Keepers' Diaries, March 2008

Nairobi Nursery Unit

The 1st of March brought the arrival of little “Kenia”, an approximately 8 month old calf found abandoned early one morning in dense settlement on an ancient traditional migratory path of the Mt. Kenya elephants, which remains imprinted in their genetic memory. Nowadays when the elephants feel compelled to leave their forested mountain stronghold, they streak under cover of darkness through human habitation, and on this occasion this particular calf somehow got left behind, and was found at 5 a.m. by an early-rising farmer, who, fortunately was sufficiently ele-friendly to alert the Bill Woodley Mt. Kenya Trust personnel and also the Kenya Wildlife Service. The calf was flown into the Nairobi Nursery, arriving in the evening, and appeared in excellent condition. Her name, “Kenia” was chosen by the Keepers in consultation with the Mt. Kenya Bill Woodley Trust, to celebrate the political peace deal negotiated the day before by Mr. Koffi Annan which ended two months of tribal turmoil in Kenya.

01 March 2008

At about 9.30 a.m. as Lesanju’s Baby group were being escorted out into the bush to feed, a wild rhino suddenly appeared from a thicket and charged. All the Keepers took off in all directions, as did the elephants. The rhino followed the direction of the Keepers, but then veered off, and the Keepers then began calling the elephants to round them all up again. Everyone was very traumatized!

02 March 2008

Early in the morning, Lesanju, Lempaute, Sinya , Dida and Shimba came to welcome the new arrival. She was overwhelmed by their appearance, and charged them. However, when they returned to her stable at noon, she was much calmer, and even more so by the evening.

03 March 2008

Today the new baby joined Lesanju’s group and went with them out into the bush. Lesanju was very happy and proud to have her close, and this gave Sinya a chance to “mother” little Dida, since Lesanju was preoccupied with the newcomer, “Kenia”.

04 March 2008

Kenia was very happy to be out with the other babies this morning. She tried to push Shimba away when he came too close to her, and this started a fight between him and her, which was broken up by Lesanju. Kenia then ran off into the bush, but Lempaute went to bring her back.

05 March 2008

In the evening, when it was time to return into the Night Stables, Kenia did not want to go in, probably harbouring bad connotations of her arrival, and the mandatory anti-biotic injections she had to undergo for the first three days. Even when all the other elephants went inside and tried to coax her to follow, she refused, so in the end the Keepers had to push her in.

06 March 2008

Kenia enjoyed the mudbath today, rolling in the mud and climbing over the others whenever they lay down. Shimba was very active and she enjoyed rolling on him. When the elephants emerged, it was difficult to differentiate her from Lempaute, since both are roughly the same size and all were the same red colour of the mudbath soil.

07 March 2008

Today, Lesanju’s group met up with Lenana, Makena and Chyulu, who were wildly excited to greet Kenia. When it was time to separate the two groups, the older elephants ran around searching for the babies, led by Makena, even returning to the Stockades to look for them. The Keepers had to take the youngsters in a different direction to outwit the older elephants.

08 March 2008

In the afternoon, two male impalas came chasing one another, which terrified the younger group. While Lesanju, Lempaute and Dida ran to their Keepers for protection, Kenia took a different escape route. Only Shimba remained un-moved, feeding as usual apart from the girls. As soon as the impalas had disappeared, Lesanju went in search of Kenia, and brought her back to the group.

09 March 2008

Early in the morning, at about 7 a.m., Shida approached Lesanju’s group, which scared all the babies who began running away. However, Shida followed and lay down close to the Keepers, remaining there until 11 a.m. when it was time to head for the mudbath. He followed us to the mudbath, and later returned with us back to the bush.

10 March 2008

During the mudbath, Lesanju’s group put on a spectacular display for the visitors, playing in the red soil after they had been anointed with Coconut oil. A few drops of rain fell, and this made them even more playful than usual. All the mudbath guests enjoyed the Visiting Hour very much indeed.

11 March 2008

Kenia has decided to give Shimba a hard time. She came to fight him today, until Lesanju intervened, backed up by Lempaute, both of whom pushed Shimba away from Kenia.

12 March 2008

Lenana, Makena and Chyulu ran to the Babies’ stables as soon as they were let out in the morning, rumbling to them. Lesanju, Lempaute and Shimba replied, and when they were let out, all went together off into the bush.

