Keepers' Diaries, January 2016

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

January has been a happy month, with the baby elephants enjoying some beautiful weather. This year January has been a gentle month; not too much wind, beautiful blue skies and soft showers with some unseasonable rain keeping Nairobi National Park beautifully green. Our Nursery elephants are a content and happy herd, with even our new arrival Naseku finding her feet and feeling more comfortable. She has her own group of cohorts, and surprisingly they are the unlikely combination of bulls Balguda, Olsekki, and Sirimon, sometimes with Oltaiyoni in the mix. We have watched Naseku’s confidence grow and her condition improve and she begins to thrive, playfulness always being a great barometer. Simotua, a little bull who has undergone immense suffering, due to a nylon snare having almost cut through his leg to the bone, and a spear through the honeycomb web of his skull, had a very difficult Nursery beginning. The decision was made early on not to keep him incarcerated in a stockade too long despite his severe wounds, since the psychological aspect is equally important and a pre-requisite to healing. This was clearly the right decision, because he has recovered remarkably well despite such severe injuries. However, this month Simotua has caused concern - off his food and obviously unwell with a marked loss of condition as well. We have been working hard to try to get to the root of his problems, having treated him for parasites and administered antibiotics, and thankfully, towards the end of the month, he has shown a significant improvement, thanks in no small part to Angela’s special concoction of all good things in an attempt to bolster up his nutrition.

January has been a happy month, with the baby elephants enjoying some beautiful weather. This year January has been a gentle month; not too much wind, beautiful blue skies and soft showers with some unseasonable rain keeping Nairobi National Park beautifully green. Our Nursery elephants are a content and happy herd, with even our new arrival Naseku finding her feet and feeling more comfortable. She has her own group of cohorts, and surprisingly they are the unlikely combination of bulls Balguda, Olsekki, and Sirimon, sometimes with Oltaiyoni in the mix. We have watched Naseku’s confidence grow and her condition improve and she begins to thrive, playfulness always being a great barometer. Simotua, a little bull who has undergone immense suffering, due to a nylon snare having almost cut through his leg to the bone, and a spear through the honeycomb web of his skull, had a very difficult Nursery beginning. The decision was made early on not to keep him incarcerated in a stockade too long despite his severe wounds, since the psychological aspect is equally important and a pre-requisite to healing. This was clearly the right decision, because he has recovered remarkably well despite such severe injuries. However, this month Simotua has caused concern - off his food and obviously unwell with a marked loss of condition as well. We have been working hard to try to get to the root of his problems, having treated him for parasites and administered antibiotics, and thankfully, towards the end of the month, he has shown a significant improvement, thanks in no small part to Angela’s special concoction of all good things in an attempt to bolster up his nutrition.

Kiko, our orphaned giraffe who is very much part of the Nursery herd, has had a couple of encounters with his wild kin this month, and despite being rooted to the spot and not responding as a female giraffe walked up to within a few meters of him, he was nevertheless clearly interested. Kiko has become impassioned with his stable and from around 4.00pm onwards he is eager to try and steer his Keepers towards home so that he can put himself to bed! We built a customised stable with tall walls and stable door for the orphaned giraffe that came before Kiko, allowing a giraffe room to grow. There is a window where he can look across into the next door stable which houses Pea and Pod (the orphaned ostriches) and beyond that there are his dear little elephant friends, Ngilai and Ndotto. Fresh cut thorn tree branches are present for him every night along with a salt block securely fastened onto the wall which he can lick and enjoy in the evenings! Pea and Pod have been taken on some exciting excursions with the elephant herd onto the plains of Nairobi Park to where wild ostriches roam, and they too were able to join a group of wild ostriches for a short time, but like Kiko, they were not overly interested, and despite being left on the plains amidst the wild ostriches they made their way back home before too long! All the orphans love these trips onto the plains to feast on the delicious soft green grasses which remain plentiful and appetising. Pea and Pod are not comfortable heading down there without their elephant friends at this early stage, but as they mature the call of the wild will undoubtedly grow stronger.

Our tame blind rhino, Maxwell, galloped up and down the full length of his enclosure full of the joys, skipping and huffing and puffing in the early hours of one rainy morning. The unexpected wet conditions certainly thrilled him so much that he ended up exhausted, finally settling down to sleep it all off for five full hours! Mbegu and Murit have been snatching pieces of Lucerne through the bars of his Stockade Gate early some mornings, something that Maxwell relishes since their scent is familiar to him and he regards them as friends. Solio, our female rhino orphan who is now comfortably integrated into the wild Nairobi Park rhino community, and lives a totally free life, has been visiting Maxwell and her Nursery stockade most nights, and can be herd huffing and puffing around in the dark, curiously investigating anything that might be new within her well-trodden territory. She often keeps company with a wild female friend who has a sub adult calf and they have all been seen regularly at night visiting the compound, and Maxwell.

