Keepers' Diaries, November 2019

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.

01 November 2019

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.

02 November 2019

Just before the 9am milk feed this morning it seems that Luggard and Ziwadi decided they couldn’t wait for the bottles, and they left their friends quietly browsing in the forest to make their way to the stockades to see if they were coming yet! No sooner had they passed Nabulu’s stockade at the top of the compound, did they meet the Keeper with the wheelbarrow of milk going the other way. Both gave a triumphant yell of happiness at seeing the wheelbarrow of milk and both wanted to be fed by the Keeper then and there! Funny 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 that Luggard took one of the bottles to feed himself, as the Keeper decided that if Luggard was having one, he might as well feed Ziwadi her bottle too – and so the two mischievous orphans actually managed to get their milk bottles early.

03 November 2019

During the public visit today, all the orphans were quietly browsing on the greens after having their milk, and none showed any signs of playing any games. As soon as the first group got back to the forest however, Mukkoka, Musiara, Maktao, Larro, Sattao, Enkesha, Kiombo and Luggard all started playing in a small pool of water. It had suddenly become very warm, which prompted them to have a mud bath. They had a very active game of bumping into one another and sliding around, but the game came to an end when Maktao took it too far and decided to sit on Larro and press her down into the mud so hard that she had to yell out for help. She was struggling to stand up, which saw Tamiyoi, Maisha and Tagwa all come running to help her. They all got into the pool of water and got down on their knees to help Larro up from the mud. Larro was escorted away from the pond, happy to be in the company of the three big girls who were patting her and checking she was okay.

04 November 2019

Soon after the orphans had their 9am milk feed and settled back into the bushes to browse, we watched them separate into two different groups. One was comprised of Tagwa, Tamiyoi, Maisha, Kiasa, Maktao, Larro, Ziwadi and little Roho, and the other group was led by Nabulu with Kiombo (of course, her little baby), Luggard, Musiara, Mukkoka, Dololo, Sattao and Enkesha. Each group browsed close together, but in opposite directions far away from each other. Just before their 11am milk feed is when they all started to re-group and walk back towards their Keepers to be altogether again. None of the orphans are happy to miss their milk feeds so you can guarantee they will all get together again for this. Due to all the rain over the past few weeks there are so many small mud wallows out in the forest that the babies don’t often opt to wallow in the mud bath anymore after their noon milk feed. This used to be a daily occurrence and now they prefer just to have their milk bottles and browse on the greens because they can have a mud bath anytime they like during the day out in the forest!

05 November 2019

Pushing and wrestling games to establish strength and dominance are commonplace amongst the Nursery orphans, especially the bulls. In the early morning today as the orphans were just settling down out in the forest to browse, the likes of Dololo, Sattao, Maktao, Musiara and Kiombo, instead of browsing, were all witnessed messing about in the bushes playing wrestling games and pushing each other. The two boys, Sattao and Dololo, started the game, and then Maktao joined in by pushing Dololo from behind, and finally Musiara joined in on the other side pushing Sattao from behind as well - so it looked very funny from the side to see Maktao and Musiara supporting their friends in their pushing game as reinforcements. Kiombo came running over to the boys playfully swinging his trunk from side to side hoping to join in their games, but he looked confused about which side to support! Luggard also then walked over to the boys hoping to play with Kiombo, but Kiombo took one look at his big strong tusks and turned away quickly to avoid playing with him. Luggard decided to change tactic and lay down on the ground to invite the other bulls to come and play and climb on him, which they all accepted and they had a happy time playing on the ground with Luggard for quite awhile.

06 November 2019

Kiko still does exactly what he likes when he likes and is always unpredictable! Sometimes he is happy to follow the direction from the Keepers and others he doesn’t want to listen to them at all. This morning when he came out of his night stable he followed his Keeper holding the bottle of milk for him, but when he reached the gate of the stockade next to Maxwell’s where he spends his morning, he stopped and stood still and then walked away, back down to the milk mixing area where he settled to feed on the acacia tree there instead. He spent some time browsing there and then later left of his own will to walk into the stockade next to Maxwell’s.

