Keepers' Diaries, January 2012

Nairobi Nursery Unit

Good news is the fact that little Kithaka, who is now 2 months old, has managed to cut his first four molars without too much difficulty, other than a slight loss of condition, although his appetite has not diminished. Very gratifying has been the recovery of Orwa, who was in such a pitiful state upon arrival that we doubted he would even survive the first night! He is now gaining weight steadily, as is Ishaq B, another relative newcomer who endured a very dramatic rescue.

01 January 2012

Now that the three naughty boys are absent - (Rombo, Layoni and Dabassa) the other orphans are not going deep into the forest, fearful of other wild inhabitants. Orwa always remains close to the Keepers but little Kithaka likes to be with the Big Girls – Mutara, Makireti Shukuru, as well as Sities all of whom give him comfort and loving. After the mudbath Mutara and Shukuru took the baby to an old anthill, where they like to play and climbing and rolling game. Kithaka was very happy and thoroughly enjoyed climbing on the others as they skidded down while the other orphans watched from a distance. Sities was tempted to join them but first went to collect Naipoki to accompany her, but when the two arrived at the anthill, little Kithaka engaged Naipoki in a pushing game.

02 January 2012

After the usual morning greetings, Ishanga engaged Shukuru and Tano in a Pushing Game. Shukuru and Tano teamed up to fight Ishanga, Shukuru pushing her from the front while Tano head butted her at the rear. Ishanga had a difficult time but managed to chase Shukuru off before turning to face Tano, who, having seen her friend running away, decided to do the same, pursued by Ishanga. As Ishanga closed the distance, Tano took refuge behind Kasigau, so Ishanga head-butted the Big Boy by mistake and ran away screaming before Kasigau could retaliate. In fact, he just stood there with his ears out contemplating Ishanga’s bad behaviour. Kithaka has grown very attached to Orwa. The two split from the rest of the herd and came to be with the Keepers, Kithaka sucking on Orwa’s ears. At about l0 a.m. Sities began running around looking for Kithaka and having spotted him, came and touched his mouth with her trunk rumbling to him. The two then walked away from Orwa.

03 January 2012

Having emerged from their Night Stockades, the orphans headed out into the forest, Kithaka leading sandwiched between Mutara and Shukuru. As usual Orwa, who is still slower than the others, brings up the rear with the Keepers. On the way Kainuk and Sities decided to settle an old score in a Pushing Bout when, by mistake, Kainuk hit Kilabasi, which did not go down at all well. Kilabasi pushed Kainuk so hard that she fell to the ground screaming. The Keepers rushed to her rescue and punished Kilabasi by expelling her from the herd for an hour. Kilabasi complained from a distance until she was welcome back into the fold, when everyone settled down again. Little Kithaka joined Mutara, trying to copy her feeding on grass.

04 January 2012

Sities waited for Orwa to exit his Night Stockade, and having done so, Orwa went to look for little Kithaka who was just being let out of his stable. The two then went to join the others who were playing at the back. Sities rushed to Kainuk to continue the confrontation they had yesterday, but were interrupted by the arrival of Kilabasi. As usual Shukuru went to check on blind Maxwell, who came close when he heard her knocking on the bars of his pen. She patted his head with her trunk, which Max greatly enjoyed. At the noon mudbath the orphans had fun splashing the public with mud!

05 January 2012

The orphans emerged in high spirits, Sities running around to check up on all her friends, especially neighbours Orwa and Naipoki while Mutara, Makireti, Shukuru and Turkwel ran to Kithaka, the youngest baby in the family, to check on him. Turkwel and Mutara left Makireti and Shukuru as bodyguards to escort Kithaka to the others. Ishanga and Kasigau went to browse in a thicket, but soon came out screaming. The Keepers went to investigate and found a family of warthogs inside grazing there.

06 January 2012

Ishaq-B’s swollen knee has healed now, and she can walk without limping. She has found someone to bully – poor Orwa who is an easy target, and still weak. Whenever he is behind her, she stops and puts out her ears, so Orwa stops and screams for the protection of the Keepers. As soon as the Keepers reprimand her by mentioning her name, she runs off, aware that she is in their bad books! On the way to the noon mudbath she blocked Orwa who screamed, so the Keepers punished Ishaq-B by chasing her out of the herd. She ran off screaming, but all the Big Girls knew that she had misbehaved and did not come to her rescue.

