Nairobi Nursery Unit
July began on a cold note. As the orphans were waking up, Maxwell was already busy charging around his stockade, chasing after the resident warthogs. The warthogs were loitering around, waiting for the rhino’s fresh lucerne pellets to be laid out, as they have a standing date to share his meals. Max turned their waiting game into a warm-up exercise, as all the charging about warded off the morning chill!
The cold days continued throughout the month. Many mornings, the orphans were very quiet and dutifully went about their usual routines, stealing greens from each other’s stockades and exchanging greetings with their friends. Once in the forest, the whole herd would huddle together as they browsed and walked around, using each other’s body heat to stay warm.
Naleku has started a new morning ritual of trumpeting loudly as she emerges from her stockade. She then proceeds to run around the Nursery compound, checking that all the orphans are up and about. Of course, her top priority is her darling, Kerrio, who remains the apple of her eye.
Fiery Suguroi can certainly hold her own, but this month, her ‘big brother’ Oldepe looked out for her. One morning, she was wallowing with great enthusiasm when Roho started to climb on top of her. Oldepe became very protective of Suguroi and charged into the mud, standing in front of her and blocking Roho. In the end, he failed to stop Roho, and all three had the best time rolling around and climbing on each other’s backs.
Choka and Taabu have been getting into lots of arguments, as is typical of elephants their age. Just like siblings, young orphans have ups and downs as they navigate growing up together. Although similar in size, these boys have very different personalities. Taabu is always so relaxed and calm, while Choka is full of flair and often picks fights. Being of a similar size to both bulls, Kerrio often finds herself at the receiving end of Choka’s feistiness.
With that said, Kerrio is quite an imp herself. She knows that she is a great favourite of the older females and thus very well protected. Eager to push her luck, she is fond of pushing the bulls around, as she knows she can get away with it. Choka and Mukutan are her main victims, so the boys take every opportunity to get even.
Orphans sometimes suckle on their trunks for comfort, much like a human baby would a dummy, and Tingai is often seen wandering around with his trunk in his mouth. However, we were pleased to see signs of his growing confidence this month. One morning, it was very overcast, so most of the orphans were reluctant to leave their bedrooms. Tingai, however, was eager to start his day and made a beeline for the forest. He was quickly followed by Latika, Sileita, Kamili, Sagateisa, and Mukutan. The Keepers were excited to see him taking charge, as he is normally very shy.
Although he does not share Bondeni's penchant for mischief, Esoit really loves playing with the older bull. Since the day we rescued him, Esoit has been unfalteringly gentle and happy. He is a true extrovert and always goes out of his way to welcome new arrivals. Bondeni is similarly outgoing, although he is often so focused on wreaking havoc that he has little time for anyone else!
Olorien continues to be our wild card. She can be kind and considerate one day, then a hopeless bully the next. One afternoon, she was in another one of her bad moods and kept trying to shove Esoit. Unfortunately, for Olorien, Kinyei was standing nearby and witnessed her rude behaviour. It upset Kinyei to see Esoit being bullied, so she immediately ran after Olorien, chasing her away from the Nursery herd so she could collect herself in private.
On 5th May, we rescued a three-year-old orphan from Buffalo Springs, who has been called Rafiki. The morning after he arrived, all the orphans congregated around his stockade, eager to greet him and the other new rescue, Mageno. Naleku, Olorien, Kinyei, and Kindani were the first to head over, but they were soon joined by Sagateisa, Suguroi, and Lodo, the gentle uncle. After a brief interaction, the Nursery herd made their way out to the forest.
Kamili and Latika really enjoy spending time with Ziwadi, as she is always welcoming and never ticks them off. All three girls have very complementary, gentle temperaments. When Ziwadi wanders off, she always knows exactly where she is heading. One afternoon, however, she seemed to be offering Latika and Kamili the opportunity to lead. It soon became clear that this was a bit premature; both girls had no idea where they were heading, so Ziwadi chose a spot where they could all browse together.
