Keepers' Diaries, January 2022

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

For our Nursery herd, the new year began on a very jovial note. As soon as they got to the forest, Mukkoka, Naboishu, Larro, Barnoti, Bondeni, Roho, Suguroi, Olorien and Kinyei began charging around the trees, bush bashing and trumpeting in excitement. 

As Mukkoka, Naboishu, and Larro’s graduation date drew closer, they began to spend less time with the other orphans. They were busy training on the translocation lorry, but more generally, they seemed to have outgrown the Nursery and preferred each other’s company. This allowed the rest of the herd to adjust to their absence before they even made the move to our Ithumba Reintegration Unit. 

With that said, graduations are always a very big deal — for the graduates, the Keepers who raised, them, and the remaining orphans. In the early hours of the 8th, Larro, Mukkoka, and Naboishu walked onto the translocation lorry like old pros and embarked for Tsavo East. The whole graduation went without a hitch, and now the trio are fully ensconced in their new home. The Ithumba Keepers have nicknamed them the “good students,” because of how quickly they learned the new routine.

Back at the Nursery, a new day started. Kindani and Naleku immediately took up the mantle of herd leaders, which entailed some comical jostling for control. As the orphans were heading out for the morning, Naleku and Kindani couldn’t agree upon a plan. Naleku wanted to lead everyone further into the park, whereas Kindani wanted to lead them deeper into the forest. Based on their annoyed rumbles, a fight was brewing between the girls, and the herd was divided as to who they should follow. 

Kerrio and Mukutan ended up being the inadvertent mediators. In his haste to run after Kindani, Mukutan accidentally knocked down Kerrio. The little elephant yelled out in surprise, which sent Kindani and Naleku charging back to check on her. Once they determined that all was well, both girls put aside their disagreement and led the whole herd out to the forest in the same direction. 

Roho, meanwhile, immediately set about recruiting new wrestling buddies. He may not be the oldest bull at the Nursery, but he has been there the longest, because he was rescued at such a young age. As such, he is very keen to assert his dominance. Roho used to tussle with Mukkoka and Naboishu and seemed to wonder if Oldepe and Barnoti would make good replacements. As these bulls are both new to Nursery life, they didn’t seem too keen to challenge Roho. In fact, feisty little Kinyei has become one of his most reliable challengers. A lovely friendship has developed between them. 

Rama and Barnoti have a blossoming friendship. They are both very calm bulls who prefer a sedate browsing session over a vigorous wrestling match. Barnoti has become Rama’s big shadow, following his every move around the forest. By month’s end, gentle Oldepe had also joined their group. Much to the relief of the Keepers, he seems to have put his Houdini disappearing acts behind him. The three bulls spend a lot of time with Ziwadi, who has always been Rama’s special friend. 

Latika and Mukutan are also kindred spirits, as they are quite shy compared to the rest of the herd. They spend most of their days following each other around the forest. They sometimes try to sneak back to the stockade compound together. On these occasions, the Keepers usher them back to the group. For their own safety, young orphans cannot just wander wherever they please, whenever they please!

Our independent girl Ziwadi still has a coterie of orphans shadowing her browsing sessions. She doesn’t enjoy being amidst all the orphans because she wants to avoid any boisterous shenanigans. However, she is very happy to have Latika, Mukutan, and Taabu join her private browsing sessions. They share her gentle nature and never push the envelope.

Every herd has at least one milk fiend, and it seems that Suguroi has taken over the role from Naboishu! She is by far the greediest member of the Nursery herd and, in her eagerness for her bottle, she has started causing trouble at feeding times. To save the whole feeding from descending into chaos, the Keepers now make sure that she is one of the last orphans to have their milk, which is exactly what they had to do with Naboishu.

Like Suguroi, Esoit has taken to extreme measures in his quest for milk. He badgers the Keepers for more, tries to steal bottles from the wheelbarrow, or even attempts to snatch milk right from his friends’ mouths. Ironically, he and Suguroi are already getting more milk than they used to: They recently graduated from one bottle to two at feeding times, but it has only made them greedier! They have become quite comfortable in the naughty corner. 

While Esoit is greedy, he is also extremely gentle. One day, Naleku uncharacteristically ran down to milk without Kerrio. We believe she was simply too excited about the prospect of milk and forgot all about her little girl! She needn’t have worried, because Esoit took up the babysitting duties and escorted Kerrio over to her bottle. 

If Suguroi has taken over the title of the greediest member of our Nursery herd, Rama has taken over as the loudest. He yells out in excitement the moment he starts running down for his bottles, and even continues in a garbled manner as he gulps down his milk. Unlike Naboishu, he quiets down the moment he finishes. It is almost as if Rama is thanking his Keepers for his bottles.

Olorien has a hot-and-cold personality that reminds us of Kiasa. She is gentle, but also a troublemaker, kind, but also a bully. One afternoon, she spent hours trying to chase Naleku away so she could have Kerrio all to herself. Unlike with some of the other orphans, Olorien is unfalteringly gentle with Kerrio. Again, this reminds us of Kiasa who, despite all her antics, always treated the youngsters with the greatest care. 

However, it must be said that Kerrio really knows how to look out for herself. She is such a confident young girl and rarely lets things bother her. One afternoon, she had a wonderful time chasing after one of the resident warthog piglets. The Keepers were so impressed to see how she pursued the piglet with such self-assurance, playfully flapping her ears and rumbling. 

Kamili has come a long way since her arrival. Not only is she looking healthy and happy, but she is also growing in confidence. Like Suguroi, she has fully mastered all the different browsing routes within Nairobi National Park. She has been spending a lot of time with the likes of Bondeni and Roho, accompanying them further into the forest and not relying on her Keepers so much. 