07 January 2012

The orphans were very happy this morning, especially Naipoki, Ishaq-B, Kihari, Sities and Kainuk. Ishaq-B challenged Kihari to a pushing game which Kihari easily won, being stronger. Kainuk was watching from the sidelines, and once Ishaq-B had disengaged, moved in to also try and challenge Kihari. Meanwhile, Ishaq-B went to find Kithaka, who was busy sucking on Mutara’s ears, touching his back with her trunk in a gesture of love, to which he replied with a rumble. Meanwhile Sities and Naipoki were busy chasing two young warthogs around the Stockades, the piglets having been separated from their mother.

08 January 2012

Following the 9 a.m. feed, Kainuk decided to baby-sit little Kithaka who was beside Makireti. Tano then came to join Kainuk help look after the baby. As in a normal wild elephant family, all the older females enjoy taking care of the babies in the herd. Although Kainuk usually enjoys playing, having seen Kithaka alone with Makireti, she felt that he needed her as well, as did Tano who moved in to allow Kainuk to leave and instead go and play! Although still grieving and sad, Orwa is gradually putting on weight and now even runs for his bottle of milk. At the 9 a.m. feed, he was first, having come close to the venue and hidden in a nearby bush!

09 January 2012

All the Big females, Makireti, Tano, Shukuru and Mutara were busy guarding the little baby, Kithaka, who is a King’s child, happy to do whatever he likes, while all the others indulge him, Mutara standing quietly to allow him to suckle her ear. When Kithaka noticed Sities and Kainuk playing a Pushing Game, he rushed towards them and instantly they stop what they were doing to greet him. Sities then allows him to suckle her ears. During the noon mudbath Orwa managed to be third to take his milk, which surprised the Keeper who mistook him for Kihari. Afterwards as the orphans left, led by Kithaka and Naipoki, Ishaq-B again blocked Orwa, who screamed. The Keepers came to chase Ishaq-B out, after which Orwa joined the others, comforted by Turkwel.

10 January 2012

Little Kithaka now has 3 teeth through the gum, with the 4th almost through. At the 9 a.m. feed Mutara and Shukuru stood guard as he took his milk down to the last drop, and then escorted him out to join the others, leaving him with Orwa, of whom he is very fond. Mutara then joined the others further afield to browse, leaving Shukuru with the baby and Orwa. At the mudbath the orphans enjoyed playing football with the new Yoga ball brought by a foster-parent which is bright yellow. Tano and Sities began kicking it around, but Kihari was scared of it!

11 January 2012

Kainuk is jealous of Naipoki, perhaps because Naipoki tends to be more social and the Keepers fraternize a great deal with her. Having had an almost blind eye for a long time, which needed a lot of anti-biotic ointment, Kainuk distances herself more from the Keepers.

12 January 2012

Ishaq-B, who has put on some weight and is now stronger, seems to enjoy bullying Orwa, blocking him from joining the others. When coming to the mudbath she also does not like him in front, but the Keepers intervene to give him the chance to be a Leader.

13 January 2012

Being Friday, this was the day for Coconut Oiling, which Orwa enjoyed, and after which he rolled in the dust with little Kithaka. He has been in high spirits all day, and also went into the small mudbath that was set up for him and Kithaka. There was an Italian film crew here, who loved Orwa because he is so polite and gentle and interacted with him which he loved. When they left waving at him, he gave them a wave also using his trunk!

14 January 2012

The orphans woke up in a very happy mood, running around the compound downing small bushes. Soon there was a call from Lewa Downs that an elephant calf had been found on a road in a state of collapse. By the time the Rescue Team arrived at the Lewa airstrip, the calf was already on a drip and his chances of survival looked grim since he was already half dead.. He passed away soon after arrival back in the Nursery.

15 January 2012

Kithaka is loved by all the Big Girls, but he prefers Shukuru above all the others, since she allows him to suckle her ears for as long as he likes. Before taking his milk, he likes to push the Keeper first, which amuses the audience during public visiting. He is such a lovely little boy that everyone wants to touch him.

16 January 2012

The three boys in the Nursery are Kasigau. Orwa and little Kithaka, and whilst the Big Girls are usually around Kithaka, whenever they are apart it is Orwa who takes care of him, being so polite and gentle unlike many of the others that have passed through of late. Kasigau and Orwa spent most of the day taking care of Kithaka and the Keepers puzzled as to why the Big Girls allowed them that privilege today.

