Keepers' Diaries, May 2017

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Following good rains received at Ithumba over the past few weeks it was a positive time to move some of the older members of our Nursery herd to the reintegration unit there, so that they could begin the process of returning to the wild. The first three to graduate to Ithumba would be Karisa, Dupotto and Kelelari and so began their acclimatization to the elephant-mover lorry and practicing boarding the vehicle, which went well, with Karisa being the most nervous of the lorry and it took him a few weeks to get comfortable with the vehicle, and even on the morning of the move on 14th May it took some coaxing to get him aboard. The move itself went smoothly and the orphans arrived at Ithumba to meet old Nursery friends like Oltaiyoni, Kauro, Sirimon and Enkikwe, and make new friends with some of the older Ithumba orphans. The trio settled in well and Kelelari in particular seemed thrilled by his new surroundings. It seems so much so that just a week later we believe Kelelari, or one of our now independent orphan groups, whisked the babies away after the elephants were startled by something in the stockade compound one morning. The aerial and ground search continues for them, though we have every reason to believe they are okay in older Kelelari’s company, as well as hopefully that of their older contempories. Added to which there is ample water and vegetation around now at this time and many wild elephant herds in the region. More about this is explained in the Ithumba Summary.

Following good rains received at Ithumba over the past few weeks it was a positive time to move some of the older members of our Nursery herd to the reintegration unit there, so that they could begin the process of returning to the wild. The first three to graduate to Ithumba would be Karisa, Dupotto and Kelelari and so began their acclimatization to the elephant-mover lorry and practicing boarding the vehicle, which went well, with Karisa being the most nervous of the lorry and it took him a few weeks to get comfortable with the vehicle, and even on the morning of the move on 14th May it took some coaxing to get him aboard. The move itself went smoothly and the orphans arrived at Ithumba to meet old Nursery friends like Oltaiyoni, Kauro, Sirimon and Enkikwe, and make new friends with some of the older Ithumba orphans. The trio settled in well and Kelelari in particular seemed thrilled by his new surroundings. It seems so much so that just a week later we believe Kelelari, or one of our now independent orphan groups, whisked the babies away after the elephants were startled by something in the stockade compound one morning. The aerial and ground search continues for them, though we have every reason to believe they are okay in older Kelelari’s company, as well as hopefully that of their older contempories. Added to which there is ample water and vegetation around now at this time and many wild elephant herds in the region. More about this is explained in the Ithumba Summary.

The practice loading runs then began for Ukame, Galla and Wanjala, who will be the next three orphans to make the move to Ithumba. Ukame is still not happy with the lorry and runs back to her stockade for her milk bottles to be brought there instead of being enticed onto the lorry with them! Their move is planned for the early morning of 4th June.

The same day of first move the remaining Nursery elephants did not appear to miss the absence of their older friends at all! Ndotto, Wanjala, Galla and Ukame especially, who used to accompany Kelelari deeper into the forest, seemed totally unperturbed. The following day however they showed more outward feelings of missing their friends that had left and all crowded together. Ndotto, Wanjala, Galla and Ukame seemed nervous of walking deeper into the forest without their leader Kelelari, but Ndotto is courageous and soon started charging forth and leading the others out to where they wanted to go. Sometimes they run back to their keepers but they will soon learn to be more independent and brave as well.

In the absence of Kelelari, Pare and Galla staged some long and challenging pushing games, as if trying to figure out who was the new dominant bull in the herd. This was until Kauro, who had originally moved to Ithumba on the last day of 2016, came back to the Nursery at the end of the month on the 28th, as for the previous few weeks he had not been fairing as well at the Reintegration Unit as we would like and we wanted to keep a closer eye on him. He was happily welcomed back by Ndotto, Mbegu, Lasayen and Murit, and seamlessly slipped into the role of most dominant bull at the Nursery, being the oldest and biggest, and after a few days it was if he had never left! He is being treated for a tick borne disease and supplementary feeding is going on to build his strength and natural immunities as well.

