Keepers' Diaries, January 2024

Select your unit:

Nairobi Nursery Unit

At the Nairobi Nursery, the new year began on an exciting note. Rather than ambling along as usual, Loldaiga, Kitich, Choka, Muwingu, Sholumai, Weka, Muridjo, Mushuru, and Mukutan barrelled off to a clearing. This soon escalated into full-out bush-bashing, complete with a chorus of trumpets.

Their excitement was infectious and soon everyone was running through the bushes. Babies Mokogodo, Taroha, Talek, and Pardamat did their very best to keep up with their nannies, sprinting along on their little legs. They managed quite well in open areas but whenever they tried to bush bash, they topped over like dominoes. Each time, Kerrio, Latika and Sileita about turned and pushed them back onto their feet. In the end, Kerrio and Sileita sandwiched Mokogodo (the youngest orphan in the herd) between them and frogmarched her through the forest!

Mzinga is a very calm elephant, but one day sent her over the edge. As the orphans headed down to the mud bath, a warthog darted past with a lioness in hot pursuit. The big orphans trumpeted loudly and flared their ears, while the babies ran for cover with the Keepers. Order restored, the first group padded down to the mud bath as usual — except for Mzinga. She planted herself in the midst of the second group and refused to leave them. The promise of milk usually sends the little ones careening down the path, but today, Mzinga was not going anywhere without an escort of older orphans!

That wasn’t the only notable wildlife encounter of the month. Just a few days later, as Loldaiga, Kitich, Mushuru, and Muwingu were browsing away from the herd, they came across a lone buffalo. Brave Loldaiga and Mushuru stood tall and charged towards the buffalo — but rather than escaping, the buffalo ran at the two orphans. Loldaiga and Mushuru turned on their heels, gathered Kitich and Muwingu, and darted towards the Keepers. Of course, their commotion upset the rest of the herd. As the older orphans dashed through bushes, clever Muridjo led Mzinga, Nyambeni, Talek, and Pardamat towards the stockades, a place that she knew would be safe. 

Raha, the small black rhino, was in excellent form this month. Now that she’s eating greens, she is growing in every respect. As soon as her stable doors open, she confidently toddles out. She has learned her way around the forest and now leads the way to any destination at the appointed time, be it the mud bath in the morning or back to the stockades in the evening, squeaking as she marches along.  

Raha is also starting to exhibit the most famous of black rhino traits: obstinance. One morning, she stood resolutely in the corner of her stable and refused to leave. Two Keepers whistled, but she just stared at them as if they were strangers. Compromise was the only solution. They allowed the rhino to remain in her stable with the door open, until she decided it was time to move on. Clad in her cherry blanket and moving slowly, like a bright red tortoise, she plodded into the trees. 

All the orphaned elephants treasure moments with Maxwell, the big, blind black rhino. As the herd headed out one morning, Weka and Muwingu made a beeline for Maxwell, who was standing at his gate. Irrepressible Weka pulled the rhino’s ears with her trunk as Muwingu did exactly the same to his tail. Max stood very still, enjoying all the attention — even if the cheeky girls’ behaviour was not the gentle touch he is used to getting from Mzinga!

In fact, the Nursery is full of special and unique friendships. At first light, as the Keepers were opening the orphan’s gates, they realised that Kitich had a very unusual roommate: A tiny kitten was curled in a nest of straw at the back of the stockade, sleeping soundly as Kitich stood next to her. This kitten became a regular visitor, but she only ever visits Kitich. 

Talek and Pardamat are of similar ages, were rescued around the same time, and are nighttime neighbours — all of which creates a perfect recipe for a sibling-like relationship that vacillates between loving and quarrelsome. As soon as her door was opened one morning, Talek padded over to Pardamat’s stable and stood outside. When he tried to exit, she used her body weight to close the door, holding the young bull hostage. When Pardamat began shouting, Sileita and Latika responded immediately, pushing Talek away and opening the door. Sileita shepherded one indignant toddler into the forest, while Latika escorted the second sulky toddler. The mini matriarchs kept the pair apart for a time to prevent Pardamat from getting his revenge on Talek! 

Weka is shaping up to be an excellent nanny, but she is also quite a rogue. One day, she was at her most mischievous. Every time she came across a blanket baby, she yanked at the blanket with her trunk, doing her very best to remove it! Her antics kept the Keepers on their toes until Mushuru intervened. She strode over, chased Weka away, and stood guard over the babies, just in case the naughtiest girl in the herd returned. 