17 January 2012

As the Keepers and Orphans were walking out into the bush today after the 3 p.m. milk, it was little Kithaka who sensed the presence of three lionesses lying nearby sleeping. He stopped abruptly, put out his ears and began rumbling so the Keepers went to investigate and then spotted the lions. Everyone was scared, the elephants running and trumpeting, and the Keepers terrified that the lions might target little Kithaka. Thankfully, however, after the Keepers made a lot of noise, the three lions left.

18 January 2012

As Solio went out to browse accompanied by her two Keepers, she smelt something strange in the road, and was very interested. The Keepers investigated and saw the footprints of a bigger rhino which must have been a wild one. They wanted to bring Solio back, but she ran off into the bush instead. They followed her spoor, and eventually caught up with her investigating a dungpile with fresh dung in it, which had obviously been deposited by the wild rhino. She added her own, and settled down after that.

19 January 2012

Before heading out to browse each morning, the Big Girls always go to the stable of little Kithaka to take him over. On the way out, he enjoyed a dustbath that had been prepared for him by the Bigger Girls. We were surprised when Solio came running towards us, scattering all the elephants. It took the Keepers some time to get control of the situation. Mutara was the star of the mudbath Show, cheered by the crowd as she jumped out of the pool and began kicking the new football.

20 January 2012

Maxwell decided to stay away from the mudbath crowd who usually call him to come close and enjoy a scratch. Today, he decided not to listen or oblige. Later he took a long mudbath, because it was a very hot day. The elephants also all enjoyed a lengthy mudbath.

21 January 2012

Before leaving her Stockade in the mornings Solio enjoys locking horns with Maxwell through the spaces between the poles of the wooden fence. Both thoroughly enjoy this interaction, breaking off to scamper around their respective Stockades. Max then decided to race from his sleeping quarters to his feeding enclosure, and was ambushed by Solio who rushed round to meet him through the fence, knocking on the poles to attract him to where she happened to be. Long after she had left, Max went on knocking the poles to try and entice her back again. Solio behaved well today and was obedient to her Keepers. Rhinos are animals that are unpredictable, their actions controlled by instinct, so they deserve respect and understanding!

22 January 2012

On a clear, sunny day, the orphans all moved out to browse, all the girls, i.e. Mutara, Makireti, Tano, Shukuru, Naipoki, Sities, Turkwel, Ishaq-B and Kainuk crowding around little Kithaka to escort him out. Before settling down to browse, the orphans encountered a troupe of baboons. Shukuru, Sities and Kilabasi were first to spot them, and charged to chase them off, reinforced by Mutara. All then did some bush-bashing to ensure that the baboons had left, Kithaka, Orwa and Naipoki remaining close to the Keepers meanwhile. Kasigau, the biggest Boy, remained in charging mode long after the baboons had left. Sometimes Shukuru pushes him away, reluctant to concede his dominance.

23 January 2012

The Orphans all emerged in a nervous mood, because a lion was very close to Kithaka’s and Tano’s stables during the night just before the midnight milk feed. The Night Milk Mixer had to shelter behind the Elephant Mover while the lion was prowling around, clearly visible in the Security Lights! It was a very hot day, so all the orphans enjoyed their mudwallow, even Orwa, who usually avoids going in with all the others, since he is not yet very strong. When it was time for him to come out, Naipoki helped him by pushing him from behind which amazed the audience and the Keepers.

24 January 2012

The orphans welcomed the new day with Stockade games, Kihari and Kainuk who are close playmates nowadays, while Ishanga challenged Mutara to a Pushing Match. Makireti is greedy and at the 9 a.m. feed finished her share very quickly, and while the Keepers were not looking, tried to steal Kasigau’s bottle, a new trick learnt from greedy Rombo, Layoni and Dabassa before they left for Tsavo. Orwa is improving. He is becoming happier now, and can keep up with the others, unlike before when he was dejected and very slow. He is beginning to play, which is always a good sign.

25 January 2012

Another Elephant Rescue today, this time a calf from Kora National Reserve who had been driven to Meru National Park. The baby, a female who is 4 – 5 months old is suspected to be another poaching victim, since there has been rampant poaching in the North, and two armed poachers were shot there recently. She was named “Moju” the name of the place where she was found by Kora Game Scouts. The baby’s tail had been severed and she had wounds around the hind legs, probably inflicted by hyaenas bent on making a meal of her, so she had escaped death narrowly. She was very weak and emaciated, but responded well to a milk feed and the Keepers after arriving at the Nursery at about 4 p.m. As soon as the other orphans returned in the evening, they all surrounded her to touch and comfort her, especially Tano, who was in the next door stable to her. Unfortunately, we heard that she had taken cows’ milk before arrival, to which baby elephants are intolerant. Sadly she collapsed just after midnight and had to have drip infusion of Saline and Dextrose in an ear vein.