We have been watching a funny habit of Maktao’s recently. Whenever he comes into his stable at night he downs his milk bottles very fast but then he doesn’t start browsing on his green branches straight away, he waits for his neighbour Larro to come to home as well and spread out her green branches, so that he can steal some through the wooden partition to add to his own! If he cannot reach her branches, he goes on knocking on the wooden posts that separate them to get Larro’s attention so that she comes over along with the branch she is feeding on at the time, so Maktao can pull some of it through the partition and quickly turn and pull in through, so that poor Larro has to go and get another branch to feed on!

07 November 2019

During the public visit today the temperature soared which prompted some of the orphans like Kiasa, Maktao, Musiara, Larro and Mukkoka to have a lengthy mud bath. Musiara, Mukkoka and Larro were the mud bathers of the day and were the last ones in the mud bath even when all the others had decided to leave. Larro was like a little mud fish and was diving so far into the mud only a tiny bit of her trunk was left sticking out like a snorkel – you couldn’t see any other part of her body! Little Ziwadi never pays attention to mud baths even when all the others are enjoying them. She just keeps herself busy browsing on the greens beside the math bath or drinking from the water trough (sometimes directly with her mouth and not using her trunk). She is not a fan of mud baths and this might be because of how boisterous the orphans can be in there as well and she does not want to get pushed around. 

08 November 2019

Today the three big girls Tagwa, Tamiyoi and Maisha demonstrated their beautiful manners and level of patience at the 9am milk feed. They walked down from the forest to where the orphans were having their 9am milk bottles beside the mud bath, and found Larro, Mukkoka, Ziwadi, Maktao, Kiasa and Luggard still having their milk bottles. The three big girls just waited patiently without any pushing or shoving to have their bottles too, showing just how much they love the little babies. When the first group were done, the three girls moved towards the wheelbarrow with their trunks in the air showing they were ready for their milk feed. This is really quite a rare thing to behold as usually when milk is involved all the babies go crazy for it and can behave quite badly, but Tamiyoi, Tagwa and Maisha are the most patient of girls and very good matriarchs for the Nursery herd. 

09 November 2019

Early in the morning as the orphans and Keepers were walking out to the forest, they came across a lone male buffalo blocking their path. He didn’t want to give way at all and firmly resisted the shouts from the Keepers to move aside as the orphans stayed behind them. As the Keepers were trying to think about what to do next, amazingly Tagwa, Tamiyoi and Maisha walked ahead of the Keepers with their ears held out wide and started stamping their feet and trumpeting as they walked towards the buffalo. They marched towards the buffalo together and eventually the buffalo ran off into the bushes and they charged after him for a bit just to make sure he was gone. This shows how much the orphans really care for their Keepers and how they don’t just see their human family as human beings but a part of their inner family group as well. 

10 November 2019

Shortly before 2 o’clock in the afternoon today, the orphans were having a great time in one of the small water pools they came across in the forest. Their games were very lively and over-dramatic with Luggard Sattao, Musiara, Maktao, Larro and Kiasa all enjoying running and kicking the water as they trumpeted with glee at the noise made in the water as they charged and kicked at it. Even Luggard wasn’t left out of the fun and was also spotted splashing and kicking the water as he ran along with the others and copied what they were doing. As the game reached a climax, Maisha, Nabulu, Dololo and Kiombo ran out of the water trumpeting and went charging off into the bushes, something which frightened the others who quickly followed suit, trumpeting and bashing through the bushes for quite a few minutes! The Keepers waited for them all to calm down again before rounding them up and walking them to another area to continue browsing. Poor Ziwadi didn’t partake in the mud bath or charging around and kept to herself very quietly. She does not like to get too worked up as she might suffer a seizure and not feel well for the whole day after that.  

