Keepers' Diaries, January 2011

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

The excitement of the Keepers as they greeted the onset of 2011 on New Year ’s Day was not lost on “Sities”, who instantly sensed that this must be a celebratory day and ran up and down the compound, encouraging all the others to do the same! However, the demise of baby “Wasin” on the 8th January 2011 dampened everyone’s spirits and was a bitter blow to all, especially the Keepers, and “Mutara” and little “Naipoki”, who were closest to her. Wasin had always been a fragile baby, who suffered and struggled to cut her first molars. Nevertheless the loss of a Nursery baby is always emotionally devastating and a painful process that never gets any easier, even after so many years! Rest in Peace little Wasin, amongst others who have gone before you, and are now at peace somewhere in the Great Somewhere.

The excitement of the Keepers as they greeted the onset of 2011 on New Year ’s Day was not lost on “Sities”, who instantly sensed that this must be a celebratory day and ran up and down the compound, encouraging all the others to do the same! However, the demise of baby “Wasin” on the 8th January 2011 dampened everyone’s spirits and was a bitter blow to all, especially the Keepers, and “Mutara” and little “Naipoki”, who were closest to her. Wasin had always been a fragile baby, who suffered and struggled to cut her first molars. Nevertheless the loss of a Nursery baby is always emotionally devastating and a painful process that never gets any easier, even after so many years! Rest in Peace little Wasin, amongst others who have gone before you, and are now at peace somewhere in the Great Somewhere.

Otherwise it has been a peaceful and happy month for the Nursery elephants, but for the presence of the Nairobi Park lions on the 30th, five of which blocked the path the orphans normally use on their way out into the bush to browse every day. Olare, Murka and Mutara were about to charge them, but were restrained by the Keepers until one of the lions roared triggering an elephant stampede back to the Stockades, Kudup the fastest runner! That night more than the five who had been seen that morning circled the Elephant Stockades all night, terrifying the elephant occupants, who either tried to climb into the Keepers’ beds, or break down the door in order to escape. In the end the Keepers had to position themselves outside each door to demonstrate to the elephants that they were there to protect them, but nevertheless, all were nervous wrecks in the morning. Murka, who usually downs her milk feeds rapidly, even abstained!

First to venture out at dawn was Olare, who then went round every stable and stockade just to check that each and every member of her “herd” was still intact! Thereafter all were hesitant about venturing out into the bush that day, and when they eventually did pluck up sufficient courage to do so, clung close to the Keepers! Since then extra lighting has been installed around the Stockades which hopefully will act as a lion deterrent! Whenever the lions are around, the resident warthogs are conspicuous by their absence, all sheltering in the KWS Staff compound and even crossing the main road to remain in the grounds of the Post Office and the Banda School!

Little Naipoki is now the Nursery favourite, deeply loved by Mutara and more recently by Makireti, who has been paying her special attention in competition with Mutara. Olare is a very competent main Nursery Matriarch, who has her work cut out keeping the boys in line, especially Chemi Chemi who is still his usual “pushy” self and who enjoys trying to mount onto the smaller girls! Kibo and Kandecha spend hours sparring with one another, and are best friends, until Kibo unwisely tried to mount Kandecha, which triggered a fierce fight. Even Olare could not separate the warring parties so the Keepers had to intervene. Although Kibo is older and stronger than Kandecha, Kandecha has longer tusks and used them during the altercation, which left Kibo mad! Chemi Chemi seems to have taken a shine to Kalama, who appears absolved from his Pushing List!

The reshuffle of Nursery sleeping arrangements always causes disruption. Kalama has been moved to one of the new Stockades adjacent to Chemi Chemi, with Naisula and Kitirua on the other side. However, Kalama is still very attached to her previous Nursery stable and each evening runs to inspect it before entering her new Stockade. There she pauses to ensure that Chemi Chemi is inside his compartment before entering her own. On the other side are best friends Naisula and Kitirua, who share a single Stockade, although this brings problems at milk feeding times when the Keeper in with them has a hard time to separate them. Because of this another move is in the offing for these two. Nursery elephants are always very possessive of their particular milk ration (as indeed are wild babies of their mother’s milk bar). Even little Naipoki won’t tolerate anyone else near her “feeding blanket” hung for her at feeding times so that she can rest her trunk comfortably against it. The blanket is sacrosanct and should a warthog pass too close for comfort, it is instantly chased off.

