Keepers' Diaries, February 2018

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!

01 February 2018

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.

02 February 2018

Elephants are very clever regardless of their age, for even when they are young we can get a sense of this intelligence. In this instance we are talking about Mbegu. Today she knew when one of the little babies had joined the herd in the forest, despite being very far away deep in the trees. She was spotted leaving the group she was with and walking towards the little one, clearing the path by moving the fallen branches and sticks as she walked. This is because she knew the little one was weak and not very well. We had not seen her do this before but she obviously knew she had to clear the path for her so she could walk with her. It has been quite a while since we saw Ndotto and Lasayen engaged in games but today they were involved in a lengthy pushing game, remembering the early days when they used to wrestle all the time. Mundusi and Ngilai also gave the audience something to smile about as they played during the public visit.

03 February 2018

Tagwa loves the younger babies as much as Mbegu. At the 9am milk feed she fought hard to go for milk in the first small group hoping to meet the babies at the milk feeding point but she could not find them. She was the last one to leave to walk off into the forest to browse. She was still very unsettled in the woods, walking from one orphan to the next, and a few minutes before public visiting time she suddenly shot off towards the stockades. She was rumbling and trumpeting trying to find the little ones, but she did not find them. She was stopped by a Keeper at Maxwell’s stockades and they had to try very hard to get her to return to the forest. She only settled after the public visit when she bumped into the young ones and confirmed all was well. Ambo is a very selfish boy in the evenings. He is always sharing Mapia’s vegetation and pulling it through the bars separating their rooms, but when Mapia attempts to put his trunk through to Ambo’s side Ambo charges to protect his food so he can eat it later in the night!

04 February 2018

Musiara has been missing his friend Luggard out in the forest. Luggard hasn’t been feeling well for a couple of days now, and although he does accompany the others out to the forest, he does not walk as far as them into the woods. Because Musiara is not around, Luggard seems to be seeking Enkesha’s company; today for example these two spent most of the day together. Maybe Maisha will become one of Musiara’s friends while Luggard is recovering. Maisha is a gentle girl and is not a bully, and Musiara does not like bullies! Kuishi isn’t very social with the other orphans and this might be why when they are having too much fun around her she will chase them away; perhaps she is envious of them! Malima and Jotto are known to be best play mates and were playing hide and seek in the bushes today, chasing each other around. They were playing right in front of Kuishi and at first she was not bothered, but as the games stepped up a level she began to warn them whenever they got close to her. Eventually she couldn’t stand it any further and when they started climbing on each other next to her she took this as an opportunity to push Jotto away to separate the two. Malima was not ready to give up the game and she went to find Jotto to continue her game.

05 February 2018

As the orphans arrived out in the woods today there was a small commotion. As they browsed in small groups in different directions, from a distance a baboon started shouting. Shortly later two lionesses came out of the thicket and seemed to be pursuing an impala. Mteto started shouting and Sagala followed her, running out of the bushes to safety. Mundusi, Ndiwa and Kuishi ran right straight past the keepers and seemed to be making for home. All of the little ones in the group like Musiara, Maktao, Maisha, Emoli and Sattao gathered around the keepers whilst the big ones stamped their feet and trumpeted. Calm was eventually restored by the keepers, and we were glad the orphans reacted this way so that they know lions are to be feared and they should keep their distance. While walking down to the public visit today, Malkia left the forest with Mteto, Tagwa, Esampu and Mundusi but on their way, Malkia held up the group and prevented them from going any further. She knew she could get away with it as there was no keeper with them, nor anyone in the group to stop her. After the group struggled to free themselves so they could go down for their milk, she eventually let them go but blocked Esampu. We thought then that Esampu must have been her main target and she was trying to prevent her naughty behavior down at the mud bath area. Esampu kept trying to dodge Malkia all the way down to the empty space. When the keepers who were waiting for them down at the mud bath saw what was going on they went up to free Esampu. When Malkia saw the keeper coming she gave Esampu some space to pass, thus avoiding being told off!