11 November 2019

Almost all of the older girls are very interested in looking after the little boy Roho, but Roho in turn seems to like Maisha the most at the moment. It has been some time since we have seen a little one try to suckle on an older orphans ears, but here today we saw Roho trying to get close to Maisha and pull on her ears to suckle on them, and we are happy that Maisha is not objecting and is happy to have Roho close by and pander to his baby whims. 

Ziwadi hasn’t been herself today but Luggard has stayed by her side the whole day, not wishing to leave her alone. 

Before the babies came out to the forest today it drizzled for a little while which Maxwell the rhino was very happy about! Some of the elephant babies looked a little reluctant to come out of their rooms as they could see it was raining. Maxwell tried to invite Sattao, Maktao and Ziwadi to play by knocking on his gate but none of them showed any interest in the invitation, so Maxwell had to play all alone and ran up and down his stockade, rolling in the mud all morning. 

12 November 2019

Tamiyoi and Tagwa are the two oldest females in the Nursery at the moment. Tagwa was the matriarch of the Nursery herd before she was moved to Tsavo. For the three months she was in Tsavo before we brought her back because of the pain where her tusk was pushing through the wrong way, Tamiyoi became the matriarch de facto being the oldest. Since we brought Tagwa back, Tamiyoi has never challenged or fought Tagwa for leadership of the herd but because of her nature, she will always be matriarchal material and is always a caring and loving member of the herd. She is willing to give up leading the herd to the oldest female, but will never stop caring for the little ones! In her mind, every member of the herd needs protecting and she doesn’t have a favourite. To some extent she understands who the most vulnerable members of the herd are and she will concentrate on them somewhat. Today out in the forest Tagwa was disciplining the naughty ones misbehaving in the group, Dololo and Mukkoka. At the same time Tamiyoi was surveying the area and weighing up the options, and decided to lead Roho away to a different area where Ziwadi and Luggard also followed because it was quieter and there was no risk of them being pushed around by Dololo and Mukkoka. 

13 November 2019

It has been a very wet morning today. It was hard for some of the babies to even come out of their rooms this morning. Ziwadi and Roho were not allowed out into this hard rain. Larro, Maktao, Mukkoka and Dololo didn’t want to get wet so early in the morning already and stood under the shelter outside Roho’s room. Tagwa, Maisha and some of the other babies wanted to wait for the drizzle to stop but the rain just kept on pouring so they decided to proceed on out to the forest. Maisha must have looked back and realized that Roho had not yet come out of his room so she turned back running towards his room emitting a low rumble; Tagwa followed her closely behind. When she arrived at his door Roho was struggling to get out responding to Maisha’s call. Together the two big girls kept pushing and pulling on Roho’s door until it was opened, and the little boy was so excited to come out and join the others. The Keepers were reluctant to let him go as the hard rain can be dangerous without the shelter and warmth of his mother and other bigger members of his family, but sometimes the emotional trauma to an elephant can be greater, so the three left together running away into the forest leaving the others in the group behind who didn’t want to go out to the forest yet. The two big girls must have known it was wrong to take the little baby Roho out, as they went in a separate direction to the others in the herd who were out ahead of them. It didn’t take long to track them down however and as the rain continued Roho was taken back to be with Ziwadi, at least in the shelter of the stockade compound for his own safety and while the rain persisted. 

14 November 2019

It seemed Maktao and Sattao grew bored of browsing after awhile this morning. They broke away from the herd and apparently made up their mind that they were going to play instead, not even listening to the commands of the older girls Tamiyoi and Tagwa who were trying to prevent them from wrestling and interrupting the others who were still trying to browse. After the older girls tried to stop them a couple of times, the young bulls decided to move away from the herd to have their own space to play. 

We still have to watch naughty Dololo whenever he is around the young ones. Earlier today he chased little Roho and tried to climb on his back but it was Kiombo who saved the little boy by stopping 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. 

