Keepers' Diaries, May 2022

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Kaluku Neonate Unit

This month marked the return of our resident mischief maker, Scooter the warthog. Over the past few months, she had become quite a menace to the antelope, relentlessly nipping at their heels and chasing them around Kaluku. After exhausting all avenues on-site, it seemed that Scooter was ready for a graduation of her own. We relocated her to our orphan unit at Kenze, adjacent to Umani Springs.

While Scooter quickly became the queen of Kenze, she was missing some of her special Scooter spark. We could tell she was missing Kaluku, so we brought her home. She slotted back into the routine as if she never left, presiding over the orphans’ mud bath and supervising the milk mixing with a chorus of grunts. Kwale the hartebeest is delighted to have his best friend back. We say Scooter’s time at Kenze was her term at ‘finishing school’; her manners have improved enormously, although we still see glimmers of her old behaviour.

We also had a remarkable moment this month when a juvenile buffalo who was hand-raised decided to ‘adopt’ us! She appeared out of the blue, totally alone, and started hanging on the periphery of the orphan herd. Now, she spends most of her day around Kaluku. She and Mkubwa, our rescued male buffalo, have become good friends, although he remains closest with Susu the eland.



After months of sweltering heat, it has finally cooled down in Tsavo. Apollo is thrilled with the dip in temperature. While he used to nap in the afternoon — an effective strategy to beat the heat — he now passes the hours browsing with great intent. He also used to spend as much time as possible in the mud bath, but now that it is cooler, he sometimes eschews wallowing altogether. Scooter and Kwale often join Apollo for mud bath, relaxing in a nearby puddle while the Keepers diligently coat the rhino’s body in mud.

Apollo is very fond of the new buffalo who adopted our Kaluku herd. Like rhinos, buffalo friendships unfold at arm’s length, so they enjoy each other’s company without overly interacting. Much to everyone’s relief, Apollo has largely stopped his disappearing acts. He seems to know that a search party will promptly put a stop to his wanderings, which rather takes the fun out of it.



The elephants also welcomed the cooler weather. Their wild instincts kicked right in when it was sweltering, and they knew that they had to spend their days diligently browsing. Elephants need a lot of food to sustain themselves, and when vegetation is scarce, every spare moment must be spent searching for ample browse. Of course, our orphans have the benefit of milk bottles and supplemental feed, but this is still good practice for when they are leading wild lives.

The cooler weather gives everyone more energy to play. Rokka, Mayan, Vaarti, and Manda are a very jolly bunch, so they are always creating games to keep themselves entertained.

At 17 months old, Rokka is the youngest member of the quartet, but she is the definitive ringleader. She has a will of her own and can be quite a handful — especially if there are any unfamiliar faces about. It’s not that she is unfriendly; she just knows to hone in on anyone who could potentially let her get away with mischief! Rokka is very amused by Scooter and loves chasing the warthog around. Scooter, for her part, seems to enjoy this chasing ritual. As the little elephant charges towards her, trunk swinging and ears flared, Scooter nonchalantly trots off with a series of annoyed grunts, her tail sticking straight up in the air.

Mayan, meanwhile, is a good-natured bull who never causes any problems. To him, everyone is a friend. Last month, he was constantly scheming to sneak off and find Apollo, but that obsession has waned a bit. Instead, he is fully focused on his midday mud bath and milk feed. He is always the first to arrive, dashing over to his Keeper and guzzling down his milk in record time. After he has finished both his bottles, Mayan likes to cleanse his palate with a bottle of water. Then, as the other orphans make their way to the mud bath, he hangs behind in the hopes of getting another sip of milk.

Vaarti is Mayan’s best friend and shares his gentle nature. He also loves his milk and sometimes schemes to get more than his fair share. However, in typical Vaarti fashion, even his milk mischief is done in the sweetest manner. One afternoon, he sidled over to the milk wheelbarrow and started sucking on the bottles like pacifiers, savouring the extra drops and just enjoying the relaxing ritual. Now that it is a bit cooler, Vaarti has been bypassing the mud bath in favour of a dust bath. He is also very competitive with Rokka over ‘hose wars’ and they are constantly tussling the hose away from each other. Funnily, for Vaarti, it’s more about the game, because he actually prefers to drink from the water trough.

Manda, our December rescue, is doing very well. He has become a fully-fledged member of the Kaluku quartet and is becoming more self-assured with each passing day. This he may have picked up from his neighbour, Rokka, who has buckets of confidence!



Twiggy is also growing more confident by the day. She is reserved by nature, as many giraffes are, but she is now very comfortable around the other orphans. When Apollo, and later the elephants, head to the midday o’clock mud bath, she usually joins them. She will never wallow alongside them, but she enjoys watching proceedings as she browses from the surrounding trees.

It has been six months since her rescue, so Twiggy really knows her way around Kaluku. She has even started venturing further afield, always in the company of her Keeper. They often go down to the Mtito River, where there are still some green leaves on the trees. Acacia is her snack of choice, but with the increasingly dry conditions, that delicacy is few and far between, so she will now feed on any greenery she can find.

Twiggy has an excellent relationship with her Keeper, Sammy. They really understand each other and have developed such a special bond. She instantly recognises his voice and comes running over when she hears him. For a giraffe who lost her mother at such a young age, it is wonderful for her to have a parental figure in her life.

Please note that we do not currently publish daily diaries for the Kaluku Neonate Unit. Instead, foster parents of our Kaluku orphans receive a dedicated monthly email, which contains a special video and additional photos of their adoptees.