06 February 2018

Kiasa put on a bit of a show today with a poor wag tail bird! A group of orphans were standing in an open space to feel the early morning sun near the mud bath. There was a big fly buzzing around Kiasa and the wag tail bird was trying to get the fly, but Kiasa thought the bird was trying to fly at her. She kept running in circles with her ears held high, ready to attack the bird. However the more she turned the more the fly moved around her head and the more the bird changed position to try and get the fly! Eventually Kiasa felt so threatened she ran to get help from the keepers. She shouted for their assistance and Sana Sana, Tagwa, Malima and Mbegu came running over to see what was wrong as well, but she was already with the keepers who were reassuring her that all was well. The four girls pulled her away and all patted her over with their trunks, touching her to confirm that she was really okay. She eventually settled down from all the care and attention the older girls were giving her. Jotto was in an active and playful mood the whole day today. Throughout the morning he enjoyed a lengthy pushing game with Murit in the woods. During the public visit and later in the afternoon he had a good time with his old friend Ambo as they wrestled each other.

07 February 2018

All the orphans in the older herd seemed to want to get to the mud bath area for their milk before it was their time today. As Godoma’s first group was waiting to walk down, Ndotto came out of the forest to join them; fortunately there was still time and he was escorted back to his own group. Godoma’s group were very well behaved at visiting today, and only Enkesha decided to have a mud bath. Maisha was in her usual favourite corner and the visitors were busy taking photos of her. Musiara with his smiling face was having a good time with the school children along the rope cordon. As the group were almost about to leave, Ndiwa, Malkia and Tagwa came running in towards the wheelbarrow. They had sneaked away from their group and arrived early, so the younger ones were all surprised to see them! Enkesha ran out of the mud pool where she had been enjoying a mud bath, and the older three only ended up staying a few minutes before they went back out to the forest with the first group!

08 February 2018

The relationship between Sattao and the matriarch of the Nursery herd is growing every day. This morning Mbegu was making the rounds from one stockade to another in search of leftover pellets and Sattao was following behind. She walked into Shukuru’s room and so did Sattao, and she proceeded to pick up pellets whilst Sattao picked up the ones that dropped to the ground. Their fun activity was short-lived, as they were driven out by the keepers to the others who were swiftly making their way into the forest. Best friends Ndotto and Lasayen were pushing each other in an open area whilst we watched Murit walk over to interrupt Sagala who was quietly dusting herself. The jealous little boy Musiara made sure no other little ones approached the keepers whilst they had their breakfast. Musiara pushed Kiasa but did not know that Maktao, who was standing close by, had improved his defense system. Maktao bit Musiara’s tail which prompted the small boy to cry out for help. His cry drew the attention of Godoma and Malkia who quickly separated the fighting babies.

09 February 2018

As the morning sun filled the Nursery area, Maxwell took advantage of the nice weather and lay down with his legs out wide to get the most warmth he could. Our blind rhino continued to enjoy the sun before a group of warthogs decided to visit his stockade and share his lucerne grass pellets. Maxwell did not hear the warthogs arrive but the sound of them eating woke him up. He ran round his stockade trying to chase them out before the naughty pigs eventually left fearing their safety. The orphans had a lovely time during the public visit today as most of them decided to take a mud bath in turns. Malima stole everyone’s hearts surprisingly enough as she was sprinkling the visitors with muddy water. Little boys Maktao and Sattao opted to dust themselves after their swim, while Tamiyoi, Kuishi, Murit and Jotto waded in the mud hole. Kiasa was not interested in mud bathing and stood in the far corner dusting herself and allowing some of the visitors to touch her.