During the public visit today it started raining quite hard while the first group of babies were there having their milk bottles. They all ran towards their Keepers and stood with them under the acacia tree while the Keeper continued to try and do his talk. Roho, Ziwadi, Kiasa, Maktao, Larro and Mukkoka all took shelter with them to hide from the rain. 

15 November 2019

It was a warm morning for the babies as they came out of their night stockades today. They were so excited as they engaged in wrestling, pushing and hide and seek games within the compound. Luggard was wrestling with Musiara and Sattao, Maisha and Tagwa were playing the ‘you can’t catch me’ game, and all the others seem to be playing one form of a game or other too. Enkesha was with the little boy Roho, browsing around in the bushes close to the stockades. Maxwell heard all the commotion and seemed to have been waiting for someone to come close to his gate for a game. None of the orphans played with him though and soon they were all leaving for the forest to browse. Kiko also went out to the forest for a short time before the 11am public visit. While out in the woods he tried to approach the elephant babies a couple of times but he wasn’t welcomed by them and they kept charging at him whenever they saw him approach. He was in an obedient mood today and politely followed the Keepers when they wanted him to go into the stockade next to Maxwell’s during the public visit to prevent him from being a nuisance to the visitors!

16 November 2019

Enkesha is very different to most of the other girls in the family and likes to spend a bit of time on her own sometimes. She always likes to do her own thing and be her own unique character too. We normally see this among the bulls but it is quite a unique character for a female. We often see her wander off alone away from the rest of the herd. She rarely engages the others in games, only once in a while, most of the time she is off browsing while the others stay together playing or browsing as a group. This morning was one of those days that she evidently felt like being on her own as she browsed away from the rest of the herd, only re-joining them for the milk feeds. She never gives any trouble to the Keepers or the others in the herd; she is a gentle and calm girl. In the evening today Maisha was stealing all of Kiombo’s branches through the partition by reaching her trunk through and pulling them across to her side, but Enkesha on the other side of Kiombo moved her branches over to the partition to share them with Kiombo.

17 November 2019

Normally we see the younger babies want to feed from their elders mouth but this morning out in the bush it was the other way around between Tagwa and Ziwadi. Tagwa stayed by her side and as Ziwadi pulled up grass Tagwa followed her and taking some of the grass that Ziwadi was chewing on from her mouth. We think that this way she was keeping an eye on the grass that the little girl was eating and making sure it was the right stuff and not too much, which might affect Ziwadi’s stomach. Whatever the reason, there was some purpose to this interaction for certain! 

Maktao is sometimes very disruptive amongst his peers when he is in a playful mood. Today he kept distracting Musiara from browsing just to get him to stop eating and come and play with him instead!

18 November 2019

It’s always easy to tell when the orphans are in a good mood. Sattao and Musiara have changed quite a bit over the year and we have seen their character change from when they were younger bulls to how they behave now. Sattao used to be very quiet and quite a soft chap but nowadays his mood can change very quickly and he can charge or be naughty if he wants. Musiara was just a playful chap who was always keen to put a smile on everyone’s face but these days it is hard to spot Musiara initiating a game or playing unless he is invited to. This morning we were so happy to see Sattao seriously engaging Musiara in a lengthy wrestling match. At one point Mukkoka attempted to intervene but he was sent away by Sattao. 

We are always very proud when our orphans respond to the needs of another. Roho is settling in so well to the Nursery and is gaining much more confidence. He is much happier to walk all amongst the herd now. Today he was together with Ziwadi, Dololo, Maktao and Luggard ahead of the group, and we are not sure what happened but we suspect either Dololo or Luggard pushed him. He yelled out for help and Maisha, Tagwa and Tamiyoi who were at the back of the herd rushed up to help him. When they arrived he was so relived and happy to be in their company.

