Keepers' Diaries, February 2016

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

The month began with an elephant scramble led by Naseku, Balguda, Oltaiyoni, Olsekki and Roi who were frightened by a herd of Impala who ran off when scared by the approaching elephants. As the impalas ran off our ‘not so bold’ babies did the same with little ones such as Ngilai, Ndotto, Lasayen and Godoma rushing to their Keepers for gentle reassurance.

The month began with an elephant scramble led by Naseku, Balguda, Oltaiyoni, Olsekki and Roi who were frightened by a herd of Impala who ran off when scared by the approaching elephants. As the impalas ran off our ‘not so bold’ babies did the same with little ones such as Ngilai, Ndotto, Lasayen and Godoma rushing to their Keepers for gentle reassurance.

Pea and Pod, our orphaned ostriches, have morphed into spectacularly big birds, and continue to entertain the babies. Some days when they are in a particularly playful mood, they jump and spin which usually proves too much of a temptation for the baby elephants who immediately charge after them desperately reaching to try and snatch their tail feathers. Their love and patience of the baby elephants is heartwarming indeed, even allowing the little ones to suckle their soft thighs for comfort and standing for long periods to enable the babies to do so.

Enkikwe has been somewhat of a bully towards little Godoma on a day when she tried to share the mud bath with him; he sat on her which incurred the wrath of Oltaiyoni and the Keepers. However he has learnt that by standing dead centre in the mud bath, there is not much the Keepers can do about it since they are unable to reach him, and so it happened that on this day Enkikwe got away with his bad behaviour! His cohorts at mud bath times are very often Sirimon, Olsekki and Sokotei, all stocky bulls who are growing apace. More mellow bulls and best friends Mwashoti, Simotua and Alamaya spend endless hours together, with gentle sparring and keeping company together. All have endured ghastly injuries and it is heartwarming to see this friendship blossom, rather than being scarred for life due to past suffering. Mwashoti still has a marked limp from a leg that was almost severed by a cable snare, and Alamaya is an unfortunate little bull emasculated when his genitals were bitten off by hyenas when alone and vulnerable without the protection of his mother or herd on the plains of the Masai Mara. Following a huge operation, he has healed remarkably well and seems to be coping with his disability. Alamaya has developed his own mud bath repertoire which usually involves spraying visiting photographer visitors with mud from his trunk. Simotua’s wound to the leg is not healing as quickly as we would like, and does swell and present him with challenges due to the lack of blood supply - his ghastly spear wound to his head is closing and healing well however.

Rapa, although still a young calf, is extremely naughty and pushy, especially around milk feeding times. His best friend is gentle Tusuja and it is our hope that he will eventually emulate Tusuja’s more gentle character and become more manageable as he grows. Their friendship began when they came into our care soon after one another and shared neighbouring stockades. Thus they were able to comfort one another and a strong bond between them came about. Now Rapa seeks Tusuja’s company much of the time and gets very distressed when he is not close to him, crying out in anguish. Every morning upon leaving the stockades little Rapa immediately searches for his best friend, and together he and Tusuja walk out to face the day, content in each other’s company.

Kamok loves to entertain the visiting public during our daily one hour open visiting time, and the Kenyan school children always provide an animated audience that guarantees a response - with her faking a charge with outspread ears prompts them to scream and clap with delight! She then sometimes resorts to head stands and other curious postures in order to derive further reaction from the visitors.

On the 7th of February a female orphaned elephant was rescued from the Masai Mara who had obviously been alone for a long time and arrived desperately thin and in a weakened state. She is a suspected poaching victim as reports from the community brought news of a dead female outside the Reserve. On arrival she collapsed a number of times into a hypoglycaemic coma and we managed to retrieve her, but then in the early hours of the morning she collapsed once more and sadly died.

Mid-February brought some unseasonal very heavy rain showers which ensured that streams began flowing again. Our Nursery orphans were able to enjoy themselves running around in and out of the water, slipping and sliding in the mud and savouring the unexpected wet conditions. This rain also freshened up the vegetation turning the Park a verdant green again. Two of our orphans who, over the years, have been plagued by poor health are Balguda and Murit. However both have improved recently and have begun to enjoy their mud baths, no longer content watching from the sidelines for fear that they might not have the strength to extract themselves. Now they dive deep into the wallow and enjoy their mud baths just like all the others, which is very heartening as it definitely indicates that they are feeling better and stronger.

