Keepers' Diaries, November 2019

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Like pretty much the whole country Nairobi has received massive rains, so all the rivers and streams within the Nairobi National Park are bloated and over-flowing, offering the orphans so many swimming options that they are overlooking having mud baths at midday now. There are so many lovely slippery spots and embankments to play on that much of their days are spent horizontal is it turns out. At the midday mud bath and visiting hour they prefer to just have their bottle and browse on their freshly cut greens at the moment.

With all the water around the orphans have no limit to fun out in the forest and although they are not necessarily excited when the rain starts, when the rain moves on leaving behind all the fun puddles and filled streams we see no end to their games. They can be very lively and over-dramatic with the likes of Sattao, Musiara, Maktao, Larro and Kiasa all enjoying running and kicking the water as they trumpet with glee at the noise made in the water as they charge and kick at it. Even Luggard isn’t left out of these fun antics and can also be spotted splashing and kicking the water as he runs along with the others and copies what they are doing. 

Larro in particular loves playing in water. She is like a little mud fish and dives so far into the mud only a tiny bit of her trunk is left sticking out like a snorkel – you can’t see any other part of her body! Little Ziwadi however never pays much attention to mud baths, even when all the others are enjoying them. She just keeps herself busy browsing on greens or drinking from the water trough (sometimes directly with her mouth and not using her trunk).  There has been a slight change this month however and even she has spent time sliding around on slippery slopes which is a great improvement. We have had a few more seizures from Ziwadi at night, but other than that she does seem to be improving. Because of her special needs she has become so attached to the Keepers she is like an extension of them. It is beautiful to watch her special bond, as she feels so safe and protected nurtured and comforted by their human hand. She is a very clever girl and has been developing some sneaky tactics ambushing milk feeds ahead of time!

Almost all of the older girls are very interested in looking after out little boy Roho, but Roho seems to have a favourite in Maisha at the moment, which has been the making of Maisha, who is blossoming before our eyes with her maternal glow!  Roho loves to suckle on her ear, and we are happy that Maisha is not objecting to Roho’s baby whims and appears happy to have him firmly latched onto her ear. Ziwadi and Roho have not been allowed out during the heavy rain as they are more susceptible to the cold. One day Maisha realized that Roho was not following them out in the morning and ran back to the stockades with Tagwa. Together the two big girls kept pushing and pulling on Roho’s door until it was opened, and we had to cave in and allow the little boy join them out in the forest despite the poor weather. The Keepers were reluctant to let him go as the hard rain can be dangerous without the shelter and warmth of his mother and herd to protect him from the harsh elements, but sometimes the psychological trauma weighed up against physical risks have to be considered. Baby elephants need so much attention at all times, and there are so many differing dynamics to read and assess. Happiness is what we strive for above all so having Roho and his mini Mums all happy on this day was the best scenario.  

We still have to watch naughty Dololo whenever he is around the young ones. One day he chased little Roho and tried to climb on his back but it was Kiombo who saved the day, disciplining Dololo. He pushed Dololo giving Roho the chance to escape towards Nabulu who was the only other elephant around at the time, although it didn’t take Maisha long to see what was going on and run over to collect Roho. Kiombo is still very much attached to Nabulu and follows her everywhere, and she in turn is happy with her little shadow tagging along.

We had one incident with Luggard one day when he and Ziwadi decided they wanted their milk bottle early. Just before the 9am milk feed they left their friends quietly browsing in the forest but with an ulterior motive and they had a premeditated plan in mind to make their way to the compound, where they met the Keeper with the wheelbarrow of milk going the other way. Both gave a triumphant ‘trumpet’ in excitement at seeing the wheelbarrow of milk and both wanted to be fed by the Keeper there and then! Luggard ran behind the Keeper, pulling at his leg trying to get him to stop and feed him a bottle. When the Keeper stopped to try and tell Luggard to wait and be patient, Luggard took the opportunity to grab one of the bottles for himself, which he is an expert at, and started to feed himself. Ziwadi caught a lucky break as the Keeper decided that if Luggard was having one, Ziwadi must have her bottle too – and so the two mischievous orphans actually managed to get their milk bottles early.