19 November 2019

Kiombo is still very much attached to Nabulu and still it seems more than she is to him, and she doesn’t seem to be overly concerned about where he is or what he is doing; but Kiombo still loves her and likes to follow her around. Today, Ziwadi, who is known for wandering off on her own, decided to join them, and the trio all walked off together away from the rest of the herd. It took the Keepers some time to find the three of them again, just busy browsing further down the stream.

During the public visit today Mukkoka tried to steal a branch of green leaves from Musiara. Musiara turned to protect his branch, and charged at Mukkoka to keep him away.

20 November 2019

It’s about a month now since we rescued Roho but still he is nervous of the Keepers and doesn’t trust them fully quite yet. It just goes to show how long it can take sometimes for some orphans to overcome the stress and trauma of losing their mothers and families because of human beings. Regardless of age, it takes a different amount of time for each baby to settle in before their new human family can win their trust. Otherwise he is doing so well - he knows when it is milk feeding time and he knows where to get the milk and he is very much attached to his new elephant family, that much is clear. He never wanders or sneaks away from the herd ever since he was introduced to everyone. Out in the forest today he managed to lead Ziwadi, Luggard, Musiara and Sattao to the milk feeding area at 9am. 

The orphans interact with so many other wild animals as they browse out in the National Park during the day which is so important for their eventual reintroduction as well, so that all these other creatures are not strange to them! For the second day in a row two male buffaloes have browsed close to the orphans, although the Keepers do not like them to get too close as they can be quite aggressive and charge at people. Today as Mukkoka, Musiara, Ziwadi and Maktao ran for their 11am milk bottles as well, they came across a small impala looking for its mother. Maktao got a fright from the baby and ran all the way back to his Keepers, but the others didn’t mind the little impala and ran on down for their milk bottles. 

21 November 2019

Kiko sometimes feels insecure about going out into the forest to browse even though he is with his Keepers and that might be because he can smell lions about. Ever since he was attacked by them he is very aware of the potential danger they pose for him. He never likes to spend a lot of time out in the forest and will never spend more than a few hours there, and sometimes he prefers to go his own way and chooses to browse more in the car park area where it is open. He cannot stay there when it is public visiting time however as he is very inquisitive and will just walk up to people, and can also be very naughty and head-butt or kick someone, so we always lead him to the open stockade next to Maxwell’s for during visiting times.

22 November 2019

It was early morning today when the orphans were let out of their rooms to go out to the forest for the day. Dololo and Mukkoka decided not to wait for their friends but instead began browsing straight away, walking off to start feeding on the nearby bushes. Ziwadi, Maktao and Larro were part of the first group that decided to make their way out to the forest and they passed Dololo and Mukkoka. For a long time both boys had been browsing quietly but they soon started having a wrestling match which attracted the attention of Maktao as he walked passed and he decided to join their game as the others continued on. After some time the three bulls decided to follow the rest of the herd who were already far off deep into the forest by the time they decided to end their game, but they stayed together for the rest of the morning, even going for their milk bottles together at 9am and again at 11am too.

23 November 2019

Kiko was apparently deciding to be a naughty boy today and he didn’t want to go into his stockade which he goes into in the morning, but instead he decided to march straight out to the main gates and the car park area where he started feeding on the trees there. His Keeper got a bottle of milk and managed to entice him up to his big stockade where he was served lovely bunches of fresh cut greens from the Park which he really enjoyed. Maxwell, Kiko’s neighbor, was asleep in his bedroom for most of the morning and looked very comfortable there – he did not come out until much later in the morning and we decided he must have been having a lot of fun in the rain at night so he tired himself out.

24 November 2019

It was a chilly morning today when the orphans left their stockades to go out to the forest for the day. Roho and Ziwadi were left in their rooms for a little longer as it was very damp and they are more susceptible to the cold weather – in the wild they would have the warmth of their mother and family members. The matriarch Tagwa was busily fussing over Larro and making sure she stayed close by her side, as she could not find Roho who was still safely tucked up in his room keeping warm. All the other orphans happily played in the mud when their 9am milk feed was over!

