Keepers' Diaries, January 2011

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.

01 January 2011

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.

02 January 2011

Once we were out in the bush Kibo and Kandecha engaged one another in a tussle, which ended by Kibo being knocked down by his opponent. He bellowed, and the Keepers moved in rapidly to drive Kandecha away.

03 January 2011

Baby Naipoki is very intelligent. She reminds us all of Wendi when she was in the Nursery, eager to learn from her Keepers and the other elephants, and instantly responds to the command “No” when being mischievous. She is very possessive of the hung blanket against which she rests her trunk whilst taking her milk. Should the warthogs pass by close to the precious blanket, they are instantly chased off.

04 January 2011

After the orphans mudbath hour and when the herd returns to the forest, the Keepers take their lunch under a tree when usually squirrels and warthogs are bystanders, anticipating a hand-out of food. Sities has always enjoyed chasing them around, but ever since a squirrel ran literally between her legs, she was so scared, that since then she has desisted!

05 January 2011

Solio is very diligent about making her contribution to the other rhino dung middens and urinals, beginning her day first by pausing near Maxwell’s stockade, and greeting him. The two have become close friends being night neighbours. Again, the resident warthogs are always charged by Solio if they happen to be anywhere within sight, and especially if they happen to be close to one of the rhino middens.

06 January 2011

Ishanga, being a relative newcomer, is still pushy, enjoying pushing the smaller Nursery elephants around, targeting Sities, Shukuru and Tano, although not little Naipoki, who is protected and treasured by all the elephants, as well as the Keepers. Ishanga enjoys being with the bigger elephants. Olare, as the Nursery Matriarch, comes to greet Naipoki and little Wasin every morning as soon as she is let out of her Stockade, just to ensure that the babies are O.K. Chemi Chemi is also still a pushy boy, enjoying giving all the other orphans a shove, but sparing Kalama, who is his night neighbour since the departure of Suguta, Tumaren and Melia to Ithumba.

07 January 2011

Shukuru enjoys always being first amongst the Baby Group when the orphans run for their three hourly milk feeds, while Kandecha is usually the front runner of the Bigger Group led by Olare. In the evening when we return the orphans to their Night quarters, Kalama always ensures that Chemi Chemi is in his Stockade before she enters her own next door. She and Chemi Chemi have become good friends.

08 January 2011

Today was tragic – the day that we lost precious baby Wasin. At about 4 a.m. Wasin became very weak and was unable to stand without support. We immediately inserted a Dextrose intravenous drip into her ear vein, and also administered Sulphadimidine tablets, but to no avail and she passed away that morning. The Keepers were deeply saddened just as they were when Nchan and Olkeju suddenly passed away. Wasin, having been in the Nursery for the past 3 months, was a great favourite. Her passing was also mourned deeply by Naipoki and Mutara, who had been her constant companions, Mutara comforted Naipoki, staying very close to her and constantly touching her lovingly with her trunk.

09 January 2011

Today was the first day that Naipoki appeared during the public mudbath hour, and she instantly won all the visitors’ hearts, running up and down the cordon, and extending her trunk to greet them. Mutara was glued to her side throughout the day and rather than join her peers browsing in the bush, she remained close to Naipoki and the Keepers. Mutara sleeps in the stable next door to Naipoki and keeps a close eye on the baby during the night as well.

10 January 2011

The orphans are never happy when the sleeping arrangements are adjusted. When Kalama first occupied one of the new Stockades, she broke down the partition, and spent all night pushing it around and bellowing. She broke it down again once it had been repaired the next day. She has now settled down, with Chemi Chemi next door. The adjoining stockade to that of Chemi Chemi is occupied by Naisula and Kitirua, who are best friends, except when it is milk time when Naisula becomes very pushy. The Keepers have to reprimand her harshly, and feed the two in different corners of their Stockade. Meanwhile Chemi Chemi enjoys snatching some greens from the stables of both Kalama and the other two girls, Naisula and Kitirua!

11 January 2011

Ever since Naipoki has interacted with the bigger elephants, Sities is jealous whenever she comes close to Olare, the Matriarch, pushing Naipoki away. However, Mutara, assisted by Shukuru, immediately takes Naipoki away from Olare and Sities and comforts her.