10 February 2018

Over the last few weeks we have mentioned how Ndotto is becoming more and more independent. Today was no different and he decided to leave the others and the keepers and browse deep in the forest. When it was time for the second, older group to make their way down to the mud bath for their milk, the keepers realized he was missing from the group. Luckily Ndotto realized from his ‘tummy clock’ that it was milk time and made his way down to the mud bath via an alternative route, just as the first group were leaving. He has his milk bottles and started dusting himself as the others made their way down for their bottles too. As the others arrived Ndotto sneaked closer to the wheelbarrow to try his luck in stealing another milk bottle. Esampu was also there sucking up all the extra milk, but Mundusi pushed her knocking her into the wheelbarrow and causing some of the bottles to fall out. Ndiwa and Sana Sana stayed away from the mud hole, feeding on the green branches put out while the rest of their friends enjoyed a mud bath.

11 February 2018

Because Luggard has not been feeling well recently, he has not been coming down to the mud bath for the pubic visit. Instead he browses in the bushes nearby in the company of some of the keepers. Maisha’s love for the milk formula grows every day and the little girl always complains that she wants some more when she finishes her bottle. During the 9am feeding today she tried to get some more from Esampu. Esampu was obviously not very happy about this and pushed the little girl away. This in turn annoyed Tagwa who engaged the naughty girl in a brief fight before Malkia stepped in to back up Tagwa to push Esampu slightly away from the scene. Malima and Tamiyoi were charging at Kiko who had joined them in the forest, and he retreated away whilst throwing several back kicks in protest. He settled to browse on some nearby tall trees. As it became hot in the afternoon, all the babies except Enkesha and Mteto sought cover under the trees. The smaller orphans like Ambo, Sattao, Emoli and Musiara took refuge near the keepers. Mapia, Kuishi, Maktao and Jotto fed on some leaves that were falling from a tree that Shukuru was eating from, where she could reach the highest branches.

12 February 2018

Shukuru continues to improve day by day and with that we have seen her behavior change too. She is much more playful and looks stronger too. During the public visit today she was wonderful; she finished her two bottles before gently getting into the mud bath, tactfully spraying herself with the muddy water. Sometimes she accidentally sprayed some mud onto the keepers, her friends, and even some of the visitors there that day to see the orphans. Everyone was happy when she submerged herself in the water with her legs splayed and rolled around in happiness. Ndiwa played with Malkia in the far corner before Sana Sana interrupted them, then a slight push and pull gave started between Sana Sana and Malkia. Mteto and Sagala were quietly settled in the far corner as Ndotto, Lasayen, Mundusi and the matriarch Mbegu sprayed themselves with dust from the big heap of loose soil. As the babies were coming home to bed at the 5pm visit today, Musiara stopped at the point where the foster parents line up to talk to the Head Keeper who was giving the talk. The little boy touched and patted the Head Keeper, perhaps wondering if he had any milk on him, until his keeper who was waiting to feed him came to get him and lead him to his stockade for bed.

13 February 2018

Kiko woke up in a happy mood today and followed the elephant orphans out to the Park to browse. As usual, he was received differently by different orphans. Playful girls like Malima mock-charged him and sassy girls like Kiasa attempted to touch his lanky feet. So did Enkesha who was greeted with a slight back kick from their tall friend. Esampu did not spare the giraffe and seriously charged at him, a move that forced Kiko to change his mind and decide to abandon the elephant herd and walk back towards the stockades. Before he got there he changed direction and chose to browse at the top of some yummy trees he found. He gave his keeper a very hard time as he was trying to persuade him to go back to the wood, but Kiko went to the milk mixing area where he smelled and licked some of the empty bottles as the mixers prepared them for the next feed. Out in the Park Sattao and Maktao were busy feeding on some branches that had fallen as Mbegu was breaking some down to eat from the top of a small tree. Maisha also joined them to try her luck on feeding on some of the leftovers but the two boys defended their browse and did not want to share with her. Godoma moved in to settle the dispute and poor Maisha was eventually pushed away for complaining.

14 February 2018

Enkesha has been a tricky little elephant in the mornings recently when she comes out of her stable. She always tricks her keepers into thinking she is walking out to the forest with Maktao and Kiasa, when really she diverts course and slips between the stables and Kiko’s room and goes to browse in the bush area near the car park. She did the same thing today but blew her cover around 8am when she started charging and trumpeting after the warthogs in the stockade compound. They always come to go and browse on the lucerne pellets in Maxwell’s stockade before he wakes up to chase them. Luggard is looking much better today as his tummy is better and he has more of a smile on his face.

