Keepers' Diaries, May 2010

Nairobi Nursery Unit

A major Nursery event this month was the transfer of Dida, Kimana, and Ndii in 3 large trucks accompanied by their Keepers to the Tsavo Voi Unit early on the 11th. Unusual disturbance at such an early hour (4 a.m.) is always unsettling for those left in their night stockades and stables, aware that something unusual is going on. However, the three to be moved went into their respective truck without too much trouble, although Ndii needed a bit of shoving and pulling to get her in. By 5 a.m. the trucks were on their way, always an emotional moment for all those left behind, especially the remaining orphans who notice the absence of some of their friends, and miss them, as well as for the Nursery Keepers who have nurtured the babies from early infancy. Two Keepers in each truck accompanied the three, and will remain with them down in Voi until they are settled. Robert Carr Hartley and his father Roy escorted the convoy as usual and had to deal with several delays en route when two of the trucks had mechanical problems relating to contaminated diesel.

01 May 2010

Competition between Suguta and Olare for little Sities continues. Olare has become cunning, waiting for the baby at the corner to intercept her before Suguta emerges from her stockade. Meanwhile, Shukuru and Tano enjoyed pushing games overseen by Dida, while Kalama and Kibo indulged in strength testing. All the babies enjoy playing around the compound until it is time to head out to browse

02 May 2010

Dida and Kimana enjoy feeding apart from the others out in the bush. Once Olare joins the older Nursery orphans, Suguta takes charge of little Sities, whom she adores. Most of her feeding time is spent “nannying” Sities.

03 May 2010

After a settled night in their sleeping quarters, the orphans enjoyed their usual games first thing in the morning. Kilaguni went in search of his best friend, Kibo and initiated their usual Pushing Match. Sabachi likes teasing the babies, but was so interested in the Pushing Match that he wanted to join in, which prompted Kilaguni and Kibo to break off their game, and ignore him. Seeing that no one was interested in playing with him, Sabachi began to move off, so Kilaguni and Kibo began the game again. Meanwhile Sities had three older girls, Suguta, Olare and Ndii, vying for her and not allowing the other babies access, especially Chemi Chemi who is inclined to be pushy towards the smaller calves. The remainder of the day passed calmly.

04 May 2010

Dida, Kimana and Ndii, who will be leaving the Nursery for Voi in about a week, had to begin their training to get used to going into the three trucks parked at the Loading Bay. They were fed their milk actually in the trucks, but Ndii very wary about actually going in. Out in the bush the babies played their usual games and enjoyed charging the baby warthogs. On the way back at noon Shukuru came across Maalim at one of his middens, and thinking he was a warthog, charged him, stopping abruptly when she realized that Maalim was un-moved! At first she ran back to the rest of the herd, before deciding to try again with more speed and open ears. Maalim merely got on with his midden business, and didn’t pay any attention whatsoever, so Shukuru retreated, looking over her shoulder!

05 May 2010

As usual the orphans were led out to the bush by their Keepers. Shukuru, who always wants to be closest to the Keepers, especially Keeper Mischak, whom she adores, is jealous of Sities and tries to push the baby aside, prevented from doing so by the Keepers. She then runs back to her friend Tano, rumbling, and Tano comforts her by putting her trunk across Shukuru’s head, as though telling her not to worry, because Sities is a baby and needs more attention! Once in the bush the boys enjoy their Pushing Games, Sabachi taking on Kimana, and Kilaguni with his friend Kibo, while the big girls play rolling games when Mutara loves climbing over them. When it is time to begin browsing, as usual Dida and Kimana segregate themselves from the rest.

06 May 2010

Chemi Chemi is becoming naughtier by the day. Today he head butted Shukuru, knocking her down screaming. Tano immediately went for revenge, charging at Chemi Chemi, who waited for her to get close and then knocked her over! Mutara saw this, and in turn went for Chemi Chemi dealing him a good head butt that knocked him down! However, he was up in a flash, and went for Mutara again, who was ready for him, and sent him away bellowing!

07 May 2010

During the 9 a.m. milk feed, the three candidates for Voi were taken to the trucks. Kimana went into his lorry without hesitation, took his milk and began feeding on the greens inside, but Dida hesitated and decided against going in, while Ndii refused entirely. Kimana then came out of his truck, and went into the remaining two, as though to show his friends that there was nothing to worry about. Even Olare went in and out of the trucks without a problem, but Dida and Ndii were not persuaded. However at 3 p.m. Dida went in quickly, downed her milk, and rapidly exited, while Ndii would only take her milk at the entrance to the truck.

08 May 2010

While the orphans were browsing, a large giraffe passed by and halted to watch them. Melia and Mawenzi, browsing together, did not notice the giraffe, and browsed their way towards him, until he began to move, when Mawenzi fled, screaming, and Melia was so startled that she fell over backwards before running away! Both were highly traumatized!

