Keepers' Diaries, March 2022

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Kaluku Neonate Unit

This month was even hotter than the last at Kaluku. Despite the scorching temperatures, our eclectic orphan herd still found plenty of time for fun and games.


Apollo celebrated his third birthday this month. He is growing into a big, strong boy, looking every inch an impressive rhino. The famous black rhino trait of stubbornness is also coming out in full force — Apollo certainly has a will of his own. He does exactly what he wants, when he wants. While he is very aloof towards most people, Apollo remains devoted to his Keepers. Although his iron will sometimes verges into petulance, he respects his Keepers and (usually!) defers to their authority.

Because of the searing temperatures, Apollo is lazy during the heat of the day. However, he springs into action during the early mornings and late evenings, when the mercury dips. He enjoys peak relaxation during his mid-morning mud bath, where he falls into a blissful stupor. It is quite a mission to get him to move along, so the elephants can have their turn in the mud! Rhinos love rituals, and on his way back to his stockade, Apollo always stops at one special rock for a scratch.

True to his species, Apollo is also becoming increasingly territorial. He confronts interlopers of any kind. When a member of our team drives by in a Polaris, he starts huffing and stomping angrily — he is spurred on by the sight and sound of the all-terrain vehicles. He also gets particularly interested in the scent of wild buffaloes and elephants, and takes it upon himself to chase after them. While the Keepers appreciate how protective he is of them, they could do without mad dashes through the bush! While he doesn’t like wild visitors, Apollo is very fond of Mkubwa the orphaned buffalo, and he tolerates the orphaned elephants.


Our little elephant herd is doing very well. Because of the heat, March was a relatively sedate month. They have now completely adjusted to life without Lemeki and Thamana, who are thriving in their new home at Voi. As the eldest elephants at Kaluku, Rokka, Mayan, Vaarti, and Manda are really coming into their own.

Despite being the youngest of the quartet, Rokka is the undisputed ringleader. She has a mischievous streak, which usually comes to the fore when visitors are present. She likes to sneak up on strangers and nudge them from behind. The Keepers have their hands full with Rokka, as she cannot resist chasing wildlife and even vehicles. Despite her diminutive size, she has a commanding presence, with her flapping ears and bellowing trumpet. Although Rokka is quite naughty, she adores her Keepers and is happiest when around them.

All is well with our honey-eyed boy, Mayan. The Keepers describe him as “soft and gentle” — which is quite unusual, given how bulls of his age tend to be pushy and commanding. Like his best friend, Vaarti, he becomes a bundle of energy at the mud bath. Every day, his mission is to cover every inch of his body in mud. He likes when the Keepers lend a helping hand: He reclines expectantly in the mud, twisting this way and that so they can cover him with shovelfuls of earth!

Vaarti is Mayan’s counterpart in every way, although he is even more of an extrovert. When he sees the Kaluku wild zebra herd, he gets very excited and starts trumpeting. Unlike Rokka, whose instinct is to chase, he just wants to play and interact with them.

Manda remains quite shy, which is normal, as he was only rescued in December. His neighbour, Rokka, is such a good friend and always includes him in the herd’s activities. Slowly, slowly, he is coming out of his shell.


Twiggy is another December arrival, and as such, she is still figuring out her Kaluku routine. At the moment, she is quite a homebody and does not like to wander far from the compound. For some reason, she took offence to the lightbulb in her stable and kept messing with it, so we had to move the light outside, out of her reach. Giraffes can be quite particular!

By now, Twiggy has mapped out some favourite browsing spots. She loves to visit one particular baobab tree, because its fresh, green leaves are within her reach. It rained a bit at Kaluku, so she has been enjoying all the fresh acacia leaves that sprung forth. While the thorns on these plants discourage most animals from snacking on them, they are no match for a giraffe’s long, dexterous tongue.

While Twiggy is not aggressive towards strangers, she is shy and prefers to be with people she knows. She has become very close with Kwale the orphaned hartebeest. They spend most of their days together, hanging out and exploring Kaluku in a leisurely manner. Scooter the warthog recently moved to our Umani Springs orphan unit, as she was becoming a bit of a menace to the other orphans. At Umani, she will be able to meet wild warthogs and learn their ways. She and Kwale used to be good friends, and while he didn’t seem upset by her absence, we are happy to see him spending a lot of time with Twiggy now.

Please note that we do not currently publish daily diaries for the Kaluku Neonate Unit. Instead, foster parents of our Kaluku orphans receive a dedicated monthly email, which contains a special video and additional photos of their adoptees.