Keepers' Diaries, May 2018

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Big changes were afoot in the Nursery this month as nine of the orphans were translocated to the reintroduction units in Tsavo, to begin the next phase of their lives and move one step closer to becoming wild elephants once more. First Mbegu, Ndotto, Lasayen, followed by Murit, Godoma and Ngilai were moved to the Voi unit to join the herd of predominantly females there, and on the 1st of June naughty girls Esampu and Mteto, as well as their friend Mundusi were moved to the Ithumba Unit.

Although younger than some of their friends who have made this move before, we felt it was time for this trio as their boisterous characters and mischievous behaviour were becoming too much to handle at the Nursery, especially without the presence of the older orphans there, and we felt it was time they were surrounded by older orphans who could guide and nurture them, as well as discipline them when required. We felt for certain that Esampu would not be able to get away with half of her antics in the midst of females like Kamok, Oltaiyoni and Laragai!

The training process for the elephants to become used to the moving lorry began towards the end of the month. This only involved disguising the entrance of the lorry with hay and vegetation and feeding them their beloved milk bottles on board so they became used to the lorry, as well as the loading process. Mbegu was the most hesitant to enter the lorry, but this was not something her most prized lucerne pellets could not help her overcome! The move came at a good time for Ndotto and Ngilai as well as they were also starting to feel out their independence and become a little more bolshie towards their keepers, as young bulls do. All of their moves went according to plan and they have settled down extremely well in their new surroundings, although they will be very much missed here in the Nursery!

As we reintroduced the lucerne pellets this month, once again these tasty treats have driven some of the orphan’s crazy for them! As soon as the orphans were let out of their stockades in the morning to go into the forest, it was funny to watch the likes of Mbegu, Godoma, Ngilai, Murit, Sana Sana, and mainly Ndotto, coming out of their rooms and running into some of the stables of the little ones like Sattao, Emoli, Musiara, Maisha and Luggard to check that they had indeed finished all their pellets, as usually the younger ones don’t manage to finish theirs during the night. Before he left for Tsavo Ndotto used to sneak back from the forest into the stockade compound, just to check for more lucerne pellets; luckily for him he will receive this tasty snack in his new home as well.

As the older orphans moved out of the Nursery we watched as the dynamics of the herd shift and find their new natural balance. We noticed Mapia was still not very friendly to the little ones and Kuishi had no interest in mothering them, or at least she didn’t pay them much attention, so they graduated to the older group, leaving two groups of eleven each going down for their milk at the public visiting time. Tamiyoi leads the first group, the younger group, which was Godoma’s herd before. Tagwa seems to have assumed the position of overall matriarch of the herd, a natural progression for this caring young female, but she will no doubt be assisted by the other females Sana Sana and Malkia. Shukuru, before the others were moved to Tsavo, was used to sneaking away from the herd during the day. Sometimes she would prefer to disappear for the whole day, often alone, or sometimes in the company of Sagala or Ndiwa. When those she would wander off with would return home for their milk bottles, she would choose to stay out browsing. This all seemed to change however when the other orphans moved, as she and Sana Sana, also used to wandering further afield, rallied around the younger orphans as they seemed to sense that they, as the older females, were needed by the little ones in the Nursery. Tagwa has taken on her new matriarchal duties with gusto, but the presence of the older females to back her up and make the little ones feel loved is all part of the elephant social hierarchy and is helpful indeed. Sattao for example, seemed to want to bond with Sana Sana because just like he would spend time with Tagwa when Mbegu was not around, he wants to make sure he has someone else to look up to when Tagwa is not around either. It is not just the older females who take on these protective roles however and as the older members of the family left, we witnessed several others play their part in guarding their family. Malima and Emoli in particular seem to have taken on a sibling-like protectiveness towards the others and sometimes do not like strangers around the little ones like Maktao and Musiara.

Kiasa now our resident naughty little girl but the likes of Maktao are ready to stand up to her. He is a tough little boy and will not let Kiasa push him around without some form of retaliation. It is up the Tamiyoi and the other females to keep Kiasa in line now!

Musiara is still completely besotted with his friend Luggard and refuses to leave him behind. In the morning he will often not accompany the others out to the forest in the morning, but prefers to hang back and wait outside the stockade of his dear friend before they can both walk out together. Luggard is demanding to follow the others in the group now he is feeling better, and the keepers are happy to let him follow the herd when he can, as being with his family is so good for his moral and general improvement. Poor Enkesha is having a bit of trouble with her trunk these days as she has a little wound on one side of her partially closed wound from the snare. She is very restless as it obviously very itchy and annoying and she blows out of it very hard to relieve the itching and is always seen putting it in mud and water to relieve the itching. We gave her a few injections to help treat the wounded area as well as smearing anti-itch cream onto the site to help relieve it a little. Her distress means that little Tagwa has been extra caring towards her and is often seen placing her trunk on Enkesha’s back in sympathy.

Jotto is a sweet little bull and is often very kind to the others in the Nursery. One day he was browsing with little Luggard following behind, because he wanted to share the vegetation Jotto was eating. Jotto was tearing grass and putting it in his mouth and Luggard was just standing and waiting to see if there was any he could take directly from Jotto. Jotto just let him carry on and even ripped up more grass so he and Luggard could share.

Although the rainy weather gave way to dry but colder spells towards the end of the month, May still started off wet, much to the delight of Maxwell who, like most rhinos, loves the rain. It usually makes him very hyperactive and he can often be spotted running around, leaping in delight and spinning in tight circles during rainy weather. Otherwise it was a quiet month for Max and he didn’t receive any visits from his friend Solio, who must have been enjoying all the vegetation in the Nairobi National Park.

Kiko continued to do exactly as he pleased this month, sometimes accompanying the elephants in the forest. One day he wanted to join them during the public visit and because he knew exactly where they were going, there was nothing his keeper could do to stop him! He stayed with them there the entire time, had his milk and milled around just like he were part of the first group of elephants, until it was their time to return to the forest. When there were lions around at the end of the month Kiko was kept in the compound for his safety, but even after it was fine for him to return to the forest he chose to stay in the compound, running back whenever the keepers tried to escort him out and helping himself to the elephants’ left over lucerne pellets!

May 2018 day to day

01 May

In the morning the stockade gates were opened for the babies to come out but none of them wanted to, because it had been raining since dawn and everywhere was very wet and it was cold too. Even Shukuru, Mbegu, Ndotto, Ngilai, Ndiwa, Lasayen, Mundusi, Mteto and Sagala who are always basically knocking on their gates to come out in the morning, where quiet and standing at the back of their rooms with no intention of walking out into the rain anytime soon. When the keepers tried to force them out as it was becoming quite late for them to stay in their rooms, many of them like Emoli, Murit, Mapia, Sattao, Tamiyoi and Malima yelled in protest as they didn’t want to walk out into the cold water! The little ones Kiasa, Maktao, Musiara and Luggard firmly refused to come out until the rain had stopped and it was a bit warmer.

Ambo and Musiara head to forest

Emoli and Maisha browsing

Enkesha after milk feed