the older herd they try and push her away. She has therefore been moved from the older group to the mid-age group of orphans. Today she received some help from Arruba who came to her rescue when Lentili and Rorogoi tried to squash her against a tree. Arruba heard her squealing and quickly pushed off Rorogoi sending her running away before turning back to deal with Lentili. Lentili had already sensed the change and was moving off but Arruba did not let her go without disciplining her and chasing her away too.

11 February 2015

Recently it has been hot from dawn to dusk and the orphans find it hard to bear the heat. They remain in the shade of the trees whilst out in the park and take every opportunity to splash in any mud or water that they come across. Kauro is the only one that is not very keen on the water. At the public visiting time, whilst all the others are splashing in the mudbath, he just strolls along the line of visitors waving his trunk as if to say hello, unbothered by the heat. Little Ndotto finds it almost too hot to move and just stands flapping his tiny ears. It was lovely to see almost the entire mid-age group submerged in the mud pool. Ashaka, Mbegu, Kamok, Dupotto, Enkikwe, Sirimon and Oltaiyoni splashed to their hearts content whilst Murit entertained Lasayen and Boromoko in the mud prepared for the little ones on the edge of the mud pool.

12 February 2015

Boromoko is a lovely little elephant, an elephant who has totally settled into his new environment and is incredibly comfortable around people. He loves his Keepers and gravitates to them all the time. Barsilinga is usually a very gentle and fair elephant with the other orphans, but today we saw another side to him. There did not seem to be any reason for it but he took it into his head that he did not want the others in the mudbath and harassed and pushed them until they got out. He started with Roi; who was playing football in the pool, then went on to Kamok; who was wallowing, then moved on to Ashaka, Enkikwe, and Sirimon who were rolling up and down. Eventually Barsilinga chased them all out and away from the water and proceeded to hog it all to himself. This was very out of character behavior from Barsilinga.

13 February 2015

Boromoko has started to gain some confidence within the herd, his best friend is little Lasayen as they are in stables next to each other at night. Because Lasayen is with the baby group, they only meet up for parts of the day. He has put up with bullying from Kauro, Olsekki and Roi without any retaliation but today he decided to stand up for himself by challenging Kauro. The most serious challenge began at the mudbath against Kauro, who is stronger and overpowered him. Happily though, Boromoko is starting to form a good relationship with Murit who is quiet and polite just like him.

14 February 2015

Mbegu and Kauro had a happy time playing together this morning. Kauro’s usual playmate is Roi but today Roi was playing with Ziwa so Kauro and Mbegu teamed up. Kauro, known for his fondness of mounting games, pretended to be overpowered by Mbegu, allowing himself to be pushed backwards, kicking bushes on the way and head-butting the ground. He then spread his ears wide and went forward to knock against Mbegu (whose nickname is the small seed) but she stood up to him and drove him away. Kauro then sneaked off behind the bushes to where Tundani was having a fine time rolling on the ground. He jumped on Tundani, giving him the fright of his life, before Tundani sought refuge with the keepers. Tundani is our very polite boy, despite being a big elephant in the Nursery Unit he never throws his weight around, and is no trouble for the Keepers and seldom a nuisance to the other orphans, unlike the rascal Kithaka who continues to be one of the naughtiest most mischievous boys we have ever had. Kithaka will be moving soon in the coming months to Tsavo for the next phase and will certainly get alot out of mixing with the older orphans. He is fast outgrowing the Nursery although he remains a firm favorite with all visitors as he is so characterful.

15 February 2015

Poor little Hamsini is still not fully recovered from the teething process which is such a challenge for baby elephants. He still looks skinny but is feeding well. Happily he is strong enough to walk out in the bush with little Ndotto and Lasayen. He is requiring much attention and we worry about our babies so much having had so many tragic endings. Hamsini has a strong desire to live, never goes off his food and remains strong despite looking so thin.

