Keepers' Diaries, May 2007

Nairobi Nursery Unit

It has been a very harrowing month for both the Nursery elephants as well as their Keepers, since the few remaining lions in Nairobi National Park have practically no wild prey on which to feed, and have been targeting our elephants and the Keepers. They demolished poor old Warrior Pig, who has been enjoying a comfortable retirement around the Trust premises, and has become part of the furniture, sleeping in the Hay Store, and enjoying a hand-out from the Staff canteen in the evening. His remains were found nearby in the forest, and since then, being very intelligent animals, the remaining warthogs have taken to feeding within the Park’s fenced Staff compound. Once could be excused for wondering why we, too, do not forage the elephants within the compound, the reason being that they would be continually surrounded by interested humans, which would be counter-productive for the poroject.

01 May 2007

Lesanju’s baby group began the day exuberantly, charging around, bumping into one another, and knocking down small shrubs. They happened upon a group of baby warthogs, and chased them off, after which Lesanju began rolling on the ground and Shimba climbed on her. Lempaute had fun trying to climb onto the Keepers’ laps!

02 May 2007

Shimba is very diligent about seeking out soft shrubs on which to feed out in the bush, but today he got a fright when an impala came running towards him. He fled as fast as his legs could carry him, and managed a squeaky trumpet. The Keepers, who were close, calmed him down.

03 May 2007

It was a sad day for all in the Nursery, because the old Warthog friend, who has been in retirement within our compound, sleeping in the Haystore, and enjoying a hand-out from the Staff Canteen each evening, and who always politely walks on his knees to show the evening foster-parents that he is no threat, was killed during the night by the lions. The Keepers who were cutting the greens found his remains in the nearby forest, just the head and front legs left.

04 May 2007

When the Big Orphans arrived in the Park forest this morning, the Keepers could tell that something was wrong, for all raised their trunks. The Keepers went ahead but could not find the cause of their concern. They were all clustered together close to the Keepers, and did not want to forage as usual. Chyulu, Makena and Zurura were very frightened and wanted to be in the midst of all the bigger ones. Kenze then pointed his trunk in one direction, and when we went to investigate, we came across 4 lions, 2 males and 2 females who were sitting watching the elephants. We changed direction immediately.

05 May 2007

Makena had an exciting day at the mudbath, running up and down the rope in front of all the visitors, refusing to listen when the Keepers called her back. She was behaving just like Lempaute, who does the same thing. She breached the cordon and went to join the visitors, which puzzled the Keepers, since Makena is usually very obedient. However, today, she decided to be different.

06 May 2007

Immediately after the 3 p.m. milk feed, when Sian’s group of older Nursery inmates were out in the bush, Lenana, Loijuk and Makena had a fun time charging around knocking down bushes and trumpeting, protesting at something unknown to the Keepers.

07 May 2007

Lempaute, as usual, put on a wonderful display for the mudbath visitors, charging along the rope, and bursting through it to frighten any children! She loves showing off to the visitors at the mudbath hour, and they all enjoy her antics!

08 May 2007

A troupe of baboons came close to where the small babies were this morning. Shimba was very brave, and walked towards them with his ears out, but Lesanju and Lempaute were trying to hide in the midst of the Keepers. When the Keepers stood up, the baboons ran away, and Shimba began to follow them. The Keepers had to go and turn him back.

09 May 2007

The Bigger orphans were wanted for a Private Visit at the Headquarter compound for the 3 p.m. feed, and on the way there we came across a Lion. The elephants were very frightened, and turned back, so we had to change our route. After mudbath, we took a different direction, but the elephants remained nervous, reluctant to feed, and all wanting to be in the middle. Sian and Kenze had their trunks raised so we sensed danger, and decided to change direction again, but when we stood up, we spotted a male and a female lion sitting about l0 metres from us watching us intently. We called the orphans, who came running to us and we all rapidly retreated.

10 May 2007

During the mudbath, the visitors were very happy to see a lioness who came to the rocks nearby. The visitors were very pleased to see a lion at close quarters. She did not seem afraid. The Big elephants came to the mudbath from a different direction, so fortunately did not encounter her. The lions in Nairobi Park have very little wild prey these days, since there are practically no animals left in this Park now, and that is why we are having such a hard time keeping them away from the orphans.

11 May 2007

Shida came running to the Carpark from the bush. We were there with the little elephants, and behind Shida was a lion, who sat down to watch the Keepers and the small elephants. We hurriedly returned the babies to the Stockades, for the lion was too close for comfort. Everyone was too scared to go back into the bush, so we kept the small elephants just behind their stables for the rest of the day.

12 May 2007

It was a very scarey morning, because the lions were roaring just behind the Stockades and Stables last night. Everyone was afraid to go out, but we had no choice. As the elephants were browsing, we noticed a lioness sitting close by just watching. The Keeper shouted and the lioness walked off to join a male, both then sitting down again, just watching the Keepers and the elephants. We took the elephants to another area. The female lioness looked heavily pregnant.

13 May 2007

After the 3 p.m. milk feed out in the bush, this time we came across a very large cobra, that raised its hood and looked threatening. We all hastily turned back, and went in a different direction.

14 May 2007

Following the 9 a.m. feed, Zurura wanted to harass Makena. Sian saw this and immediately rushed to protect Makena, so Zurura had to disappear very fast. Instead he challenged Kamboyo to a play fight.