The young babies are happy spending their time in the company of the older Nursery orphans who are all delighted to have the young babies with them. It is nice but also funny to watch the young females like Godoma, Malkia, Esampu, Sana Sana and tiny Tamiyoi all struggling to baby sit the little ones. All of these females, aside from the matriarch Mbegu of course, love the presence of the babies and relish any extra time spent with them. Little Ambo loves his Mbegu and gets very jealous of anyone else being in her company; so much so that whenever any of the other orphans come close to her they get pushed away!

Poor Enkesha’s trunk has been bothering her and it is obviously very itchy as it heals. She often runs from one rain puddle to the next swishing her trunk in the cool water to relieve the itchiness, and not a day goes by where she does not enjoy the mud bath to take her mind of it. Luggard’s leg has also been causing him some trouble recently as it continues to expel bits of chipped bone from where his bone was shattered, but with visits from the Vet we hope to treat it further over the next few weeks. It is lovely to see how the other orphans can sense some kind of misfortune in their friends; even bullish Ngilai does not play rough pushing games with Luggard, yet still willingly includes him in such games to keep his spirit up.

Little Mteto has been recently added to our foster program and is unfortunately picking up some of the naughty habits she has learnt from mischievous Esampu! She has watched her antics and now, during bottle feeding times out in the forest and during the public visits, she tries to steal milk bottles from her friends too. Sana Sana still very much monitors Esampu’s behaviour at mud bath but now it seems someone needs to watch Mteto too. Ndiwa has now been added to the fostering program as well, and we still have a more stories to tell as we add more of our Nursery orphans to the fostering program in the coming weeks.

Kiko, our orphaned giraffe, still walks out to the field where the baby elephants relax during the day and then changes his mind and runs back to the stockade compound where he prefers to be. He walks from one stockade to another and sometimes hides himself within the blankets that are hanging outside and scratches his neck on the tree there as well. If the keepers attempt to move him away from there he will sometimes even try to kick them to make clear his desire to stay where he is! He has become very hooked on the compound, sensing perhaps the presence of lions in the area.

Maxwell, our beautiful and gentle orphaned black rhino, has enjoyed a number of visits from ex-orphan rhino Solio throughout the month, which is always a highlight for him. The younger orphans too have developed a routine and the moment they are let out of their night stables and stockades in the morning they rush to Maxwell and spend time interacting with him, something he savors. Then of course we have Shabby the sacred Ibis who is best friends with Maxwell and spends huge chunks of the day sitting next to him while he sleeps! The rain showers we have had throughout the month have been very much enjoyed by Maxwell who loves it best when his stockade is a muddy quagmire!

May 2017 day to day

01 May

Sadly we lost one of the little tiny babies today and somehow, Tamiyoi seemed to sense that. Even though the main herd was so far away from the baby group, she left the older herd and walked all the way over to be with the babies and pat them with her trunk. Despite her young age it is amazing to see how elephants know when others are in need and are so caring. Tamiyoi herself went through a very ill phase so she might only know too well how nice it is to have another elephant to comfort and console the other. When she arrived the keepers thought of taking her back to where the main herd were, but with the way in which she arrived the keepers decided to allow her to stay awhile. In the end she had a really wonderful time with the babies and her company seemed to lift the spirits of the little ones. She eventually left in her own time, back to the rest of the herd. Ndiwa is very fond of the milk formula but she has not quite got the right timing of the feeding hour and is often too early! She decided that the keepers were late in letting her go to the mud bath and went down to join Godoma’s group before it was her time. When she reached the mud bath area she went directly to the wheelbarrow and started to demand her milk bottle. After she finished her bottle she played with Godoma’s group and when their time was up there, she led them back to the forest. Later on just before 3pm, Ndiwa again but this time accompanied by Enkesha, snuck away but clever Ndotto must have spotted them from a distance and he went ahead of Ndiwa to blocked her path to the mud bath. Enkesha somehow managed to dodge Ndotto and went to the stockades calling for milk! She was heard by some keepers in the milk mixing area and was taken back to the forest to wait until the proper feeding time at 3pm.

Tamiyoi is so sweet with the babies

Tamiyoi went to see the little babies

Ndiwa often sneaks off to find extra milk!

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