Keepers' Diaries, June 2010

Nairobi Nursery Unit

The 7th June 2010 saw the transfer to Ithumba from the Nursery of Kilaguni, Chaimu and Sabachi and on the l8th June, the arrival of yearling “Kandecha”, rescued from the Aruba area of Tsavo East National Park having been spotted amongst 25 very large bulls, with no female herds anywhere nearby. The IMAX film crew were positioned at Ithumba to film the arrival of Kilaguni, Chaimu and Sabachi, after their grueling eight hour truck journey having left the Nursery at 5 a.m. and on the appalling wash-away rutted road from Kibwezi to the Northern Area Park entrance beyond Ikutha, arriving there after mid day to an enthusiastic welcome from both the Keeper Dependent Ithumba orphans plus all the Ex orphans led by Yatta, Kinna having peeled off from Yatta’s unit deep in the bush, and run to the Stockades, as soon as the trucks drove through the Gate – again that mysterious elephant perception in play!

01 June 2010

Early in the morning, as soon as the orphans were let out of their Night stables and stockades, Mutara, Kudup and Kalama, who were following the rest of the group, were diverted upon spotting a family of warthogs consisting of 4 piglets and their mother. The three elephants decided to give chase and thoroughly enjoyed themselves because the warthogs ran in all directions, disappearing behind bushes, leaving Mutara, Kudup and Kalama combing the bushes hoping to encounter them again. After the mudbath Sukuru and Mutara enjoyed playing on an incline, climbing up and then sliding down again, while all the others browsed.

02 June 2010

Once the orphans were out in the bush Kilaguni and Kibo had a score to settle, for a few days earlier Kibo had pushed Kilaguni from his bottle of milk. The two engaged one another in a furious battle, and had to be separated by the Keepers who feared that they might injure one another. Sabachi then ran forward to take on Kilaguni, but was deterred when Kilaguni turned on him quickly with outspread ears which made Sabachi think twice about initiating a pushing match!

03 June 2010

During the mudbath, having downed their milk, Mutara and Shukuru had a lot of fun in a large pile of red earth that had been brought in for the orphans the previous day, Kalama, Tano, Chemi Chemi and Kudup wallowed cheetfully in the mud, but the Show Stopper was baby Sities, who made everone cheer loudly as she ran along the cordon several times, and down again, kicking the football like a professional, sometimes missing the ball and falling head over toes! Having entertained the visitors during the mudbath hour, the orphans returned to the bush to browse for the remainder of the afternoon, and little Sities took a nap next to the Keepers, having been tired out!

04 June 2010

The orphans all emerged in a happy mood today. After the 9 a.m. milk feed the group was split into two as usual, Suguta, Olare, Tumaren and the older orphans heading eastwards while the babies, led by Kalama went in the opposite direction. At the 3 p.m. feed Chemi Chemi and Turkwel had a disagreement when Chemi Chemi pushed Turkwel away from the Keeper who was about to feed her. This triggered a head-butting fight until the Keepers managed to separate the two. Chemi Chemi downed his milk rapidly, but Turkwel was so angry that she refused her milk so the Keepers had to carry it out into the bush and let her take it having cooled down. Thereafter the two avoided each other all day.

05 June 2010

Three large Safari trucks arrived today in preparation to move Kilaguni, Sabachi and Chaimu to Ithumba in a few days time. The Keepers are always sad to lose some of their babies to the Rehabilitation process, but understand that they belong in the wild. Three Keepers will accompany the elephants to Tsavo. Kilaguni is one of the most social orphans we have ever had in Nairobi and is every Keepers favourite. The three candidates for translocation were led to the trucks to take their milk and whereas Kilaguni trustingly followed a Keeper right into one of the trucks to take his milk, Chaimu and Sabachi refused to go in.

06 June 2010

A heavy rainstorm during the night provided puddles and mud for the orphans to play in as soon as they emerged in the morning. All were delighted, but the one who enjoyed it most was little Sities, who rushed to rub herself against Olare covered in mud. She then ran around in a playful and happy mood.

07 June 2010

Today was the day for Kilaguni, Sabachi and Chaimu to leave the Nursery, so it was a sad day for the Keepers, for the three were part of their elephant family. Kilaguni was the first to go into a truck at 5 a.m. in the morning. Chaimu resisted when she reached the back of her truck, but the Keepers shoved her in and closed the door quickly before she could reverse out. Sabachi did the same, and was similarly forced in, and by 5.30 a.m. all three trucks were on their way to Tsavo, followed by Robert and his father and Dame Daphne in the Landrover. At Ithumba, the IMAX crew were ready and waiting to film the arrival of the newcomers. Back in the Nursery, we expected Kibo to be very sad at the absence of Kilaguni, but after searching briefly for his friend, he accepted the inevitable and settled down to browse along with all the others.

