Keepers' Diaries, March 2019

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

This month was an extremely painful time for us all when we lost our little ray of sunshine, our orphaned baby white rhino calf Maarifa.  There has been a sombre mood ever since, understandably so when we received another little elephant orphan from the Masai Mara after his mother died due to human-wildlife conflict. 

This little calf found himself showered in huge amounts of attention, as everyone turned the energy into something positive and focusing on the others that need our help. As a result our new baby boy tamed to his Keepers in an instant. He will be joining the fostering program shortly. After Dame Daphne pioneered the milk formula to successfully raise infant baby elephants all those years before we have managed to successfully raise over 244 elephants and 16 rhinos to go on to live wild lives, but we make no assumption that raising these wild animals is an easy task, it comes with its fair share of heartache when we have to confront the losses.  

This month we saw a marked change in Malima, who is known for her split personality – sometimes good, sometimes bad, but she has surprisingly become very attentive and motherly towards our little girl Larro who came into our care early in the year. It is adorable to watch as she waits for her to leave her stable in the morning just so that she can escort her out into the Park for the day. Larro seems to be very aware of her privileged position, and sometimes she will trumpet for no reason at all just to monitor the reaction it might bring – and her trumpet never fails to bring Malima and some of the older females running to her side. It is bad luck for any unsuspecting orphans standing next to her at the time, as they can receive a firm disciplinary push by the big girls assuming that something untoward has happened to cause her to cry.  Poor Emoli was charged away from the herd one day by Malima for just that reason, but the Keepers made sure they made up for this by giving Emoli extra attention and commiserating with him. Recently Sattao has changed stables and he is now next door to Larro. Since his move he too has become quite protective of her and can often be seen watching over her while out in the bush and making sure that she is tucked in safe and sound in the evenings in the stable next door to him.

Sattao chose to pester poor Maxwell one morning when he was in a playful mood. The mischievous elephant ran straight up to blind rhino Max who was standing at his gate closest to Sattao’s stockade. Sattao started pulling on Maxwell’s ear with his trunk, and was so persistent that it eventually caused Max to jump away and charge off amidst huffs and kicked up dust. Maktao decided to join in on the game and grabbed hold of Maxwell’s ear when he returned to his stockade gate; because Maxwell cannot seem to resist the attention of the elephants either, and really secretly savors the interaction, and so comes back for more!  Sattao seemed pleased by this game and began to trumpet which really was more than Max could take and this time he charged at the gate to reciprocate!  

Maxwell with the dry weather has had to share his stockade with numerous warthogs who surround him while he feeds on his lucerne pellets, but he is very tolerant and is certainly not selfish with his food, and is quite use to the company of the ‘ever hopefuls’, our collective name for the resident wild warthogs who are so tame you would not know they weren’t hand raised orphans. Shabby the Sacred Ibis and hand-raised orphan bird is ever present in Max’s life too, and they spend endless hours together, with Shabby sleeping next to him perched on his one good leg. (Shabby broke his leg but had it pinned, and while it is a functional leg he does nurse it and suffers from a limp.) Shabby is a revelation because he has the skies to explore with literally thousands of his own kind on the dams of Nairobi National Park, yet he is a clinging vine and remains anchored to the Nursery, popping out briefly for exploratory flights, otherwise choosing to hang out with his friends, both two legged and four. Maxwell does have an unusual array of friends, with Kiko spending time in his stockade extension while there are signs of lions in the vicinity. In these instances Kiko sometimes bends his neck over the upright posts of Maxwell’s wooden stockade and blows on his back, or between his ears, then rests his fleshy lips on him while he gives him a lick! This on occasion catches Maxwell off guard and he rushes away, but at other times he seems to enjoy the sensation because, after all, rhinos are incredibly tactile animals, savoring all stoking, rubbing, scratching that might come their way, even in the form of giraffe Kiko’s funny lips. Kiko is fast growing into a very imposing animal but however imposing Kiko he might be he is still a real softie baby at heart, and another clinging vine who is happiest close to home. We are thrilled with how well he has recovered from his injuries cause by a marauding lion a few months ago.   

