Keepers' Diaries, May 2014

Nairobi Nursery Unit

The month of May at The Nairobi Nursery was emotional, with both highs and lows. New orphans were welcomed, graduates bid farewell and the passing of an orphan was mourned. The little ones Kauro, Kamok and Ashaka are doing very well indeed. They are growing and continue to love their keepers whole heartedly and with complete trust. Their confidence is increasing and they prove to be firm favourites of our daily public visitors. Hearts melt during this visiting hour when the tiniest orphans venture up to the mud bath. They are starting to mimic the older orphans now too, by rolling and trying to dust themselves with their small but ever developing trunks. Sokotei has impressed the keepers as he has settled down and adapted to his new environment, making new friends every day. A great deal of ‘truck training’ went on this month as we prepared some of our older orphans for translocation to Ithumba. Bomani, Teleki and Orwa were the first to practice entering and exiting the truck. Bomani and Orwa showed no fear at all and were extremely comfortable on the truck. Teleki however, was less convinced and needed a great deal of persuasion to load up! Finally on the 28th the three orphans journeyed down to Ithumba where they have settled incredibly well and the Ithumba keepers say that it seems like they have been at Ithumba for years! A further three orphans, Vuria, Garzi and Ziwa also had a number of training sessions as they too will graduate to the Ithumba Stockade in June this year. So far all three have shown promise and confidence whilst loading in and out of the truck. Some of the more rambunctious orphans are becoming challenging as they are not only growing in size but also confidence! Zongoloni, Lima Lima, Ngasha, Balguda, Vuria and Faraja can be rather bothersome at feeding time, attempting to filch other orphan’s milk, pushing and shoving in an effort to satisfy their greed! Suswa, Barsilinga, Sonje and Murera continue to be wonderful role models for the younger orphans, mothering and befriending, guiding and offering comfort where needed. Even Arruba has begun to show signs of being a good auntie when on the 16th of the month we welcomed a darling wee orphan calf aptly named Mbegu (‘seed’ in Kiswahili). She was rescued wounded by spears. Her little pierced body was a sorry sight indeed, but it was wonderful that Arruba has taken Mbegu under her wing, comforting her during her grieving process. Amazingly, Mbegu has settled quickly and easily into the Nairobi Nursery routines and from day one she took to the milk formula, giving her the strength needed to heal from her terrible wounds. Other friendships in the Nursery continue to develop; Kithaka checks on Lemoyian while Barsilinga picks up his new friend Sokotei. Together they are joined by Oltaiyoni at Maxwell’s upper gate for a bit of Lucerne before they go into the park. Quanza, Teleki, Zongoloni and Nelion have formed a special friendship team as have Faraja and Jasiri who usually browse together. Tundani, Mashariki, Rorogoi and Lentili are often seen together and it is lovely to see all the orphans getting along so nicely. Other marked events at the Nursery included another calf rescue and a variety of ‘other wildlife’ experiences! A team was assembled on the 27th to go down to Tsavo to rescue a wounded, orphaned, male elephant calf. He was in a bad way and sadly even the experience and valiant efforts of DSWT could not save this orphan. He eventually succumbed to his injuries after spending only a few days in the Nursery. On a brighter note, an extremely young suni antelope was found and is subsequently living the life of luxury at Angela’s house. This little orphan has been aptly named ‘Piwi’ and is going from strength to strength on a daily basis. There have been some interesting encounters out in the field this month, with impalas, bushbuck, baboons and lions making appearances. Luckily, the keepers are very aware and alert, moving the orphans a safe distance away. The lion encounters did excite the orphans a great deal and much trumpeting, ear waggling and mock charges were seen! Yet another eventful month in the Nursery, with both warm and cold days, fun and frolicking down at the mud bath, bush bashing and browsing out in the field, an abundance of visitors supporting the trust and all the orphans making positive progress in their own little ways. The Rhinos: May, also saw ex-orphan Solio popping back to the stockades to visit her friend Maxwell. She is a frequent visitor to the Nursery these days, making a nuisance of herself in Daphne and Angela's gardens at night, squeezing into tight places making sure she gets to all the forbidden places in the cover of darkness. She has even broken the water standpipes at night during her escapades. Always the reconnecting with Maxwell is extremely important, and she is often sighted with a female friend and calf, who visits Maxwell at night too.

