Keepers' Diaries, May 2022

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Every orphan in our care lost their family through misfortune or tragedy, which makes it all the more poignant to see them enjoying life today. One morning, Naleku, Kindani, Kinyei, Olorien and Roho were very bubbly as they left the compound, trumpeting and rumbling in excitement. Their good cheer passed onto the rest of the herd, who also began trumpeting and rumbling. It almost sounded as if they were singing a song together as they walked into the forest. 

We have paused any move to Tsavo in the hope of rain before any graduations, but Roho, Oldepe, and Neshashi are still going through their translocation training just in case. By now, all three are very comfortable with the lorry and enjoy having their bottles onboard. In fact, Neshashi even sneaks away from the herd and loiters around the lorry between milk feeds.

Spending so much time training together has been a bonding moment for Roho, Oldepe, and Neshashi. As we often see with our graduates, they seem to know that they will soon be leaving the Nursery and start to distance themselves from the other orphans. This also helps the Nursery herd adjust when they finally graduate.

Since Roho and Oldepe have been spending more time away from the Nursery herd, Bondeni and Esoit have become best playmates. They begin their days chasing each other around the stockade compound. The games continue out in the forest, where they usually target the younger orphans. The older girls let them dash around for a bit, before intervening and chasing them off. If Kindani and Naleku didn’t discipline them, they would disturb the others to no end.

Taabu has also been joining Bondeni and Esoit’s games. It is great to see him wrestling with the older boys, as he is learning important skills he will need as a wild bull. One day, he even inserted himself into a wrestling match between Roho and Oldepe, who are much larger than he is. Although he didn’t actually challenge either of them, he charged up towards them, flaring his ears and shaking his head. It was an impressive display of confidence with the older boys.

It must be said that Naleku is a rather unpredictable matriarch. Although she is unfalteringly nurturing with her beloved Kerrio, she is not so kind to the young bulls in the herd. Recently she has been very pushy towards the younger bulls, particularly Taabu, Choka, Mukutan, and Lorigon. She really only has eyes for Kerrio!

Meanwhile, Kindani appears to be the disciplinarian of the Nursery herd. She remains absolutely devoted to Bondeni, who she has grown up with since their beginnings at our Kaluku Neonate Nursery. At the same time, she knows Bondeni is the root cause of most mischief and doesn't hesitate to reprimand him when he oversteps the mark. Kinyei, who rounds out the ‘Kaluku trio,’ is a tomboy and loves playing with the bulls. However, she immediately backs up Kindani if she needs a disciplinarian assistant. 

Our little Tingai goes from strength to strength. He and Lodo are the gentlest and calmest of the bulls. They enjoy going on their own browsing adventures. One morning, Tingai and Lodo disappeared into the bush with a few other orphans. The Keepers went to fetch them, only to find Tingai leading the group to the feeding point. They were very proud of Lodo; not only had he realised it was milk time, but he also took the initiative to escort everyone back!

Mukutan has become a troublemaker of note, especially during milk feeds and down at the midday mud bath. Just as they used to do with Kiasa, the Keepers put him in the last group to run down for bottles, so he can’t harass the others for their milk after he has finished his own. However, sometimes he manages to sneak down with the first group. For such a small elephant, Mukutan has a big presence: He runs from orphan to orphan, trying to steal their milk, and complaining to the Keepers at the top of his little lungs.

In these instances, it is often Olorien who stops the mayhem. She is a no-nonsense girl, and when she tells an elephant off, they listen. Suguroi is very similar to Olorien and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. One day, Taabu tried to steal an extra bottle from the milk wheelbarrow, but Suguroi rushed over to cut him off before the Keepers could even intervene.

When he first arrived at the Nursery, Lorigon was very nervous around the Keepers. However, he has been spending most of his time with Tingai, Lodo, Mukutan, Olorien, and Suguroi, all of whom are very trusting of their Keepers. This small group really helped Lorigon settle in. He no longer chases or rumbles at his Keepers; indeed, he seems very comfortable in their company.

One evening, our sweet little Choka got a terrible fright when a tiny hyrax came sprinting out of his bedroom. Choka was so scared that he did a complete 180 and ran straight back towards the forest. The Keepers calmed him down and escorted him to his stable, but he flatly refused to enter, no doubt suspicious that there were more hyrax lurking within! They tried everything — enticing him with milk bottles, walking themselves into the stable to prove that it was safe — but it took a full 20 minutes to coax him inside.

