Keepers' Diaries, June 2022

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

After a hyrax gave Choka the fright of his life last month, we hoped we were done with the hyrax drama. However, the little creatures once again made their presence known. On the first of the month, a tree hyrax skittered past Kerrio, who greeted him with polite curiosity. However, Naleku wasn’t about to let him pass under her radar. She began to flap her ears and rumble, which sent Esoit, Kinyei, and Roho running over. Everyone banded together to run after the little guy, who quickly made himself scarce. It was such a big fuss over such a small creature!

We always marvel at what a welcoming, empathetic elephant Esoit is. Although he can be very boisterous, he is so gentle with the newer rescues, checking on them and spending time with them. This month, his greatest focus was on Sileita. As soon as he came out of his stockade, he would walk straight over to her bedroom and patiently wait for the Keepers to open her gate, so they could walk into the forest together. Sileita is a shy little girl, so this special attention really went a long way in helping her settle in.

Another indication of Sileita’s continued progress is the fact that she has started picking up some of the Nursery herd’s naughty ways! After a memorable midday milk feed, Sileita was in the first group heading back to the forest. However, she sneakily did a U-turn and ran back to the mud bath with the older group of orphans, hiding behind Olorien, Suguroi, Esoit, and Kindani. She even managed to pilfer an extra bottle of milk before the Keepers discovered her stunt! Instead of reprimanding her, they let her enjoy her second shift at the mud bath.

Roho, Oldepe, and Neshashi continue to excel at their graduation training. In fact, they have become rather obsessed with the translocation lorry, because they know it is a source of tasty lucerne pellets. As the orphans head out into the forest each morning, Neshashi peels off and makes a beeline for the lorry. No matter how much the Keepers try to keep her on course, she always sneaks past them, her eye on the prize. Oldepe prefers to make this detour in the evenings, and sometimes flatly refuses to enter his stockades until he has had several trunkfulls of pellets in the lorry. Whenever conditions allow, they will be more than prepared to make the move to Tsavo!

At first, Kindani caused a big fuss about moving out of her baby stable and into a ‘big girl’ stockade. Now that she is stationed in between Bondeni and Kinyei, however, she loves her new accommodations. In the evenings, she happily walks into her stockade and settles down as soon as her best friends are tucked in on either side of her.

As usual, Kinyei is full of beans. One night, she and Naleku were so full of energy, rumbling and walking around their stockades. They kept pestering their neighbours, trying to steal their greens and get their attention. After indulging them for a little while, the other orphans fell asleep. With no one to tease, the girls settled to browse and eventually drifted off to sleep.

Little Kerrio continues to enjoy the undivided attention and protection of Naleku. One morning, Kerrio stayed behind with some of the younger orphans while Naleku led the way into the forest. Realising that Naleku was now some distance away, Choka decided to take advantage of the situation and began bullying Kerrio. He took things too far when he headbutted the little girl, knocking her over. Kerrio yelled out in protest, which sent Nakelu charging over to defend her beloved friend. Fortunately for Choka, he had already left the scene, as the Keepers had already intervened and chased him away.

We call Naleku our mercurial matriarch, because she does let her moods get the better of her. One morning, she woke up in a towering state and kept picking on Mukutan and Choka. Every time the younger boys came close to her, she would grumpily rumble at them and push them aside. Eventually, Naleku seemed to realise that she was acting out of line, because she distanced herself from the Nursery herd until she was in a more charitable mood.

Olorien takes Naleku’s moods to the next level. She is always kind to Kerrio, but she can be very harsh to Choka, Lodo, Taabu, and the other bulls. The Keepers act as mediators, keeping the other orphans at bay when they see that Olorien is in a bad mood.

Suguroi shares Olorien’s feisty spirit. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and if any of the orphans overstep the mark, she is quick to let them know. While Suguroi is not the most nurturing female, she is still young, so that quality may develop. Everyone knows to watch out when they see her ears flared — which is a daily occurrence! 

Mukutan remains obsessed with milk. Even after he has had his fill, he trumpets and yells at his Keepers for more. One afternoon, he was being such a menace, trying to steal milk from Taabu, Kerrio, Choka, and the milk wheelbarrow, so one of the Keepers ushered him to the naughty corner. This made him yell even louder in protest, which was the final straw for Kerrio. She began to chase him around the mud bath, causing a huge scene in the process.

Perhaps Choka and Mukutan have a contentious relationship with Kerrio because they all have such impish personalities. Other orphans, like Taabu, are unfalteringly sweet. One day, Kerrio was being a little menace, pulling at Taabu’s tail and shoving him. Instead of retaliating, Taabu walked to the other side of the mud bath, which effectively diffused the situation.

Oldepe has taken on Maktao’s role of the ‘gentle uncle’ of the herd. Every time the orphans are wrestling or pushing each other around the forest, he comes over to check on them and ensure no one is being too rough.