01 May 2014

The three little babies had great fun at the visitor hour this morning. The little girls, Kamok and Ashaka, rolled in the dust, which Kauro didn’t like so he tried to mount them. They then decided to play with the ball and Kamok became a star when she exchanged some kicks with a Keeper then to Ashaka. They entertained all the visitors, especially the children who had arrived for the school trip.

02 May 2014

Sokotei has eventually settled down and adapted to his new environment. He knows and understands feeding time, home time and where to go for milk. He likes to hang out with Orwa and Sonje which doesn’t always go down too well with Oltaiyoni, who considers Sonje to be her her adoptive mum. Barsilinga, who was Oltaiyoni’s original friend, is doing his best to broker a friendship between Sokotei and Oltaiyoni. In the evening Oltaiyoni went back to his old stockade, now occupied by Sokotei. It took the keepers some time to convince her to go to her new quarters as, even at her young age, she has not forgotten where used to be home.

03 May 2014

Murera had a lovely time playing with the little babies this afternoon. She really enjoyed it when Kauro climbed right on her head and rolled down to her tusks. Kamok and Ashaka also joined in but whilst Murera was down Kithaka took advantage of the situation and started to mount her. He kept misbehaving, even with the keepers trying to push him, until Murera got fed up with his disobedience and got up, charged and pushed him away using her tusks on his back. The keepers shouted at her, but she wouldn’t stop until she drove him into the bushes and away from the little babies.

04 May 2014

The baby elephants know the taste of their formula and if anything changes with the milk they can taste it. Sokotei noticed this when they were being fed this morning and he went around smelling and tasting everyone’s milk as it dribbled from their mouths. Barsilinga, for the first time, wasn’t happy with Sokotei’s behavior and butted and pushed him away from the feeding area, showing that even the good and well-disciplined orphans can be naughty at feeding time.

05 May 2014

Vuria and Lima lima are growing stronger and greedier every day. They are becoming difficult to control, especially at visiting time. Today Vuria and Lima Lima arrived earlier than the others, finished their milk and then set about causing trouble. Lima Lima, annoyed at being kept away from the feeding elephants, overturned the wheelbarrow that carries the milk and started kicking the empty bottles. On the other side of the mudbath Vuria was trying to snatch Nelion’s bottle. Faraja suddenly came out of nowhere and disciplined him, pushing him away using his little tusks on Vuria’s back, whilst Vuria screamed and begged the keepers for help.

06 May 2014

The morning started with rain showers which kept the three little babies inside their stockade for a long time. They eventually came out after 8am when it started to dry up. At the public visiting hour the orphans had a great time enjoying the loose soil, fresh from the rain. All of the elephants rolled in the soil and on each other. Within the baby group Ashaka was a star when she rolled in the soil and then got up quickly to kick a football along the line of visitors. All the fun was cut short when it started to rain again, forcing the little ones and the visitors to run for shelter. Later, Zongoloni, Lima lima and Faraja played hide and seek games with the warthogs. They trumpeted and chased them close to the stockades, eventually disappearing into a thicket. Ten minutes later more trumpeting was heard from the mud bath area and they were discovered happily playing in the mud pool with the warthogs. Their ears were all spread as they then chased the hogs out of the pool and into the bushes, before returning full of excitement.

07 May 2014

All the baby elephants check on their best friends as they leave their stockades for a day out. Kithaka checks on Lemoyian while Barsilinga picks up his new friend Sokotei. Together they are joined by Oltaiyoni at Maxwell’s upper gate for a bit of Lucerne before they go into the park.. Today is a special day as the relocation training begins for Orwa, Bomani and Teleki who will soon be moving to Ithumba to start the next stage of their rehabilation to the wild. At 11am, Orwa and Bomani entered the elephant moving truck to have their milk without any problem but Teleki didn’t want anything to do with it. The keepers tried to use milk to convince him that the truck was safe but he decided it was better to have no milk rather than get into the truck. At 6pm Bomani and Orwa again fearlessly entered the truck and had their milk but Teleki still declined to enter.

08 May 2014

While out in the field today all the orphans spent time together so that the young ones could learn from their older peers. Ashaka and Kauro got on very well with Murera, who even tried to suckle them both, with one on onside and the other on the opposite side. It was so sweet to see Murera cuddling them both, with her trunk wrapped around them. Arruba, who is sometimes unpredictable, joined Murera and the babies. When Murera noticed Arruba’s presence she wasn’t very happy and charged her, pushing her some distance from the babies. Kamok still prefers to stay with the Keepers rather than the older elephants.