15 February 2018

We have noticed that recently Sagala, Mteto, Ndiwa, Mundusi, Mapia and Ndotto have formed their own little mini group. Out in the field between feeding times at 9, noon and 3pm, they sneak away and with dominant Ndotto and Ndiwa leading the way they take themselves far off deep into the forest, keeping themselves busy browsing and not caring to turn back and join the others and the keepers. All these orphans obviously have a wild and independent spirit compared to those that like to stick close to their keepers. Earlier our lovely girl Solio, who has not been back to the stockades for some time, decided to pay us a visit with her wild male bull friend. Solio the rhino was happy to bring her friend back to where she was raised by her loving human family. The presence of her male friend however really drove Maxwell crazy, and he scampered around his stockade obviously very annoyed to have a male so close to his territory. He knocked his horn against the posts of his room and sprayed urine all around, a clear sign of warning to the newcomer. Solio’s boyfriend did not come too much closer after sensing Maxwell’s agitation, but Solio didn’t care and came right in to greet her old human family.

16 February 2018

Today it seemed like a soil dusting day for the orphans as all the orphans from both groups decided to dust themselves with soil after their milk bottles; not one single elephant showed any interest in mud bathing unlike the last few days where the majority have wanted to swim in the mud after quickly having their milk bottles. Over the last few days it has been especially windy, especially in the middle of the day, and this might be why the orphans have chosen not to go into the mud as they don’t like to feel cold. Just before the second group came down for their milk today, we were very surprised to see Shukuru sneak away from the group and run down earlier for her milk before the others! She appeared from the bushes near the mud wallow running and apparently in a rush to enjoy her milk! Before she entered the feeding area however she encountered Shabby, the resident sacred ibis with a bad leg, who was hopping over to the pond area to look for frogs and toads to eat. His presence next to where she was going to cross the water made her stop in her tracks and trumpet very loudly with her ears held high; the visitors that day were surprised to see how scared elephants can be of such tiny creatures!

17 February 2018

Maisha has her own favourite place to stand in the morning visiting hour; once she has had her milk bottles she walks over to the corner and quietly stands there, perhaps eating some of the green browse that has been laid out there by the keepers. It is also a corner favoured by Tamiyoi and since they both they to stand there, they often greet the visitors standing along the rope in the same area. Today it appeared that Tamiyoi had occupied their favourite area accompanied by Maktao who was leaning against one of the posts. Maisha tried to make her way over but Tamiyoi was blocking her way and would not let her pass. Eventually Maisha got so frustrated she jumped over to Maktao and pushed him hard to make space for her to stand there as well. This annoyed Maktao and he sought revenge by getting hold of Maisha’s tail and biting it as hard as he could. Maisha yelled out which scared both the public and Maktao, who dropped her tail and quickly left running towards Godoma and Malima. Most of the time Maisha, Tamiyoi, Musiara, Ndotto and Maktao are the most calm and quiet babies, though when angered Musiara and Maktao can really strike back! Kiasa is another girl who should never be crossed with as she never lets anything go and always retaliates!

18 February 2018

When the orphans came out this morning they were all very busy greeting each other. The young bulls did so in the form of pushing games like Sattao against Emoli, Musiara against Maktao, and Luggard with one of his favourite play mates, Murit. Ndotto and Lasayen were playing together which was no surprise as they have always been best friends, and Ngilai was playing with Mundusi. Funnily enough Malima was also trying to take on Esampu! As these games went on, Malkia, Mteto, Godoma, Tamiyoi and Kuishi were all beside Maxwell’s gate trying to grab piles of lucerne from inside Maxwell’s room. We watched as Malkia and Kuishi blocked little Tamiyoi with their huge behinds, so that she could hardly stretch her trunk through to reach any of the lucerne as well. Their repeated attempts to block her saw Tamiyoi yell out with frustration, which brought Maxwell sauntering over to check out what was going on beside his gate. He was greeted by the commotion of all those elephants struggling to feed on his food. He decided to resolve the situation himself by spraying urine all over that area that quickly saw the four girls retreat at a fast pace! Tamiyoi tried to turn back again to grab a bit of lucerne but she decided against it with the strong smell of urine about now!