The morning of the 11th began with an exciting discovery. As the orphans arrived in the forest, Neshashi paused and started to smell around. Soon, the rest of the herd had joined her, their trunks lifted inquisitively. This immediately put the Keepers on high alert, which was compounded when the orphans began to walk backwards, with their ears flared and trunks aloft. Proceeding cautiously, the Keepers discovered four very large Southern white rhinos huddled together, sleeping in the forest! It was a very special sighting.
Mukutan continues to be the loudest member of the Nursery herd, but he remains very shy when it comes to interacting with the other orphans or his Keepers. It seems that milk is his great passion in life, and he bellows in anticipation every time he knows a bottle is on the horizon. One day, however, he made it his mission to engage Sagateisa in a wrestling match. He followed her around throughout the day, playfully pushing at her. Although she was reluctant to engage at first, Sagateisa eventually capitulated. The duo had a great time chasing each other around the forest and sizing each other up.
Sileita is another shy orphan who transforms when milk is in the picture. She often tries to sneak in an extra bottle, so the Keepers must be on high alert. As soon as she finished her bottle one day, she circled around and stood at the back of the mud bath, where the next group of orphans were approaching for their feeding. When the Keepers weren’t looking, she snuck into the queue, hoping to get another bottle. Although they foiled her plot, the Keepers were impressed by her ingenuity!
Kindani and Kinyei continue to be best friends. While Bondeni will always remain their first and most treasured adopted baby, they have been relishing the opportunity to look after little Mzinga and Nyambeni.
After navigating some growing pains in her early infancy, Mzinga has settled in very well. She is still very young, so she is continuing to gain condition. She is enthusiastically doted upon by many of the older orphans, and all the love and attention she is receiving has certainly helped her settle in. Mzinga is very attached to her Keepers, who have been with her every step of the way.
We wondered if Kerrio would be threatened by Mzinga and Nyambeni, but she doesn’t seem bothered by them. She must know that nothing can temper Naleku’s obsession with her. Some mornings, as Naleku and the older girls escorted Mzinga and Nyambeni out into the forest, Kerrio rushed over to lead the group. Perhaps she relishes the opportunity to assert herself as a ‘big sister’!
Rafiki has also settled in well, which meant the Keepers were able to let him join the rest of the Nursery herd fairly quickly. The first day he ventured into the forest with the other orphans, the big boys Lodo, Roho, and Oldepe all took an interest in him, sizing him up and trying to assess what kind of sparring partner he would be. Before long, we know they will be challenging him to wrestling matches.
Because the Nursery is located in the heart of Nairobi National Park, all manner of wild creatures filter through. A few familiar buffalos often invite themselves to the mud bath, sometimes even when the orphans are wallowing. Elephants and buffaloes have a love/hate relationship in the best of times, so their presence always causes drama among the orphans. One afternoon, Naleku, Oldepe, Roho, Neshashi, and Kamili blocked the buffalos from approaching the mud bath, flapping their ears, rumbling, and trumpeting at the big boys, not giving them an inch. Eventually the buffalos grew tired of the standoff and disappeared into the forest.
Perhaps bonded by their similarly gentle temperaments, Lodo and Tingai seem to have a growing friendship. During the day, they often browse side by side and keep each other company, apart from the boisterous antics of the rest of the herd. Although they really enjoy spending time together, neither seems to have much interest in wrestling.
This is in stark contrast to the other bulls, who are obsessed with showcasing their strength. Most days, Roho and Oldepe try to chase after Naleku, Olorien, or Kindani and playfully climb on their backs. It is a game the younger bulls now try to emulate. The girls, however, are more than capable of standing up for themselves and always succeed in wrestling the boys away.
By the end of the month, Mzinga, Nyambeni, and Mageno started joining the rest of the Nursery herd for their midday milk feed and mud bath. As soon as she finishes her bottle, Mzinga either heads over to the dust mound or mud bath, where she rolls around and plays. The Keepers love to see the younger orphans growing in confidence and enjoying fun times with the older orphans. Mzinga is such a friendly and gentle little elephant, while Nyambeni has an infectiously playful personality. Both girls have seamlessly slotted into the Nursery herd.