16 February 2015

Lovely Murit now seems to be completely strong and healthy. He has become confident enough to initiate mounting and pushing games with his peers, something that he has not done before due to his ill health. This morning Murit had a great game pushing with Dupotto and Mbegu. He had great fun mounting Mbegu, a common behaviour in young bulls, until Dupotto thought it was getting too much for Mbegu and pushed Murit off, whereupon he tried to mount Dupotto instead! Their fun and games continued until Dupotto bit Murit rather hard causing him to wander off, but not before head-butting Dupotto in retaliation. The baby squabbles are something the Keepers have to manage daily, keeping control of 30 elephants can be challenging. Pea and Pod still stay close to the herd and their Keepers and are very much part of the orphan family. They are growing so fast and are spending their nights in Kili's stable which they have grown to love.

17 February 2015

As the orphans exited the stockades in the morning Kamok, Ashaka, Mbegu and Murit lingered in the bushes by the stockades to await the three little ones, Hamsini, Ndotto and Lasayen. They love to spend time with the little boys before heading off with the older orphans. Ashaka’s favourite is Hamsini although he is hesitant to interact as his bruising is still healing and he doesn’t want to get hurt. Mbegu likes little Ndotto best whilst Lasayen enjoys the company of the bigger orphans, just like Kauro when he was little, who also always wanted to join the big orphans.

18 February 2015

For a welcome change to the hot weather it was wet in morning with a few light showers. The orphans were happy and the bigger ones, Arruba, Mashariki, Barsilinga, Tundani, Nelion, Suswa and Rorogoi immediately started to roll in the mud on the ground. The young boys, Sokotei, Olsekki, Sirimon, Enkikwe and Kauro had a great time mounting, bumping and sliding on the big ones. After over an hour of play Barsilinga gave Sokotei, who was mounting him, an almighty shove which left him squealing loudly and ended the fun for the whole group. Arruba and Mashariki ran after Sokotei to comfort him.

19 February 2015

Today at the public visiting time little Ndotto was the star of the show. He was in high spirits and a playful mood leaving everyone smiling as he rolled in the dust and ran up and down along the line of visitors. Still tiny with a little fuzzy chin he is enchanting to watch. He may be tiny but he has a big personality and we Keepers think he will be the next Kithaka in the making, a very naughty mischievous boy in the future. Mbegu was his constant companion, making sure he was protected from the rough ones like Kauro and Enkikwe with whom he wanted to mingle. After the 3pm visitors had left the orphans proceeded back into the bush in the company of a film crew but Siangiki was left behind. It was soon noticed that she was absent and a search was begun. After about an hour she was located a couple of kilometres away, browsing comfortably until she saw the keeper and went to attack him. On discovering that the keeper did not run away, but just kept calling her name, she did an about turn and ran away into the bushes not wanting to go with him. The other orphans had to be brought in to persuade her to join them and return to the stockades for the evening. Siangiki is still unsettled but physically growing stronger all the time.

20 February 2015

The babies awoke this morning in the company of a film crew who are making a programme to raise awareness about poaching. The crew obtained some good footage as the orphans were in a happy and active mood. They paired up to have fun; Oltaiyoni and Olsekki chased each other back and forth, and Mbegu faced up to Kauro trying to prove that she is strong enough even to take on tough boys like him. Barsilinga sized up Tundani whilst Nelion was with Lemoyian, who is one of the few not alarmed by his long tusks. The naughty Kithaka was up to his old tricks trying to find an opportunity to have a go at the film crew. Luckily the keepers kept their eye on him and managed to rescue the guy he was about to knock over. All the while Kamok was busy chasing the warthogs that were wandering everywhere. She chased them nearly a kilometre into the bush with her trunk raised, trumpeting loudly. Little Ndotto and Lasayen tried to follow her example but being so young they don’t really know how to trumpet yet!

21 February 2015

Rorogoi and Lentili have always been rather unpredictable in their behaviour towards the other orphans and the keepers have to keep a close watch on them especially when they are around the babies. This afternoon Mbegu was having a lovely time, head down in the mud pool blowing bubbles and making funny noises, when Rorogoi ran into her from behind shoving her into the water where she gave a loud squeal. Rorogoi, knowing that she was in the wrong, quickly continued off into the bushes to hide. A little while later Lentili was up to mean tricks, Siangiki was standing with the herd when Lentili came up from behind and forcefully pushed her out of the group and off into the bushes. The keepers tried to calm Siangiki down but she was very reluctant to rejoin the herd.

