Keepers' Diaries, October 2021

Select your unit:

Nairobi Nursery Unit

On the rescue front, this has been one of the most hectic months we can remember. The prolonged dry season has taken an enormous toll on creatures great and small, but especially elephants. For months, they were able to struggle through, but now it is crunch time. Herds are forced to leave their weak behind, as they move on in search of life-sustaining food and browse. 

We rescued an influx of orphans over the course of October, some who lacked the strength to go on, others who lost their mothers to the near-drought conditions. 

Our existing Nursery herd finds the silver lining in these dire circumstances: They are delighted to have so many new faces to greet! Most mornings, they make a beeline for the newcomers’ bedrooms, extending their trunks in greeting and emitting lots of welcoming rumbles. We always take it very slowly with new rescues, giving them plenty of time to settle in and regain their strength before they join the rest of the herd. Towards the end of the month, Barnoti, Kamili, and Latika were strong enough to head out into the forest with the orphans, much to everyone’s delight. Their rescue stories will be told shortly.

Suguroi and Taabu, who we rescued late last month, have settled in extremely well. Suguroi, a Laikipia elephant, lost her mother to natural causes. Taabu is one of the many victims of Tsavo’s dry season. As we often see with orphans who are rescued within a few days of each other, they have become extremely close. Taabu is a gentle and affectionate boy, whereas Suguroi is a feisty girl who enjoys flaring her ears whenever someone approaches. The first morning they joined the Nursery herd in the forest was cause for great excitement. Larro, Naboishu, Roho, Kinyei, Mukkoka, and Naleku started bulldozing through the bushes and running along the paths, trumpeting and rumbling in unbridled joy.

Little Kerrio, another recent rescue, continues to thrive. Despite being wobbly on her feet, she is such a happy girl and has shown amazing progress with her hind legs. Esoit, who is her nighttime neighbour, follows her like a shadow. Much like Mukkoka, he is a gentle and caring bull who constantly looks out for the smaller orphans, especially Kerrio.

Larro continues to excel as a matriarch. Her Nursery herd is growing, but she takes on each new responsibility in stride. One morning, as the Keepers were letting the orphans out of their bedrooms, Larro was busy going up to each and every one, greeting them with either a warm trunk hug or a deep rumble. She started with Kerrio, Taabu, Suguroi, and the other new rescues, and then continued to Esoit, Bondeni, Kindani, Kinyei, Ziwadi, Naleku, Olorien, and Roho. Once she was finished greeting the younger groups, she went over to say hello to Rama, Shukuru, Mukkoka, and Naboishu.

Mukkoka, like Larro, is a natural nurturer. Rama, who has become so much more confident and outgoing, always seeks him out for wrestling matches. Rama appreciates that Mukkoka is a gentle friend who doesn’t try to immediately win the game. Roho also loves to play with Mukkoka. He has never shied away from challenging older bulls, but he also enjoys wrestling with Esoit and Kinyei.

Naboishu and Bondeni have been a bit less mischievous recently. This has given the Keepers a welcome break, and even Mukkoka hasn’t had to intervene as often. Still, rarely a day goes by that they don’t commit some minor misdeed. Naboishu is so used to being sent to the naughty corner that whenever the Keepers discipline him, they don’t even have to send him to timeout, as he is already preemptively making his way over!

Despite Shukuru’s struggles with her health, she continues to be in good spirits. Since her return to Nairobi, she has really settled back into life at the Nursery and enjoys spending time with all the orphans. No matter who is keeping her company, she is always so respectful and calm. It’s easy to see why the younger orphans adore her.

Ziwadi has always liked to forge her own path. The Keepers used to let her wander away from the Nursery herd, under supervision, but things changed towards the end of the month. Newcomers Kamili, Taabu, Latika, and Suguroi realised that she has a knack for finding the tastiest greens, so they started following her around the forest. Now that she has her little entourage, Ziwadi doesn’t have such flexibility to wander and must remain with the herd. Luckily, this doesn’t seem to bother our independent girl too much. 

Naleku is one of the quieter orphans, but she is always great company to all the other babies. She barely ever causes any drama, unless Naboishu and Roho are bugging her, in which case she will stand her ground. She loves to lead the orphans out into the forest, supported by Mukkoka. Because she is so strong-willed, the Keepers believe Naleku could be a great matriarch or second-in-command one day.

Olorien is another independent girl, but she is also quite relaxed and happy to go with the flow. Given all the new rescues, it was time for her to graduate from a stable to a big stockade with the older orphans. She didn’t protest the move one bit and happily followed the Keepers to her new bedroom. Perhaps she even prefers her new accommodations, because this means she doesn’t have to avoid the gutter that she so detested outside her old stable.

Not all orphans are so relaxed about changes in their sleeping arrangements. Towards the middle of the month, the Keepers also tried to switch Kindani into a bigger stockade. This did not go well at all: She, Kinyei, and Bondeni were very angry about the move and made their feelings clear, yelling and throwing lucerne throughout the night. None of them slept a wink! We realised they were not ready to be separated and quickly moved Kindani back to her old stable, much to everyones’ relief. Even though she is still surrounded by her friends, Kinyei has become a bit of a menace during bedtime. When the Keepers try to usher her into her stable, she causes a real fuss and often refuses to go in on the first try. The Keepers wonder if she’s just being petulant, or perhaps she wants to visit the new rescues at the other side of the compound.

Although he is entirely blind, Maxwell always seems to be able to tell when there is a new arrival. One of our resident warthogs recently gave birth to four piglets. One morning, she led them straight into Max’s stockade, almost as if she wanted to introduce them to him. Max was in a wonderful mood and appeared to be thrilled to meet the babies. Being so small, the piglets were very cautious of the large rhino, but their mum was completely relaxed, trusting Maxwell’s gentle nature. Eventually, they all settled to enjoy Max’s lucerne pellets, and he now looks forward to their daily visits. 

October 2021 day to day

01 Oct

Olorien is quite a relaxed orphan, as she is always happy to follow the Nursery herd wherever they choose to go. Recently, with all the new rescues and being older than the little ones, she graduated from her stable to a big stockade with the older girls and boys of the Nursery. As soon as the Keepers decided to move her, she didn’t protest one bit and happily followed the Keepers towards her new stockade. Perhaps she was even happier about it, because this now meant that she didn’t have to avoid the gutter anymore when leaving or returning to the stockade compound. 

The Keepers put her in the stockade between Rama and Shukuru. Although Olorien used to be a bit of a bully towards Rama, they have been getting along much better as of late and have even been sharing trunk hugs through the partitions in their stockade wall.

On top of this, all the new rescues are doing well. As they continue to settle into their new life at the Nursery, the Keepers are still walking them out on their own and they have not met the Nursery orphans yet. 

Just after the orphans had their 9 o’clock bottles of milk, Roho and Kinyei began to enjoy a wrestling match. They were having the best time, chasing each other around the forest. Roho could even be seen rolling around on the ground, letting Kinyei take the lead and sometimes even climb on his back. They have become the best of friends and will often be seen playing together. 

After some long games in the forest, the orphans enjoyed a quiet afternoon of browsing. 

Olorien resting her head on Shukuru

Rama doing a trunk wave

Roho browsing