25 November 2019

It was raining when the orphans came out of their rooms today and Musiara and Sattao decided they didn’t want to get wet by walking out to the forest. They hid in the compound area just browsing on some bushes there instead, while all the others went out to the forest. Enkesha knew that not everyone was with the group however, and she lagged behind, so that when the Keepers came to get her they saw the other two boys and called them to follow the others out to the forest as well. 

At the 9am feeing time Mukkoka, as usual, and Larro were the ones who ran the fastest to their milk bottles to have them first – they love their milk so much! Mukkoka still yells if any of the others try to overtake him when they are all running for their bottles.

26 November 2019

It was raining again this morning and Roho and Ziwadi stayed inside during the poor weather as the others walked out to the forest. Luggard hates being left behind and walked out with the others. Roho doesn’t like being left behind either as he is still learning to trust the Keepers and he doesn’t like being without Tagwa. Tagwa wasn’t happy Roho was left behind as well and was looking for him. Enkesha and Tamiyoi were doing such a good job looking after little Larro that she didn’t intervene, and she was just happy to see Roho later in the morning when he came out to join the others, along with Ziwadi, after the rain had cleared. 

27 November 2019

Maxwell was full of energy this morning. As he walked about his stockade and started to move up towards his Lucerne feeding area he came across a warthog that had wandered in and now appeared to be trying to find the way out! Maxwell started to charge after the warthog chasing him around wherever he could hear the warthog running too, until eventually the warthog managed to slip through the bars of one of the gates and make a quick escape. When Maxwell realized his food was safe he relaxed and proceeded to the feeding point. He started to sense there was something else unusual around but it was just Kiko next door feeding on some branches, and he is used to Kiko now, so when he realized it was just Kiko he went back to feeding on his pellets. When he was done he decided to lie down and roll around in the mud in a fun game. 

28 November 2019

Mukkoka is the fastest runner in the Nursery and always likes to be first to a milk feed. Today at the 11am milk feed he was first in line running down to the mud bath area at high speed, leaving Sattao and Musiara behind. Because it had been raining the ground was very slippery and because Mukkoka was running he ended up slipping and falling over, but he got up quickly and ran over to his milk bottle so he could still be first to the feed. Enkesha and Larro were feeding on some branches together while Sattao moved close to the rope cordon to greet the visitors. Ziwadi, who always does her own thing, decided to go and stand in one of the corners and feed quietly on her own branch of green leaves. Since the ground was slippery all the orphans were very well behaved and just browsed peacefully without initiating any games as they did not want to fall over.

29 November 2019

This morning Maxwell woke up and came out of his room and decided to walk straight over to his feeding area as it was not raining very hard this morning, unlike previous days. As Maxwell was feeding on the green branches which are freshly cut for him every day, the elephant orphans were browsing close to his stockade as well. Kiasa and Kiombo were browsing close to where Maxwell was eating as well. Maxwell realized he was not alone and decided to take precautions, feeling very protective of his branches, and started walking around kicking his feet back and marking his territory. When Kiasa saw what Maxwell was doing she decided to move away and feed next to Kiombo who was a bit further away. Maxwell then walked over to where he always has fresh Lucerne pellets and started eating there until he was full, which is when he found a nice sunny patch and decided to have a nap. All the elephant orphans walked out further into the forest for the day, following their Keepers.

30 November 2019

It was another rainy morning when all the orphans came out of their rooms and Roho and Ziwadi, as usual in such weather, stayed behind. As they stayed in their rooms the Keepers brought them specially cut greens for them to eat. 

Out in the forest Kiasa and Larro left the others in the herd and went off to browse on their own. All the other orphans browsed together while waiting for their bottles of milk at 9am. Kiasa is such a clever girl and knew it was close to feeding time, and decided to lead Larro back to the others so that they could both run for their milk bottles together when the Keepers said it was time.