Keepers' Diaries, March 2018

Select your unit:

Nairobi Nursery Unit

Almost unexpectedly, as the rains were not officially due for another month or so according to the natural rhythm of things, we had a deluge of rain in March which was received with mixed blessings by the orphans. Maxwell, who is blind, loves it when it rains and charges about his stockade, digging his horn into the wet soil and showering himself with cool mud. It wasn’t long before the bottom half of his stockade became a muddy quagmire, just the way he likes it.

The youngest elephant babies, however, have more reserved feelings about the heavy rain. Maktao, Sattao, Emoli, Kiasa, Enkesha, Musiara, Maisha and even Luggard sometimes stay indoors whilst it is very heavy, joining the older orphans out in the forest later when the rain lets up a little. In the wild, these little ones would still fit under their mother’s belly and would be surrounded by other older members of the herd, sheltering them from the rain. One morning, Tamiyoi, Malima and Mapia forced their way back into their stables for shelter rather than make their way into the forest, whilst the older orphans including Mbegu, Ngilai, Ndiwa, Sana Sana, Mundusi, Lasayen, Mteto and Sagala approached the rainy weather with more gusto, rolling and sliding in the wet soil and running through the, now full and fast flowing, streams in the forest.

The small stream which runs beside the mud bath area was much higher and fast flowing after just a few days of rain and this was cause for concern for some of the smallest in the party. Emoli, Maktao, Musiara, Maisha, Sattao and Kiasa were averse to crossing it although they could see their milk bottles on the other side. They shied away from the running water, and the keepers had to encourage them with their milk bottles to cross over! Sattao, Maktao and Kiasa don’t even like getting their bodies wet when walking through the bush and brushing against the water that still clings to the vegetation in the morning. They stand and shout for the attention of their adopted mother Mbegu to come and browse with them in the open areas, where they did not have to get wet.

During the midday milk feed one day there was a heavy rainstorm and all the orphans sheltered under one huge tree together. It was funny to watch the young warthog babies running under the orphans for shelter, although Malima, Tamiyoi, Jotto, Emoli, Enkesha, Godoma and Mteto kept pushing them out. As that was going on, Maktao and Sattao were busy fighting over who would shelter under ‘Mama Mbegu’. Maktao seemed a little confused, as he was trying to hide under the keepers’ umbrellas as well as Mbegu, and it seemed he could not decide which he preferred. Sometimes all the babies rejoiced in rolling in the damp soil, digging at it with their feet or, in some cases, their small tusks and throwing it on their backs for fun. Kiko is not such a fan of the heavy rain and takes himself back to his stable to wait it out, poking his head out of the door to keep an eye on what is going on outside. He frequently joined the elephants out in the forest this month, when they would allow him to browse next to them!

Mbegu demonstrated her superb matriarchal qualities this month and when the rains first began, she gathered the little ones together and tried to move them from tree to tree to find shelter that she felt was good enough. After trying a few areas without success, she gave up and decided to escort them all back to the stockades to avoid the heavy rain! She, Sattao, Musiara, Maisha, Mapia, Jotto, Ambo and Malima all sheltered in Shukuru’s room until the rain passed. Another morning, after a group of orphans had come running out of a thicket with their ears held high, Mbegu was clearly agitated and would not give up charging at that particular area of bushes. Mbegu’s reaction convinced the Keepers to investigate the area and, as they did so, a big male warthog came crashing towards them, whereupon the Keepers found Shukuru and Ndotto charging at a lioness who must have been hunting the warthog! The lioness ran away when she saw all the older orphans and the Keepers, who called Ndotto to return to them and the group. Mbegu will never rest until she is sure that every member of ‘her’ herd is safe and out of danger.

Whilst Mbegu was demonstrating her lovely and caring qualities this month, some of our orphans shone in a less favourable light. Surprisingly, it was not our naughty girl Esampu who was most mischievous this month, but Ngilai! Ngilai is a naturally rough and playful bull, always wanting to engage his human family in pushing games as he would his elephant family, but recently he has been very naughty and especially at feeding times, fighting some of the youngsters for their bottles and not listening to the Keepers. Together with Mundusi, Malkia, Esampu and even Tagwa, who also became troublesome during feeding times, the Keepers decided to feed them last, so everyone else had finished their bottles in peace by the time they had theirs! One morning, as the Keepers drank their tea, Ngilai was pretending to browse next to them when, all of a sudden, he snatched a cup of tea from an unsuspecting Keeper and spilled the contents everywhere. The Keepers moved him away and he walked off cheekily shaking his head to find his friends Murit and Kuishi.

Jotto was very unneighbourly towards Ambo one evening. Arriving back to his stockade first he finished his milk bottles and, despite having his own, proceeded to pull Ambos’ share of branches through the partition one branch at a time. Once Ambo returned and finished his own milk bottles, this resulted in a feisty ‘push and pull’ game through the posts which was only resolved by a passing Keeper who managed to move Ambo’s browse away from the posts. Ambo is known for holding a grudge however, and we are sure he sought out Jotto the next morning to seek revenge!

Luggard’s swollen ankle on his bad leg is doing better and the swelling is reducing day by day. He is not yet fighting fit and able to accompany the orphans on their long walks into the forest, but he stays with them until the 9am milk feed and thereafter stays with his Keepers closer to the stockades.

March 2018 day to day

01 Mar

Finally, after waiting some time for some rain, last night we received quite the downpour. Ambo, Jotto, Mapia and Sana Sana were left quite sleepless as they feared the heavy rain and they were all complaining in their rooms; they rumbled and tried to climb the walls. Whilst this was the reaction of some of the elephants, Maxwell the rhino was celebrating in his pen, rolling around in the mud and charging at his gate, running all over his stockade. He did not rest right up until morning when he engaged some warthogs in a playing battle around his pen, until he grew tired and went for a nap. This is the best weather for rhinos, though most of the elephants did not enjoy the same weather and they looked dull and quiet. All the elephants grouped together and fed amongst the bushes to avoid getting wet. Tagwa and Malkia seemed to have a plan to get to the milk feeding area early, before they were due at 11am. Their plan was noticed by the keepers however and it was put a stop to before they managed! Tagwa almost succeeded in her second attempt as she was sent back to their herd by the keepers and they pretended to give up. She managed to slip through the thick bushes though and went ahead of Godoma’s group, but whilst this small group was waiting with the keepers before being sent down for their milk, she was discovered hiding between Godoma, Jotto and Kuishi and was sent back to Mbegu’s group to wait her turn.

Tagwa planning her move to get her milk early

Malkia following in Tagwa's foodsteps

Kiko with his keeper