Keepers' Diaries, February 2018

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Visitors always marvel at the way the Keepers can tell all of their little elephant charges apart, but the truth is that they soon learn everything there is to know about them because of the enormous amount of time they spend with the orphans, day and night. It is not just their physical differences, but their varying personalities too that are so obvious, as baby elephants are as different from each other as we are! The Keepers say it is like telling their own children apart, their own four legged children, who require just as much attention!

On the subject of distinguishing characteristics unique to individuals, Mapia has taken to waking everyone up when it is feeding time during the night. He shouts and knocks against his door so hard, even Maxwell on the other side of the compound wakes up! Obviously this is unsettling for everyone including the Keepers on night duty, so his Keeper has to try very hard to keep him calm before his bottle so as not to have the whole compound descend into chaos. Another elephant with a funny feeding habit is Mteto. She still starts yelling for her milk bottle as she runs towards it and doesn’t stop even whilst she is feeding! She spills milk everywhere in the process and even all over the Keepers, so they know now to stand a little further back when feeding her… and they keep wondering when she will drop this unfortunate habit!

Maisha loves to stand in the same spot during every feeding time at the mud bath, down in the corner. She will always stand in the same place, and more recently Tamiyoi has started to join her as well. One morning she found both Tamiyoi and Maktao standing in her spot. When they did not move she became increasingly frustrated and eventually pushed Maktao as hard as she could, but what she didn’t bargain for is Maktao’s quirky habit of his own – of biting of tails in revenge! Obviously this soon brought an end to the disagreement about who would stand where! Maktao has been using this method to resolve most disputes recently, but the cry for help from the unfortunate victims always draws the attention of the older girls like Godoma, Mbegu, Malkia or Tagwa to come and investigate, and it is then that he makes a swift exit to avoid being reprimanded!

Enkesha has become a tricky little elephant as she pretends to leave with the others out to the forest in the mornings, but then veers away from the line of babies and sneaks away to browse in the bushes between the compound and the car park on her own. Funnily enough this was the same habit naughty little Kamok used to have! When the Keepers realize she is missing they now know where they can find her. One morning she blew her own cover however by charging after the warthogs that were trying to browse there as well.

Ndotto has developed a very independent personality, a sign he is growing up. He does not always come when called by the Keepers and has taken to browsing on his own or with an older group led by Ndiwa in the forest. He is still a lovely gentle boy and is very fond his Keepers, but he is getting older and showing traits of a more independent elephant. His friends Lasayen, Ngilai and Mundusi are all starting to show similar signs of growing up as well.

Some of the orphans are not as social as the others and our little Kuishi is one example. She is not a bully but she does not suffer fools and certainly doesn’t like it when other elephants play too close to her. Perhaps she is jealous of the games they are enjoying, but she tends to push them away when they encroach on her personal space!

Maxwell has been enjoying the warm days and stretching out in ecstasy on his back with his legs spread out wide to bask in the warm weather. Sometimes he chases the warthogs that come to share his delicious lucerne pellets, and on other days he is more lenient and allows them to share from his trough; perhaps he has just grown tired of having to constantly chase them all the time! His excitement at seeing independent rhino Solio, who returned on the 15th, swiftly turned to displeasure as she was escorted by a wild male friend! He was outraged that there was another wild bull rhino in ‘his’ territory and set about charging up and down his stockade, marking his territory in every corner. The wild rhino held back as Solio came into the compound unperturbed, calling her old human family, happy to see them again. Her wild companion watched on from a safe distance amazed by the unusual scene.

Kiko has been making independent forays into the forest and onto the plains below this month, but at other times he mingled with the elephant babies. The orphans sometimes appear disgruntled by his presence and a certain few try to chase him away, more often than not with little success, and it is then that they just choose to ignore him.

Playful girls like Malima mock-charge him and sassy girls like Kiasa are more inquisitive, trying to touch his lanky feet. Of course Esampu does not hold back and seriously charges at Kiko, sometimes forcing him to retreat and browse somewhere else. One day he just appeared at the public visiting time, which he has not done for some time, and this had the Keepers on high alert, as his behavior can be unpredictable. Surprisingly he was very good and just browsed quietly, and even had a milk bottle, despite the presence of so many people. His midday mud bath visit went extremely smoothly with no bad manners letting the side down, and when it ended he quietly followed the elephant babies back out to the forest to the relief of the Keepers, because when Kiko sets his mind to something, he cannot easily be dissuaded!

February 2018 day to day

01 Feb

Mapia has taken up the mandate of waking everyone else up in the night when it is time for milk. As soon as he hears the milk being prepared he starts head-butting his door and yelling. Last night he was so noisy all the orphans heard him from the youngest at the front stables to Shukuru in the back stockades. Once he has had his bottle though, he will go straight back to sleep! Maxwell was bothered by the shouting last night as well and he started charging around his pen, knocking his gate with his horn trying to find out what was wrong with the babies. Mteto hasn’t grown out of her habit of yelling as she has her milk. It’s so funny as she will always run towards the milk feeding point and as she gets closer she starts yelling. She managed to catch the attention of the visiting public today as she was shouting whilst feeding and had a mouth full of milk. She sprayed the keepers face with milk as well, which made the visitors laugh! Kiko had a wild female giraffe visit him at the stockade compound today. He had not gone out to the forest today and the wild female came in after spotting him from a distance while browsing on the trees near Maxwell’s stockade. Kiko paid no interest in her at all, even when she tried to get over the wooden bar to the compound. Kiko paid no notice and she left after trying to see him several times.

Little bull Mapia

Mapia with his funny ears

Mteto playing with her trunk