Keepers' Diaries, November 2021

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

At the Nursery, all the orphans begin the day in their own special way. Some, such as Naboishu, Mukkoka, Kamili, Latika, and Roho, don’t like to linger around the compound and immediately make their way into the forest. Others prefer to wait until all the orphans have been let out of their bedrooms. This is a signature routine of our “Kaluku trio”, Bondeni, Kindani, and Kinyei. Ever since their arrival at the Nursery, they like to greet everyone before heading off to the forest.

These unique quirks and habits continue to reveal themselves throughout the day. Some orphans are playful, others are all business. Larro is the Nursery’s mini matriarch and Mukkoka is her deputy, and both have many responsibilities, but they always make time for a game or two. By contrast, orphans such as Rama, Olorien, and Ziwadi are far too focused on finding the freshest greens to partake in any wrestling matches. As the others are running around playing, this dutiful trio can be seen browsing in sync next to each other.

The dry season stretched through much of November, which unfortunately meant that the influx of new rescues continued. Being so intuitive, the older orphans always know when newcomers arrive. Word gets out quickly, and soon the Nursery is abuzz with welcoming rumbles and trumpets. 

While many of the junior girls are vying for nannying positions, Olorien shows very little interest in that role! She is a peaceful young girl, but she really prefers to focus on her own routine. On the other hand, Kindani, Kinyei and Naleku welcome any opportunity to nanny the new rescues. The Keepers are curious to see which of these girls will step up as the next mini matriarch when Larro graduates. 

The junior girls have plenty of room to grow as nannies, because Larro remains fixated on her beloved baby, Bondeni. Despite all the new arrivals, her attention cannot be swayed. However, Larro is an attentive matriarch to the rest of the herd, and she always steps in should the need arise. Bondeni knows that he is Larro’s favourite and, being such a cheeky bull, he sometimes takes advantage of his privileged position.

While Naleku is a very caring elephant, she is a bit selective as to who she nurtures. She is very devoted to little Kerrio, but she has not shown as much interest in Kamili, Latika, or Taabu. Esoit, on the other hand, continues to be friends with the whole Nursery herd. He has become close with Taabu, who is another gentle bull. Latika and Kamili are both settling into the Nursery herd very well, forming their own friendships and growing stronger with each passing day.

When she was first rescued, Suguroi was very timid. Now, she is forging friendships with her fellow orphans and also her Keepers. She remains shy by nature, preferring to be in the middle of the herd as opposed to leading or straggling at the back. Once in the forest, Suguroi spends most of her time with Olorien, Roho, Larro, Bondeni, Mukkoka, Kindani, Kinyei, and Taabu. 

Early in the month, little Barnoti had his first day out with the herd. Probably because of nerves, he was being a bit standoffish. This did not sit well with Mukkoka, who could not understand the new bull’s attitude when everyone else was being so welcoming. Mukkoka pushed him hard, so the Keepers quickly intervened and gave Barnoti some space. Once the older bulls had been ushered away, the rest of the herd came over to greet Barnoti. This seemed to calm him down, and the rest of the day passed without incident. By the end of the month, we saw a lovely friendship blossoming between Barnoti and Taabu.     

Despite that one incident, Mukkoka continues to be the kind uncle of the Nursery herd. He is often in the company of Ziwadi, Taabu, Suguroi, Bondeni, Kindani, Kinyei, Olorien, Rama, Esoit, Roho, Naleku and Kerrio. All their little bodies hug around his larger form, moving alongside him as if they were his shadows. He is also a wonderful, calming influence on his mischievous friend, Naboishu.

Because of her gentle nature, Ziwadi is a favourite among the new rescues. She hasn’t had a seizure in quite some time, and as a result, she is in much better condition. Taabu, Latika, Kerrio, and Choka, who is another new rescue, are always eager to spend time with her in the forest. Ziwadi is a good friend to have, because she has a special talent for smelling out the best greens.

Rama is another elephant who has improved enormously. He is closest with Ziwadi and Olorien, but now he often seeks out Naboishu and Mukkoka for wrestling matches. However, he is still very shy, especially with his Keepers. Unlike some of the pushier bulls, Rama is very gentle towards the new rescues and doesn’t throw around his weight during feeding times.

Although Kerrio is much stronger, she can still be a bit wobbly on her feet. As she came out of her stable one morning, she stumbled on a stick and fell over. Her yell of surprise caught the attention of Larro, Naleku, and Kindani, who came running over to help. For the rest of the day, Naleku and Kindani remained by Kerrio’s side and didn’t let anyone but the Keepers near her. Although she was perfectly fine, Kerrio clearly enjoyed all the attention. 

The relentlessly hot and dry conditions fostered a very businesslike atmosphere at the Nursery, as the orphans focused their energy on browsing. Towards the end of the month, however, we finally got relief in the form of several generous rainstorms. This is something we have been eagerly anticipating for weeks, but the reality left some of the orphans with mixed emotions: Kindani, Bondeni, Kinyei, Olorien, and Suguroi didn’t like the noise of the raindrops on the roof at night and tried to hide, which caused ripples of discontent throughout the Nursery. Once out in the forest, however, everyone was delighted by the change of conditions — with the notable exception of Kinyei. While the rest of the Nursery herd frolicked in the rain, she remained sulking off to one side. Eventually, she snuck back to the compound and sought shelter under one of the open stockades. The Keepers saw her and decided to let her sulk in peace. 

True to form, Maxwell welcomed the rain most enthusiastically. During the first big storm, he stayed up until the early hours, scampering to and fro and gleefully banging against his gates. Max had such an active night that, by the time the elephant orphans were heading out for the day, he was fast asleep in his bedroom. Bondeni walked over to say hello to the large rhino, as he is usually waiting to greet the elephants, but he was nowhere to be found! Bondeni rattled Max’s gate, which would normally wake him up, but he slept right through it. 

Despite all the wonderful moments this month, November ended on a very sad note. On the 29th, we lost our dear Shukuru. She had struggled with her health for most of her life, but at last her journey came to a peaceful end. She took her last breath with her Keepers by her side, surrounded by all the love she has known since she was rescued as a baby. While we mourn the beautiful, gentle elephant we cherished for 12 years, we must be grateful that her spirit has finally been set free. Shukuru will be forever in our hearts.

November 2021 day to day

01 Nov

As the orphans were starting to browse, Larro and Mukkoka began to wrestle each other around the forest. Although Mukkoka is larger in size and much stronger, he has taken over Maktao’s role of the “friendly uncle” and is always so gentle with Larro and the others. Their game continued for a good 20 minutes before they settled down to browse with the rest of the Nursery herd until it was time for their 9am bottles of milk. 

Some of the orphans are not as playful as Larro, Mukkoka and some of the others. Orphans such as Rama, Olorien and Ziwadi are all far too focused choosing the freshest greens to wrestle any of the other orphans. Most of the time, as the others are running around playing, the three of them will be seen browsing next to each other and moving off together in search of more greens. 

Naleku continues to be an extremely independent young girl. Although she doesn’t often partake in the wrestling matches, she is more than capable of standing up for herself against the likes of Roho. Today, however, she was far too busy with her nanny duties. For the whole day, she was right by Kerrio’s side, looking after her and making sure none of the others upset her. Every time little Kerrio would rumble or trumpet, Naleku would come running over. She only left Kerrio’s side once she was back in her stable. 

Mukkoka and Larro wrestling

Kindani, Rama and Olorien browsing

The new nanny Naleku