Keepers' Diaries, March 2020

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

It is curious just how much of a routine baby elephants enjoy. We were reminded of this a few times this month by the 17 orphans we have presently ensconced in our Nairobi Nursery. When we closed our doors to the public for the first time since our inception this month due to public safety concerns and a desire to keep our staff safe, the orphans were mightily confused when they weren’t taken down to the mud bath areas in their normal groups at the predictable time. 

They even grouped themselves together in their normal age groupings so as to fast track their 11am milk feed, but the Keepers interrupted them as they began to walk down to the mud bath area, and began mixing the age groups. This confused some of the babies so much they tried to turn around and walk back to the forest, perfectly aware it was not their time yet! Tagwa, Dololo, Roho, and Ziwadi all kept trying to head back up the pathway, and protested to their Keepers with loud rumbles as they were directed back down to the mud bath. Luggard was perhaps the most surprised as he does not normally join the other orphans for that particular feeding time. He was delighted to walk down for his milk bottle before joining the others near the mud bath to play in the mud and red earth.

For a few days this month Dololo endured a boil on his front right foot which was pushing on his toes and was extremely uncomfortable for him. This caused him to limp slightly and he was therefore unable to keep up with the rest of the herd, and because of this Dololo was a little grumpy; probably because of the discomfort as well. He gave up trying to keep up with the rest of the herd and settled instead to browse with Luggard and Ziwadi throughout the day. Dololo is also used to going home in the evenings to find his neighbour already inside his room, as Mukkoka always likes to be first for his milk bottle. Due to his sore foot and not being able to keep up, the Keepers decided to bring Dololo back early one day for his milk bottle and to go to bed. This change in routine and not having his friend and neighbour already beside him was so unsettling for Dololo that he began to push on his door. He was so unhappy he yelled to be let out of his room; when the Keepers tried to calm him down he wasn’t having any of it and they eventually decided to walk him back to his friend Mukkoka and the rest of the Nursery herd to come in with them at the usual time around 5pm, and he was happy once normality reigned once more.

On the 17th we bid farewell in the Nursery to the tallest member of our herd, Kiko the reticulated giraffe. Having arrived into our care just days old in 2015, the time had finally come for Kiko to move to his new forever-home in the wild. Kiko’s spirited ways and determined personality meant he made such a huge impression on everyone in the Nursery and he will be sorely missed; as always these moves are bitter-sweet but it is a necessary step in Kiko’s journey and certainly in his best interest to have the wild life with his own kind that he so rightfully deserves. Kiko’s move was a momentous task and required meticulous planning; Sirikoi within Lewa Wildlife Conservancy lies 270km to the north and a special translocation crate on a canter truck was carefully prepared for its precious cargo. As dawn broke Kiko was loaded easily onto his lorry alongside his Keeper who is to accompany and help his transition into his new home; as it turns out, Kiko has taken to his new home with ease. Initial trepidation of him not accepting his own kind, as he had always shunned the Masai species of giraffe found here in Nairobi National Park, were swept aside as he immediately took to Nditu, his reticulated giraffe friend who also calls Sirikoi home. We are thrilled to see Kiko so comfortable in his new home, and heartened that this special boy who we raised from such a young age is now living a life with a female giraffe of two worlds just like him. Kiko is in a beautiful setting but still very much sleeping in his own stockade, built next to one for Nditu, and with his trusted Keeper by his side it all still feels weirdly familiar for him. Kiko is still very attached to his human family and his independence will be a slow process that might take many years, but this gigantic stage is now behind us and happily he seems to approve of his new home whole heartedly.

Apart from her little baby Roho who is almost always by her side, Tagwa is quite a stern matriarch. She is very happy to make time for the youngest in the herd including Larro, Roho, Naleku, and Ziwadi and is happy for them to browse around her or at her feet when she is browsing from high branches, but she doesn’t tolerate the bulls and the likes of Kiombo and Sattao at all. If any of these bulls try to approach when the youngsters are there and busy feeding, Tagwa will always stop what she’s doing to chase them away! Sometimes the Keepers do step in if they feel she is being a bit harsh. Tamiyoi, on the other hand, is a much gentler and calmer matriarch, who is always happy to share her food with any of the orphans, and in this way perhaps she compliments Tagwa’s stern nature. This month Tamiyoi was particularly attentive to Luggard and little Ziwadi. She has been seen greeting them in the morning as they come out of their rooms and escorting them out to the forest, spending time with them during the morning hours while they browse, understanding that they need a gentler routine than the others. 

