Keepers' Diaries, March 2005

Nairobi Nursery Unit

This month’s Diary for the Nursery elephants portrays graphically, not only the sensitivity, intelligence and caring elephants possess in abundance, even in infancy. This encompasses those smaller, or in trouble, and a sense of personal sacrifice also becomes evident. Galana, for instance, who is by far the largest, but also the greediest of the Nursery elephants, (having been a near-dead starvation case when she first came in, unable even to stand unaided), will remain behind with the baby of the group, tiny Nalitu, who suffered a leg injury that left her with a serious limp trailing far behind the others at noon milk feed time, when all the elephants usually sprint ahead excitedly for their ration of milk before taking their daily mudbath. As the oldest, Galana has gradually taken her place as the Nursery Matriarch, sharing a deep and all consuming love of little Nalitu whose other adoring little “mother figure” is Naserian. Both are recorded as walking slowly one on either side of the injured Nalitu when the young bulls race excitedly ahead in the mornings, whilst Sunyei, who although also classified as a Nursery Matriarch but, according to the Keepers, not so keen on “baby-sitting”, returns periodically just to check that everything is O.K. On a cold day the Diary explains that Galana and Naserian crowd close to Nalitu to impart body warmth, leaving her side only when the suns warms things up enough for the Keepers to remove the babies’ covering blankets.

01 March 2005

Galana is becoming increasingly fond of little Nalitu. When approaching the mudbath, usually the other babies run for their milk, but Galana, although the greediest of them all, remains behind to slowly escort little Nalitu and ensure that she arrives safely for her bottle.

02 March 2005

Madiba enjoys taking advantage to mount Buchuma whenever Buchuma is lying down to play. Buchuma bellows and immediately Sunyei comes to the rescue.

03 March 2005

Buchuma tried to mount Sunyei who was playing alone near an anthill. She was not impressed, and pushed him away.

04 March 2005

The orphans were terrified when a group of baboons rushed past in pursuit of a dikdik. They all crowded around the Keepers for protection, and took a long time to calm down.

05 March 2005

Makosa, the rhino, passed by the group today. Buchuma dislikes intruders and decided to charge at him but Makosa took no notice, so the Keepers restrained Buchuma.

06 March 2005

Early this morning a lion roared some distance away, which sent all the elephants running away fearfully, right past the Keepers, as though they were bent on returning to the Stables!

07 March 2005

Madiba gave chase to some warthogs today, only to find himself ending up a long way from the rest of the group. He bellowed and the Keepers went to retrieve him.

08 March 2005

The two babies, Nalitu and Lualeni began to play by holding each other’s trunk, but the game degenerated into a fight when Nalitu pushed Lualeni. This angered Lualeni who wanted to shove Nalitu, but was restrained by the Keepers. Galana then came to take Nalitu away.

09 March 2005

Buchuma is becoming very strong and rough, obviously wanting to become the boss of the group. He has pushed all the other elephants, except Nalitu, Lualeni and Galana, (who is much larger). He pushes logs and tries to knock down trees to impress the others. Lualeni and Nalitu lay down together. Upon realising that they wanted a dust-bath, Sunyei approached, picked up dust in her trunk, and sprayed it over the two babies.

10 March 2005

Before taking milk from her bottle, Nalitu likes to go to either Galana or Naserian, kneel down and attempt to suckle their breast. Discovering that no milk is forthcoming, she then comes to the Keepers to take it from the bottle, touching each Keeper in turn until she chooses from whom she would like her milk! Then she gives that man a gentle shove and will accept the bottle.

11 March 2005

It was very cool today, so both Galana and Naserian came close to shield little Nalitu from the cold, and remained close beside her until the day warmed up, and the orphans’ blankets could be removed.

12 March 2005

The day began very happily with all the older ones chasing each other around playfully, trumpeting their happiness. Madiba caused a stir when he came running to chase away the warthogs who were hanging around the Keepers who were taking their lunch.

13 March 2005

Lualeni is doing her final practice so that she can be enrolled in the Elephant Football Club! The Team Coach is Madiba who tries very hard to teach Lualeni football tactics!

