Keepers' Diaries, October 2018

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

The first pattering’s of the expected rains began to fall this month, signaling the end of a dry spell and the beginning of the short rains that predictably fall in November. 

Rhino Maxwell was especially active and playful in his big stockade. His playfulness is easily transmitted to the elephant orphans as well, and on numerous occasions we saw Maxwell and others like Luggard, Maisha and Jotto playing on either side of his stockade wall, running up and down between the posts as Maxwell ran and spun about in excitement. These three orphans seemingly had other ideas as well, as when Maxwell was preoccupied with playing with one of them, the others would be stealing his leftover Lucerne pellets that had spilled through his gate! Ambo is not as friendly or tolerant of sharing the Lucerne pellets, and will often chase anyone else away who tries to approach and feed on Maxwell’s leftovers.

Where some orphans might have these naughty ulterior motives, Malima was happy to play with Maxwell one morning simply because she is a very playful girl. Sometimes this playfulness oversteps the mark and can be ruled as plain naughty behaviour, such as when she bites her friend’s tails or gets all muddy and bumps into people on purpose, but Malima has also become quite close friends with our mini-matriarch Tamiyoi. Although the mini-matriarch Tamiyoi likes to spend most of her time with the little ones, she also spares some time to play and browse with her friend Malima. This in turn is having a positive influence on Malima who is learning how to be more ‘motherly’ as a result, and one day we observed her helping to pull branches down for little Musiara that were too high for him to reach. All in all Tamiyoi is certainly having a positive influence on this feisty little girl!

Another girl who we have been very surprised to mark a noticeable change is in Kiasa. She has become very good at feeding times and is much less demanding of other elephants’ milk bottles. One day she even turned back and escorted Merru and Mukkoka to the feeding area and patiently waited there for a Keeper to bring her a bottle; needless to say the Keepers were astounded by these very caring gestures from an apparently reformed naughty girl, who really has changed with the arrival of the new orphans. Her newfound caring nature has begun to annoy Sana Sana however, as she too wants to take care of the babies, and sometimes you can see Sana Sana taking advantage of her age and size to chase little Kiasa away so she can play the attentive motherly role without interference. 

All our new arrivals Merru, Mukkoka and Dololo have settled in very well, despite all having very traumatic separations from their families and subsequent rescues. We are still a little worried about Merru’s internal injuries, and Dololo still has a lot of condition to put on, but we are taking careful steps with them. If the weather is slightly chilly then all of them wear their blankets, imitating their mothers and wild nannies body warmth, and if it starts to rain they are all taken back into the rooms until is subsides. Mukkoka’s first day at the mud bath during the public visiting hour went very well, and no one would be been able to notice it was his first time there. Dololo has settled into the daily routine very well too; so well in fact that he has memorized all the feeding times and will sneak back to the stockade compound when he knows they are due their milk bottles! He has not got the location quite right, and feels like he should always have his bottle in his room, but his intuitiveness is really amazing considering the short time he has been with us. The Keepers on duty in the compound always laugh when they turn around and find Dololo there with an outstretched trunk, wondering where his bottle is!

Just as Kiasa’s behaviour has seemed to improve, Kuishi’s has taken a turn for the worst! She has taken to finishing her milk bottle and either moving towards the milk wheelbarrow to try and grab another one, or trying to take bottles from her friends who are still feeding. Her friends like Ndiwa are tolerating no such behaviour, and are quite happy to push Kuishi very hard so she gets the message. 

The elephant orphans this month loved rolling around in the natural water puddles formed by the new rain showers. One day Tamiyoi, Kiasa, Emoli and Enkesha were so reluctant to leave one of their new-found mud wallows they did not even want to go for their milk bottles. No convincing from the Keepers could get them to leave and the Keepers likened it to little children who are reluctant to leave the swimming pool to come for their lunch! Eventually one of the Keepers was forced to get into the water to hoist them out so they did not miss their feed!

Kiko has been in quite a bolshie mood this month, over excited and keen to do exactly as he pleases. Because he is the tallest, he thinks he rules the roost! Sometimes it is the elephants who actually help the Keepers however. When he appeared out in the forest one day before he was due to leave the compound, it was Musiara as usual who saw him first and took offense, charging at him to send him away. Malkia, who is very fond of Musiara and never wants anything to happen to him, came charging up to support him, along with Jotto, Sana Sana and Kuishi. They all began running towards Kiko trumpeting and stamping their feet, until eventually Kiko surrendered and ran back to the stockades without needing any further convincing from the Keepers.

Maktao remains very possessive of the Keepers, chasing his age-mates away from them if he is enjoying their company. It was this habit that alerted the Keepers to the fact that he had been left behind in the stockades one day too. Maktao had sneaked off to where he noticed some lucerne pellets had spilled on the floor, and stayed there silently eating them as the others made their way out to the forest. It was only when the Keepers settled down to have their breakfast tea that they realised he was missing. He is well known for hanging around his Keepers, pestering them and patting them while they try to drink their tea, so it became very obvious, as soon as they sat down, that he was absent! One of the Keepers in the compound soon spotted him however, and escorted him out to the forest to join the rest of his friends.

We are always delighted when we see Luggard so happy and playful, as this means he is content and comfortable despite the discomfort his broken leg might sometimes give him. When he comes running out of his stockade, greets his friends with a playful head-butt, or even comes running for his milk bottle, it is a clear indication that he is happy. He will often play with his friend Musiara when he is in this mood, or Jotto, as Jotto is a very playful bull too, but also gentle and polite and never plays rough with little Luggard.

October 2018 day to day

The big girls Tagwa, Malkia, Sana Sana and Kuishi decided to keep their distance from the rest of the herd this morning. Jotto was the only boy browsing near them, but even he was not very close. Ndiwa, Sagala and Malima must have decided to keep Tamiyoi company and help look after the rest of the herd while the big girls were off on their own. A few meters away from the older girls, Luggard’s small little group were staying beside their Keepers.

Merru these days is becoming known to the Keepers for his yelling; for such a little chap he has such a loud, strong and high voice. Sometimes he just yells for no reason at all, but the older females seem to understand him. He started complaining when with Luggard, Dololo and Mukkoka today, but they didn’t take any notice of him.

As he carried on eventually Jotto, a very soft and caring boy, did not disappoint him and he decided to go and find out what was wrong with little Merru. As he reached where Merru was yelling away, the little one just walked up to him and settled under Jotto’s neck. Jotto showered him in affection, and this was enough to calm Merru down. 

Tagwa

Tamiyoi having her milk

Jotto browsing

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