It has been an incredibly hot month here in Nairobi meaning that orphans who would normally shy away from the mud bath are embracing its full protective and conditioning qualities with vigour. Kauro, Kamok, Balguda and Murit are babies who would normally never enter the mud pool without good reason, but this month have often been seen splashing and rolling around in the cooling mud. Throughout the month there have been a great many hilarious antics focused around the mud bath - the time that the Nursery is open to the public, so visitors have had the opportunity to watch the orphans in full playful mood and have been captivated by their amusing games. Alamaya continues to enjoy splashing unsuspecting visitors with mud while Godoma enjoys fully immersing herself in the mud with only her trunk visible like a snorkel, whilst Ngilai’s favourite pastime is getting his body as muddy as possible before running up and down the rope cordon muddying visiting onlookers. Ndotto and Lasayen entertain school children and visiting public alike by their climbing games enacting unlikely poses to the delight of their audience.
Amidst such happy fun times this month, we have suffered the devastating loss of Simotua along with the untimely and sudden death of one of our most dedicated Elephant Keepers in the Voi unit who suffered a heart attack whilst out overseeing the orphans out in the bush. All the staff from every unit clubbed together to ensure an appropriate burial for this popular and kind man. In the case of Simotua, who had spent a good amount of time with us here in the Nursery as all attempts were made to try and save him, it was very painful to watch the gradual decline of this stoic and brave little elephant who eventually passed away, despite our best efforts, during the late afternoon on the 17th March surrounded by his loving human family of Keepers. Having overcome so much in his short orphaned life, and growing into an elephant of great character, his loss has been sorely felt. Nevertheless, confronted by a further three rescues since his sad passing, we found ourselves compelled to focus on the living rather than dwell on the past. Included amongst these was an orphan with horrific bullet injuries to his hind legs who was rescued on the 31st March. We are currently analysing his situation and deciding what treatment will be the right course to take, always mindful that both Murera and Sonje who came in with severely compromised limbs, have made a good recovery able to enjoy a quality of life despite their disabilities at our Kibwezi Forest unit. We remain optimistic for this young bull.
On the 21st March we were kept very busy, performing 2 rescues in one day from different ends of the country. In the morning we were called to Namunyak Conservancy to collect a young bull that had been retrieved from a well over 39 hours before, and who arrived safely at the Nursery around 2pm. We called him ‘Joto’ mindful of the unusually hot conditions prevailing at the time, and especially in the North where he was from. On the same day at around noon we were called to rescue an orphan from Tsavo who had been found by KWS rangers without its mother or its herd. The young calf was slightly older in age and we called him Galla. He arrived very thin, having been without his Mum for some time, but remained strong and aggressive and had to be confined to his Stockade in order to settle into his new surroundings and become accustomed to his new human family.
Naseku, rescued in November of last year, has become a greedy character these days and inclined to be troublesome at milk feeding time, especially when she is fed ahead of the others. She has devised all sorts of tricks in an attempt to get more than her fair share, including marine-like moves of dropping and crawling along the ground in a bid to elude the Keepers and trying to extract milk directly from the empty bottles in the wheelbarrow! Sometimes such antics have the Keepers collapsing in hysterics! Roi’s greedy nature was shared in last month’s dairies, but Kamok is another wily one who likes to indulge in tricks and is an expert at avoiding the Keepers in order to embark on a mission of her own such as browsing on her own near the car park on fresh vegetation that has not been exploited by the orphans over the years.
Murit has been enjoying the company of the baby group recently due to his quiet and gentle nature which makes him prone to being bullied by other mischievous members of his herd, including those younger such as Lasayen and Godoma! The keepers have noticed that when he comes out of his stable, he pretends to walk out to the bush with the others, but instead secretes himself in Mbegu or Kamok’s stable, only to wander out when the baby group walk pass about an hour or so later, surprising the accompanying Keepers who wonder where he has suddenly appeared from. The ‘Big Boys’ Sokotei, Olsekki, Enkikwe, Sirimon, Boromoko and Kauro continue to be boisterous indulging in play fights throughout the day, picking on those weaker or younger than themselves which attracts punishment from the older girls, especially Oltaiyoni! Naseku is one who is really grown in confidence and who is learning to stand her ground, refusing to be pushed around by anyone anymore.
Ex Orphan rhino Solio has frequented the stockade sporadically throughout the month, much to the delight of resident Maxwell. When she arrives at the compound, she always greets Maxwell first and they communicate at length through the bars of his gate by touching lips and locking horns, or by running up and down the length of his stockade, before Solio returns to her old stockade and calls for lucerne to be brought to her by the keepers! On the 31st Solio returned in the early hours of the evening and stayed right up until dawn when the orphans came out of their stockades to head out into the bush, and Olsekki, Sokotei, Sirimon, Oltaiyoni and Siangiki relished the opportunity to mock charge after Solio into the bush.
The Elephant orphans have been socialising with Maxwell as well this month but often this is purely to sneak some of the tasty lucerne put out in his stockade for him. On the 28th orphans Mwashoti, Kamok and Alamaya ran up to Maxwell’s gate by his water trough in order to try and steal some of the lucerne he was busy enjoying in the early morning. After failing to scare them away by charging at his gate, Maxwell resorted to drastic measures and instead sprayed urine in Kamok’s face ! This tactic did the trick, leaving Kamok dashing off into the bush trumpeting in protest, with Mwashoti and Alamaya in hot pursuit.
The resident warthogs around the Nursery compound have been suffering this month with pressures from all sides – if not the orphans having fun chasing them, it has been the National Park lions keeping them on their toes having managed to make a meal of several. This month Mwashoti has been averse to their presence around the waterhole during milk feeding time and does not rest until they have been dispersed. Siangiki is another one who seems to dislike their company and tries to chase them away from the orphan group. Having experienced a restless night on the 25th due to be presence of the lions, Siangiki together with Kamok, Alamaya and Kauro would give them no peace but the warthogs insisted on sticking close to the elephants and their Keepers, and upon realising that the poor pigs were there to stay today, Siangiki gave up in the end.
Kiko has been driving his Keepers around the bend because as he grows in age, so he does in stubbornness and independence as well. He has taken up the habit of returning to the stockade compound on his own accord throughout the day, much to the exasperation of his keepers who have to go and retrieve him! On his home visits, he is either looking for milk in the milk mixing area or going to feed on the acacia tree beside Edwin’s office. Sometimes he tries to go back into his stable but finds the door shut. With all of these trips home throughout the day, what really annoys his Keepers is when it comes time to return home in the afternoon, he often flatly refuses to follow them back! Ignoring all persuasive tactics, eventually his milk bottle needs to be brought out to him in the bush in order for his keeper to lead him home with that! Kiko has a mind of his own, and is inquisitive and curious about anything in the bush, standing his ground when the elephant orphans try to chase him, viewing this as just a game, knowing that he can out-run them! On the 30th he happened upon an old Tortoise, which he examined carefully for a long time.
Many more stories can be enjoyed throughout the Keeper’s Daily diary entries.