Keepers Diaries, July 2018

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Visitors to the Nursery often remark that the elephants all seem to have such varying ‘personalities’ , and it is very true. We take great pleasure observing these little differences between the Nursery babies, as after the characterful and boisterous older orphans moved onto Tsavo, leaving us with just the youngsters, some of their different characters really came to the fore; some became a lot more colourful and the naughty culprits seemed to stay as they were, thankfully they haven’t grown naughtier without the influence of Esampu! Malima however is quite a mischievous little thing herself, although still not quite on a par with Kiasa.

In the morning public visiting time she waits until the Keepers’ attention is diverted elsewhere, after all the orphans have been fed, before picking her moment to run along the rope cordon bumping into visitors and kicking their bags. Before the Keepers have time to react, she has already moved on to the soil dusting area, the picture of innocence pretending nothing has happened!

Kiasa is still naughtiest at milk feeding times and recently she has had to be brought in last for the milk feed. She too is aware of this now and sometimes tries to sneak away from the Keepers before they can hold her back, so she can get to the feeding area first. Luggard is another baby who likes to sneak away before the 9am feeding time, as he likes to go at his own pace, but doesn’t want to be last for his milk bottles. Around 8am he starts to walk towards the feeding point and even if the milk is not there yet he likes to browse on the bushes close by. Once the milk arrives he is always there waiting patiently and ready to be fed. His approach is not quite as forceful as Kiasa’s, but extremely effective! He is doing so much better recently and has obviously overcome the bout of discomfort his leg was causing him a few months ago. His will be a long journey with many obstacles still to overcome, but we are very happy with the recent marked improvement and he is definitely more comfortable at the moment, and that in turn shows in his improved condition. Our little snare-victim Enkesha is also doing really well and the small sore she had on the hole in her trunk that was causing so much irritation a few months ago, causing incessant sneezing, has healed well. Enkesha was so distracted by relieving the itchiness in her trunk before that she couldn’t even concentrate on browsing, wasn’t interacting with the other elephants and was clearly very uncomfortable. She is feeding well now and is much more playful; clear indications she is feeling much better.

Before the older orphans moved to Tsavo, Sana Sana was never very interested in caring for the youngsters, as that was a role competently held by Mbegu and Godoma. But she along with Tagwa and Tamiyoi have adopted a much more caring attitude towards the other babies. More surprising is Ndiwa who has assumed watching over little Sattao! We were very surprised to see this relationship unfold, as Ndiwa prefers to browse away from the herd and often walks far into the forest. These days little Sattao can be seen accompanying her on these deep forays into the Park, and it is a very sweet and wholly unexpected relationship to behold. Sometimes Ndiwa is accompanied by her lookalike Sagala as well; the Keepers say they look so similar sometimes they are hard pressed to tell them apart, especially as they have similar characteristics as well.

At the moment Mapia doesn’t seem to have any permanent friends in the Nursery herd. Most of the older ones like Kuishi, Ndiwa, Malkia and Sagala are pushing him around a bit at the moment, but we are sure they will all settle down soon; perhaps as Mapia is quite big for his age, the older girls are just trying to make sure he knows his place. Maktao has become great play-mates with Emoli and they enjoy pushing games on an almost daily basis, which makes Maisha rather jealous as she has always been Emoli’s special friend, and sometimes she can be spotted trying to break up their fun and games. .