19 February 2018

When the orphans had finished their 9am milk bottles and they began to make their way back out to where the keepers preferred they browse that afternoon. Ndotto, Mundusi, Sagala, Mapia and Mteto were secretely trying to sneak away from the group and walk off deep into the forest where they might find more vegetation. They always then give the keepers a hard time trying to find them for the public visiting time. The keepers were trying to make them stay with the rest of the group today, but suddenly Ndotto, Ndiwa and Mundusi frightened the rest of the group by running and charging and trumpeting. This sparked a reaction in the entire herd as they wondered what all the commotion was about, and this gave Ndotto and the others their chance to run off into the woods, but the rest of the herd followed them as well! Thus it came to be that Ndotto and his group chose where the orphans were to browse that morning.

20 February 2018

During the public visit today it was so hot that the orphans quickly drank their milk so they could run into the mud pool to quickly cool their bodies. Flapping their ears was simply not enough to get cool fast enough! Esampu, Kiasa, Maktao, Mapia and Emoli who normally hang around the milk wheelbarrow begging for extra milk were also straight into the mud pool today it was so hot, and they forgot their usual greedy ways. Maisha and Ambo who do not really like the mud bath were seen standing on the edge splashing themselves as they did not want to get in. It was funny to watch Maisha take special care not to fall in as Esampu and the rest of the group playfully spun around in the water. What she was not aware of was Esampu sneaking up to the edge of the mud pool and she grabbed one of Maisha’s front legs and pulled her in! She slid into the water and quite deep enough to be fully covered in thick mud. After seeing Maisha in the mud bath Ambo gained enough courage to walk in as well. The whole group was enjoying the mud so much they did not want to leave, and Enkesha the mud bath lover was forced out after the rest of her group had already gone back to the forest.

21 February 2018

This morning when the orphans went out to the forest they didn’t seem interested in feeding very much and they started playing and soil dusting. Ndiwa then led a group of big girls like Tagwa, Mteto, Shukuru and Godoma and they started feeding in the bushes close by. Ngilai was excited to be playing with Mundusi and they enjoyed their game for quite some time before choosing to join the rest of the herd. During the public visit today Tamiyoi was very inquisitive and was walking along the rope where the visitors were standing. The visiting school children were very noisy however and this caused Tamiyoi to walk away again. Today Enkesha had to be coaxed out of the mud bath which she loves so much again so that the second group could come in for their milk. She loves the mud so much!

22 February 2018

Murit sneaked away from the line of orphans as they walked out to the forest today and went into Luggard’s room. He was looking for the delicious lucerne pellets which Luggard and Shukuru are given but the others are not. He spent a lot of time feeding on the pellets there until he was very late and all the other orphans had already gone out without him. He came out of the stockade looking very confused with his ears raised. He made several attempts at trumpeting to call his friends but the keepers in the compound took him out to where they were instead. Esampu was very funny this afternoon because after she finished her milk bottle she decided to run at some nearby foster parents who were taking photos. She mock charged them and trumpeted but luckily she was only pretending and being cheeky and her Keeper called her to come back into her stockade so he could shut her gate.

23 February 2018

Sagala always causes trouble at feeding times these days as she demands more milk. She was very naughty at 9am today when she caused a fight with Murit as she wrestled to get his bottle from his mouth. He was obviously very annoyed by this but did not want to abandon his milk, so as soon as he finished he ran after her trying to push her. Mbegu turned a deaf ear to the Keepers today as they called her to leave the public visiting area when it was over and time to return to the forest. She continued to wallow in the mud bath even after the rest of the herd had already walked back into the forest, until she decided she was ready to leave!