08 June 2010

Kibo was still in a dull mood due to the absence of his best friend Kilaguni. As soon as Kibo was let out in the morning, he ran to the Stockade formerly occupied by Kilaguni, only to find him not there. Again the orphans were split into two groups, the older group included Suguta, Olare, Tumaren, Melia, Mawenzi and Kibo. The baby group led by Kalama, enjoyed pushing and rolling games, with Mutara and Shukuru being the most playful.

09 June 2010

Upon being let out in the morning, Mutara spotted blind Maxwell running around playing in his Stockade, and decided to join in. Max was happy, coming to the wire and allowing Mutara to pat him on the head with her trunk. Kalama taught Sities a charging game, running around the compound, with Sities after her. Meanwhile Suguta and Olare sized one another up, contesting the leadership role. Shukuru led the group into the bush to browse before their 9 a.m. feed, after which the orphans were split into two groups as usual. Suguta led the older group, while Kalama is the new leader of the babies.

10 June 2010

It was a cold morning, so Sities had to be covered by two blankets to keep her warm, playing with sticks and remaining close to the Keepers. Chemi Chemi head-butted anyone who came within range of him, so Mutara decided to keep a good distance from the naughty boy in order to browse in peace. As she was feeding, a large grass-hopper landed on her back, which attracted two birds who began fighting over the prize. This startled Mutara, who ran back to the Keepers screaming; the birds flew off and the grasshopper escaped!

11 June 2010

In the morning Olare was happy to commandeer Sities before Suguta could get to her. Olare and Suguta have reached a compromise over Sities – Olare has her in the morning, and Suguta after the noon mudbath. Today, in the morning, Suguta decided to teach Mutara, Shukuru and Kalama a charging game focused on the warthogs that are usually in the yard hoping for tidbits. Mutara, Shukuru and Kalama thoroughly enjoyed chasing the warthogs, which prompted Chemi Chemi to join in, followed by the entire herd! The warthogs always manage to outwit the elephants, but in the process give the orphans a great deal of excitement and fun!

12 June 2010

All the babies happily met up outside their Night quarters in the morning. Tumaren and Melia enjoyed a pushing game while Kibo, who has found a new friend in Olare, did the same. Meanwhile Sities enjoyed chasing a baby warthog around the compound and Chemi Chemi and Kalama were busy stealing some branches from Maxwell’s stockade. Once Kalama had managed to extract one after a long struggle, Chemi Chemi “nicked” it which didn’t please Kalama who had to get another one. Soon it was time to head out into the bush for the day’s browsing.

13 June 2010

Turkwel and Chemi Chemi again fought over their 9 a.m. milk ration, so the Keepers have decided to feed them far apart each day, because Chemi Chemi does not like seeing Turkwel anywhere near his milk bottles.

14 June 2010

On another cloudy morning, the babies played their usual games in the compound as soon as they emerged. Tumaren kept charging the bushes, hoping to dislodge a warthog she could chase while Suguta did a bit of bush bashing to advertise her strength. She enjoyed breaking small branches by stepping on them and using her tiny tusks to snap them. Olare and Kibo disappeared chasing after a warthog, and the Keepers could hear them trumpeting and breaking branches while doing so. Sities played with a Keeper who bent down and touched her forehead until it was time to head out into the bush for browsing. All the orphans streamed behind their Keepers.

15 June 2010

It was a fun-filled day for the Nursery orphans. The babies came first to the mudbath with Mutara and Shukuru running ahead of the others. Having downed their milk, they all enjoyed playing in the large pile of soft red earth. Kalama and Kudup went to play with the hundreds of school-children who turned up for today’s mudbath while Sities once again stole the show displaying her football skills. Once the babies had left, the older elephants came in highly excited by such a lot of onlookers. Olare and Suguta ran around with their ears out, because the school kids were making such a lot of noise. Suguta began kicking the football around, the visitors keeping a close eye on her so that she did not charge the noisy guests.