Kamok raised from the day she was born and now nearly two years old, continues to be a handful with her multiple personalities, so we have upgraded her into the big elephant group within the Nursery hierarchy That has proved a good move, as her behaviour has much improved, but she still has moments when she keeps her Keepers on their toes by giving them the slip and turning up in the car park while everyone assumes her to be out in the forest browsing! She slips away and circles back to the car park terrorizing the baby warthogs in the process, charging around in the open space playfully but when she hears her Keepers approaching, she sneaks into the undergrowth where she stands stock still trying to avoid detection! The baby warthogs have had a tough time from Kamok this month, especially when they found themselves encircle by all the elephants, which allowed Kamok to get close enough to slap them with a floppy trunk! The Keepers came to their aid immediately rescuing the situation.

Balguda is now doing very much better, benefiting too from Angela’s concoction which has certainly boosted his energy levels. He has been revelling in mubathing which, in the past, has not been the case. One day Balguda went missing heading further afield than the rest and was later found feeding in the company of three buffalos, all perfectly content. He became aware of his Keepers approaching and immediately walked to them understanding that they would be in danger should they venture any closer to the company he was Keeping. Little bull, Rapa, has been feeling the brunt of some discipline meted out by Mbegu and others over the month whenever he gets out of hand, which can be fairly frequently. He is a rambunctious calf, full of attitude! Gentle Tusuja continues to improve and gain weight, as does Alamaya despite his very challenging beginning and the subsequent surgery he underwent. Lasayen and Ndotto are dear friends who often enjoy preferential treatment from the others who allow them to embark on pushing and climbing games. Theirs is a strong friendship and they are never far apart - identical in size, and both endowed with huge personality.

Baby Ngilai has been adopted by Dupotto, who takes her role of being the mini mum of the baby group now extremely seriously. She is very possessive of Ngilai, and she even tries to steer him away from visitors bent on touching him. Godoma remains somewhat fearful, not overly partial to her human family, something exacerbated by the recent course of injectable antibiotics she underwent following a mysterious slump in her body condition. She has responded well to the drugs, but regular injections have added to her wariness of humans so she prefers the company of the others. Little Roi, who has always been as fat as butter, is taking on a more nurturing role particularly insofar as Ngilai is concerned. Mwashoti has shown some bullying tactics which have made him unpopular with the girls particularly since he pushed Ngilai around, however Oltaiyoni came to the rescue and put a stop to what was going on immediately.

Kauro, Sokotei and Boromoko are happy and content little boys who spend endless hours sparring with each other in strength-testing games, but when they engage smaller opponents they are much more patient and gentle. These bulls enjoy mudbath football games, kicking the ball with both front and back legs, stepping on it and hurling it in the air with their trunks! Sirimon has developed cunning tactics during the open Visiting Hour when the orphans come to the compound in batches for their midday milk feed. On one occasion he came in the first batch and had his fill but then managed to circle round and join the next batch turning up for a second feed from an unsuspecting Keeper! He even attempted a third circuit before being found out! More details about individual elephants in the Nursery are found throughout the Keepers’ Diaries in the daily entries.

January 2016 day to day

01 Jan

It’s the start of the New Year and the orphans are happy to begin the New Year with everyone looking fit and healthy. All the babies came out of their stockades this morning in a playful mood, led by Oltaiyoni, the leader of this orphan herd, followed by Mbegu, Dupotto, Sokotei, Olsekki, Boromoko, Enkikwe, Sirimon and Roi. This group of older orphans were happy and stamping around the bush, breaking down small bushes, which attracted the attention of the rest of the baby herd and they all charged and trumpeted together towards the forest! This happy moment came to an end however when bullies Enkikwe and Olsekki accidentally pushed little Murit who fell down and yelled, drawing the attention of Oltaiyoni who rushed over to Murit to see what was wrong. Upon arriving Oltaiyoni found Murit on the ground struggling to get up so she and Mbegu, who had also come to investigate, supported him up using their hind legs. Once he was standing Oltaiyoni and Mbegu escorted him away with him sandwiched in-between them, leaving behind the older boys who were still busy play-fighting and choosing who to fight with next. Their games soon came to an end when they realised they were being left behind and given ‘time out’ as Oltaiyoni led the herd away into the forest intentionally ignoring them and punishing them for their boisterous inconsiderate behaviour.

Oltaiyoni the leader of the herd

Mbegu stomping around the bush

Enkikwe and Olsekki, the bully boys!

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