24 February 2018

Tamiyoi, Godoma, Murit and Mbegu have long been observed for having the habit of running into Shukuru and Luggard’s rooms and to Maxwell’s gate to look for the delicious lucerne pellets they are given. Today this group met outside Maxwell’s gate to collect up all the lucerne pellets they could there. Mbegu was very self centered and selfish this morning though, blocking Tamiyoi and Murit especially from having any. These two just stood close by, waiting for their opportunity and for Mbegu to leave so they could have some too. They were unlucky today though as the rest of the orphans were already quite far in the forest and the keepers called them to follow the others. Meanwhile Musiara was very restless because he couldn’t find his adopted mother Mbegu. He turned to walk back towards the stockades to look for her and met her late group walking out. They both rumbled at each other as they exchanged trunks in greeting. Mbegu was happy to see him and Musiara suckled on her ears.

25 February 2018

Kiko appeared at the mud bath area during the public visiting time at 11am today. He interrupted the keepers who were busy feeding the elephant orphans and all the keepers kept an eye on him to make sure he did not cause any trouble. The keepers called for some others to come and help watch him so that the visit could go on as usual. Kiko was very well behaved however and the whole visit went smoothly! He even had some of his own milk. When the last group of elephants left he went with them as well into the forest, and did not turn back to the stockades. Godoma is a very caring girl and she showed off this character trait today when she tried to assist Enkesha who got stuck in the mud as she was wallowing. Enkesha got stuck and cried for help until the keepers got in the mud pool and pulled her out. Godoma was very alarmed and was running around the edge of the mud pool trumpeting and trying to assist as well; she will always help any other elephant, especially the youngsters, in need.

26 February 2018

It was quite a surprise to see Mapia playing today. He does not normally engage the others very much yet, but as the orphans were coming out of their rooms and gathering in the compound area, the little bull Mapia was inviting his neighbor Jotto to play. He raised his ears up to apply for a pushing game and Jotto responded so they both spent some time playing a fun pushing game. At some stages Jotto kept trying to climb on Mapia to show off his dominance, even though he is also small. Musiara looked unhappy to leave his best friend Luggard behind today, since he was not able to walk out as far as the others today as he is not feeling well. Luggard was kept back with his keeper whilst Musiara walked out with the others into the forest.

27 February 2018

Ndiwa is well known for sneaking down to the mud bath area at 11am with the younger group. Today she was with Tagwa and the two sneaky girls managed to escape from the keepers watching the older group and join the young ones down at the feeding area. They had their milk bottles and played around in that area and ate the greens. Eventually the younger group walked back out to the forest as the older group, which Ndiwa and Tagwa should have been in, made their way in. The two girls were causing trouble and demanding more milk bottles as they felt now it was their real time to feed, they should have more! Later on Maktao was chasing the warthogs away from the area where the keepers were trying to have their lunch in the bush. He was having a rough time with it though as the warthogs would never retreat that far, as they were hoping for some leftovers! The little boy was going round and round trying to chase them away from his keepers. Esampu joined him a short while later and together they managed to chase the warthogs further away.

28 February 2018

These days we think Ndotto is practicing to become a dominant bull. Today he was in the company of older elephants led by Ndiwa and they went off deep into the forest to browse. When the keepers called them all of the others returned except Ndotto. He chose to stay and feed on his own and later he decided to slowly follow the others. He chooses to browse on his own a lot of the time and never seems in a hurry, but he is still a lovely gentle elephant who loves his keepers. Lasayen, Ngilai and Mundusi are slightly the same and they never respond in a hurry when the keepers are calling them. Ambo wasn’t very nice to poor Emoli during the 3pm bottle feeding. Emoli was passing by as Ambo was having his bottle and maybe he thought he was going to try and take it. He knocked poor Emoli down and he shouted for help. Big mama Mbegu came running over to see what the problem was but Ambo was not worried as Mbegu is his adopted mother and he did not think she would discipline him. Ambo raised his ears up as if he was going to continue fighting so the keepers intervened and pushed him away to leave Emoli in peace.