12 January 2011

Ever since Shida managed to access Daphne’s back garden, and sampled some of the plants growing in pots, he has changed his timing for return every day. Instead of turning up as usual during the visiting hour, between 11 a.m. and 12 noon, he arrives earlier and instantly tries to get to Daphne’s back yard! Today he arrived just as the guests were turning up for the mudbath and began wallowing in the mud, not wanting to leave. The Keepers were trying to tempt him to follow them, but instead he got frisky and began chasing the Keepers around, who managed to climb the steps to Daphne’s verandah. When Shida eventually arrived at his Stockade, he seemed in an aggressive mood, possibly having had a run-in with a wild rhino out in the bush.

13 January 2011

Solio emerged in an active mood today, knocking the door to her Stockade with her horn in order for it to be opened up as soon as she saw the elephants moving off into the bush. Once out, she managed to catch up with Shukuru and playfully chase Shukuru deep into the bush. In the end Shukuru trumpeted, which stopped Solio, but not for long! The Keepers had a difficult time to separate the two. Later in the day Solio enjoyed a lengthy mudbath especially prepared for her out in the bush, because she doesn’t like coming to the normal mudbath used by the elephants. The Keepers believe that this is because it is in open ground, and Solio prefers to remain in thicket, being a Black Rhino.

14 January 2011

It was a normal day for the Nursery elephants, but for being Friday when they are anointed with Coconut oil to nourish their skin. After oiling they all enjoy soil dusting and scratching their bodies against trees. Also after oiling the orphans always enjoy a lengthy mudbath, today Sities being the star of the mudbath hour, running in and out of the mud, and causing all the visitors to laugh!

15 January 2011

Ishanga is particularly pushy during milk feeding time. Today, having downed her bottles ahead of all the others, she picked on Chemi Chemi, who is usually the last to finish his milk ration. She came and pushed him down whilst he was drinking his milk, which infuriated him. Immediately, he went after her, avoiding all the Keepers, who were trying to restore order, until he reached Ishanga and taught her a sharp lesson, pushing her down so hard that she rolled around several times on the ground. Chemi Chemi is no pushover!

16 January 2011

Kalama still misses her old stable. Whenever the orphans return in the evening, she goes to what used to be her room previously, and is reluctant to go into her new stockade, having to be tempted by the milk bottle! When Shida came back in the evening, he stopped at the entrance to Solio’s Stockade. She immediately woke up and came to the Gate to be close to him, while Maxwell, next door did the same. Shida spent about half an hour looking at Solio and communicating by snorting at her.

17 January 2011

It was a very hot day so the orphans downed their midday bottles of milk quickly and rushed into the mudbath. Sities had a hidden agenda – she ran out of the mudbath and went to the cordon of visitors, bumping into whoever she caught unawares, before running back into the mud! The visitors were all enchanted, likening her behaviour to that of naughty Lempaute, who enjoyed the same tactics!

18 January 2011

Another very hot day, so the orphans participated fully in the mudbath, Chemi Chemi mounting Turkwel and Kalama as they lay in the mud. After the 3 p.m. feed, the peace was shattered by a drama involving lions and warthogs, the lions continually ambushing the warthogs and chasing them around, bent on a meal. The orphans rushed to their Keepers for protection, and the Keepers rapidly moved the herd away, leaving the King of the Jungle to his mission! The Keepers are always on lion alert when out in the bush these days!

19 January 2011

The orphans woke up in a jovial mood, playing in the yard as the keepers took their breakfast before going out into the forest. Kandecha and Kibo enjoyed chasing the girls around, namely Kalama, Kudup and Kitirua, bent on trying to mount them, which is usual behaviour for naughty boys! It is interesting to note that Makireti has become very interested in Naipoki, giving Mutara strong competition in this respect. However, Naipoki loves her Keepers as well, and is never far from them, particularly if Mishack happens to be on duty. She enjoys Mishack most, even talking to him with unusual elephant sounds!

20 January 2011

Out in the bush the orphans came across a herd of impalas who were feeding quietly. Immediately Murka, Olare, Kibo and Kalama took control by chasing the impalas off, trumpeting and bush-bashing. Olare and Murka took the pursuit deep into the forest before returning in a high state of excitement. Naisula, Kitirua and Ishanga do not like being covered by a blanket for the night, but Ishanga tolerates the blanket when she is actually in her stable. The others refuse to have them, simply pulling them off and trampling them in the dirt!