14 March 2005

The elephants began the day, playfully chasing one another. Buchuma has a trick – he runs ahead of the group with outspread ears very fast as though charging something, then does a U turn, doubling back as though scared, so that all the others also run. He then begins walking as though nothing ever happened, leaving the others confused!

15 March 2005

Sunyei and Madiba are very mischievous in the mornings. Both like going into the rhino’s Stockade, and refusing to come out. Eventually Madiba rushes out at speed, but Sunyei remains behind until one of the Keepers goes inside to flush her out! What a naughty girl!

16 March 2005

Naserian loves little Nalitu with all her heart, and rushes to Nalitu’s stable each morning to collect the baby, remaining with her until Galana arrives to take her turn.

17 March 2005

Lualeni likes playing alone these days, away from the others. She looks a little lonely, because Nalitu is unable to join in due to a leg injury caused by those bully boys, Buchuma and Ndomot, who spend most of their time pushing and hitting each other without tiring and who accidentally knocked her down.

18 March 2005

Nalitu is limping badly today, trailing the group with only Galana beside her. When the others realised she was not with them, they became very agitated and starting running around the bushes, trumpeting. Even Lualeni joined in until Galana and Nalitu caught up with them all.

19 March 2005

Today the Vet came to see Nalitu and give her an injection. All the other elephants crowded around her, and the Keepers had to restrain her for the Vet, which she did not like, and wanted to punish the Keepers for holding her.

20 March 2005

Nalitu’s right foreleg is still worrying her a great deal, but Naserian and Galana remained close to her throughout the day, as she used her trunk to play with the dust. Today the Vet gave her the injection when she was in the stable in the evening.

21 March 2005

Only Naserian and Galana were not happy this morning, obviously worried about the condition of little Nalitu, who is still limping badly and has a swollen shoulder. They walked on either side of Nalitu on the way out into the bush. The Keepers had to be very vigilant to keep Nalitu safe when the naughty boys began their usual romping around. The Vet came and gave Nalitu an injection and some oral medication.

22 March 2005

Nalitu is still very lame, so we had to remain close by and not allow her to walk too far. Lualeni decided to remain with Nalitu to keep her company, and Galana and Naserian were very reluctant to leave her. Only Buchuma and Ndomot were rambunctious today.

23 March 2005

Sunyei is usually not anxious to be the baby-sitter, but today she kept on returning to check on little Nalitu, putting her trunk gently on Nalitu’s back, before returning to join the main group. Nalitu’s limp is improving with treatment.

24 March 2005

Today, unusually, the elephants enjoyed having the coconut oil applied to their bodies. Usually they run away when they see the white bottles!

25 March 2005

Sunyei observed that Lualeni was playing alone, away from the others, and went to join her, gently pushing her and then retreating. This made Lualeni very happy and she joined in this little pushing game. Nalitu’s limp is much better today.

26 March 2005

It was a very hot day today, so all the elephants wallowed wonderfully, led by Lualeni. Naserian and Galana went in and out of the mud, continually returning to Nalitu to ensure that she was O.K. Whenever they noticed the boys heading towards Nalitu, they ran to protect her.

27 March 2005

Galana would like more milk. Whenever she has finished her share, she tries to take that of Nalitu, and when the Keepers refuse to allow her to do this, she sucks her own trunk.

28 March 2005

Lualeni woke up in a very jovial mood these days, and headed directly to Nalitu’s stable. When Nalitu came out, they began to play even before leaving for the bush.

29 March 2005

It was a chilly morning. One Keeper went ahead with the older elephants, whilst Naserian and Galana came more slowly with Nalitu and Lualeni. Sunyei kept on checking on the babies.

30 March 2005

Buchuma began pushing Madiba. Sunyei came running to push Madiba away. Galana watched everything, and as the Leader of the group, she went to the scene to intervene and tell them all to “behave”!

31 March 2005

The orphans were very happy today, and loved their mudbath, spoilt only when Buchuma tried to mount Galana as she was playing in the mud. This irritated her, and she went to reprimand Buchuma, but the keepers kept the peace. Meanwhile little Nalitu watched Naserian rolling around in the mud very keenly.