15 May 2007

During mudbath, a warthog rushed through all the visitors to join the elephants, which scared everyone, since the warthog looked as though it was being chased and was seeking refuge. The elephants were also very scared, all with their ears out, waiting to see what would happen next, but fortunately, nothing did!

16 May 2007

We woke up to a wet morning, since light rain fell all night. The orphans thoroughly enjoyed rolling in the mud and playing in the puddles of rainwater. Although all were covered with their rain-wear, one could not tell the difference between the mud and the canvas, so the Keepers removed the raincoats since they were wet inside and out. Chyulu and Lenana had an exciting game, repeatedly rolling around together in the mud.

17 May 2007

We suffered another lion encounter today, a male and a female lying on the rocks where we usually take our lunch. They were not scared by the elephants and their Keepers but just remained where they were, so we changed direction. It was difficult to decide where to go since the lions were very close to the stables, so we had to allow the elephants to browse very close to home.

18 May 2007

Kamboyo tried to prove his strength against Loijuk, but Sian came to protect Loijuk and send Kamboyo off. At about 4 p.m., the elephants were very scared, all running towards the Keepers with two lions running behind Kenze and Kamboyo. The Keepers shouted and the lions stopped, but then they began coming again, growling and lashing their tails. We ran back to the Stockade, but after a while the lioness came walking towards the elephants. We took another direction and ran into the male so in desperation we activated the flair that Robert had given us, and everyone rapidly retreated in a cloud of smoke, lions included!

19 May 2007

Lenana, who normally is a very gentle and obliging elephant, now feels sufficiently strong to push Kamboyo around, who used to push her before. Today, she decided to get her revenge on him and pushed him away so hard that he had to feed apart.

20 May 2007

Lempaute loves to charge through the rope at mudbath time, targeting any children, who invariably run away screaming. This makes her feel very proud, and she enjoys their reaction.

21 May 2007

Shimba is giving Lesanju a difficult time, wanting to mount onto her whenever an opportunity presents itself. Lempaute came to the rescue, pushing Shimba, who then turned on Lempaute, when Lesanju came and together the two girls shoved him away.

22 May 2007

Still Sian refuses to go into the trucks, which are parked against the Loading Ramp ready to move her, Kenze and Loijuk to Ithumba on the 24th. Loijuk is happy to go in, and Kenze goes in reluctantly, rather than go without his bottles of milk, but Sian even would rather go without milk, than get into the lorry.

23 May 2007

Still Sian refuses to get into the truck. Kenze and Loijuk went in for their milk, Kenze still reluctantly, but Sian firmly refuses to go anywhere near, even when the younger elephants go in to take their bottles. Sian is giving us a big headache!

24 May 2007

At dawn, before all the other elephants were let out, Kenze,.Loijuk and Sian were taken to the trucks, and Loijuk and Kenze went in, but Sian flatly refused and ran away into the bush. We let Makena, Kamboyo, Zurura and Lenana out to try and entice her back, but in the end, there was no alternative but to rope her foreleg, and pull whilst Robert and all the Keepers surrounded her and pushed with all their strength to get her in. We only just managed, because Sian is very strong, but in the end she was in, whether she liked it or not, and the back door was slammed shut. The three lorries then drove away from the loading ramps, carrying the three elephants to Ithumba, whilst everyone waved them goodbye, feeling very sad to see them go. Today Shida came back to his Stockade, looking a bit dull, with a swelling at his anus. We feared that the old problem might be coming back, but after a rest he seemed O.K. All the elephants that were left behind looked confused without Sian, who was the Mini Matriarch.

25 May 2007

All the older elephants were confused today without Sian, Kenze and Loijuk. They fed very close to the Keepers. Chyulu has attached herself to Makena in the absence of Loijuk and Sian. Lenana also showed interest in taking Chyulu, who is the smallest of the bigger group, but Chyulu preferred Makena and now shares her stockade. Zurura and Kamboyo, who have each other, appeared not much affected by the absence of the three who left Nairobi yesterday.

26 May 2007

The warthogs, impalas and guineafowl remained close to the Headquarters today, the guineafowl making their alarm noise. When the Keepers brought the elephants to the mudbath from that direction, they were alerted by the elephants, who pointed their trunks towards 2 lionesses who were hiding in a bush.

27 May 2007

Today two small warthogs squeezed themselves between the bars of Max’s Stockade and shared his cubes. Max did not know who was in with him, and kept snorting, probably fearing that it could be Shida!

28 May 2007

After the Keepers had taken their lunch, suddenly there was tension amongst the elephants, who looked scared and uneasy. Makena and Chyulu hurriedly led the group back towards the Stockades, followed by the Keepers, who later got the report that some lions had passed close by where the elephants were feeding.

29 May 2007

A group of warthogs turned up at the mudbath today, and were seen off by Chyulu. Makena then backed up Chyulu chasing the warthogs all the way to the rocks near the forest, but when she saw no-one was with her, she hurriedly turned back! Normally the could always count on Loijuk and Sian, but now she is the Mini Matriarch and must be the front-runner!

30 May 2007

Since the departure of Sian and Loijuk, Makena and the other orphans are very scared out in the bush, because of the lions. Every time the impalas run by, they rush back towards the Stockades, all piling into Makena’s Stockade. Even when the Keepers call them back, they do not want to come!

31 May 2007

The small three babies were at the Parking Lot as early as 9 a.m. when some warthogs came running from the bush towards us. We all began to run back to the Headquarters, fearing that a lion was following the warthogs, but no lion appeared.