Tingai is a shy character who is still finding his place among the Nursery herd. Sometimes, he is very happy and confident, other times, he goes very quiet and isolates himself. As he is still one of the newer rescues in the Nursery, he remains wary of his Keepers and has a strong flight response. He lost his mother to human-wildlife conflict, so we can empathize with his wariness of humans. This type of healing takes time, and already we see progress in Tingai.

Sagateisa is still gaining her strength, so the Keepers and older orphans remain very protective of her. While the rest of the herd charges past her for their milk, she walks down at her own leisurely pace. One afternoon, Ziwadi decided to accompany her. Whenever Sagateisa stepped aside to let the others race ahead, Ziwadi would also step aside to wait with her. Sagateisa was so happy to walk down with her new friend by her side. 

On the night of the 18th, we received a new rescue from Loisaba Conservancy, who we named Lodo. Although they sleep across the compound, Kindani, Kinyei, Bondeni, and Olorien made an enormous commotion, rumbling and trumpeting and pushing at their doors. The moment she was let out in the morning, Kindani came rushing out to investigate. She walked from stable to stockade, checking for new faces. She discovered the new rescue in Oldepe’s stockade and greeted him with a very deep rumble. This attracted Naleku, Kinyei, Roho, Bondeni, and Olorien, who all jockeyed for their turn to welcome the new arrival. 

On hot, hot days, the orphans can’t resist a mud bath. One day, several of our new rescues gathered for a wonderful wallowing session. Taabu, Tingai, Latika, Kamili, and Choka were at the centre of the mud bath, rolling around and covering their bodies in cool water. Everyone was so relaxed and getting along famously. Unfortunately, Naleku ruined their fun by being overprotective of Kerrio. As soon as Kerrio entered the mud bath, the older girl chased all the others away. They didn’t seem too bothered and just continued their fun on the dust mound.

It must be said that while Naleku is an excellent mini matriarch, she is singularly focused on Kerrio! Choka, who is even smaller than Kerrio, does not enjoy the same treatment from her. Luckily, he is a self-sufficient young bull who has made plenty of friends of his own. He spends a lot of time with his neighbour, Taabu. As we see time and again, nighttime stable arrangements forge so many friendships. 

On the 27th, we received a three-year-old orphan from Olmalo Ranch, who we named Neshashi. Her rescue was an enormous undertaking. She came to us very emaciated, so the Keepers immediately set about plying her with fresh greens and water. As usual, Kindani and Kinyei led the welcoming committee. While she was very shy the first morning, Neshashi warmed up to the big girls within a few days and enjoyed many long interactions with them. 

Maxwell is in very fine form. He and Bondeni seem to have a little morning ritual going. When the rhino hears the orphans stirring, he often waits by his lower stockade gate, which is right by Bondeni’s stable. When Bondeni emerges, he greets his friend with a trunk wave and they spend some time playing through the gate. One morning, the resident warthogs and their piglets saw this as their opportunity to sneak into Max’s stockade and help themselves to his lucerne pellets. As soon as he picked up their scent, the rhino immediately turned around to chase them out. However, Bondeni was waiting on the other side of the fence, ready to chase them back inside. The poor warthogs were stuck between Bondeni and Max, both of whom were thoroughly amused! The game only ended when Bondeni had to follow the orphans into the forest, giving the warthogs the chance to escape. Despite all the harassment they endure, it is only a matter of days (or even hours!) before the warthogs return to Max’s stockade.

In the wider Nairobi National Park, our extended family grew by one — as did Kenya's national black rhino population. On 31st January 2022, we received news that ex orphan Solio had given birth to her second calf, a healthy baby girl who has been named Savannah. Her firstborn, two-and-a-half-year-old Sultan, is rapidly growing in independence, but he has been spotted hanging out with his mum and little sister.

We rescued Solio in 2010. Her mother was likely a victim of the poaching epidemic that decimated the black rhino population in Kenya. Solio arrived at the Nursery as a surly, frightened calf, but soon fell in love with her men in green. As our Keepers nurtured her through her infancy, they also helped her navigate the incredibly complex reintegration process. In time, Solio earned her place among Nairobi National Park’s wild black rhino community. For any orphaned creature, but particularly rhinos, wild-born offspring are the best possible measure of a successful reintegration. With Sultan and now Savannah, Solio is also making a momentous contribution to her species.

January 2022 day to day

01 Jan

As the New Year started, all the Keepers and orphans were excited to commence their day out in the forest. As soon as they got to the forest, Mukkoka, Naboishu, Larro, Barnoti, Bondeni, Roho, Suguroi, Olorien and Kinyei all began charging around the forest, bush bashing and trumpeting in excitement. Kinyei and Roho’s friendship continues to grow day by day and they can almost always be seen enjoying a playful moment together whilst in the forest. After dashing around together, they enjoyed a playful dust bath together, where they would slide against one another and climb on each other’s backs.

On the other hand, Naleku, Olorien, Kindani and Larro were all busy carrying out their daily routine of checking on little Kerrio as she walked through the herd. Naleku continues to be absolutely besotted by Kerrio, and Kerrio continues to melt everyone’s hearts as she is just the gentlest and sweetest girl. Olorien, Kindani and Larro although they too dote upon Kerrio, they will not spend all day with her as they will move around checking on the other orphans in the herd.

Naleku continues to be such an independent girl, but as Larro is getting closer to graduating, the Keepers believe that Naleku will take over the role of matriarch of the Nursery herd as she continues to show such a caring and protective side to her. When she is by Kerrio’s side, you can see her constantly giving Kerrio small trunk hugs to make sure she is okay. 

Roho and Kinyei playing together

Suguroi browsing