16 June 2010

It was another very cloudy and cold morning, so the babies had to have heavy blankets to keep them warm, Sities, Mawenzi and Turkwel with the heaviest ones. Sities and Shukuru led the column out into the bush with Melia and Mawenzi bringing up the rear. Olare and Kalama began a rolling game, joined by Melia and Kibo and later, Tumaren who inadvertently stepped on Kibo’s tail. Kibo was furious and jumped up, head butting Tumaren, who almost fell down and thereafter engaging her in a fight, until Olare separated the two.

17 June 2010

Whilst walking Maalim out in the bush, he bumped into Shida who was sleeping. Shida instantly woke up ready to defend himself against tiny Maalim, who, although still small, was ready to take on Shida! The Keepers had a tough time controlling Maalim, who didn’t want to retreat!

18 June 2010

Today, the baby elephant who was spotted amongst a group of bulls, was flown to the Nursery accompanied by the IMAX crew who had filmed his rescue down in Tsavo. He was put in “the Taming Stockade” because he was very aggressive, refusing milk and charging the Keeper who had to be pretty agile to climb the separating posts.. He was given the name “Kandecha” which is the name of the area in which he was found. He is about 1 year old and could not have survived in the wild without milk. IU:- It was a very cold morning as the orphans, led by Loijuk, headed out to browse in the morning. It was too cold for the mudbath, so having taken their milk, the orphans headed off to browse again. In the evening they were joined by Yatta’s Ex Orphaned Group who returned with them to the Stockades, having spent time browsing with them beforehand.

19 June 2010

Sities and Mutara put on a wonderful display of football at the mudbath, entertaining all the guests. They then put on an active soil dusting session for the audience.

20 June 2010

This is the second day for Kandecha in the Nursery and still he has not taken milk. He collapsed at around midday and had to be put on a Dextrose drip immediately. After several hours, he revived, and the Keepers held him and forced him to take some milk. Once he got the taste, he gulped it down eagerly.

21 June 2010

Because it is so cold this month, the orphans hardly ever wallow at the mudbath, but instead enjoy dusting themselves with soil. Today the Keepers interacted with the orphans, throwing soil over them using spades which the orphans loved because they greatly enjoy it when the Keepers join in the fun.

22 June 2010

Today was the first day that the newcomer, Kandecha, was allowed out of his Stockade to join the other orphans in the bush. All the orphans came to his Stockade to accompany him and he behaved so well that one would not have believed that he was a wild elephant just a few days ago. He was welcomed very warmly by Olare and the others and even at the mudbath, surrounded by human visitors, he didn’t cause any trouble at all. He is thoroughly enjoying his milk now, but his stools have a lot of worms. He will be de-wormed just as soon as he is a little stronger.

23 June 2010

Kibo has been exemplary since the departure of Kilaguni and has not been involved in any mounting or bullying of the babies. Today it was very rewarding to see Mawenzi beginning to play with Kibo, because she has long been “dull” and not well, although we cannot fathom what the problem is.

24 June 2010

Kalama proved that she was the boss of the Baby Group when she disciplined Chemi Chemi after he had pushed Sities down in front of all the Guests at Public Visiting. All the visitors were very pleased to see Chemi Chemi disciplined.

25 June 2010

Kalama is very greedy at milk feeding times. Although younger than Tano, she is bigger and already takes more milk than Tano.

26 June 2010

Shukuru is very fond of Keeper Mischak and whenever he is off duty, she keeps a distance from all the other Keepers, but when Mischak returns, she is instantly glued to him at all times, even when he removes the dung on a spade and carries it off into the bush.

27 June 2010

The Australian film crew have been filming the orphans for the last few days, and desperately wanted to get them playing in the mud, which hitherto they had refused to do because it has been too cold, but today the orphans obliged, and they were very happy.

28 June 2010

Tumaren and Suguta had an unsettled night because a lion killed a warthog just beside their Stockade at about 7 p.m. They rumbled and screamed as the lion chased the warthog in front of their Stockade, and were upset by the way it cried helplessly until succumbing to death. The two elephants spent all night standing and were afraid to lie down.

29 June 2010

Suguta is very protective of her herd, and resents outsiders coming to film the orphans whilst out in the bush, sometimes blocking them, especially if they crouch down. This proves that she, and not Olare, is the main Matriarch of the Nursery Unit.

30 June 2010

This morning the orphans left their stables and Stockades very early, being filmed for Daphne’s presentation in London in September at the Royal Geopgraphical Society. All headed out into the bush in one straight line with Kandecha leading. He likes feeding apart from the others, although Olare has tried very hard to win his love, but so far he does not appear interested, probably because he is missing his elephant family. Suguta was very protective of little Sities, escorting her out into the bush.