Enkesha still likes to wander off on her own to browse as she is a very independent young girl, but sometimes she will ask for company too, and sometimes we find her in the company of Sattao and Kiombo, or Musiara and Ziwadi, wandering off in a direction of their own choosing to browse in their own little group. In turn we have noticed a slight change in Ziwadi this month who has actually started wandering off less, and is preferring to interact with the others and browse in their company, which is a lovely development for her. Dololo has recently been spending more time with little Ziwadi and the two seem to be forming quite a sweet albeit unlikely friendship. We are happy to report Ziwadi hasn’t had one of her fits for a very long time.

During some of the milk feeds, Kiasa and Larro (who learnt her naughty habits from her role-model Kiasa) have reverted to their wicked ways and have been misbehaving around the milk-feeding area. Luggard has also developed a somewhat mischievous character at some of the milk feeds as well, and one day fought Kiombo and his Keeper so persistently for Kiombo’s milk bottle that in the end the Keeper had to surrender Kiombo’s first bottle and continue with his second! Luggard is very clever and able to hold his own milk bottle all by himself – he can easily pick up a milk bottle straight from the wheelbarrow or directly from the ground and bottle-feed himself.  

Maktao has started throwing his weight around a bit and testing his strength against the other bulls in the nursery like Musiara, Kiombo, Sattao and Dololo. This is so they can all know how strong they are and where they fit in the hierarchy of bulls in the Nursery. It seems that tiny Roho doesn’t want to be left out either and we are starting to believe he is going to grow into a very strong bull one day. He is always eager to challenge the older orphans no matter their age or size. Unlike Roho, who will stick by his friends and particularly Tagwa, Naleku will try and be close to all the orphans in the Nursery herd. When some of the older bulls start to become a bit rough and push her round, instead of crying out or running to the older girls, Naleku will find her own way out and either back off or push back! The Keepers are amazed to watch her growing into such as confident and assertive young calf. Most of the time Naleku can be seen following Larro and Mukkoka around, and both of them are not the best caretakers yet. Mukkoka can often be seen getting annoyed with the young little girl and pushing her away. This, however, does not deter little Naleku as she either ignores him or is happy to move away and walk with one of the other orphans; sometimes she will even challenge him when he starts pushing her!

Maxwell continues to improve since he was feeling a little unwell, but it had been awhile since we last saw him playing with the elephant orphans, as he was sleeping-in for longer in the mornings. One day this month though he was up before the elephant babies and he could be seen waiting for them at his lower gate. Maktao and Dololo headed straight over to his gate to greet him and the three could be seen enjoying a fun game of charging between the gates. As Dololo and Maktao eventually walked off to join the others in the forest, Maxwell began to playfully charge after the warthogs that were already enjoying his morning pellets. These antics and the fact that he started to enjoy his mud bath again affirmed to us that Maxwell was already feeling much better.

The Keepers are always amazed to see how the older orphans react when another orphan is in distress or upset. Some evenings the younger orphans such as Roho and Naleku can be a little restless and if one of the older girls, such as Maisha, hears them fussing about she can be overheard making a very low rumble, as if to alert the other girls such as Tagwa, Tamiyoi and Kiasa. As soon as all the older girls are alerted, they all begin to rumble deeply as if to let the little ones know that everything is okay and they are nearby. 

March 2020 day to day

01 Mar

In the morning Luggard and Ziwadi were not interested in keeping up with the rest of the orphan herd. They decided to stick together and browsed in some bushes close to the Keepers. The rest of the herd walked off together deep into the forest.

During the public visiting hour the orphans were relatively subdued and looked very calm feeding on all the green branches provided for them there. There weren’t any pushing games or wrestling matches, and all the orphans just went about their own thing. 

At the 3pm feeding however, Kiasa sneaked in with the first group, which she graduated from a long time ago for being a little trouble maker, and caused a bit of a fracas around the milk wheelbarrow. She chased after Kiombo and the Keeper trying to feed him demanding for an extra bottle and wanting Kiombo’s. This was just how she used to behave and we thought she had grown out of such behaviour! The Keepers ended up having to push her away from the herd because she was being so naughty. At first she protested and yelled and begged the Keepers to let her back into the herd, but eventually she listened and walked off to browse on some bushes on her own.

Luggard browsing

Kiasa waiting for 3pm feed

Kiombo after being chased by Kiasa