Keepers' Diaries, March 2010

Nairobi Nursery Unit

The highlight of the month for us came on the 22nd , the day that CITES (Cop 15) for once voted in favour of the elephants, refusing permission for both Tanzania and Zambia to sell their huge ivory stockpiles, as well as downgrade their elephant populations from the fully protected status of Appendix I to Appendix II which would allow hunting, culling, etc. On that same afternoon, our latest baby was rescued, having strolled into the Staff Quarters of Mgeno Ranch, abutting Tsavo. She was driven to the Voi Stockades, and from there airlifted to Nairobi, arriving at about 3 p.m., still in perfect condition, and at just 1 ½ months old, fearless and trusting. We named her “Sities” to mark such an auspicious occasion.

01 March 2010

As the orphans were approaching the noon mudbath, Shukuru rushed ahead to get her milk first, slipped and fell. Immediately Suguta and Nchan ran rumbling to her and help her get back onto her feet. Perhaps they were commiserating with her because of her fall.

02 March 2010

Kimana seems reluctant to take his milk today, not finishing the 9 a.m. feed, the noon feed or the 3 p.m. feed. In all other ways, he seems playful and fine. Suguta has also been showing signs of not wanting all her milk ration, but usually returns for it later.

03 March 2010

Sabachi, who finished his 3 p.m. feed first, tried to push Ndii who was still taking hers. She stopped and immediately punished Sabachi, engaging him in a serious fight which the Keepers had to break up, since he was getting the rough end of it!

04 March 2010

At the mudbath today, Nchan left the mudbath to run along the line of visitors, flapping her ears so that the visitors got splattered in mud. At the end of the line, she turned round to repeat the ear flapping game, making all the tourists ask if she had been taught how to do that!

05 March 2010

A splinter grouping seems to have emerged amongst the Nursery elephants. Today Nchan, Kudup, Mutara, Shukuru and sometimes Tano separated themselves from Suguta and Tumaren. Nchan and Kudup were practicing “mothering” Tano. Whenever she lay down, they would help her get up by supporting her with a leg, which is how big elephants help their babies rise from a recumbent position.

06 March 2010

Olare took possession of little Chemi Chemi, and didn’t want any of the others to have access to him, adopting him as her own baby. Suguta attempted to take him, but Olare pushed her away. Dida tried extending her trunk to touch him, but decided not to go beyond that. Chemi Chemi is quite happy to be Olare’s special calf.

07 March 2010

Just before the younger elephants were let out of their stables, the warthog family arrived and hung around outside, scaring Chemi Chemi, who refused to emerge until Olare came to chase them off and escort him out. He then emerged, with his ears standing at right-angles to his head!.

08 March 2010

Chemi Chemi, as a newcomer, has settled in very well. Today he was even trying to bully the likes of Tano, Mutara and Shukuru. He receives a great deal of love and attention from all the older females in the group, especially Olare. At one point Suguta managed to spend a short time with him, but Olare soon came to repossess him. All the orphans look healthy and strong.

09 March 2010

At about l0 a.m. Tumaren suddenly began charging around the bushes. For a long time Kalama and Kudup stood watching her, but then joined in the charging game. Perhaps Tumaren was demonstrating how to deal with an intruder!

10 March 2010

The orphans emerged in the morning in a very happy mood, all running up and down the compound. Olare went running to look for Chemi Chemi, and as soon as she located him, she rumbled to him, and was answered by his rumble. Chemi Chemi and Olare then led the column out into the forest, with all the others following.

11 March 2010

After a peaceful night, the orphans enjoyed playing in pairs around the compound, engaging one another in pushing games with Kilaguni and his best friend, Kibo, had a strength testing pushing match.

12 March 2010

The babies were in fine form today as they headed out into the bush. Chemi Chemi and Shukuru competed for the lead. Out in the field Mutara, Tano and Nchan enjoyed playing together, Nchan lying down so that the two babies, Tano and Mutara could take turns climbing over her. Both then tried to pin Nchan down, which made her scream for help and this arrived in the form of Olare, who pushed the two babies off Nchan, and then helped her get up.

13 March 2010

Dida and her team downed their noon milk feed quickly, and then jumped into the mudbath to wallow. Ndii and Kilaguni were most active wallowers whilst Dida, Melia and Olare left the mudbath to dust themselves with loose dry soil.

14 March 2010

One of the foster-parents brought a huge ball for the orphan to play with. The older orphans were a bit scared of the ball at first, but Suguta and her group loved it, running up and down and kicking it towards the line of mudbath visitors.

15 March 2010

Today Nchan, Kalama, Kibo and Tumaren were very excited with the big ball. Tumaren even stopped drinking her milk to have first turn playing with the big ball and was joined by all the others the moment they finished theirs. It was fun to see little Shukuru run with the ball, and stop beside Keeper Mischak, to whom she is a little shadow, such is her adoration of him! It was a real fun day, when even the Lecturers had difficulty getting the attention of the guests who were focused on the elephants playing with the new ball.

16 March 2010

As the orphans were browsing in the bush today having taken their morning milk feed, Dida, Kimana, Ndii, Mawenzi and Melia formed their own group whilst Olare, Kilaguni, and Chaimu formed a separate group, leaving Sabachi feeding on his own. Olare was happy to be the Matriarch of the remaining orphans, with Dida separate. Sabachi couldn’t decide which group to join, and moved between the two, or fed alone.

17 March 2010

Today Chemi Chemi did not want to be “babied”. He kept on moving from one elephant to another and even creating a commotion by wanting to bully the other little ones in his group. He wanted to mount onto Mutara, fight with Kalama and Turkwel and even tested Kibo with a strong push. This came as such a surprise that Kibo actually fell down!