Maktao is sometimes very disruptive when he is in a playful mood. He keeps distracting Musiara from browsing encouraging him to come and play with him instead. Mukkoka is the fastest runner in the Nursery and always likes to be first to a milk feed. One day when it was raining and the ground was very slippery Mukkoka was running flat out towards his milk bottle ended up slipping and falling over, but he got up quickly and continued his dash and still arrived first.  

Maxwell our blind black rhino absolutely adores the rain and rolling around in the squelchy mud, but equally when the clouds move on he is very happy to take a nap in the warm sun in his favourite corner. He is a creature of habit and when he does want a respite from the rain he has a covered shelter to retreat to with soft fresh hay laid there where he can take extended uninterrupted naps. He has wanted to play with the elephant orphans so much this month and often calls them over for a pushing game between his gate in the morning, although the elephant babies are not always so happy to oblige. He took offence to a warthog deciding to share his food one day as well, and began chasing the poor warthog around, until eventually the warthog managed to slip through the bars of one of the gates and make a quick escape. At times like these you can be forgiven for forgetting Maxwell is in fact blind, his senses are so honed and sharp that they make up for his lack of sight and he can navigate his area at a full gallop. When you look at his sodden stockade it all looks rather miserable, but Maxwell loves the wet season, and as much for savouring the mud, he loves the feel of rain on his skin as well.  

Kiko still does exactly what he likes when he likes and is always unpredictable! There is a planned move for Kiko up to Lewa as we outlined in an update, but given the amount of rain we have had throughout the country right now is not an option so this will be considered in the New Year when things dry up. Kiko is, more often than not, happy to follow direction from the Keepers but there are times he doesn’t want to listen to them at all and then there is not much one can do because making Kiko do anything he doesn’t feel inclined to do is simply impossible. There are times Kiko feels insecure about going out into the Park and forest to browse even though he is with his Keepers and that might be because he knows more than we do and can smell lions about. Ever since he was attacked by lions in his stockade he is very aware of the potential danger they can be for him. He will never spend more than a few hours there, and then chooses to return closer to home. Whenever Kiko is around, he certainly has right of way as he does take advantage of his towering stature and can sometimes just walk over you!  He is a beautiful boy, full of mischief and quirky unpredictable ways, but does remain a creature of habit too. He still loves his stable with its towering roof, and is happy to be safely locked away for the night in this cosy space with a peep window available for him to view his roommate Luggard at any time.  

November 2019 day to day

01 Nov

There was not much activity amongst the orphans this morning as they walked out to the forest in the early morning – most of the orphans chose to just settle down quietly to browse. Maxwell was the most active this morning and woke up as the orphans filed past his stockade on the way out to the forest, before running about his stockade in excitement for no apparent reason we could see. He began charging about and knocking on the posts of his wooden stockade with his horn, happily welcoming the new day.

During the public visit today, just as the first group of orphans had finished their milk bottles and were settling down to eat the green branches, their peaceful moment was interrupted by a mother warthog and her piglets, one of which decided to walk into the mud bath and started rolling around. Kiasa, Larro and Maktao tried to chase the warthog away, but the warthog was clever to move right into the middle of the mud bath where it knew Kiasa and the other elephants would not bother to follow it. The warthog just left when she was done!

Later when the second group of orphans came for their milk bottles, Tamiyoi had some fun when a hat from one of the visitors blew off and landed next to her. She happily picked this up and started playing with it, throwing it about with her trunk and putting it on her head. The Keepers had to run after her and get it back to return it safely to the visitor, who thought the whole thing was very funny too.



Tamiyoi, Roho and Kiasa