13th May was a special evening, for Ziwadi finally graduated to a stockade. She has been in the same stable since her rescue, so this was a big moment for her. The Keepers put Ziwadi between Sileita, who is a new arrival, and Lorigon. She walked inside without hesitation and promptly made herself at home by stealing Lorigon’s greens. Ziwadi is known for her prolific appetite, so the Keepers had to move Lorigon’s stash out of reach, or else she would eat all of it. However, because Ziwadi is so kind and gentle, Lorigon was more than happy to share his greens with her. 

After a long spell without, Ziwadi’s seizures returned later in the month. The Keepers knew exactly what to do, keeping her calm throughout and ensuring she took it easy in the days that followed. Ziwadi may always be more fragile than most elephants, and we continue to monitor her health, but overall we are happy with her progress.

We are also very happy with Sagateisa and Kamili’s progress. When they arrived at the Nursery, they were both so emaciated that the Keepers wondered what their futures held. In the months since, however, both girls have gained condition and are now looking very healthy. Sagateisa and Kamili have similarly gentle personalities and come bounding out of their rooms with such excitement in the mornings. They love spending time with the Keepers and browse close to them. 

Latika remains close with Sagateisa and Kamili. She is such a welcoming, kind girl. When a new rescue was placed in the stockade next to hers, she kept checking on her and communicating through soothing rumbles. She even changed her sleeping position and slept against the wall between their bedrooms, so the newcomer would have company throughout the night.

Our resident imp, Kerrio, continues to do so well. When you see her charging around, you would never guess that her hind legs were nearly paralyzed when she first arrived at the Nursery. She occasionally forgets her manners, because she knows that all the older girls will back her up. However, she is also learning how to stand her ground and be more independent. Kerrio often spats with Mukutan, with whom she shares a sibling-like rivalry.

Maxwell the rhino spent the month in high spirits. Much like the elephants, he enjoys time with his Keepers when they are delivering his greens and lucerne pellets. Because he is blind, he remains in his spacious stockade for his own safety, but he still gets plenty of company. When he hears the Keepers approaching, he stands at his gate, waiting for them to give him a scratch under his chin or behind his ears. Ever since he was a young rhino, Max has always loved scratches from his Keepers — they can even lull him into a standing nap!

Unfortunately, we are very concerned about Rama. In the past couple months, his condition has worsened considerably. We are in consultation with a number of vets and are exploring every possible avenue. It seems that he has the elephant equivalent of Blount’s Disease, or severe bow-leggedness, which has gotten more pronounced as he has grown. His rear legs are very swollen, which compromises his mobility. The Keepers limit his excursions to the nearby forest, a regime Rama seemed for implement himself too, so he doesn’t have to put extra strain on his joints and bones. We are very much taking things day by day, and our goal is to keep Rama as comfortable as possible

The month ended on a funny note — and, unsurprisingly, Bondeni was the source of the drama. He was putting on quite a show at the mud bath, chasing some of the resident warthogs who were nearby. The Keepers tried to intervene, but Bondeni was incorrigible. In the end, it was the large female warthog who put a stop to his antics. She stood her ground and challenged Bondeni, which scared the bull so much that he wheeled around and ran back to the herd, suddenly quite contrite!

May 2022 day to day

01 May

It was a very wet morning as the orphans were waking up as Nairobi had had heavy showers throughout the evening. As always some of the orphans quite enjoy the rain whereas others are a bit more reluctant to start their day and leave their rooms. Once the orphans had settled in the forest, Olorien, Suguroi, Taabu, Kinyei, Esoit, and Bondeni all started to mud bath in some of the puddles within the National Park.

Esoit and Bondeni are always eager for a game, so as soon as they all started rolling around the two boys were on the lookout for any unsuspected victims to quickly climb on their back. Esoit was the first to make his move, and he immediately climbed on Kinyei’s back, slipping off each time as Kinyei was already submerged in the mud. As soon as Bondeni saw Esoit climbing on Kinyei, he came running over to climb on Esoit’s back.

Bondeni, unfortunately, had not luck at climbing on Esoit as he kept sliding off. He eventually grew frustrated and then pushed Esoit off Kinyei so he could have his turn. As soon as he pushed Esoit, the two boys began to engage each other in a wrestling match. Their game continued right up until it was time to have their 9 o’clock bottles of milk.

Suguroi and Taabu rolling around in the forest

Esoit, Bondeni, Kinyei and Tingai dust bathing

Olorien out in the forest