Ishanga is still a bit “pushy” - a sign of psychological grieving following the trauma of losing the elephant family and something that takes time to heal. Somewhat unwisely she attempted to grab Chemi Chemi’s milk bottle one mudbath hour which exacted harsh retribution! Chemi Chemi abandoned his milk to go after her, hunting her down in between the Keepers who were trying to protect her but even so he managed to knock her flat with such force that she rolled over several times! No doubt Ishanga will think twice about trying to hijack his milk ration again!

Little Naipoki is a real character, whose adoration of Keeper Mishack is patently obvious for all to see. Whenever Mishack is on duty, she is glued to his side, even “talking” to him with unusual elephant vocalizations, and begging for his hand to comfort suckle. She is a huge Nursery favourite, loved by all the Nursery elephants as well as all the Keepers, a very intelligent, spirited and endearing baby, who has also captured the hearts of all the midday human visitors. At the mudbath hour she strolls alongside the visitors’ cordon, so that everyone can fondle her, clearly enjoying the attention. However, such popularity has not gone down well with “Sities” who used to be the focus of attention and who has now had to take a back seat! Sities is openly jealous of Naipoki but all the other orphans, even Chemi Chemi, are very tolerant and gentle towards the Nursery’s new baby.

Fridays are “Coconut days” when the orphans all have their bodies anointed with coconut oil, something that Naisula, Kitirua and Ishanga would rather try and avoid. After the “oiling” the orphans have a busy time scratching their bodies against trees, since the oiling obviously leaves the skin somewhat “itchy”. Nevertheless it keeps the skin supple and contains the correct “fat”. All are also particularly active in the mudbath after “oiling” Friday.

This month, elephant “bush bashing” tactics have mainly targeted lesser fry, until the appearance of the lions at month end. The resident impala herd are fair game, when Olare spear-heads the chase. Sities usually enjoys chasing the squirrels that hang around the Keepers as they take their lunch out in the bush, but things went badly wrong when one squirrel shot literally between her legs, scaring her witless. Her fear triggered mass “bush bashing” which is the way elephants get the message across to unwanted visitors!

The Rhinos:- Little Solio is becoming ever more adventurous, now walking further afield to contribute her dung and urine to all wild rhino dungpiles and urinals she comes across. However, she still refuses to access the main Elephant Mudbath below Daphne’s house, so her own exclusive mudbath has been prepared for her out at the back of the compound. Every day, on her way out into the forest, she pauses to greet Max who is waiting for her pressed up against the poles of his Stockade, an exchange that Max thoroughly enjoys. He also expects to be greeted by the Elephants as they pass by his Stockade on the way out to browse each day, and was distinctly “put out” one day when they were in such a hurry that they failed to pause!

Shida continues his regular Home Visits, but on several occasions has arrived somewhat out of sorts, rather than his usual laid back self. The Keepers surmise that he has probably had a difficult time from a wild competitor out in the bush. The usual “string” barricade, that signifies Shida No-Go areas around the compound, and which initially was a “hot wire” to teach him to respect it, fell into disrepair this month which allowed Shida access to Daphne’s back garden. There he munched his way through all the precious Pot Plants and was also curious about the milk bins in what used to be the garage. The Keepers had to entice him away by rattling a bucket of Copra Cake, but ever since such a pleasurable interlude, he remains fixated on the back yard! Not a day goes by when he doesn’t scrutinize it carefully from beyond the repaired restraining “wire” even though it is no longer” live”! Like Elephants, Rhinos have very long memories, and are extremely observant! It will take a long time for him to forget the taste of the Pot Plants!

Talking of taste, little Solio relishes the Lucerne that has been provided for the orphans during this drought period, the October/November rains having failed almost entirely in many parts of the country, including the Nairobi National Park. She can’t get enough of it!

January 2011 day to day

01 Jan

It was the beginning of the New Year, and dawn broke with an air of anticipation and excitement, as the Keepers exchanged New Year greetings. What amazed them was the fact that little Sities seemed to know that today was unusual, for she ran round the stables trumpeting, which prompted all the other Nursery elephants to do the same! The Keepers were certain that Sities knew that it was a special day for the human Keepers.

Sities with Abdi

Sities in the long grass

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