26 January 2012

In the morning Mutara, Tano and Sities patiently waited outside Moju’s stable, because she was able to get up unaided following the drip infusion, but was too weak to go out far. Later Mutara tried to push the door open, but the Keepers prevented this since Moju was resting. A while later Tano sneaked back to Moju’s stable, hoping to take her. After the 9 a.m. feed Moju was allowed out, closely surrounded by Tano, Mutara, Sities, Turkwel and Kainuk, all of whom paid her special attention, reluctant to leave her and join the others out in the bush, but the Keepers forced them to go out to feed, Tano and Mutara protesting by bashing bushes as they left. Orwa remained with the newcomer and kept her company all day.

27 January 2012

At 6 a.m., as the orphans were preparing to move out, Moju collapsed again, and the Keepers immediately replaced the drip. By l0 a.m. she was back on her feet again, and taking milk and rehydration which gave the Keepers renewed hope that she might survive. Out in the field the orphans had a busy time chasing warthogs and their piglets, one piglet running through Naipoki’s legs, which left her terrified and shaken as she ran back to the Keepers for protection. The entire herd then came to see and comfort her, but she remained shaken for the rest of the day!

28 January 2012

It was business as usual as the Nursery elephants left the compound in the morning, Makireti and Shukuru competing for Kithaka, who selected Shukuru who is his favourite Big Girl, leaving Makireti to join Kasigau for a Pushing Game. It was another hot day so the orphans enjoyed a lengthy mudbath. Moju was left battling to live, too weak to join the others, who returned periodically to check up on her.

29 January 2012

Having downed their 9 a.m. milk feed, the orphans began scampering around the bushes, leaving the Keepers to deduce that something unusual was about to take place, since it always has done so when the elephants behave thus for no good known reason! Meanwhile Moju had been on the drip the previous night, and had developed diarrheoa which left us all very despondent about her chances of survival. She passed away at 3 p.m. leaving everyone, both elephants and humans, deeply distressed. At the moment she died, there was the distraction of another Elephant Rescue, this time a small 2 month old calf from the Masai Mara, so three Keepers immediately set off by air to airlift this baby to safety. The baby arrived in the Nursery at about 5 p.m., and was a little girl who was named “Lemek” after the hills where she had been found, suspected to be another poaching victim. Tano was moved to the Stockade next door to Ishanga, to make room for the new baby, but this didn’t suit Kithaka at all, who bellowed continually, which upset all the Big females, so Tano had to be returned to her previous stable, and the baby moved to the one that had housed Moju next door! It took a while for everyone to settle down, not helped by the nocturnal presence of two lions in the compound, and the bellowing of the new baby! Very little sleep was had by anyone that night!

30 January 2012

As soon as the elephants were out in the morning, all the Big Girls (Mutara, Shukuru, Turkwel, Makireti and Tano) gathered outside the door of little Lemek’s stable. As soon as the baby was let out, all the elephants embraced her warmly, all struggling to be nearest to her, but since elephants respect age, Mutara took the baby with Shukuru, Makireti and Tano alongside. Little Lemek was very comfortable with her new herd out in the field, attempting to suckle Mutara’s ears which she could barely reach! She was at the mudbath and was fed alongside the others, Tano keeping a close watch over her. Back in her stable in the evening, she took her milk more comfortably, Tano giving comfort and affection from next door. Makireti was upset at not seeing the new baby before going into her Stockade. Just before 7 a.m. to wrap up the day, a lioness turned up to rest alongside the Stockade of Kasigau and Maxwell!

31 January 2012

The morning was chilly, so Kithaka and Lemek were kept in their Night Stables a little longer than usual. Sities went to wait patiently outside Lemek’s door and remained long after all the other elephants had left for the forest, rumblinbg softly to them. Eventually both Kithaka and Lemek were allowed out, both covered in a blanket, and Sities rushed to them, escorting them both to join the others. As soon as Mutara and Makireti saw them approaching, they rushed to collect the babies, rumbling softly to them, and giving them a lot of loving trunk caresses. Sities is becoming a little “mother” figure and one day will be a wonderful Matriarch.