Keepers' Diaries, March 2021

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

For much of March, we all waited expectantly for the rains to break. Nairobi was incredibly hot in the lead-up and sometimes the orphans even made extra trips to the mud bath, seeking relief from the scorching sun. This led us to discover that Rama, our newest rescue, is extremely fond of the activity! He slides right in, flinging mud in every direction with unbridled delight. He seems to prefer a more private wallowing experience, and we often saw him finish his bottle at breakneck speed so he could enter the mud bath while the others were still having their milk. Because of his formidable tusks, some of the other orphans — particularly Kiasa, Nabulu, Kiombo, Olorien, and Roho — remain a bit wary of Rama’s presence and can be rough with the new bull. Fortunately, Rama is completely nonplussed by their behaviour and simply gives them a wide berth if they are being unfriendly. 

Rama is very popular among the rest of the Nursery herd. He is gentle yet outgoing, which immediately puts the others at ease. His sweet demeanor eventually won over Olorien, and by the end of the month, she had welcomed him into her little group of Ziwadi, Kindani, Kinyei, and Bondeni. Rama loves to spend time with sweet Ziwadi, who also walks at a slower pace.

Ziwadi continues to march to the beat of her own drum. In fact, she is the only calf we know who is happier to be browsing on greens than enjoying her milk bottle! She is all business about browsing, and the moment she finishes her bottle, she makes a beeline for the vegetation. The Keepers can always tell when friendships are blossoming amongst their little charges, and it appears that Ziwadi and Kinyei are becoming a dynamic duo. Ziwadi has also become fiercely protective of her friends, which adds an extra dimension to this already extraordinary little calf.

Maktao, Mukkoka, and Maisha remain close friends. Maktao seems to have different buddies for different occasions. While his neighbour, Kiombo, is his preferred playmate, he has a kindred spirit in Mukkoka. Both bulls are remarkably gentle and love to look after the babies. However, they are equally fixated on building and showcasing their strength. The elder bulls spent much of March engaged in friendly wrestling matches, swapping opponents so their games continued all day long. Kiombo, Mukkoka, Maktao, and Naboishu were the most enthusiastic wrestlers, but occasionally they enticed Maisha to join in on their fun, too. Whoever got to wrestle the mini matriarch seemed to take it as a great honour.

Naboishu has selected Mukkoka as his special friend and sparring partner. Although Mukkoka is one year his senior, he never throws his weight around with Naboishu. As young Roho grows up, he is also showing a desire to join in these games. Several times this month, we saw him challenge Naboishu and Mukkoka to strength testing matches. It is good to see him gain some independence from the older females, just as would happen in the wild.

The orphans always love to greet Maxwell the rhino as they come out of their rooms for the day. Nabulu, Kiombo, and Kiasa enjoyed a fun moment with him one morning, charging at his gate before quickly running off. Max playfully reciprocated, standing his ground and kicking up dust to defend his territory. Kinyei is still not sure how she feels about the rhino, and prefers to keep her distance when the others play with Maxwell just in front of her stable. In terms of non-elephant playmates, she finds the wild warthogs to be a more accessible size and delights in chasing them around.

All three ‘Kaluku’ orphans, who came up to the Nairobi Nursery late last year, are thriving. While Kinyei, Kindani, and Bondeni remain an inseparable trio, they have very distinct personalities. Kinyei is still the quiet one, but she gets along with everyone in the Nursery herd. Little Bondeni is cheeky and playful, always seeking out something fun to do with his peers and Keepers. Kindani, however, remains very selective as to who she spends her days with. She is the mini matriarch of the trio and isn’t always eager to follow the older orphans, perhaps because she wants to retain her own leadership status.

Kiasa’s mood swings continued to keep the Keepers on their toes this month. One day, she is so naughty and even a bully; the next, she is ever so caring and gentle with all the Nursery orphans. During a rather hectic feeding, she roped Nabulu, Mukkoka, and even Larro — who is usually so polite — into her antics. They barreled down to the milk feed, pushing each other all over the place like unruly teenagers. The Keepers eventually had to usher them away from the group, so the others could have their bottles in peace. We do hope that Larro isn’t picking up any delinquent habits from Kiasa, as she is an excellent mini-matriarch and future leader of the Nursery herd. The Keepers often remark on how proud they are of Larro, noting how she treats the younger orphans with such care and affection.

The rains finally arrived at the end of the month, bringing about a much-anticipated drop in temperatures and leaving a network of muddy pools in their wake. This meant endless fun and games for the orphans, which they will continue to enjoy over the coming weeks. Now, many of our youngest babies are bundled up in their cozy blankets again, which ward off the morning chill as they explore Nairobi National Park.

March 2021 day to day

01 Mar

Every orphan within the herd will have his or her best friend or group that they like to be with. Although all the orphans pretty much get along, the Keepers are always able to tell which orphans are closer, and they always thoroughly enjoy watching these friendships grow. Recently, Ziwadi and Kinyei seem to be getting closer as they are spending more and more time browsing together whilst out in the forest. Olorien continues to remain close to Ziwadi and Kinyei, and whilst she browsed near Kinyei, Ziwadi was resting her trunk on Kinyei’s back. 

Despite being naughty and sometimes a bit a pushy, Kiasa and Larro have remained close, and this is a relationship that has grown since Larro’s arrival at the Nairobi Nursery. They spent most of their day browsing together and were even seen enjoying some short wrestling matches throughout the day. At one point, they even enjoyed a short dust bath near one another, both throwing soil all over their backs and bellies. 

Mukkoka, Maktao and even Maisha are close friends, and let’s not forget Maktao’s best friend and neighbour Kiombo. Throughout the day, they could be seen wrestling each other and swapping partners as their games continued. Mostly Kiombo, Mukkoka and Maktao will wrestle, with Naboishu joining in also, but on the odd occasion they can entice Maisha to join in on their fun too. Mukkoka and Maktao especially enjoy their wrestling matches with the matriarch. 

The orphans had a wonderful day out in the forest, pausing only for their milk feeds, one of which they enjoyed down at the mud bath so that they could all wallow in the mud cooling them down in the hot sun. 

Ziwadi enjoying her fresh greens

Kiasa and Larro wreslting out in the forest

Mukkoka and Maisha wrestling in a puddle