21 January 2011

Today the orphans entered the browsing area in a high state of excitement, trumpeting and bush-bashing, so the Keepers steered them in a different direction in case they were aware of something threatening in the area. Being another Friday, it was coconut oiling day. Naisula, Kitirua and Ishanga tried to escape, but were rounded up and had to have their oiling. Later they all enjoyed the usual dustbath. Naipoki enjoyed a dust-bath close to Mutara and Makireti under the watchful eye of the Keepers.

22 January 2011

After the noon mudbath Naipoki enjoyed going along the line of visitors, closely escorted by Mutara and Makireti. Solio is now walking further afield to investigate new middens used by the wild rhino community, contributing her dung and kicking it with her hind feet to attach her specific scent to her feet and leave her identification trail. She was very playful before returning to her Night Stable today, scampering around the bushes and jumping up and down with happiness.

23 January 2011

Maxwell enjoyed being greeted by Kibo and Murka this morning, as they passed by his stockade on the way out into the forest. He enjoyed being touched around the ears by the elephants’ trunks. When they left, he ran up and down crying to try and entice them back again. Kibo and Murka enjoyed this and obliged.

24 January 2011

Maxwell was frustrated when the orphans left for the bush today, because they did not pause and have a chat with him! He charged up and down his stockade, knocking the poles with his horn and remained very excited throughout the day until Solio arrived in the evening, and spent some time near him as he pressed his body against the side of his Stockade. When she went into her night quarters, he lay down opposite her and as close as he could get!

25 January 2011

Makireti and Mutara seem to be sharing in the nurturing and care of little Naipoki. However, Turkwel and Shukuru are also very protective of the baby. Naipoki likes staying close to the Keepers, so whichever Bigger Girl is on Naipoki duty, she has to do the same. Because of this they are happy to give each other a turn.

26 January 2011

Olare and Murka both love Sities very much. Whenever Olare, as the main Matriarch, has to chase away intruders, Murka keeps watch over Sities to ensure that none of the little boys, and particularly Chemi Chemi (who never misses an opportunity) bullies her.

27 January 2011

Kibo and Kandecha enjoy tussling with each other, but Olare usually moves in to disrupt the competition for rank. Out in the field Kibo, who enjoys a mounting game on Murka, made a misjudgment when he tried it on Kandecha which prompted a tough fight, which even Olare failed to break up. Kibo is stronger than Kandecha, but Kandecha has bigger tusks. The Keepers had to separate the two boys, but even then Kibo wanted to perpetuate the battle, having been poked a few times by Kandecha’s tusks.

28 January 2011

The orphans had a wonderful time playing around the Stockades this morning, none of them eager to head out into the forest. Naipoki was surrounded by Shukuru, Mutara, Tano and Turkwel who were trying to involve her in the game but Naipoki was bent on seeking out Olare, frustrated by Sities who kept pushing her away, not wanting to share Olare. When Naipoki focused on Naipoki and went close to her, Sities rushed in and tried to push Naipoki down, but Olare noticed this, and moved between them. After this, Olare decided it was time to move out into the bush, so the matter was settled, Naipoki returning to the care of the younger females.

29 January 2011

It was an exciting day for the Junior group when some warthogs came to join them out in the bush. Mutara, who was baby-sitting Naipoki, decided to see them off and gave chase, backed up by little Naipoki who also went after the pigs with her ears out and her trunk tucked under her chin! Soon the rest of the group noticed what was going on, and joined in the fun until they managed to surround the warthogs. However, this scared Naipoki, who ran back to the Keepers, screaming!

30 January 2011

Five lions blocked the path used by the orphans to go into the bush. Olare, Murka and Mutara wanted to charge them, but were restrained by the Keepers. However, when one of the lions roared, all the orphans lost their nerve and raced back to the Stockades, Kudup running faster than all the others. At the Stockades, the Keepers had a difficult time to calm them down. Following this scare they were reluctant to return to the field, and when they did, they remained very close to the Keepers.

31 January 2011

It was a difficult night because more than five lions paraded round the Stockades all night, scaring all the elephants, particularly Murka, who wouldn’t even take her milk. All the elephants were terrified, some clinging to the Keepers’ beds, and others trying to break out and run away. The Keepers did their best to calm them down, standing outside the Stockade doors so that the elephants could understand that the Keepers would protect them. At first light Olare was the first out of her Night Stockade, and thereafter did the rounds of all the stables and stockades just to check that each and every member of her herd was alright!