09 May 2014

A big group of baboons ran past and scared the orphans as they were going out into the park. Even more scary were the two lionesses they were running from. On seeing that the orphans were surrounded by the keepers the lionesses moved off in another direction. The orphans were obviously scared though as they stuck close to the keepers until the 11am public visiting time. Training continued Orwa, Bomani and Teleki for their move to Ithumba. Orwa and Bomani are doing very well and are entering the truck without any problems. Teleki is still suspicious and hasn’t gone close to the truck yet. It was an exciting evening for Maxwell as Solio paid a visit. She arrived just before 6pm, coming through the elephant stockades. Then she went to Max’s gate where the lucerne is stocked. The foster parents who had come for their 5pm visit were very happy to see her. She left just after 7pm.

10 May 2014

It was quiet morning at the mud bath with most of the orphans concentrating on browsing. Kamok did some ball kicking and rolling in the dust. Kithaka, after finishing his milk, walked up and down along the line of visitors dusting himself and rolling. Whilst the keepers had their lunch the middle age group orphans had a great time chasing warthogs, trumpeting to scare them away and running after them. They played like this for nearly an hour. Solio came home at around 4pm but it was just for a short time. She entered her stockade then drank some water at her trough before leaving.

11 May 2014

Sokotei has got the hang of feeding times. At 3pm the visitors were a little late and, as the keepers were waiting for a radio call to bring the ellies in, Sokotei sneaked off. He checked that none of the keepers were watching, hid in some bushes then slipped away and quickly to the mudbath for his milk. When the keepers with his group noticed he wasn’t around they thought he had joined Murera’s group of older orphans. They were all shocked to find out from the keepers that had been mixing the milk that Sokotei had already had his milk and was waiting for them at the mudbath.

12 May 2014

Lima lima and Vuria are still the most greedy babies. Whilst the keepers were distracted feeding the other orphans they managed to steal another bottle of milk each from the wheelbarrow of full bottles and run away to drink it. More milk had to be quickly prepared so no-one was left short. The elephant move training is continuing but Teleki still hasn’t got into the truck yet. Orwa and Bomani love it because they always get an extra bottle whenever they enter the truck.

13 May 2014

Ziwa, Quanza, Teleki, Zongoloni and Nelion have formed a special friendship team as have Faraja and Jasiri who usually browse together. Sometimes Ziwa wants to join Faraja and Jasiri but Quanza keeps charging at Faraja which keeps them away. Maxwell had fun with the orphans this morning. On being let out of their stockades Tundani, Masharki, Rorogoi, Lentili and Arruba went straight to Max’s gate to get some Lucerne. Max was sleeping close to the gate when he noticed their presence and he scared them away by beating his horn against the gate but this was just an invitation to play. As they ran trumpeting along one side of the stockade poles he charged along the other and then they all turned round and charged back again. Once the orphans had gone out into the bush it took him some time to quieten down, relax and sleep.

14 May 2014

Lemoyian seems like he will be a very tough bull in future. He is always wrestling especially with Kithaka, they are two naughty boys together! During the public viewing hour he engaged Barsilinga in a wrestling game. It was very hard for the keepers to keep it under control. Barsilinga was prepared to listen to them but not Lemoyian. As the keepers separated them to opposite sides of the mudbath Lemoyian slipped around the back and started pushing Barsilinga again, disregarding the keepers shouting and pointing fingers at him. This was accompanied by cheers from the visitors as the two pushed each other up and down the line.

15 May 2014

There are some incidents where elephants appear to be able to predict certain occurrences. All the orphans went to the park this morning in a very jovial and excited mood. From the oldest, Murera, to the youngest, Karuo, they all embarked in a trumpeting and running and falling down in the bushes session for a couple of hours without stopping. Later in the afternoon all became clear. We learned a new baby would be coming to the nursery from Laikipia, this was what they had predicted! A phone call was received from Naibunga Conservancy informing us that there was a female baby orphan who had been separated from her family by the members of Kimanjo Community. The rescue team left immediately on what turned out to be a very hostile rescue mission. On reaching the airstrip, where the baby elephant was supposed to be waiting, they found that she had been taken by a multitude of armed Samburu people, who had already caused her injuries after they had separated her from her family. They were still resisting a handover as they wanted to kill the baby in revenge for an elephant invasion into their community homes. With the help of KWS management the DSWT team managed to convince the Samburu to hand her over and brought her back to the Nairobi Nursery. She arrived nursing spear wounds, very confused and stressed out but happily settled well on a bottle of milk.