18 March 2010

The orphans got a huge scare today whilst out feeding. All suddenly began screaming and rushing back to the Keepers, as though a lion was in the bush. The Keepers went to investigate, and found not a lion, but 2 warthogs who obviously happened upon the elephants unexpectedly!

19 March 2010

Turkwel, who has a longstanding score to settle with Kalama, seemed to have got over whatever irked her, until today, when she again targeted Kalama. However Suguta was close, and immediately came in to separate the warring parties before the fight became too serious.

20 March 2010

Chemi Chemi dislikes having to go into his stable at night, so the Keepers have to push him in. However, once inside, and having taken his milk, he is usually the first to go to sleep. This evening, a Canadian Film Crew wanted to film him in his stable, so he took a long time to go to sleep. He kept on wanting to investigate the Cameraman who was on top of the Keeper’s bed and although he could not reach the Cameraman, he was aware of his presence.

21 March 2010

It was a cold drizzling morning, so most of the orphans did not want to go out. Only Tumaren and Sabachi kept on bellowing and banging on their Gate, insisting on being let out. The others were happy to remain indoors until the rain ceased.

22 March 2010

All the orphans left the compound in the morning, but Tano was left behind. Soon Kudup and Nchan noticed her absence, and came running back, followed by Shukuru and Mutara. They then formed their own little group, and spent the morning dusting themselves, with Nchan and Kudup acting as caretakers. Nchan has the makings of a very caring Matriarch, but this was the first time that Kudup practiced this role. Later we received a phone call from Joseph Sauni in Voi that a small baby elephant orphan had been rescued on Mgeno Ranch, abutting Tsavo, having wandered into the Ranch Staff lines. The baby was flown in at 3 p.m., and arrived in good condition. She is about 1 ½ months old and strong. That afternoon, she met first the smaller orphans, when Mutara showed keen interest in her, and later the older elephants, all of whom wanted to mother her.

23 March 2010

All the orphans left the compound in the morning, including the new baby, who has been named Sities, to commemorate the vote at the CITES Convention in Doha which went in favour of the elephants, refusing permission for both Tanzania and Zambia to sell their ivory stockpiles. All the older females wanted to take possession of the newcomer, but Ndii out-did all the others, which came as a surprise to the Keepers, since she has not wanted to take on a Matriarchal role before.

24 March 2010

This was another morning with a lot of activity, all the older females wanting possession of little Sities, Olare, Ndii, Suguta, Tumaren and Dida all surrounding the new calf, which unsettled her. She began screaming, so the Keepers separated the baby and took her to Suguta’s smaller group, where Suguta and Tumaren took care of her. This worked well, and the calf soon relaxed and began happily playing in the loose red soil.

25 March 2010

Today was the last day for the Canadian Film Crew, who have been filming the Nursery elephants for the past 2 weeks. Sities has settled into the group led by Suguta, who has taken charge of her, only allowing Tumaren brief access. At last the Keepers can see that Suguta is taking on the Matriarchal role especially when Olare is not around.

26 March 2010

As soon as the orphans exited the stockades the older females rushed over to the babies whilst the young bulls played pushing games. Kibo and Kilaguni partook of their usual strength testing games and were rudely interrupted by Sabachi, who is an unfair playmate as he tries to dominate the younger males; his attempts to join in were ignored by the other two.

27 March 2010

Little Sities has begun to settle down to life in the orphanage and is proving to be a very active, playful and naughty elephant. The older females, Suguta, Olare, Ndii, Tumaren and Mutara, are competing over who gets to “Mummy” her. Shukuru is feeling a little jealous of the new arrival especially when it comes to getting attention from her favourite keeper Mischak.

28 March 2010

During today’s public visiting hour a competition began between Sities and Shukuru over Mischak’s attention. As the orphans came for their milk Mischak began feeding Sities which upset Shukuru who began to run around, refusing to be given her bottle from anyone other than Mischak. She created such a fuss that he had to hand over Sities bottle to another keeper and feed Shukuru who immediately settled and drank her milk.

29 March 2010

During the noon mudwallow Sities rolled around in the loose red soil and played with the others who were enjoying kicking the ball around. This being her first time to see a ball she tried to head butt it and fell to the ground. Suguta and Tumaren kept close to her comforting her after her fall. A rescued orphan arrived at 6pm from Meru. The calf was in a desperate state of collapse after having fallen down a pit latrine. She was named Meru to signify her place of origin. The keepers were worried about her health and we all hoped she would survive the night.

30 March 2010

Chemi Chemi is proving to be a pushy young bull head butting any orphan including the older ones. This could be his way of releasing the stress he is feeling while mourning the loss of his family. The older orphans are quite tolerant of his antics although Tumaren and Suguta do warn him from time to time so that he will learn the proper etiquette that he will need when meeting wild elephants.

31 March 2010

The morning began on a sad note as Meru gave up the battle for her life at 5am. Kalama who shared her stockade showed signs of stress when it came to returning for the stockade for the night by refusing to go near the place where Meru slept. The elephants spent the day feeding in the forest and found themselves a rain filled mudwallow to play in. Kalama, Nchan, Kudup and Turkwel had a fantastic time playing together while Dida, Ndii, Melia and Kilaguni played in the mud on the outskirts of the water. Recently Kimana, Dida, Mawenzi and Melia have formed a little group and are often found browsing together aside from the rest. Mawenzi is still very attached to Melia following her and sucking on her ears. Since the arrival of Sities Ndii has become more stringent about disciplining Sabachi who can be rough with the younger orphans. Ndii does not let him come near Sities blocking any attempts he makes to approach the baby.