Keepers' Diaries, July 2022

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Kaluku Neonate Unit

Scooter the warthog certainly keeps things lively at Kaluku. Although she is one of the smallest members of the orphan herd, she rules with an iron hoof. While she means well, she is a hopeless busybody and can be very domineering.

Recently, an infant orphaned warthog named Sprite entered the fold. Her arrival was a wonderful development for Scooter, giving her someone in which to funnel all her energy. Scooter is an excellent ‘big sister’ to Sprite and never lets her out of her sight.

Of course, Kwale the hartebeest remains Scooter’s special friend. They all spend a lot of time with Susu the eland, Mkubwa the buffalo, and Kidogo, the semi-wild buffalo who unexpectedly adopted Kaluku as her home a few months ago. Kidogo is very attached to Apollo’s Keepers, so she tends to follow the rhino’s beat every day. 

We recently rescued an orphaned kudu named Sawa, who was found among a herd of goats. Because of Scooter’s overbearing ways, Sawa remains closer to our Field Manager’s home, where the bossy warthog is kept at bay. Sawa will join the rest of the orphan herd when she is big enough to stand up for herself. She hangs out with two orphaned duikers, Stoney and Jessie, who also remain around the home.

Because of the drought conditions, most of our extended orphan herd has circled back to Kaluku. Oka the oryx, along with her wild boyfriend and wild-born baby, have remained in the area, as have Sala the kudu and her wild-born baby. Asha, an orphaned kudu who we rescued in 2019 and is now living wild, has turned into a very impressive fellow. He has a magnificent set of horns, although he remains as gentle as ever.

Our eclectic orphan herd continues to grow. The Egyptian geese we rescued in May are rapidly outgrowing the chick phase and becoming fully fledged birds. They have embraced the other orphans into their flock and follow them from activity to activity, flying from bush to stable in a flurry of feathers. 

Apollo the orphaned rhino: 

This month wasn’t without drama — and predictably, it all centred around Apollo. A huge wild bull elephant has taken up residence around Kaluku. While he certainly commands respect, Apollo is not afraid of him and would happily seize any opportunity to challenge him. The KWS rangers assigned to the protection of Apollo have a real challenge on their hands, chasing off the bull in a delicate way that doesn’t also set Apollo on the run. 

Apollo has expanded his patch and is spending a lot of time down at the river. He has discovered the mud bath we created for two neonate orphaned elephants who are being raised close to Angela's house. Apollo quickly commandeered it as his own, so he stops there for a morning wallow, before heading to the regular mud bath in the afternoon. With all this travelling to and fro, his Keepers are building a worthwhile sweat and keeping very fit! 

The orphaned elephants:

We are currently raising a few neonate orphaned elephants at Kaluku, whose stories are yet to be told. One little male is housed in the main compound, close to Rokka, Mayan, Vaarti, and Manda, although he keeps his own schedule. The bigger elephants have developed the sweetest morning ritual, making a point to stop by his stable and say hello before heading out into the bush. It is Rokka who leads the charge, although all her boyfriends happily join in the greetings.

Being the only female of her little herd, Rokka, loves to challenge the three boys on a regular basis. She often has to back off, because she is also the smallest, but she holds her own admirably. She is hopelessly naughty and loves to sneak up on people from behind and give them a nudge. When passing through the compound, Rokka playfully charges at the smaller orphans, particularly the two duikers, Stoney and Jessie.

We call Vaarti the ‘compassionate’ elephant of the herd. He is so sweet and soft-natured, even at an age when many males are embracing their bullish side. Surprisingly, he and Manda have become great friends and love to play together. It is quite strange to see how the gentlest and most assertive elephants gravitate towards each other. We believe that this is a credit to Vaarti’s gentleness; he has been at Kaluku for much longer than Manda and generously tolerates his dominance. Vaarti is very inquisitive and friendly. He loves to snuggle up to his Keepers and Kaluku staff, waiting expectantly for strokes and scratches. Manda, on the other hand, really likes his personal space and gives most people a wide berth.

Mayan remains our jolly boy. He has such a sunny outlook, even when he isn’t feeling well. This month, he got an upset tummy, probably from sucking up too much mud while wallowing. It wasn’t a big deal, and two injections (he cried like a baby, but was not aggressive at all — a testament to his sweet nature!) plus a short course of antibiotics had him feeling better in a tick. Soon, he was back to his usual playful self, often joining Rokka in her escapades chasing the other orphans. 

Twiggy the orphaned giraffe:

Twiggy does not wander too far from Kaluku. She loves eating from the many Acacia trees that are watered especially for her on a daily basis. She used to have four bottles of milk a day, but now that she is browsing a lot more, that has been reduced to two bottles.

Twiggy is really fascinated with the smaller orphans, particularly the duikers, Jessie and Stoney, and Sawa the kudu. Although she tries her best to be very gentle when she interacts with them, she appears quite clumsy due to her size. However, they know she is a kind soul and seem to enjoy her company. Twiggy joins the elephants at their mud bath from time to time, but she prudently keeps her distance: She knows they are very enthusiastic and sloppy wallowers, and close proximity comes with the risk of getting splashed with mud!

Please note that we do not currently publish daily diaries for the Kaluku Neonate Unit. Instead, foster parents of our Kaluku orphans receive a dedicated monthly email, which contains a special video and additional photos of their adoptees.