16 May 2014

Wow what a wonderful welcome from orphan Arruba for our new baby Mbegu! Mbegu had a very stressful night, not sleeping well at all. She kept moving up and down her new room and even tried to climb into Ashaka’s stable. Coming out in the morning, to meet her new family was heartwarming. All night she has stretched her tiny trunk through the bars to reach out to Ashaka, but Ashaka had shown no concern. She finally now, was able to grab onto and grip Arruba as a replacement for her mother. Kamok was a bit afraid of the new arrival, she kept running away! Arruba, on the other hand, was ecstatic and so happy to meet the new one. After inspecting her Arruba went down and started rolling around on the ground. Mbegu appreciated the comfort and climbed onto Arruba’s head! More excitement was had when Kauro joined the two and finally Kamok and Ashaka also decided to join in the games.

17 May 2014

Turning out on her second day in the Nursery, tiny Mbegu proved that she had calmed down a little and had a better night than her first. After receiving comfort from the other three little ones and 24 hour care and protection from the human family, she certainly was feeling a bit bubblier today. She has settled well into the milk formula routine and the spear wounds have not developed into anything negative as yet. The keepers are caking her wounds in ‘green clay’ and it is hoped that they will heal in time.

18 May 2014

Five minutes to 5 o’clock in the evening, just before the orphans walked back to the stockades for their evening milk and bed, lovely Solio appeared to greet Maxwell! Maxwell was still sitting at the gate, near to the waterhole, in his stockade. Both locked horns as they welcomed each other but something made Maxwell scamper back within his stockade before returning to Solio. After a short while Solio moved to her old stockade where she settled to feed on lucerne. Maxwell proceeded to run around in circles searching for Solio! Solio is in a good health, a perfect success story of integrating back into the rhino community at Nairobi Park.

19 May 2014

As soon as the orphans walked out of their stockades early in the morning, the big girls were busy greetings and checking the young ones. Naughty Kithaka and Balguda were witnessed playing a pushing game of strength near the bushing growing alongside the stockade! This is an extremely common activity in young growing bulls and their game took a considerably long time, since neither wanted to lose the challenge. However, their game was spotted by Vuria, who decided to join them, much to their disappointment as Vuria has longer tusks and is far stronger than either of them!

20 May 2014

Murera and Sonje previously having moved from their former stockades have now settled well into Ziwa and Suswa’s stockades but each night, when they come in from the field they still need guidance from the keepers to remind them where to go! Eventually, the keepers will not have to remind them where their new stables are.

21 May 2014

After Kamok’s group had finished their bottles Kauro and Ashaka had a ‘mad moment’ running within the bushes, charging after each other and playing. Kauro attempted several times to mimic mount Ashaka, he is developing his dominant bull traits at an early age! Generally, out in the field, these two are witnessed playing and pushing each other. It is obvious they are playmates, forming a strong bond that will last a life time.

22 May 2014

The weather today was rainy and chilly. During the 11am public viewing time, Kamok, Ashaka, Kauro and Mbegu, the little ones, were kept indoors for most of the morning. When it was finally warm enough for them to head out to the field they encountered a warthog mother and piglets. This prompted Kamok to charge the warthogs, splaying her ears and raising her tail, it was a wonderful sight to see. The tiny warthogs kept in challenging Kamok from behind the bushes so she tried to trumpet at them in an attempt to scare them away! She tried hard to get the others to join her in this ‘charging’ game but they didn’t respond, resulting in Kamok running back to the keepers for support. Eventually, she gave up the game and settled next to her new best friend, Mbegu.

23 May 2014

Lovely Suswa is one of the most welcoming of the girls among the orphans in the nursery. She adores the young ones and if often witnessed checking up of Sokotei when he wonders off among the other orphans. She also tracks little Oltaiyoni’s movements as she is especially attached to this little one. Oltaiyoni is very fond of Suswa too but spends most of her time with Sonje. When Sonje makes the move to the Umani Springs rehabilitation center it is presumed that Suswa will take over as Oltaiyoni’s caretaker.