This month Solio has visited Maxwell several times under the cover of darkness. Her visits are hugely appreciated by Maxwell who gets very excited by the interaction and huffs and puffs, whirling around - then he comes back to the gate so they can spar and savour each other’s scent when undoubtedly communication passes between them. We provide lucerne for Solio so that she can linger longer, but eventually she ambles away leaving a disappointed Maxwell who would enjoy even more of her company. He relishes these nocturnal visitors which sometimes involve other Nairobi National Park wild rhinos as well.

On the 16th of February another rescue was mobilised from the Kerio Valley, when KWS reported an abandoned calf which had been sighted on its own for a number of days. Our experienced Keepers were called upon to capture the calf, who was deep in the bush a good distance from any road. Due to the orphan’s weak condition, she was easily captured and then ushered back to the waiting vehicle, putting up little resistance. The team returned before night fall with the new Nursery addition - a sweet and gentle character who, for the first few days struggled to survive, collapsing from time to time. Thankfully, we managed to negotiate the first very fraught week and she has since slowly improved. However, she is still a very sad little elephant, missing her lost family, and visibly grieving each day. Only time heals such psychological trauma, always assisted by the input of the others and of course, the love and compassion of the Keepers. Her condition was so diminished that her physical recovery has been slow, and most nights she needs help to get back onto her feet whenever she lies down. However she has a hearty appetite for her milk and we can see the condition beginning to return along with some strength.

On the 18th our Keepers performed two rescues and two young calves were brought back to the Nursery, both victims of the human footprint, one having fallen down a man made well for livestock, a young bull we have called Loikas, and the other a young newborn baby who fell into the drainage ditch abutting the new railway line that is being constructed following the Nairobi Mombasa highway. We have named him Kenani. Their appearance thrilled our mini Mums, Mbegu, Dupotto and Kamok, who have been fussing around these little newcomers ever since! On the 20th of the month newcomer Kerio ventured out into the bush for the first time with the others. Despite her obvious sadness Lasayen has surprisingly been her best friend, and he has become extremely attached to her. His company and comfort lifted her spirits towards the end of the month, which illustrates just how important the other orphans are to helping retrieve these crushed little victims.

There was a day this month when Boromoko got lost having separated himself from the rest of the herd unnoticed. His absence was only noticed at the public visiting hour when his milk bottles remained untouched in the wheel barrow. Immediately a Keeper was dispatched to retrace their route and Boromoko was found browsing away contentedly, seemingly blissfully ignorant that it was, in fact, mud bath and milk feeding time. He was happy to be rounded up and returned to the herd!

Towards the end of the month, Maxwell had great fun terrorizing some warthogs who were in his boma sharing his lucerne. Having chased them around for a good long time, he let them once again relax and return to feeding on their bended knees while he circled and approached them cautiously from behind, following the crunching sounds as they feasted. Once he had them lined up, he charged them, huffing and puffing and this unexpected charge freaked them out. They took off in all directions with one hustling through Max’s legs and the second one getting stuck in Maxwell’s gate. Luckily the one stuck in the gate managed to eventually extract itself before Max became aware of its plight! For many more stories about all the individual orphans in our care be sure to access the Keepers daily entries.

February 2016 day to day

01 Feb

Naseku, Balguda, Oltaiyoni, Olsekki and Roi were leading the orphans out into the forest early in the morning, when they came across a herd of impalas that were grazing there too. Naseku and Olsekki were walking ahead of the others and it was them that first came across the impalas, which gave them a fright, and they did a quick u-turn running while rumbling in low voices, back to the others. This frightened the impala herd too which scattered the orphan herd scattered into the bushes, with the young ones like Ngilai, Ndotto, Lasayen and Godoma running and yelling towards their keepers for safety. For a few minutes, they all stood in dead silence next to the keepers as they listened to the sounds in the forest with their ears erect. After the keepers assured them of their safety and they realised that there was actually no threat, Oltaiyoni led the herd out to the forest again and they settled down happily to browse. As most of the orphans settled to browse, Kauro and Boromoko engaged themselves in a pushing game which really earned the interest of little Lasayen, who joined them, and Boromoko took the time to teach Lasayen some important skills before turning back to engage Kauro again who had been patiently waiting for the lessons to finish. The two carried on their game as Lasayen watched from the sidelines, until the game ended when the three realised that the other orphans had moved off deep into the forest. During public visiting at 11am Tusuja had a busy time trying to mount on Dupotto as she happily rolled on the wet, muddy ground. Mbegu was watching and, being the leader of the younger group, she came over and pushed him off Dupotto and he fell on his back. When he got up he walked away and settled right in the middle of the mud pool where he happily enjoyed mud bathing for the rest of the visiting time.

Naseku with her ears raised looking scared

Olsekki out in the field

Oltaiyoni leading the others out to browse