Ziwadi, meanwhile, remains our ‘gentle auntie.’ One morning, she woke up in a particularly sweet mood, wandering around the stockade compound and greeting all the younger orphans. She then went about her morning routine of drinking from all the water troughs before slowly following the herd out to the forest. On this occasion, she was accompanied by Mukutan who peacefully walked alongside her. Once he’s had his milk, Mukutan can be very quiet!

Kamili shares Ziwadi’s gentle and quiet spirit. She is probably the most well-behaved member of the Nursery herd. She is always so cooperative with her Keepers and never causes trouble with the other orphans.

On the other hand, Bondeni continues to be a hopeless mischief maker — although he also has a very caring side. One morning, he came charging out of his stockades and completely ignored the Keepers’ calls for order. He ran straight into Rama’s stockade, which worried the Keepers, as they thought he would bother the fragile bull. To their surprise, Bondeni did the complete opposite. He greeted Rama gently, nuzzling his trunk and rumbling at him, before touching his legs in a sympathetic manner. Elephants are highly intelligent and have such complex ways of communicating with each other, so we feel sure that the Nursery herd understood that Rama was in a lot of discomfort.

Every elephant has special quirks and qualities that make them unique. For Latika, it’s her tiny trunk. She has a unique style of browsing to compensate for this, going down on her front legs into a comfortable position and then pulling at the long grasses. While Latika does not struggle to browse, she always appreciates when the older orphans pull down high branches for her to enjoy.

Although Tingai is very shy and Kinyei is a showboat, they have become close friends. Tingai rarely engages the other bulls in wrestling matches, perhaps because he is intimidated by their size. While he happily spends time with the bulls, he runs over to Kinyei when they start charging around. He and Lodo are evenly matched, so they enjoy the occasional sparring session. Lodo is another quiet member of the Nursery herd, but he enjoys spending time with the older orphans, such as Neshashi and Oldepe.

Maxwell has a hot-and-cold relationship with the resident warthogs, but this month, he seemed to enjoy their company. Most days, he invited them to share his lucerne pellets, even allowing them to continue munching in peace after he had had his fill.

The elephants were not so accommodating this month. One morning, the warthogs followed the orphans as they lined up for their midday bottles of milk. As the first group was ushered down to the feeding point, some of the warthogs ran with them. This upset Kerrio, who tried to run to her bottle and chase off the interlopers at the same time. The warthogs managed to outwit the little girl by ducking and diving through the bushes, evading her every move.

 After the milk feed, Kerrio was ready to face the warthogs again — but this time, she came prepared with reinforcements. Taabu and Choka joined forces with Kerrio, and the three little elephants chased the interlopers all over the place. They were having the best time, but the warthogs were always a bit too fast and managed to escape.

 This month wasn’t without its heartbreak. On 21st June, we said goodbye to our dear Rama. His condition had continued to deteriorate, causing him unmitigable pain and discomfort. The orphans seemed to know it was time, and the morning he passed, they all spent some time with him. Rama was such a special boy and will be dearly missed by the Nursery herd and his Keepers.

The sadness continued on 27th June, when we lost our little Lorigon. His blood works were alarming, and with plummeting RBC and platelet counts, it was clear he was fighting a blood parasite. We tried everything, but he didn’t respond to treatment and continued to slip away. He passed peacefully, surrounded by his Keepers.

We wish more than anything that these bulls’ stories had ended differently. For Rama, it was a birth defect; for Lorigon, it was the drought — but both were unable to overcome the deck fate dealt to them, despite our very best efforts. The Nursery is dimmer without Rama and Lorigon, but we can take comfort in the fact that they knew nothing but love and support for the time they spent with us.

June 2022 day to day

01 Jun

Every morning, Neshashi has made it a habit to run straight over to the translocation lorry to enjoy some leftover Lucerne pellets as the other orphans are starting their day. No matter how many times the Keepers have tried to divert her attention or get her to follow the herd she will always sneak past them, so they have now just kept one Keeper behind with her. After a couple of minutes, she will peacefully walk out to the forest with her Keeper. 

This morning, during the orphans 9 o’clock milk feed, the Keepers took them down to the mud bath. As the orphans had all finished their bottles of milk, they settled down to browse on some of the nearby bushes and shrubs. As they were all peacefully munching away, suddenly a tree hyrax ran across the mud bath, this gave them a huge fright. 

The hyrax first walked past Kerrio, who wasn’t too bothered and tried to smell the little creature. Naleku came over and she alerted the rest of herd as she began to flap her ears and rumble at the hyrax. Esoit, Kinyei and Roho came running over to see what was going on and when they spotted the hyrax, they all ran after the little guy, but he quickly disappeared in the long grass. 

All the excitement continued in the forest, when Esoit began to chase after all the resident warthogs. Once all the warthogs had disappeared, the orphans settled back down to browse. 

Neshashi heading to the translocation Lorry

Naleku, Kerrio and Roho in the forest

Esoit playing in the forest