Keepers' Diaries, November 2018

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Our most recent arrival this month, the youngest within the establishment, somehow already seems to have become the pint-sized boss! Little Maarifa, a white rhino baby, was rescued after Meru Rangers spent two days trying to reunite her with her mother in Meru Rhino Sanctuary, which the DSWT recently expanded last year. With such a disappointing outcome, everyone could not help but feel relieved that at least the rangers had happened upon the stricken calf stuck in the mud at all, and that both mother and calf were at least alive. 

Maarifa settled down fast into the Nairobi Nursery, white rhinos being quite gentle creatures, but owing no less to her tender age of only a few days old. She was quick to fall for the Keepers and follow them around, as they willingly performed their motherly role and became steadily more and more enchanted by this incredibly endearing little character. Of course being the new-found source of milk supply helped Maarifa quickly fall for her Keepers in return and she is completely hooked, sucking on their trousers between feeds just like a little baby would do with a comfort blankie.  She has now joined the foster program so will feature heavily within the Keepers Diaries as there is no end to her antics out in the forest. Often she will take off at a gallop, much to the regret of the Keepers who have to keep all eyes on her, and keep up! These brief running excursions will end in a collapse and a much needed nap time. Maarifa will be raised separately to our elephant orphans, just like all the rhinos before her, but they will meet out in the forest no less from time to time, and these will all be good lessons for Maarifa as she grows. She does have a stable mate in the form of Maktao next door to her, and the two are extremely comfortable with each others presence. 

This month Sana Sana, Malkia and Ndiwa also started practising entering the translocation lorry, as their move to Ithumba Reintegration stockade in Tsavo East was scheduled for the 4th of December. Every feeding time this trio of older girls were led to have their milk bottles on the lorry, to get them used to feeding in a different place and walking on to the lorry that would take them to Tsavo with ease. This went well for Sana Sana and Ndiwa, who started feeding on the lorry with little hesitation, but Malkia was much more reluctant and as the days passed, she still refused to have her milk on the lorry, or enter it at all. Finally, towards the end of the month as the moving day drew closer, she began to board and have her feed. It was funny to watch her reach this point, as one day she was so stretched out stretching for her milk bottle with her trunk as the Keepers tried to lure her in, her back feet were almost off the ground!

Ndiwa was very quick to pick up on her new routine, and one day when the feeding did not take place at the lorry, she was still adamant that was the direction she wanted to go in, and she would not listen to the Keepers for anything. Only when she got there to find no milk bottles did Ndiwa understand the situation, and although the Keepers were annoyed at having to escort her back to where the feeding was actually taking place, they couldn’t help but marvel at the incredible memory of their clever babies. Elephants are certainly creatures of habit, and do like a routine to follow.

Since the other older elephants moved earlier in the year, Jotto became the oldest bull in the Nursery at two years old. He finds himself having to conduct some of his pushing games and really test his strength against some of the older and much bigger girls in the Nursery like Tagwa, Sana Sana, Kuishi and Malkia, although Malkia is always a tough play mate and is not always willing to tolerate his nonsense! It is so nice to see the girls oblige understanding that Jotto needs his rough tough games like all little bulls do.  

Dololo, Luggard and Mukkoka have formed a tight group that like to walk together through the forest, especially when the older orphans walk off further away, covering distances they are not yet able to do. When there is bad weather, these three are taken back to their stables as well, as we do not want to take any risks, as they are not strong enough yet to contend with the cold and wet conditions that we have recently been having.  Mukkoka and Dololo love spending time with Luggard, as he is so peaceful and gentle, and often Luggard will not walk out to the forest unless he knows the babies are accompanying him. Dololo still likes to browse away from all the others sometimes, and has a funny habit of going back to the stockades on his own to look for more milk bottles. Sattao has developed an interest in Dololo however and is trying to befriend him even more, probably brought about by the fact that they are in stables next to each other. Even when Dololo wants to browse on his own, Sattao almost forces himself on him! He grew wise to Dololo’s sneaking off and started blocking him from leaving the herd as well; it was very interesting to watch Sattao befriending Dololo this way and looking after him, so well aware of his struggle to regain strength and over come the great odds that befell him having been in the next door stable from the outset.  

Tamiyoi, Malima, Emoli, Ambo, Mapia, Kuishi, Sagala and Ndiwa seem to have formed their own group in the morning, and as soon as all of them are out they head out to the forest under the leadership of Tamiyoi, who knows all the routes and ways out to part of the Park they favor. They are not too old or independent to seek solace from their Keepers however, as we experienced one morning when Sagala came across a tortoise. The tortoise or ‘moving rock’ as we think it appeared to be to Sagala, appeared from beneath one of the bushes poor Sagala was browsing on, and it gave her such a fright! She ran yelling back to where the Keepers were in the company of the other orphans, and stayed glued to their side, pointing her trunk in the direction of the scary rock.

Mapia and Ambo are becoming quite good playmates these days and often during the day we find them engaged in some pushing or wrestling game, testing their strength and judging their dominance against each other. This is common between young bulls and is good for their physical development and the hierarchy and strength within their society. Emoli, who has been well known to be a quiet and calm little bull, is becoming more feisty and initiates more pushing games these days. We think this is no coincidence now that his tusks have begun to grow and protrude from his mouth, which makes him think he is now quite the dude, a far cry from the wizened weakened drought victim and bag of bones that arrived with us last year. Kiasa has been up to her usual tricks and is still a little menace at bottle feeding times. One day she first attacked poor Dololo for his share of milk, before trying with the Nursery matriarch Tagwa, who was too clever for the little girl and just held her bottle out Kiasa’s reach. Being thwarted in this way only fuelled Kiasa’s mood, and she promptly walked off to where her age-mate Maktao was quietly browsing, and bit his tail just to pick a fight. She really can be a naughty and antagonising little imp – shades of Esampu.

It is so lovely to watch how the older girls in the Nursery take care of the youngest, and if there is one pampered baby more than the rest in the group we think it is Musiara at the moment. Musiara is loved by all the older females in the family, but it is probably Malkia who loves him the most. Sometimes she can be a bit tough with the other youngsters, but she is always fond of Musiara, and the little boy of her too. He will be well looked after by Tagwa and the other females in the Nursery like Enkesha too, who is also very loving, when Malkia and the older girls move to Tsavo in December, and Musiara’s best friend of all is Luggard.  

November 2018 day to day

01 Nov

Little Luggard is such a polite and gentle little elephant that he is very good company for all the little ones in the Nursery. He spends a lot of time with them out in the forest, as none of them walk as far as the rest of the herd when they go on browsing expeditions, so he is really used to their company. Sometimes they are joined by Sana Sana who likes spending time with the little ones as well. Today Luggard stayed close to the stockades and did not want to leave, once he realised that the babies were not accompanying them out. He tried to buy some time and wait for Merru, Mukkoka and Dololo to join. When he saw them finally come out of their rooms and coming his way, he playfully ran towards them to greet them. He was so happy to lead the little group out, and enjoyed sharing the soft tasty greens that are always found for the babies to feed on. The youngsters are also very happy to spend time with Luggard as well, as he is always so amiable and friendly.

Tagwa and Luggard

Mukkoka and Maktao

Sana Sana and Kuishi