Malima, along with Tamiyoi, Ambo and Maisha, are the babies with the taste for lucerne pellets – and can often be spotted running out of their stockades in the morning to run straight to where they are stored, in order to pick up any left overs with their trunks. Maisha does not like all the jostling involved and sometimes trumpets very loudly in protest, giving Tamiyoi, Ambo, and Malima a big fright and causing them to jump away from the store. It is then that Maisha takes advantage and grabs as many pellets before the others come back! 

Sometimes the orphans form their own little groups in the morning when they come out of their rooms, and Enkesha has taken to leading a herd of the youngest out in the forest, including Dololo, Mukkoka, Larro and Ambo, of course with Malima ever watchful over Larro. Sometimes this herd can spend hours browsing on their own, before re-joining the others for the 9am milk feed. Enkesha is one of the more gentle elephants, and we have been watching her recently enjoy drinking water directly from the water pipe in the mud bath area. Obviously given her trunk injury, this is a much faster and fun way to have her fill of water than going to the water trough, although she has adapted well to her injury and can constrict her trunk now to close the remaining hole caused by the snare wound, and create the vacuum required to hoist up water to then push back out into her mouth. It took her a long time to master this, for years she required water by mouth and could not use her trunk for drinking. 

Mukkoka and Dololo are still very close friends and can often be seen browsing on their own together, this as a result of them being rescued around the same time and spending a lot of time together before joining the main herd.  They are also stable mates, with adjoining bedrooms so this is a very close bond that has only grown, and will like is always the case with elephant, last a life time. Dololo has put on so much condition, he is almost unrecognisable from the skinny, crinkled ragged creature that arrived with us six months ago.  With his new found body condition he has grown in confidence too, and one day he managed to steal a branch from Sattao and keep hold of it, before becoming embroiled in a pushing game, a game where he very much held his own! 

Our most recent orphan to join the foster program this month is new arrival Nabulu, a female who came in extremely wild but who has also settled in well with the Nursery herd, and is now very attached to the Keepers too, having given them quite the run around to begin with. Tagwa, Sagala, Emoli, Tamiyoi and Kuishi have been interacting most regularly with our new young girl. In the morning, they all walk over to her stable and greet one another before making their way out to the bush together. Tagwa still embodies an incredibly dedicated and successful matriarch of the Nursery herd, supported by Tamiyoi who has grown up from infancy in the Nursery so all her motherly nurturing ways are intrinsically instinctive, because in Tamiyoi’s case she was orphaned so young she would have little recollection of her wild elephant family.  

Luggard continues to improve, but he still remains in a stable with Musiara next door, both are big elephants now and very ready for the bigger stockades for their night-time quarters, but with the pending rain expected we feel Luggard needs to be warm and dry at night and deserves all the pampering he can get, and by extension his best friend Musiara enjoys the same perks! These two remain best friends, and Musiara is forever mindful where Luggard is, how he is, and has his back at all times.  

As March comes to a close and we welcome April we still find ourselves hot, dusty and dry, but very much hope that the rains are not far away and when they do finally arrive they certainly will be welcomed with joyous celebration from us all.

March 2019 day to day

01 Mar

Tamiyoi, Ambo, Malima and Maisha are always very eager to have their Lucerne pellets in the early hours of the morning. Unlike many of the other orphans, they do not stop to greet each other but quickly head over to the store where the Lucerne pellets are kept and then squeeze their trunks through the wooden bars to grab as many of the fallen pellets as they can. It is always entertaining watching them push each other around so that one can get more pellets than the other. Maisha, however, doesn’t enjoy the pushing games and often misses out on the first few pellets so she ends up trumpeting very loudly in protest giving Tamiyoi, Ambo, and Malima a big fright causing them to jump away from the store. It is then that Maisha takes advantage and grabs as many pellets before the others come back. 

Ambo joining his friends for browsing

Tamiyoi enjoying mud bath

Sagala dusting