Keepers' Diaries, June 2021

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Every new rescue acclimates to Nursery life at their own pace. It isn’t unusual for an orphan to need several weeks or even months to fully settle in. However, the latest addition to our herd, Esoit, has embraced his new family with great fervour. Despite his traumatic rescue, he took to his Keepers from the outset and adapted to all the unfamiliar routines without incident.

Every elephant is enchanting in their own way, but it must be said that Esoit is an exceptionally charming little calf. His playful personality made him an instant favourite among the rest of the Nursery herd — but no one loves him more than Roho. While Roho was initially a bit put out to have to share his attention with another youngster, being nighttime neighbours cemented their friendship. The two have become fast friends and are usually entangled in some wrestling game or other.

We also witnessed a flourishing relationship between Naleku and Roho. Traditionally, these two bickered like siblings, but now that Roho is growing up, he seems eager to take on more of a protective role. If any of the other orphans pick on Naleku — this is usually Naboishu, who has become a bit of a rogue — Roho immediately steps in to help his little friend. The Keepers really have their hands full with naughty Naboishu, because they are never quite sure what his mood will be from one day to the next. Fortunately, a stern word and a brief timeout usually puts a stop to his mischief.

Maktao was the designated “kind uncle” of the Nursery, but ever since he graduated, Mukkoka has taken on the role. He isn’t afraid to banish Naboishu if he feels he is being naughty. Larro, the new mini matriarch of the Nursery herd, also keeps a keen eye on things. Because she is becoming quite a big girl herself, Larro enjoys the occasional wrestling match with Mukkoka. Even when she is playing, the Keepers notice that she still dons her matriarchal hat, and often stops mid-game to scan the herd and make sure everyone is okay.

No one loves a luxurious mud bath more than Esoit, Roho, and Rama. However, we are in the midst of winter here in Nairobi, and most of the month was cloudy and cold. On particularly chilly mornings, babies like Ziwadi, Naleku, Olorien, Esoit, Kindani, and Bondeni needed a little extra encouragement to emerge from their rooms. In these instances, the Keepers would just let them head out into the forest at their own pace. 

Shukuru is taking a sojourn at the Nursery while she convalesces, making her the oldest orphan in the herd. The others are completely charmed by this big girl and always try to snuggle up to her, but Shukuru is aloof by nature. Sometimes, however, she lets her guard down. This month, we witnessed some beautiful moments between her and Kindani, Bondeni, Kinyei, Ziwadi, Roho, and Naleku. Naleku is by far the most persistent with Shukuru and tries to catch her attention whenever she passes. As the tallest member of the Nursery herd, Shukuru can reach the highest and tastiest branches, so the babies trail behind her as she pulls different delectable branches down. 

Kindani seems to be adopting some of Olorien’s inhospitable habits. Recently, she has been bullying Rama, Ziwadi, Roho, Naleku, and on the odd occasion even her good friend, Kinyei. It is normal for elephants to develop bad habits as they grow up, which is where the mini matriarch steps in to course correct their behaviour. Wherever Larro witnesses Kindani being a bully, she angrily sends her away. The other girls — Ziwadi, Kinyei, and Olorien — remain quite peaceful and spend most of their days browsing on greens.

Maxwell the rhino wasn’t fond of the cold weather we experienced this month. On chilly mornings, he chose to remain swaddled in his warm hay, before turning his focus to his pile of green branches. He did keep busy by teasing the resident wild warthogs on a few occasions. When they daringly snuck into his stockade to snack on his lucerne pellets, Maxwell deliberately taunted them and sent them scattering in all directions. Satisfied with his game, he would trot up to the top half of his stockade and complacently flop down atop his pellets for a nap. This effectively deterred any would-be thieves from trying their luck again!

June 2021 day to day

01 Jun

This morning Bondeni seemed to be extremely eager to be let out of his stable. As the Keepers were walking around getting ready to let the orphans out, they had opened the top doors of the stables and this seemed to excite Bondeni who immediately started knocking at his bottom door and climbing up to see outside. The Keepers eventually decided to let Bondeni out as he was causing such a commotion. Once he was let out however Bondeni seemed to be a little disappointed, as he realized he was the first to be let out and none of the other orphans were around yet. The Keepers kept a close eye on him as they waited for it to get a little brighter before letting the others out. Bondeni began to do the rounds; he first ran over to Kinyei and Kindani’s stable doors and greeted his two best friends who were both patiently waiting to be let out. He then walked over to Shukuru’s stockade gate and the two warmly greeted each other for a couple of minutes. 

After greeting Shukuru, Bondeni noticed that Maxwell was up and about and walking around his stockade. Bondeni quickly ran over to Maxwell’s bottom gate, and Max, who has excellent hearing, was quick to hear the little bull and walked over to the same gate. Bondeni began to playfully push and pull at Max’s gate which seemed to excite the large rhino who began to rub up against the gate as he walked up and down. The two enjoyed their game until all the other orphans were let out of their stables and stockades. Bondeni seemed to be so distracted by his game that Larro came over and rumbled at him, as if telling him it was time to head out to the forest now. As Bondeni ran off with Larro and the others, Maxwell walked back to his greens where he began to feast on his acacia branches. 

Since Maktao and Kiombo’s graduation, Mukkoka has had to step up as the uncle of the herd and he seems to be taking this role very seriously. He has been enjoying many playful moments with Naboishu but he has also been keeping Naboishu in check. After the orphans’ midday bottles of milk, Naboishu tried to push Olorien who was standing next to Mukkoka. Mukkoka got very angry with Naboishu and he quickly chased him away and rumbled loudly at him, meaning Naboishu kept his distance didn’t bother any of the other orphans for the rest of the day. 

Naleku continues to pursue a friendship with Shukuru. Perhaps due to her condition, Shukuru doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to the younger orphans and this may be due to a lack of energy. The younger orphans continue to be slightly curious about their older Nursery friend, but most days they will let her do her own thing. Naleku, however, continues to follow Shukuru around and tries to catch the older girls’ attention whenever she is nearby. 

Playful little Bondeni

Maxwell strutting around in the morning

Shukuru stretching in the field