Keepers' Diaries, November 2020

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

In November there is an atmosphere of anticipation for the short rains which arrive at this time of year – just like the mixed batch of weather we have had in Nairobi this month, the orphans have had mixed feelings about it too! On some days they are eager to play and splash about in the numerous puddles that have become common place out in the forest and they are too enticing to ignore, and on the rainy days they are reluctant to leave the comfort and shelter of their comfy hay strewn bedrooms. 

One morning when the rain showed no sign of easing the Keepers just decided to open their bedroom doors and see who wanted to come out and who didn’t - Mukkoka, Maktao, and Naboishu were the first out and evidently preferred being out in the rain browsing than sheltering in their rooms, while the others chose longer under cover. Rainy mornings are not an option for Bondeni, Kinyei, Kindani, Olorien and Ziwadi however, as baby elephants are susceptible to pneumonia and we need to be cautious of this group. This little group stay under shelter in the stockade compound until the rain subsides, which it always does before long. Thankfully the rainy days are always punctuated by sunny spells and that’s when the orphans choose to frolic out in the forest, digging up mounds of loose soil with their little tusks, or splashing about in some new pool or puddle. Often it just takes one baby to show interest in a mud bath, and the rest will follow! Naboishu is one elephant baby who doesn’t seem to like the rain and he always wants to go back to the stockade compound on a rainy day. 

Since their arrival Kinyei, Kindani and Bondeni have always been a bit hesitant of the older larger orphans. This is mainly because none of them had ever seen such big elephants before and they are a little uncertain. However as they are settling into life at the Nursery, they have warmed to the other orphans and Bondeni and Kindani are interacting more closely with them - namely Kiasa, Maisha, Naleku, Roho and Ziwadi. They spend time with the rest of the Nursery herd too but they are still a little hesitant around the larger bulls who are always wrestling each other. Kinyei remains the shyest still and much like Ziwadi, she will often move off on her own and browse just slightly away from the other orphans, preferring to do her own thing.

Bondeni is so full of life and character that one would never be able to guess the traumatic start to life he suffered. He is always full of energy, especially after his milk bottles, and will charge around, causing mischief and excitement wherever he goes. One morning he and Larro came across a lone male buffalo out in the forest. Bondeni is so brazen, and in many ways rather naïve, that he didn’t seem perturbed by the buffalo one bit and instead he chose to try to walk straight up to the big male. Larro, being older and wiser, was quick to react and run in front of Bondeni flapping her ears at the buffalo, protecting the little bull from the dangers he appeared so oblivious to. This is just one of many examples that indicate to us that Larro will be an excellent matriarchal figure in the future one day, when the likes of Maisha, Nabulu and Kiasa move on to our Reintegration Units just like orphans before them – to begin their journey to find their place in the wild once more. One of Bondeni’s favourite games is to find an empty water trough and roll it over to push and kick it around- trumpeting with delight. Of course he is now benefitting hugely from having the older orphan figures around too. One day he got a little over-excited in a mud puddle and got himself stuck fast, until Maisha calmly came to his rescue and gently scooped him out with her foot and a little nudge.  

Roho has slowly warmed to the new arrivals from Kaluku, but this month we unfortunately had to rescue another little bull from Tsavo East, a young calf around two years of age that we have named Shaka. He still has a long way to come having arrived emaciated and weak and riddled with worms, but he has slowly worked up the strength to join the orphans out in the forest for their daily excursions. As with every new arrival Roho underwent his brief period of jealousy having to share the matriarch Maisha’s attention, but she is so used to this behaviour now she can ignore Roho’s petulant ways and merely rumbles at him to behave himself. Luckily for Roho, he has the delightful Maktao who is always eager to show him affection and attention too. Naleku our little no nonsense clever girl has been enjoying the bountiful food and excessive water that the rains have brought, playing for hours in the forest streams and the mud-wallows throughout the Park.  

Maktao is like the caring uncle of the Nairobi Nursery, and always makes time for the young babies, which is slightly unusual for an older bull his age. He has a particular soft spot for Roho and always seems to keep an eye on him, enjoying his role model status and accompanying Roho for browsing expeditions, occasionally with Olorien too. Olorien has become quite a tough little girl compared to the others and much like Naleku she doesn’t put up with any bullying from the other orphans. She and Ziwadi are still very close friends, but Olorien is also doted upon by Nabulu, our sterner matriarchal figure in the Nursery. Where Maisha might be affectionate, Nabulu doesn’t tolerate any nonsense and hers is a tough love approach; if not with Ziwadi, Olorien will always go to be near Maktao, Kiasa or Nabulu, who watches over her when she naps.

Of course this is a favourite time of year for one of our orphans – Maxwell the rhino loves the rain and always relishes the rainy seasons. He likes to roll and cover every inch of his body in mud, and with all his fun and games soon the lower part of his stockade resembled a quagmire! That is just the way he likes it, but luckily he has his nice soft hay bedroom to retreat to should he want somewhere warm to nap, and the extended side of his stockade with grass under some beautiful croton trees should he want a change of scene. Once the storms pass Maxwell likes nothing better than having a good roll before finding a quiet warm spot to enjoy the sun’s rays, warming him up while drying his body. He enjoyed a few interactions with the elephant orphans on some mornings this month – one day it was shy little Kinyei who actually initiated a game with him on one side of his gate, and before long Maisha, Larro and Kiasa were playing a game running up and down with Maxwell each on the other side of his stockade partition, a game which Maxwell seems to thoroughly enjoy and one he is always eager to play!

November 2020 day to day

01 Nov

As the orphans were out browsing in the forest today Roho and Naleku were busy enjoying their own wrestling match. The Keepers were amused watching the two youngsters in the Nursery really challenge each other, with neither of them giving an inch. They were challenging each other to such a point that Maisha, Kiasa and Nabulu all remained close by, keeping a watchful eye on him, and making sure neither of them hurt the other. 

At one point it seemed as though Naleku was about to defeat Roho as she managed to push him down to the ground. As soon as this happened however Maisha quickly stepped in and separated them. Both babies weren’t keen for their game to end though and they quickly ran around Maisha and continued to chase after one another. 

Unfortunately, it wasn’t too long after this that they both upset each other, with Roho pinning Naleku down when she slipped and she retaliated by biting his tail, causing him to yell out loud and run off. As soon as Roho yelled out, Nabulu, Kiasa and Maisha came running over and Naleku was quick to flee the scene, knowing full well that she had taken it too far. Naleku knew very well that Maisha was on her way to discipline them both and she made sure to hide from the older girls for quite some time. 

Once Roho and Naleku had calmed down the orphans enjoyed a relaxed afternoon of browsing. 

Naleku and Roho near the older girls

Roho snuggling up to Maisha

Naleku rolling in the dust