Keepers' Diaries, May 2019

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

On the very last day of May, after a whole month of preparation, we bid farewell to Malima, Kuishi and Mapia as they made the transition to our Ithumba Reintegration Unit in Tsavo East National Park. This trio were selected for the first move as soon as we had sufficient rains, as Malima and Kuishi are good friends and they had also started to test the Keepers, no longer willing to listen to them and unafraid of being chastised; it was time for them to receive some discipline from some older elephants that would be hard to ignore! 

Mapia is also an independent bull who is happy to browse with any of the elephants, but actually while undergoing his training with Malima and Kuishi to board the translocation lorry by following their milk bottles, he developed a friendship with these two elder girls. Often they would be found browsing together in their own little group, or even sneaking away from the Keepers as milk time approached to wait by the lorry where they knew their milk bottles would be. To say goodbye to our orphans in the Nursery is always bitter sweet, but we so remain grateful that these babies are at least afforded a second chance at life at all, and wish them the best of luck as they embark on the next stage of their life and the next step towards living a wild life once more. Mapia, Kuishi and Malima were all rescued from Tsavo as well, so it was especially poignant that they were returning home. It is important to note that they will remain very much dependent on keepers and milk for years to come as raising elephants is a lengthy commitment very similar to own children - it takes many years for them to be prepared for an independent life - this is the first step in that lengthy process and now they will have more exposure to the lessons they need to learn. 

Tagwa, Sagala and Emoli underwent the training to board the lorry as well, as they will be moved shortly after Mapia, Kuishi and Malima. Emoli is still being a naughty bully boy towards his friends. Musiara used to be one of his play mates but not really anymore. Musiara has remained such a polite boy that every member of the family likes to hang out with, but Emoli is a very demanding character that could benefit from some elephantine discipline as well now. It is funny how it is little Maktao that seems to be able to hold his own against the likes of Emoli!

While he might be brave in the face of bullish Emoli, Maktao doesn’t like Kiko the giraffe at all. He seems very afraid of him, and whenever he sees him he runs away either towards the Keepers or towards the older orphans for protection. Sometimes Kiko doesn’t like to listen to the Keepers and does his own thing, and at such times the intervention from some of the older elephant orphans is much appreciated. Kiko also seems to understand that the younger elephants don’t like him very much, and has decided to make a game out of it by teasing them and always walking amongst them to disrupt their browsing; then the Keepers have to force him to leave the elephants alone and entice him away with a milk bottle.

Little Ziwadi, yet to be introduced to the fostering program, came out of her stockade at the beginning of the month for the first time; at first she was very shy and kept running away from the other elephants. It took her awhile to settle down but by the end of the month she was much better and happily browsing with the herd. Nabulu is not being very nice to her and is picking on her for no reason, so the older elephants try to stick around to make sure Nabulu doesn’t bully her, and the Keepers keep a watchful eye as well of course. Ziwadi also likes to keep Luggard company on the days that the orphans decide to browse deeper in the forest. All the orphans are very sweet with Luggard, and no one ever picks on him. They rotate the duties amongst themselves who will spend the day with him if he decides to hang back, but Musiara and Jotto are still his good friends. 

Usually Luggard comes home earlier than the others in the evenings, as all the orphans like to run in for their milk and he cannot run as fast as them. One day he stopped by Maxwell’s gate where Maxwell was standing and the two had the most remarkable interaction. It was lovely to watch Luggard stretch his trunk through the bars of the gate and rub Maxwell on the head, during which Maxwell stayed completely calm and still, as he loves being touched and scratched, but we have never seen the elephants do this to him before in such an obvious measured way, giving Maxwell a good only rub. In fact it has been Maxwell’s month this May as the rains finally arrived and it rained consistently for a few days solid. Max loves the rain and a muddied figure soon took over

his stockade as he rolled every inch of his body in the thick red soil. The elephant orphans have also been playing with him regularly in the morning, pushing on his stockade to catch his attention and running up and down the outside as Maxwell spins in circles excited by their attention. 

Just like Mapia is known to yell loudly as he comes down for his milk feeds, now little Mukkoka is copying this behaviour. He can be a bit of a bully like Mapia too, but luckily he has a friend in the form of Dololo, also his neighbour as they were rescued around the same time, and Dololo is normally a gentle boy (when not around milk) whose demeanor will influence Mukkoka we hope. 

Enkesha is still a very quiet and gentle girl and we are sure that with time, given the change in dynamics within the Nursery herd as some of the older orphans move on, she will assist Tamiyoi in looking after the younger babies and take on a more matriarchal role within the herd. Sometimes she can be happy, playful and interactive with the others, and other times she prefers to be on her own and browses quietly away from the herd. Larro is still the baby of the herd and loved by all the older elephants in the Nursery. She has been staying behind in her stable, with Zawadi too, when it has been raining and cold. In the wild little elephants would have the protection of their mothers and other family members to shelter them from the elements and share their body heat, so it is important they are not overly exposed to the chilly weather. 

Before she had fully become used to the milk formula, Nabulu was a shy and calm girl who never caused any problems at milk feeding times. Now she is used to the formula and loves it so much she runs for her milk feeds, and she has started causing trouble around the wheelbarrow at feeding times now. She stays to demand more milk and sometimes fights the others for their bottles. Dololo is the same, so starved when he arrived with us that he is now polarized on his milk bottle and feeding times! He used to be calm and gentle all the time but he is much louder and boisterous now around his milk. One day he had a fight with the Keepers and Sattao as well when he tried to grab Sattao’s milk bottle.

May 2019 day to day

01 May

We are starting to realise that Mukkoka has a similar character to Mapia. He is known to yell as he comes down for his milk feed, just like Mapia, and he did exactly that as he came for his milk during the public visiting hour today. He can also be a bit of a bully like Mapia can be as well. Dololo is his friend, having arrived at the Nursery around the same time, and his neighbour too. They automatically became friends as they settled into the Nursery together, but Mukkoka doesn’t like Dololo to share his greens and will push the wooden posts between them if Dololo tries. However, Mukkoka is happy to stretch his trunk through and take as many of Dololo’s branches as he can! This is the same thing that Mapia does with Ambo, as they are neighbours too and share a partition. 

During the public visit today, Mukkoka kept taking every branch that Dololo was trying to eat, bullying him when he tried to defend the branches he was going for. Back in the forest, he was giving Kiombo a hard time as well, to the extent that Jotto finally decided to instil some discipline after he pushed Kiombo whole he was watching. This is the responsibility of the older orphans around the younger ones; it is important they try and teach them some elephant manners!

Mukkoka coming for his milk.

Dololo browsing.

Jotto sucking his trunk.