09 May 2010

Turkwel and Chemi Chemi differed over one Keeper whom both wanted to feed them, and this started a fight between them, forgetting about the milk. The Keepers tried to separate them, but Chemi Chemi did not want to disengage from Turkwel. In the end the Keepers had to use force to separate them, and feed them far apart from one another.

10 May 2010

This is the last day for Dida, Kimana and Ndii in the Nairobi Nursery. Dida and Kimana are now comfortable going into the trucks, but Ndii remains suspicious. The Keepers made all the preparations – water in 200 litre containers, fresh greens in each truck and a milk feed for the journey. At the other end the Keepers accompanying them (2 in each truck) will remain with them for a few days until they are settled. The day passed peacefully, none of the elephants aware that the next morning three of their number would depart.

11 May 2010

Preparations to load Dida, Kimana and Ndii into the trucks parked against the Nursery Loading ramps began early, at 4 a.m. Kimana and Dida, following a bottle of milk, went into their respective truck without difficulty, but Ndii had serious reservations, probably remembering being driven in the back of a truck to the Voi Stockades having been pulled from the manhole in the Mombasa pipeline over 2 years ago. She was then 7 months, and well able to recall such a traumatic event, whereas Dida and Kimana were much younger - just l month old and 3 weeks old respectively - when orphaned. Eventually a rope round Ndii’s front legs and manpower pushing from behind gave her no option, and by 4.45 a.m. the convoy was on its way. It is always a very sad day for the Keepers left behind, who regard them as their babies, having known them intimately since they came in as orphans.

12 May 2010

Sabachi ran around looking for his friend Kimana for a pushing game today, but surprisingly the rest of the herd didn’t seem to worry too much about the absence of the three who left for Tsavo yesterday. Tumaren ended up inviting Sabachi to a Pushing Game, so he soon forgot about searching for Kimana. Suguta is the mini Matriarch of the babies, but only when Olare travels with the older elephants and takes care of that group. However, competition for little Sities continues whenever the two groups are together.

13 May 2010

On a lovely morning, the orphans emerged, Olare again beating Suguta to become attached to little Sities. Suguta watched jealously as Sities suckled Olare’s ears, until Chemi Chemi crept up from behind and head butted Sities, causing her to scream. Olare rounded on him and whipped him hard with her trunk, which sent him off screaming! When it was time to separate the group, Suguta again took charge of Sities and will have her undivided attention until Olare repeats her tactics tomorrow! At least that way they can share the baby.

14 May 2010

Kibo had a nightmare last night. He woke up screaming, and trying to climb out of his stable, so he was moved to Dida’s stockade close to Olare. The next morning he looked drawn and dull. Kilaguni and Chaimu came running to join the others from their two stockades at the far end, happy to be reunited. Chaimu enjoyed a Pushing Game with Kalama before being interrupted by Sabachi who was looking for someone with whom to play. Chaimu decided to teach Sabachi a lesson. She made as if to walk away, leaving Sabachi swinging his trunk from side to side as a sign of satisfaction, but then unexpectedly rounded on him and knocked him down. Chaimu then remained close to Olare to avoid retaliation from Sabachi.

15 May 2010

Turkwel and Chemi Chemi met at the feeding point in the morning. All was not well for they had an old score to settle! As Chemi Chemi was taking his milk, Turkwel came and shoved him aside, in the same way that he did to her the other day. This caused another big battle! Chemi Chemi is a tough customer and is not afraid of Turkwel so he held his own well against her, until the Keepers separated them and again had to feed them far from one another. Mutara is very clever – she downs her milk rapidly, and then stands next to the wheelbarrow where the bottles are kept, as though she has not had any, when even her mouth looks clean. The Keepers have to ascertain from one another that Mutara has, in fact, taken her share and has not been left out!

16 May 2010

Shukuru adores Keeper Mischak, and follows him along the line of visitors, saying hello to each and every one. Today when it was time for the younger group to begin moving away from the mudbath, Shukuru wanted Mischak to come too, and kept waiting for him. In the end she came back to be with him while he fed the older elephants, and when he had finished doing that, the two went off together to join the baby group!

17 May 2010

It was a chilly morning, so the orphans were slower as they made their way out into the bush. Later on it began to rain, so the very small elephants had to be taken into their stables, but Chemi Chemi refused, enjoying the shower and wallowing in the wet mud. The orphans came in two groups to the mudbath, Suguta leading six, and Tano, four, little Sities remaining under cover.

18 May 2010

It was a beautiful sunny day, so the orphans went off into the bush in line, with Suguta, Olare and Kudup shielding little Sities. Just before reaching the bush, Angela’s son, Taru and his friend Ben, arrived, so the orphans enjoyed interacting with them, the three big girls running after the boys as they played with Sities. Olare is sometimes unpredictable, especially when it involves Sities, so the Keepers had to be watchful. The whole herd was very excited, and enjoyed playing with the boys, rumbling and trumpeting with happiness.

