Keepers' Diaries, June 2019

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

This month we bid farewell to another five orphans from the Nairobi Nursery. Jotto, Ambo, Tagwa, Sagala, and Emoli all underwent the usual training to board the translocation lorry which would take Jotto and Ambo to the Ithumba Reintegration Unit, and Tagwa, Sagala and Emoli to Voi. 

It was the ideal time, having eventually had some rainfall in most of those areas making conditions easier for the transition of our Nursery babies into the Tsavo environment from where they would eventually grow to lead independent lives. Like all our babies, they will remain dependent on us for many years still, as they are dependent on both Keepers and their milk formula - but this is the all-important next step.

The procedure of learning how to enter the lorry, taught to the orphans by feeding them their milk bottles during every feed to familiarise them with the strange environment, went very well bar Jotto, who flatly refused to even get close enough to see the lorry, let alone enter it. It was as if he knew what the Keepers were up to, or possibly he was just very unhappy with the change in routine because elephants are very much creatures of habit! It took over a week of Jotto flatly refusing to even approach the Lorry for the Keepers to resort to a different tactic, changing the approach and in the company of the whole herd of orphans. This worked, and eventually Jotto was happily feeding on the lorry with his pals during every milk feed, and plans for his move to Voi with Ambo went ahead.

Tagwa, Emoli and Sagala’s move went ahead as scheduled on the 4th of June, and Jotto and Ambo moved to Ithumba on the 11th, leaving Enkesha, Tamiyoi, and Maisha to take on the role of looking after all the youngsters in the Nursery. This was the perfect time for Ambo to move as he had become rather boisterous in the Nursery, especially after Tagwa and Sagala moved to Ithumba, and was pushing some of the others around, especially Nabulu, Maisha, and Enkesha. When the older bulls left the Nursery, we noticed a change in little Sattao as well as he seemed to grow in confidence, and to play and test his strength. He enjoys playing with Luggard who equally enjoys their pushing games as Sattao is not too rough and since his friend Jotto left, he enjoys having someone to play with.

Dupotto has quickly settled back into life at the Nursery, and Tamiyoi has remained very close to her as she can always be seen by her side. With the departure of Sagala and Tagwa, the Keepers were worried that Larro would be upset and would miss them. However, Kiasa, Maisha, and Enkesha seem to have taken over Sagala’s role of protecting little Larro and keeping her company. They stay close to her and keep her safe, and as such Larro has grown in confidence as well. We are a little worried with how close she is to Kiasa, as some of her naughty characteristics might rub off on the young girl! Kiasa has been up to her old tricks this month and has been particularly naughty at milk feeding times. Sometimes the Keepers give up and let her have what she wants, sometimes just a bit of extra milk even at the bottom of a wheelbarrow, just to buy them some time while the others have their milk in peace too. 

Mukkoka is still as greedy as ever when it comes to his milk feeding. It appears he knows exactly when it is time for his bottle, as he starts to trumpet and rumble loudly waiting to be allowed to go and get his milk. If he is ever amongst the last orphans to receive his bottle, he yells even louder in protest. One day he ran so fast down for his milk bottle that he tripped on some rocks, but he managed to recover himself and remained undeterred as he kept running towards the bottles.

As is typical of Nairobi June weather it has been quite cloudy and cold, with sporadic rain as well. Maktao, Mukkoka and Kiasa are not particularly fond of big thunderstorms at night and rumble and yell out so their Keepers have to remain extra vigilant with them on such nights, making sure they have the comfort they need. On the very cold mornings some of the orphans are even reluctant to come out of their stables at all, and by 7am some of them still refused to come out, especially Dupotto. Maxwell, normally up and about in the morning, could still be found sleeping soundly in his hay in his bedroom too.

Maktao is still stuck to his Keepers and is very attached to them. One day he seemed to miss one of the Keepers in particular and went in search of him at the stockade compound, where he finally found him busy prepping the stables for the evening. His Keeper walked Maktao back to the green fields where his other elephant friends and Keepers were. This is one of the reasons we look to rotate the Keepers so they our orphans do not get too attached to just one individual as this presents problems when off days are taken and the elephant orphan goes into a decline as a result. Luckily Maktao is fond of all the Keepers as well as just the one!

Ziwadi has slowly been adapting to life at the Nursery, and is getting closer to some of the Nursery herd. It appears that she really enjoys the company of Maktao, Musiara, Luggard and Dololo, although Dololo can be a little unpredictable at times. Ziwadi has not been added to the fostering program as of yet as we think she could suffer from some form of epilepsy as she throws seizures from time to time. These are brief but can happen either when she is standing or walking in the forest, or when lying in her stable. We are hoping she will grow out of this tendency, as they seem to have become less frequent this month. 

Kiko is such a confident young giraffe with a mind of his own. He likes to be a part of all the activities around the Nursery, but this means he is often making a nuisance of himself as well. The elephant babies often don’t like him hanging around them and charge at him to make him go and browse somewhere else! Kiko knows this and enjoys the game of annoying them. Maxwell the rhino enjoys playing around with the wild warthogs that visit him in his stockade as well. Sometimes he enjoys their company and adopts a more tolerant approach, but often this month we saw him playfully chasing them around his room and his stockade as well; this is certainly a game he enjoys as well! We are pleased to report that Solio has relocated deeper into the Park and is sighted almost daily by the KWS Rhino monitoring scouts - who meticulously document their rhino sightings daily. Solio is thriving and in beautiful condition and sometimes sighted in the company of another rhino too. Given her new found territory it would explain why her visits to Maxwell have been less frequent. We long for the day we find Solio with a baby of her own.  

June 2019 day to day

01 Jun

In the early hours of the morning, whilst the orphans were out browsing, Maktao, Sattao and Emoli were busy charging around and playing with one of another. Their games started the night before but ended abruptly with the surprise arrival of Dupotto. Most of the orphans, especially Tamiyoi, were really happy to greet her and were all there to welcome her as she walked out the translocation lorry. Tamiyoi appears to remember Dupotto as she would not leave her side. Jotto and Kiombo, on the other hand, seemed to be afraid of the new arrival and kept running away, and Kiombo even appeared to mock charge the returning girl as the others were greeting her, but was quickly ushered away by Tamiyoi. Dupotto has been brought back from Ithumba so we can run some tests on why she might be losing some body condition, and monitor her closely.

Sattao and Tamiyoi going to the bucket

Dupotto in the forest

Nursery herd