Keepers' Diaries, July 2016

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

It was a busy high season in full swing at the nursery this month, and thankfully we have been enjoying numerous visitors in support of the Orphan’s Project. The busy season coincides with Nairobi’s cold season so we are all wrapped up warm, and that includes our youngest elephant babies who need special care to keep warm at this time of year as they are extremely susceptible to pneumonia. In a wild situation they would, of course, have the body heat of an attentive herd protecting them from the elements. There have been some sunny days which the elephants have made the most of, savouring their mud baths and dousing themselves with layers of thick mud, however on chilly days the water and mud is avoided at all costs!

It was a busy high season in full swing at the nursery this month, and thankfully we have been enjoying numerous visitors in support of the Orphan’s Project. The busy season coincides with Nairobi’s cold season so we are all wrapped up warm, and that includes our youngest elephant babies who need special care to keep warm at this time of year as they are extremely susceptible to pneumonia. In a wild situation they would, of course, have the body heat of an attentive herd protecting them from the elements. There have been some sunny days which the elephants have made the most of, savouring their mud baths and dousing themselves with layers of thick mud, however on chilly days the water and mud is avoided at all costs!

July has seen us rescue a number of orphans, all at the beginning of the month, which kept us exceptionally busy. On the 1st and 2nd two orphans were rescued, the first from Voi whom we named Maramoja and the second from Amboseli National Park, a fragile young calf emaciated and thin rescued by Big Life Scouts from Rombo, which is adjacent to Tsavo West National Park. Pare, named after the hills that shadow the area was sighted alone for a number of days by the Maasai community before being rescued. Riddled in parasitical worms and with terrible body condition, we have had to work extremely hard to save him.

Maramoja was difficult to tame and initially extremely aggressive so it was a while before she could join the others in the forest and slot into the daily routine, but when we did let her out of her Taming Stockade, she rapidly assimilated into the group. On her first day out in the bush, it was Mbegu as usual who looked after her, nurturing and protecting her from the other boisterous babies. As it turned out she was much more settled out in the bush than she had been in her stockade, responding to Mbegu’s love and attention. Towards the end of the month she had fast become another greedy little girl, literally giving Naseku a run for her money by racing to reach the milk bottles first ahead of Naseku! Pare settled into Nursery life much faster, as by the time he arrived in the Nursery he was clearly desperate to be safe, having experienced such a traumatic time alone and abandoned. Amazingly he was tame from the outset, and soon made firm friends with Tusuja which we were afraid might stimulate Rapa’s bullying nature! Fortunately however, Rapa has welcomed this new friendship and the three of them are regularly spotted harmoniously browsing together.

While Tusuja has been looking after Pare, Sana Sana has been on a mission of her own and trying to look after another new little baby orphan rescued from the Chyulu Hills, again by Big Life Scouts, who has been named Esampu. This baby was rescued on the 6th of the month, and judging by her body condition she, too, had been alone without her mother for some time. Esampu seemed to be a quiet and withdrawn little girl who preferred to isolate herself from the others, obviously grieving due to the trauma of losing her family. Sana Sana used to be similar although recently she has become much more sociable with the others. It was as though she empathized with Esampu’s psychological struggle and stepped in to provide the necessary understanding and care needed to heal emotional scars. Galla is another gentle and reserved little elephant and Sana Sana spends much time browsing alongside him for the same reason. We can learn so much about love, care and compassion from the elephants, so humbling to watch, that it never ceases to amaze us. On the 4th of the month another calf from Tsavo East was rescued but very tragically her rescue came too late as she arrived in a coma which she never recovered from.

We have also watched Ndotto and Ngilai trying to interact with Ambo this month, but so far the little one has no interest in playing with them! The two boys have tried all sorts of games to attract attention, rolling on the ground and posing with their trunks in the air, in an effort to lure the baby, but to no avail – Ambo has eyes only for his adopted mother, Oltaiyoni, and sticks by her side! Ambo’s little friend, Jotto, is a very friendly baby to all people and has portrayed such a strong and resilient character that we were happy to be able to add him to the Fostering Program, joining Ambo, Tagwa, and Sana Sana who have all recently become available for fostering. Mbegu has taken a particular shine to Jotto and often tries to get him to follow her, but Jotto loves his devoted Keepers and usually opts to remain with them seeking a finger to suckle on instead! On one occasion all this attention seemed too much for Godoma, who is normally a very sweet little girl, but she resorted to pushing Jotto away from his Keeper when seeing Mbegu’s and Oltaiyoni’s interest diverted! Our little elephant orphans are just like human children and can display fits of jealousy as well.