Taroha is a gentle, polite boy, but one afternoon, he forgot his manners. Perhaps inspired by the naughtier orphans, he decided to kick up a fuss in the hope of being given an extra bottle. After gulping down his milk, he trailed around after the Keepers, trumpeting his demands for more. The determined boy kept this up until every elephant in his group had been fed. Realising his plan had been foiled, he fell silent and began browsing on the supplementary lucerne.

Although Pardamat is one of the youngest members of the Nursery herd, he likes to hang out with older elephants. Time and again, the independent baby flatly refuses to join his age group, instead planting himself next to the likes of Mukutan and Loldaiga! Alas, Pardamat will have to wait his turn — he is a youngster and belongs with his age-mates, not the big boys. 

While we are very clued into the orphans’ daily dramas, nighttime is another story. One morning, Kamili had an axe to grind with Weka, who sleeps in the neighbouring stockade. The no-nonsense girl walked out of her room, turned to the left and pushed the naughty girl down. When Weka retaliated, Kamili shoved her again before marching off in one direction as a Keeper shepherded Weka away in a different direction. Some drama must have passed between them in the night!

Some things never change. One of those things? Shujaa being a delightful pest! One day, ‘sisters’ Nyambeni and Mzinga were enjoying a peaceful hang until Shujaa trundled over and started pushing, prodding, and pestering them. The girls, who are well-versed in Shujaa evasion tactics, made themselves scarce and left the young bull to entertain himself.

Mushuru, Sholumai, and Muwingu like to clamber over the low fence surrounding the small square of garden next to Maxwell’s stockade, where they browse on forbidden greens. Pardamat — who is one of the youngest Nursery babies, but likes to think he’s a large elephant — somehow managed to hoist his small body over the fence and settled to browse with the big girls. All was going well, until it was time to leave the garden. Mushuru, Sholumai, and Muwingu navigated the fence easily, but Pardamat was well and truly stuck. It took the efforts of several Keepers to help one uncooperative elephant out of the garden. 

We witnessed a lovely moment at the mud bath this month. Choka (who is one of the oldest orphans at the Nursery) was drinking his milk. He is able to hold his own bottle using his trunk, but his drinking tactics could use some finessing: Rather than sucking the bottle, he just pours the milk into his mouth, meaning that lots ends up on the ground. By contrast, Talek (who is one of the youngest orphans at the Nursery) drinks very carefully and never lets a drop go to waste. Sensing an opportunity, she toddled over to Choka and stood beneath his head, in a perfect position to catch every drop that fell from his bottle. The big and small elephants both enjoyed their milk in tandem!

January ended with a reminder that even mini matriarchs need a support team. Kerrio was escorting young stars Mokogodo, Taroha, Talek, and Mzinga out to the forest. She walked behind the four babies, keeping them moving and in line. The mini herd settled down to browse, but Mageno kept interrupting their peace. He chased Kerrio, he tried to mount her, she moved away, he tried again. The bull would not leave her alone! Observing Mageno’s antics, Sileita and Loldaiga decided it was time to intervene. Sileita chased Mageno away while Loldaiga distracted him with a wrestling match, allowing kind Kerrio to finally relax.

January 2024 day to day

01 Jan

On the first day of the new year, the orphans were full of energy, browsing only briefly in the forest before beginning to play. Rather than ambling along as usual, Loldaiga, Kitich, Choka, Muwingu, Sholumai, Weka, Muridjo, Mushuru and Mukutan scampered around in a clearing. The situation escalated into a bush-bashing exercise accompanied by lots of trumpeting. Their excitement infected the others and soon everyone was running through the bushes. Babies Mokogodo, Taroha, Talek and Pardamat were doing their very best to keep up with nannies Kerrio, Latika, Weka, Sileita and Mushuru, sprinting along on their little legs. They managed quite well in open areas but, whenever they tried to bush bash, they fell over one after the other like dominoes. Each time, Kerrio, Latika and Sileita about turned and pushed them back onto their feet. The four babies set off and fell over again. Eventually, Kerrio and Sileita sandwiched Mokogodo (the youngest orphan in the herd) between them and frogmarched her through the forest!

Later in the morning at the mud bath, Raha, the baby rhino, was also full of the joys of a new year. After her daily lap of honour, she lay flat on her back with legs waving in the air for her mud bath. Two Keepers shovelled cooling mud all over Raha as she rolled onto one side and then the other. Clambering back onto four legs, she walked back out to the forest behind her Keeper.

Little Mokogodo

Kitich, Sileita, Mushuru and Muwingu

Little Raha