19 May 2010

The orphans are now quite settled after the departure of Dida, Kimana and Ndii. Suguta led the first group of nine, excluding Tumaren and Kibo, because Kibo enjoys being with the older group now because it includes his best friend, Kilaguni. Tumaren is very greedy over her milk, so it works better if she comes with the older group and doesn’t hassle the young ones.

20 May 2010

Mawenzi seems to be again not quite herself today, having improved of late. She passed more watery stools and seemed to walk slowly as though weak, lagging behind all the others, so her absence at the mudbath went un-noticed by the Keepers who went searching for her. They back-tracked, and found her walking slowly, so she arrived long after all the others had taken their milk. That triggered a lot of questions from the visitors wanting to know whether or not she was alright.

21 May 2010

At the mudbath, the visitors are all anxious to see Maalim, but he does not come to the visiting hour any more, after barging inadvertently into an old lady and knocking her down. Shida, being a free spirit, is not always back at that hour so only blind Maxwell back in his stockade can be seen by the mudbath visitors. Luckily today, Shida turned up, and went right into his old Stockade at 10 a.m., so the visitors were lucky, because sometimes he appears at the mudbath and interrupts viewing of the elephants.

22 May 2010

Kudup has always been a very well behaved baby, ever since she came. Today, having finished his milk, Chemi Chemi knocked her down, which startled all the visitors who felt sorry for her. Chemi Chemi keeps the Keepers on stand-by all day, because he is so pushy towards all the others, especially the smaller babies.

23 May 2010

Kibo and Kilaguni can always be relied upon to amaze the mudbath visitors, because they rush in at high speed together to be fed their milk first before all the others. Then, having finished their milk, the pair are first in the mudbath, wallowing and playing together, which entertains all the visitors.

24 May 2010

It was a long day for the elephants because the IMAX crew arrived at 6 a.m. to film them, with their big camera and about 19 people. They had lots of machines which had to be driven down to the bush on a Pickup ahead of the elephants. At first the orphans were wary of all the machines and activity, interrupting their normal browsing regime so they were reluctant to cooperate. The IMAX people had to re-think their schedule.

25 May 2010

Olare is a very caring Matriarch, always paying a great deal of attention to Sities. When they arrived at the mudbath today, the warthogs were wallowing, and once the elephants had downed their milk and were walking towards the mudbath, one of the warthogs jumped out, heading in the direction of Sities. Olare immediately swung into action, chasing the pigs away and thereafter remained very close to Sities, wrapping her trunk around the baby protectively and with her ears wide out.

26 May 2010

Sities has improved tremendously now that she has all her first molars. She is very active all day, and has even started trying to copy the others by taking the odd leaf and trying to chew it. She also demands the Keepers’ attention, and likes to push anyone crouching down – a position elephants do not seem to like. When returning in the evening, she runs fast, ahead of all the others, and having taken her milk, is always the first to lie down and sleep.

27 May 2010

The IMAX crew have been trying to film the babies playing football with the Keepers, and it hasn’t worked out, because the orphans are still wary of all the machines and would not cooperate. Frustratingly for the crew, the elephants played well at their noon mudbath, but because the public were there, the crew could not film!

28 May 2010

It is the fourth day since the IMAX filming started, each day beginning at 6 a.m. so that the crew can set up all their equipment, which always takes some time. Today they focused on little Sities, as she walked from her stable to be met by Olare. However, it began to rain, so Sities and the smaller babies had to retreat under cover which interrupted the filming schedule.

29 May 2010

Maalim was not as cooperative as the elephants for the IMAX crew, unused to being surrounded by so many strange people as well as all the equipment, because rhinos hate change. He was expected to run past the Big Camera, but he flatly refused to do so, despite coercion from the Keepers, which merely made him even more suspicious. He became hyped up and began charging, so the Keepers had to take him into the bush to cool off before trying again. Eventually, IMAX got the shot they wanted.

30 May 2010

When the two elephant groups are together, Suguta seems to have given up the struggle to keep Sities all to herself, deferring to Olare, although Sities actually prefers being with Suguta. Rather than upset Olare, Suguta merely moves away leaving Olare to follow Sities. Today, being Sunday, the elephants enjoyed a day off from filming, and they made the most of it, all together browsing quietly out in the bush without interruption. When IMAX wants to film them, their browsing is often interrupted and cut short.

31 May 2010

Tano and Shukuru both look the same size, although Tano is older than Shukuru. Tano, Shukuru and Mutara all want to remain close to the Keepers, and when little Sities pushes her way in, also wanting to be close, the older babies become jealous and push her away. Shukuru is very fond of Mischak and insists on being as close as possible to him without outside competition from the others. She even pushes Tano away whenever she gets close to Mischak. Today, the elephants had to remain where they were to be filmed by IMAX, so the possessiveness became more apparent.