Recently we have noticed Tagwa, rescued from the slopes of Mt Kenya, showing very similar traits to our little mini matriarch Mbegu. She is a sweet little elephant, very calm and gentle, and she allows the more boisterous bulls Ambo and Jotto to push her around without reacting and fighting back. She has a very modest character and in future we envisage her becoming the new mini Mum once the older females move on to Tsavo in the fullness of time.

On the 10th of the month it was time for more naughty boys, this time Sokotei, Sirimon and Boromoko, to make the move down to Tsavo. They were loaded onto the moving lorry smoothly and within minutes were happily confined in their pens on board and browsing on the greens provided. Their move down to Ithumba where they were reunited with old friend Olsekki, Enkikwe and Siangiki plus all the new faces if the Ex Orphans went extremely well and they are happy and confident in their new wild environment, loving every minute of it. Benjamin, Head Keeper of Ithumba, on the other hand has been struck by trouble, having to handle a batch of extremely naughty boys! We are hopeful that some discipline will be meted out by the older elephants and that they will step in and do the disciplining. This has left our big girls Oltaiyoni, Kamok, Dupotto, Mbegu enjoying a more peaceful time in the Nursery without the hectic naughty boys. Kauro is now one of the big boys, and he has best friends Ndotto and Lasayen as company much of the time. Our special, gentle little Murit, Kauro’s peer, does still love spending time with the babies and younger elephants, happy with their less boisterous antics.

Maxwell’s stockade required much attention after the sodden conditions of so many months, and needed a rebuild with him in residence. This obviously caught Solio’s attention as it affected her stockades where she grew up as a baby. Rhino’s hate change and so this month Solio returned numerous times to her stockade in the early evening or early morning hours, to demand for lucerne from her keepers who are always delighted to see her again, and to check on proceedings. Her visits send Maxwell into an excited frenzy and he charges and runs energetically around his stockades, before butting his horn against the bars that separate him and Solio in order to get her attention; she is always friendly and stops to greet him as part of her returning routine.

Orphan giraffe Kiko continues to march to the beat of his own drum and does what he likes, despite pleads and temptation of a milk bottle offered from his keepers – sometimes he complies, and sometimes he shows how much he really still does depend on them. One day he decided he was going to browse away from the others with Pod the ostrich and kept running away from the keepers, until he ran into a herd of wild giraffes who appeared from behind the bushes. This caused him to make a quick U-turn and run back to the company of his keepers and the baby elephant group, and watch the wild herd from afar! He is still nervous of wild giraffes but the more encounters he has with them on a regular basis, the more he will learn that he is in fact a giraffe!

Please read the Keepers daily diary entries for tales of different individuals.

July 2016 day to day

01 Jul

The orphans were in such an excitable mood this morning – they left their stockades running and trumpeting and bumping into one another as they ran into the forest, taking their excitement out on the vegetation around them and bashing it down. This funny behaviour the keepers have often witnessed before the arrival of a new baby at the nursery, as if they foresee this happening. This month we have seen the graduation of babies Ambo, Jotto and Tagwa into the older group of orphans and they are now spending their days out with them in the forest. Ambo is so attached to Oltaiyoni, and we have seen Ndotto and Ngilai trying to walk him away from his adopted mother but he pays no attention to them! The two boys tried all sorts of games, rolling on the ground and posing with their trunks in the air, all to try and lure the baby away but to no avail – Ambo loves his adopted mother Oltaiyoni! During public visiting today two male lions rocked the visit by bringing the fight they were having all the way past the visiting area and out into the bushes past the offices. They were roaring fiercely all the way around and continued to fight out of sight. The first group of orphans by the mud wallow were slightly unsettled by all of this and turned with their ears held high and trunks pointing in the direction the lions had gone. But they soon settled down once the roars of the lions moved further away. At noon we received a call to perform an elephant rescue, corresponding with the excitable behaviour of the orphans this morning, from Tsavo near Voi. The rescue team was sent out to bring this poor elephant calf back to the nursery.

Ambo with his adopted mother Oltaiyoni

Ambo out in the bush

Jotto out in the bush with the others

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