24 May 2014

As soon as the orphans approached the browsing field this morning, Garzi and Ngasha encountered a herd of impalas that were enjoying the morning sun. The two energetic boys charged the impalas chasing them through the bushes. The impalas sprinted off, heading deep into the dense bushes leaving Ngasha and Garzi protesting on the outside of the ticket. This didn’t deter the two who started up a game of bush bashing and trumpeting, attracting the attention of Zongoloni, Orwa, Quanza and Teleki who joined in the fun adding to the loud trumpeting and more bush bashing! The game lasted for a few minutes but ended when they decided to follow the keepers into the field.

25 May 2014

The translocation rehearsals are progressing with the respective individual orphans showing up and taking part in the exercises. Orwa and Bomani are doing very well indeed, enjoying the experience of entering and exiting the truck, they seem totally unperturbed. Teleki’s attempts, however, are not so encouraging! He seems a little unsure about the whole experience and is yet to fully enter the vehicle. So far, his forehead is the only part of his body to enter the truck. Due to his reaction, it is presumed that a great deal of persuasion will be needed on the day, to load him fully onto the truck for the journey to Ithumba.

26 May 2014

Today at around 3.30 pm Nelion and Tundani engaged in some pushing games. This initially seemed like a fun activity until they it ended up far more challenging with neither orphan wanting to back down. Nelion’s tusks are more pronounced in length and size and therefore in the end Tundani was the loser. Tundani, didn’t like this title and later, tried again to challenge Nelion, but Nelion displayed his tusks, pushing them against Tundani who wisely decided to back down. They then happily went about their browsing business along with their peers.

27 May 2014

The center received a phone call from Nick, the Trust’s pilot today. He had spotted a lone elephant calf in Tsavo near Sarova hotel within the Lualenyi Ranch. The rescue team was assembled and left the Nairobi Nursery at around 9:30 am. On their arrival at the Sarova air strip they were joined by the Voi Keepers and the Ziwani anti-poaching unit, who were already at the scene. The calf was thin and had a very big wound on the bottom of his left hind foot. It was suspected that he had fallen down on a spiked snare which had also caused the dislocation of the lower ankle joint. He was easily caught as he was unable to outrun the keepers. First aid was administered and the calf was loaded onto the plane bound for Nairobi. He was aged at approximately 2 years old and he arrived at the Nairobi Nursery around 3 pm where the wound received a thorough cleaning. He was later released into a stable but due to his intense fear and terrified state he immediately charged the keepers. He did, however, settle down in time and ate some greens, drank some water but did not take any milk. He was left to rest and his behavior was observed overnight.

28 May 2014

The translocation process of Orwa, Bomani and Teleki started early today at 4am. Orwa set a good example by being the first onto the truck, followed by an unperturbed Bomani, last up was Teleki, who needed a bit of persuasion. So the long journey to the Ithumba Stockade in Northern East Tsavo began. As they departed Jasiri, Faraja and Tundani protested noisily, not wanting the three boys to leave. The new male elephant calf from Lualenyi Ranch is yet to be named. He did not have a good night and at 8 am collapsed. An IV drip was quickly administered which restored the calves energy levels. He managed to stand and fed on greens right up until midday where he finally accepted some milk formula, giving everyone hope for his survival.

29 May 2014

It was a sad afternoon following the death of our wounded new rescued male orphan. He has only been at the Nursery two days and had shown signs of recovery but his injuries were too extreme. He collapsed again, but this time the IV medication didn’t help to rejuvenate him. On a brighter note, Piwi the recently welcomed orphaned suni antelope is gaining strength at Angela's house. Piwi really is quite darling!

30 May 2014

Tiny Mbegu is doing extremely well so far. She shows great love and trust for her new human family who are now providing her with the care and comfort that she is missing as a result of the loss of her mother. Seeing as she is so young one of her favourite past times is to seek and suck the keepers fingers, Ashaka doesn’t like this at all and jealously pushes Mbegu away from keepers to suck their fingers for herself instead!

31 May 2014

This is the final training day for three more of our graduates, Vuria, Garzi and Ziwa. They will head off to Ithumba tomorrow. They had a wonderful last day out in the field accompanied by their best friends at the Nursery. It seemed Jasiri and Lima Lima knew they were leaving as they wouldn’t leave the three alone for one minute. Vuria, Garzi and Ziwa had their evening feed on the truck and willingly entered and exited the truck during the final practice session, showing no real concern. This is confirmation that they are ready to go and we will see how we get on tomorrow morning!