Keepers' Diaries, June 2022

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Kaluku Neonate Unit

It has been unusually cold in this corner of the Tsavo ecosystem. This, coupled with the prevailing dry conditions, has caused a rather sedate mood among our Kaluku herd. Even Scooter the warthog, who can usually be relied upon to keep things lively, was quite subdued this month.


When it’s warm, the Keepers struggle to convince Apollo to leave the mud bath. Now that it’s chilly, however, he refuses to get anywhere near it. He still enjoys his dust baths, but anything involving mud or water is a no-go for our young rhino.

Because it is very dry in Tsavo, we are supplementing Apollo’s diet with lucerne pellets. However, he refuses to eat this unless his Keepers have moisturised it with water. This is quite an unusual demand, as all other orphans eat theirs dry. But then again, rhinos are known for their quirks!

A semi-wild female buffalo recently joined the Kaluku crowd. She is slightly older than Mkubwa and gets along with all the orphans, particularly Apollo. They have become preferred playmates, as Susu, Mkubwa, Kwale, Scooter and the others watch on.


It has now been six months since we rescued Manda — and this month, we saw a whole new side of his personality emerge. Until now, he was known as the shyest elephant of the Kaluku quartet, always watching the others from the sidelines.

But now, Manda has well and truly come out of his shell! With his leggy, powerful frame, he is already a formidable force, even at the tender age of 19 months old. After spending the better part of the year understanding the mini herd dynamics, Manda apparently decided that he should be the dominant bull! Vaarti and Mayan are so easygoing and don’t seem to mind that the younger boy now rules the roost. Manda’s favourite sidekick is his neighbour, Rokka, although he gets along with everyone.

Rokka remains the naughtiest member of the Kaluku herd. She can be rather unpredictable and delights in pushing strangers around, but it’s always in a playful manner. She does respect her Keepers, and when they reprimand her, she listens.

Rokka is also easily distracted. She is very fond of Scooter and Sprite, a tiny warthog we rescued last month. Like Rokka, they are naughty busybodies, so the three girls get up to all sorts of mischief. For Rokka, this mischief even extends into the nighttime hours: She stays up until the wee hours trying to open the door to her stockade, even though it is locked with an additional mechanism.

Vaarti is such a funny elephant. He has been drinking the same milk formula for quite some time now, but it’s as if he only just realised that it wasn’t the same formula he enjoyed as an infant. He stayed a milk strike, refusing so much as a sip of his bottle. The Keepers cleverly fixed him a bottle of infant formula, which Vaarti drank right away. They then rotated that with a bottle of his regular ‘big boy’ formula, and this time, he didn’t notice the difference!

Kaluku’s resident wild zebra herd was recently taken over by a new male. The old leader was pushed out, as is nature’s way, and is now wandering around on his own. Vaarti has always loved the zebras, and it seems that he has a soft spot for this old stallion. He goes out of his way to say hello to him, walking out of his way as if to comfort him.

Mayan is our milk-obsessed boy. He is always angling for an extra bottle and makes a big noise when he is finished, as if protesting that the others are still enjoying theirs. To stop his bellowing, the Keepers have started giving him a bottle of water after his milk.

Like Vaarti, Mayan is very soft-natured and loves to meet new friends. Unlike Rokka, we can always count on these two bulls to be friendly to visitors. For a long time, he was fixated on sneaking after Apollo, but his interest in the rhino had waned. Perhaps it’s just too cold for such trivial activities.


We are learning that Twiggy is a creature of habit. Every morning, her first stop is always at one particular acacia tree outside the compound. Strangely enough, she would only eat from one side of the tree, where almost no leaves remain due to her funny browsing habits.

We recently rescued five orphaned Egyptian goslings. When we let them out in the yard for the first time, Twiggy couldn’t believe her eyes and stared at the young birds for a long while. Twiggy often quarrels with Mkubwa over the fresh lucerne that we put out in the late afternoon. Both giraffe and buffalo seem to think they deserve the first share! She must have learned this penchant for lucerne from her antelope friends, as giraffes usually just browse high from the trees.

Please note that we do not currently publish daily diaries for the Kaluku Neonate Unit. Instead, foster parents of our Kaluku orphans receive a dedicated monthly email, which contains a special video and additional photos of their adoptees.