13 March 2008

As soon as Lesanju, Lempaute, Dida and Sinya were let out of their Night Stables, they all ran to Kenia’s stable, lifting their trunks above the level of the door. As soon as Kenia and Shimba came out, all the others rumbled to Kenia, laying their trunks across her back. She replied with a rumble and they all left together as one group.

14 March 2008

Lenana, Makena and Chyulu had a wonderful mudbath today because it was a hot day. Having wallowed in the waterhole, with the Keepers they played a game of soccer, which was greatly enjoyed by all the spectators.

15 March 2008

Shimba did his best to scare away the warthogs this morning, but they were not impressed with his charge, even though he came fast with his ears wide out! Instead, they just stood and looked at him, until he had to retreat back to the Keepers. The Keepers then chased the warthogs off because they were blocking the way.

16 March 2008

Lenana is a very nervous elephant. Today when a giraffe approached the group, she ran back to the Stockades, whilst Makena and Chyulu were prepared to stand their ground, and try and deter the giraffe!

17 March 2008

Dida is becoming much more playful. Today, she was play-fighting Lempaute, while Lesanju, Sinya and Shimba stood by and watched. Dida really enjoyed herself because Lempaute allowed her to win.

18 March 2008

Every morning, when Lesanju, Lempaute, Dida and Sinya come out of their Night Stables, they always exchange greetings with Maxwell, who waits at the Gate of his Stockade close to their Stables. He enjoys this little ritual each morning.

19 March 2008

Shimba is a lone Ranger, who enjoys feeding apart from the little girls. Today, a long line of baboons approached him and although at first sight of them he appeared somewhat nervous, and trumpeted. As the baboons began to move off, he plucked up sufficient courage to chase after them, trumpeting to scare them off.

20 March 2008

Lenana’s group again encountered a wild rhino out in the bush, who charged towards them. All the elephants ran, but Lenana was the most terrified losing control of her bowels as she ran back to the Stockade where we found her standing on her own. Makena and Chyulu remained together.

21 March 2008

Because Shida spent the night next door to Maxwell in his old Stockade, Maxwell was restless the entire night, circulating around his Stockade and bumping into the trees of his new one in between trying to fight Shida through the separating bars of the two Stockades. Shida left only at about 5 a.m., so Max had a very restless night.

22 March 2008

Dida has taken a cue from Lempaute – rushing towards the visitors with her ears out, closely followed by Lesanju and Lempaute bent on ensuring that no harm befalls “their” baby. All the visitors scream and run away, not understanding that Dida is only playing and enjoying a joke!

23 March 2008

Today, it was Lempaute who revved up the visitors, running up and down the rope, and even going under it, sending some of the spectators running away screaming, which she greatly enjoys!

24 March 2008

It rained softly throughout the night, so at the mudbath Kenia was the only one who went in. All the others had had their fill of mud throughout the morning.

25 March 2008

At the 9 a.m. feed today, for the first time Dida came running ahead of all the others to get her milk, searching for the Keeper who was holding her bottles, whom she had passed in the process. It was good to see that her appetite has improved.

26 March 2008

As the older elephants were feeding out in the bush, Makena noticed a giraffe passing by, which was hidden from the view of the others. Makena walked up to Lenana and Chyulu, trumpeted and pointed her trunk towards the giraffe to alert them of its presence. The Keepers thought this was very clever of Makena.

27 March 2008

As usual Lempaute caused chaos during the mudbath, scattering all the school-children, and crossing through the rope to follow them as they tried to escape. Some of the kids fell down, but the Keepers were quick to regain control of mischievous Lempaute, who always enjoys scaring the kids at the mudbath.

28 March 2008

After having taken their milk, Lenana cleared her trunk with a trumpeting noise which scared all the school-kids. They were very rowdy, something that irritated Makena who approached them trumpeting! This sent them all running away screaming until the Keepers regained control of the crowd of kids.

29 March 2008

After night rains, the small babies enjoyed rolling around in the new mud. Even Kenia, who is usually very quiet, participated and joined in the fun.

30 March 2008

Kenia and Shimba again engaged one another. The tussle went on until a warthog approached as though to separate them. Both then turned their attention to the warthog, and together chased it off.

31 March 2008

It was a very hot day, and all the babies were flapping their ears, so the Keepers took them to a nearby muddy pool so that they could cool themselves. During the wallowing process Kenia stepped accidentally on Dida’s trunk, making her scream. Lesanju and Lempaute immediately came to comfort her.