This very cold month of July in Nairobi has meant we have barely felt the sun’s rays. Instead of mud bathing like in the warmer weather, the orphans have been relishing dust baths with loose soil on a regular basis, to build up a thick layer of soil on their skin to lock in the warmth. On very cold days, some of the babies who seem particularly adverse to the colder weather have protested, refusing to come out of their warm stables and stockades altogether! Maktao and Musiara hate the cold weather and don’t like coming out of their rooms or crossing any cold streams they encounter in the forest. One day Maktao engineered an ingenious method of keeping warm, by lifting up the Keepers’ dust coat with his trunk and hiding underneath, something Musiara took offence to as he is very protective and jealous of the Keepers’ attention. On cold days the orphans have also been seeking warmth from each other, with the little ones seeking refuge near the older orphans and using their body heat to keep warm. Sana Sana didn’t seem overly enthusiastic to help Kiasa however, as the little one had been terrorizing her friends during the feeding times. In this weather Maxwell the rhino stays in his bedroom on his hay bed until it is warm enough to wake up. His friend Shabby the sacred Ibis stays next to him in the hay too and finding them both sleeping together is a sight to behold! Thankfully towards the end of the month it began to warm up.


The scramble for black rhino Maxwell’s leftover lucerne pellets has excited all the elephant babies! Every elephant wants to be the first to reach his gate in the morning to find whatever leftovers there might be. Ambo and Ndiwa both tried a new trick to out-fox their keepers by sneaking back to the stockades a few times to eat leftover pellets there, both from beside Maxwell’s stockade and from in their friends’ rooms. Often their plans are thwarted by the Keepers on duty in the compound however, and they are escorted back to their friends out in the forest. To our babies, the grass always seems ‘greener on the other side’, or in their case, the ‘grewia branches’. Without fail, once they are in their rooms for the night, most of the orphans will pull branches through the partition from their neighbours, even though they are given exactly the same vegetation and the same amount too.


Maxwell sometimes seems indifferent to sharing his lucerne pellets, and sometimes he is adamantly against it! One day he sought to defend his lucerne trough from some warthog invaders and using his keen sense of hearing he chased them all over his stockade. One particularly fat pig who had feasted rather too well on Maxwell’s pellets got stuck between the bars of the gate as he made his escape, and it was a close call indeed between freedom and the tip of Maxwell’s horn.


Kiko continues to do as he pleases, and as we have noticed recently he is much more attentive than we realized! When he hears the radio hand-sets of the Keepers he knows it is time for the elephant’s milk feed, and if he wants to join too there is usually no stopping him. He doesn’t like to be left out and because he is so tall, he usually gets his own way. That is not always the case however and if he is misbehaving the elephants will gang up on him and chase him away; they are very good at sticking up for one another. Kiko does get put back in the stockades if the lions are about and this he is happy to do, because let’s face it Kiko does as Kiko likes and with the ability of kicking in all directions, front side and back, there is no forcing Kiko to do anything against his will. Despite his size he does remain vulnerable to prides of lion and the lions have been around the Nairobi Nursery quite often this month. Kiko is also quite a clinging vine and even when out and about, has a tendency to return back to the stockade area. We have Kiko barriers to dissuade him from getting into every nook and cranny but he can be very premeditated in trying to out-manoeuvre the Keepers and get to out of bound places! He is still happy to put himself back into his stable at night, something that would be impossible to do if he wasn’t inclined, and loves to hang his neck over into Luggard’s room to munch on his greens first, leaving his own for later.

July 2018 day to day

Sometimes Kiko the giraffe is cleverer than we think he is. Today he heard the handset radios of the Keepers who were getting ready to take the orphans to the mud bath area for their 3pm milk feed. He knew this meant they were about to have their milk feed and he was adamant he wanted to go with them! He wouldn’t listen at all to the Keepers who were trying to lure him away in a different direction with a milk bottle. He knew they were trying to take him in a different direction so the elephants could go for their milk. When the last group of elephants had run down for their milk, he left his keeper and ran off too, pretending to run in the direction of the stockades, but then he made a quick about turn and instead followed the elephants. He caught up with Musiara, who never rushes for his milk bottles, and scared the little elephant with his long strides. Musiara ran yelling for help from the others as the giraffe ran up behind him. It was as if Kiko thought if the elephants can go down for their milk to see some visitors, why can’t I follow too? He decided he had to feature in this visiting time no matter what, and he stayed right up to the end.

Orphans heading to mud-bath area

Musiara makes his way down to 3pm visit

Emoli browsing

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