22 February 2015

Even at this young age the little elephants can sense danger and quickly go to help or assist each other if necessary. Today the mudbath was filled up to the brim to allow for good wallowing in the hot weather. After a long wallow it was time to leave but Nelion, as often happens, was stuck in the wallow. He kept struggling and rolling around in the middle of the pool but could not get up and eventually started to squeal for help. Often this task falls to the keepers but, before they could intervene, Tundani, Arruba, Suswa, and Mashariki came to the rescue. Tundani stood by his back, Arruba supported and pushed up his head and Mashariki and Suswa pushed him from behind. They had him out in no time and the keepers were very happy not to have to get into the mud pool!

23 February 2015

Murit has been very active recently, playing with his peers and wrestling with strong little Kauro. Today he played with Roi and Mbegu, all three enjoying chasing the warthogs and their piglets. The game became even more entertaining when the two ostrich chicks, Pea and Pod, became involved. They spread their wings wide open and ran in circles before falling on the ground. Murit is definitely proving how well he has recovered. At the public visiting time Dupotto was the star of the show being the only one that had a protracted wallow, playing football at the same time from beginning to end.

24 February 2015

Oltaiyoni is establishing her mini matriarch role. This morning Sirimon and Enkikwe were fighting, Enkikwe was overpowered and pushed over, nearly falling on little Lasayen who was soil dusting with Ndotto. Oltaiyoni and Suswa immediately stepped in to separate the two combatants and Enkikwe conceded but Sirimon turned around and challenged her. Oltaiyoni and Suswa stood their ground, forcing him away for a ‘time out’ and then keeping an eye out to make sure he did not interact with any of the other elephants for some time.

25 February 2015

When the orphans returned to their stockades this evening Balguda and Lemoyian entertained the visiting foster parents with their cheeky antics until it was time for everyone to leave. Balguda put his front legs up on the poles separating their stockades and Lemoyian did the same. The two then entwined trunks and went down on their knees in a very strange kind of dance. Sirimon and Sokotei were squaring up to each other through the poles of their stockades as Sokotei was trying to steal Sirimon’s greens. On the other side of the stockades Embu was employing similar tactics and stealing greens from Siangiki. Embu's quiet and gentle manner is helping heal Siangiki's emotional scars.

26 February 2015

At 6am all the elephants except the small babies went out into the park. It is a bit cold for the tiny ones at this hour of the morning so they stay in until a little later when it has warmed up. Kamok and Ashaka kept returning to the keepers whilst they were out in the park and then rushing off into the thickets. This happened a few times until eventually they did not return. One of the keepers went to see where they had gone, and what was so interesting in the thicket, only to discover that they had disappeared. A few minutes later the keepers at the stockades radioed to report that Kamok and Ashaka had turned up there and were waiting at Hamsini and Ndotto’s stables, waiting for the babies to emerge. They refused to move until it was time for the little ones to come out when they accompanied them out into the park until the 9am feeding time. Kamok and Ashaka are so fond of the little ones; they like to spend as much time as possible with them. Despite being so young themselves they are already feeling the maternal pull.

27 February 2015

Murit, Tundani and Kauro had a fun time this morning. Usually the youngsters pair up to play but this time Tundani joined them for a great game. Murit would walk a few paces backwards then charge at Tundani at high speed with his ears raised and head-butt him. Tundani would then pretend that he had been attacked by a much bigger elephant and fall over whereupon Murit would jump on his back and start rolling around. As this is one of Kauro’s favourite games he decided to join in the fun, pushing Murit off and climbing and sliding on Tundani himself. They played for a long time all having fun happily together. Tundani is so patient and accommodating of the baby bulls, generous with his time and attention.

28 February 2015

When the babies were out playing, Roi pushed Kauro in the side and sent him squealing to the ground. Oltaiyoni was immediately on the alert and stepped in to discipline Roi. Roi however knew she was in the wrong and did not stick around to receive her punishment, but went running off to her friend Ziwa who was a short distance away. When Ziwa saw Roi rushing towards him he checked to see what was going on and saw Oltaiyoni closing in on his friend. Ziwa came to Roi’s aid and drove Oltaiyoni away, preventing her from meeting out a punishment on Roi. Ziwa is doing so well, having literally been on deaths door. Despite being an older bull, his love and care of little Roi, a young female who sleeps at night in a stockade next door to him is incredibly sweet and endearing.