Keepers' Diaries, June 2018

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

It was a month of adjustments for the babies in the Nairobi Nursery. Some welcomed the new change; with the absence of the older orphans, who were recently moved to the Rehabilitation Units in Tsavo, and with Jotto, Ambo and Mapia moving up to the older group, the babies in the younger group have been enjoying their new found playful freedom. Without the foreboding presence of some of the older orphans and those like Esampu or Mteto to stifle their play, some of the characters of the young orphans like Maisha and Malima, as well as Kuishi, Jotto and Emoli have come shining through, and they are playful indeed! Even the sweet little boy Jotto has been initiating all kinds of wrestling games with Ambo, Mapia and Emoli, trying to establish himself as the strongest bull in the herd with new found confidence, now the older boys have moved on.

Musiara and Sattao have adapted to life without their adopted mothers Mbegu and Godoma, and are forging new close bonds with Tagwa, Ndiwa and Sana Sana, and sometimes Malkia to. Funny little Maktao is still happiest in the company of his human family, his Keepers. We are sure that matronly Tagwa will emerge as the new matriarch of the herd, having been primed for the position by Godoma and Mbegu before, but the other females, especially Tamiyoi who has always been caring of those younger than her, as well as Sana Sana and Malkia, will undoubtedly support her. They have had to be on their guard already this month as mischievous little Kiasa seemed primed to take over from where Esampu had left off. Throughout the daily entries you will read of the numerous times she upset a fun pushing game or just generally escalated a quiet feeding session into messy frenzy, demanding more milk from her friends and the Keepers too. He hasn’t stopped her tail-biting antics either, which means one of the older orphans constantly has to respond to the cries of some of her victims to console and reassure them.

Shukuru was left as the oldest female in the Nursery by far, and Angela felt it wasn’t fair or good for her moral to be surrounded by so many babies having been used to the company and stimulation of older orphans for such a long time prior to her return to the Nursery. She seemed dull and unmotivated without the presence of older age-mates around, whose company she so enjoyed at Ithumba before falling ill. While her condition is by no means perfect, Umani Springs, our most recent Reintegration Unit, was purpose-built for the more physically compromised elephants, as well as their close friends, and is a place where life is easy with food and water plentiful throughout the year, avoiding the need to travel great distances in search of browse. When considering Shukuru's future, and given the difficulties she had experienced while at Ithumba already, it was decided that Umani would be the ideal new home for her. She boarded the elephant-translocation lorry with ease, having already been through the moving process twice, and on the 16th she set out early in the morning for her new home, where hopefully she will at last be able to return to the wild.

With Shukuru also gone, those who found the recent changes in the Nursery harder to adapt to were Ndiwa and Sagala. Ndiwa was used to wandering off into the forest with the older orphans including Shukuru, and now found herself undecided whether to try and go it alone, or stick to the rest of the herd while they browsed. She seemed a bit confused but we are sure she will settle down soon. Sagala was also not happy with the changes to her sleeping arrangements. When the older orphans moved some of the orphans changed rooms so that the herd was altogether in the Nursery compound, and it seemed to take a few days for Sagala to accept this change, and her new room!

Little Luggard is looking a lot better and is obviously feeling better these days too, after a month or so of his broken leg causing his some discomfort. We have always found that Luggard is at his best when surrounded by the company of the other elephants, and he is happiest when out in the bush and spending time with the others orphans again. He can now walk quite a good distance together with the rest of the herd, and when the group move deeper into the Park, he complains if the Keepers try to hold him back.

We were delighted this month to catch a glimpse of Solio, our ex-orphan rhino now living a happy and wild life in Nairobi National Park. We quite literally stumbled across her, as she lay sleeping in the bushes where the elephant orphans were grazing. We are not sure who was surprised most, the elephants or poor Solio woken from her slumber in the heat of the day, but as soon as she saw it was the elephant babies with the Keeper’s, she ambled off to resume her nap in a quieter area away from the elephants. Her friend and resident blind rhino Maxwell has been enjoying the cooler weather this month, and has been a little more forgiving towards those resident warthogs that choose to share his lucerne pellets in his stockade as well. Jotto initiated some playful games with Maxwell from the other side of his stockade walls, pushing and pulling on his gate to draw Maxwell’s attention to the proposition of a running game up and down the partition. These games excite Maxwell and he can be seen running and jumping in circles up until the time the elephant orphans have to walk out to begin their day in the forest.

Kiko the giraffe has been keeping us all entertained this month as he continues to do exactly as he pleases. One night as he and his neighbour Luggard were settling down in their night stockades, he decided he liked the look of one of Luggard’s green branches. He tried to pull it through the window they share, but Luggard took offence to that and tried to pull the branch back with his trunk. A tug of war ensued, but Luggard was triumphant in the end and moved his branches to the other side of his stockade, away from the thieving giraffe! Kiko seemed to notice the absence of the older elephant orphans as well, once they had made the transition to Tsavo, and persistently tried to follow the elephants out to the forest now that the bigger elephants were not around to chase him away. Musiara, always indifferent to the giraffe, did often charge at him to chase him away, but Kiko did not seem to care that much due to Musiara’s diminutive size and he just ignored him to continue browsing with the elephants and Keepers.

June 2018 day to day

01 Jun

After just a few days of training, Mundusi, Mteto and Esampu woke up early this morning and walked onto the lorry with no trouble, to begin their journey to Ithumba in Tsavo East and the next chapter of their lives. It was a very smooth loading process and they were on their way in no time at all. Today some of the orphans like Ndiwa, Sana Sana and Sagala, who used to sneak away into the bushes with them, seemed to miss them. None of them wanted to walk away from the herd and they stayed with the main group all day! Once or twice Ndiwa and Sagala looked like they were about to walk away from the group, but they got scared and ran back to the herd and stuck close to the keepers. Even Shukuru who used to walk off deep into the forest during the day has not done so recently, since the other older orphans in Mbegu’s group left for Voi. She likes to stay close to the herd, although still browses to the side as she is not one to mother the babies very much.

Mapia next to Ndiwa

Sagala browsing with the others now

Sana Sana