Keepers' Diaries, September 2015

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Little Godoma, who arrived in the Nursery on the 14th of August, has settled well. She came to us battered and bruised having been rescued from a steep sided water hole. How long she had been there before help came is not clear, but long enough for her herd to have given up hope and abandoned her. The trauma of her loss and subsequent rescue caused her at first to be distrusting of the Keepers and it took a long while for her to settle, but thanks to the gentle and steady care and attention she received she has grown in confidence and now seeks her Keepers out for company, and is content to spend endless hours suckling their fingers. She has grown extremely fond of gentle Tusuja and Rapa. Kamok and Mbegu are always quick to shower the younger babies with attention and love and Oltaiyoni is a born matriarch, ever present if needed to give support and understanding. These three habitually tutor the new arrivals into Nursery life, happy to take the responsibility from the older females like Arruba, Suswa, Rorogoi and Embu.

Little Godoma, who arrived in the Nursery on the 14th of August, has settled well. She came to us battered and bruised having been rescued from a steep sided water hole. How long she had been there before help came is not clear, but long enough for her herd to have given up hope and abandoned her. The trauma of her loss and subsequent rescue caused her at first to be distrusting of the Keepers and it took a long while for her to settle, but thanks to the gentle and steady care and attention she received she has grown in confidence and now seeks her Keepers out for company, and is content to spend endless hours suckling their fingers. She has grown extremely fond of gentle Tusuja and Rapa.
Kamok and Mbegu are always quick to shower the younger babies with attention and love and Oltaiyoni is a born matriarch, ever present if needed to give support and understanding. These three habitually tutor the new arrivals into Nursery life, happy to take the responsibility from the older females like Arruba, Suswa, Rorogoi and Embu.

Mini matriarchs Kamok and Mbegu prefer spending time within the baby group. These two females, along with Oltaiyoni, have strong maternal instincts despite being so young themselves. They provide great companionship for our baby group which consists of Ndotto, Lasayen, Murit, Ngilai, Godoma and Rapa. Lasayen and Ndotto are inseparable friends - two little boys, who love playing together for extended periods time, their games include kicking a football around charging and barging after it, extended mud wallowing sessions clambering on one another and collapsing together in loose red soil.

Rapa, who is also fairly new, has settled extremely well and is now a fat and robust baby. Boisterous boys Olsekki, Sirimon, Boromoko and Mwashoti, along with trouble makers Soketei and Enkikwe, spend long hours sparring and performing strength testing games. Sometimes the little bulls can be rougher than acceptable on the smaller orphans but older female Suswa casts an eagle eye on proceedings and is quick to intervene wherever necessary.

This month the orphans have had interesting encounters with some of the other inhabitants of Nairobi National Park. These have included meeting impala, buffalo, giraffe and the ever present warthogs. On one occasion a couple of impala babies became entangled in the elephant herd and as they tried to reach their Mums, and bumped into a couple of the orphaned elephants. This unnerved the orphans terribly, despite being bigger than those that bumped them. The elephants raced back to the company of their Keepers to regroup!

Pea and Pod have provided endless entertainment too with Alamaya, Simotua and Mwashoti spending one morning chasing them both. Pea and Pod were clearly enjoying themselves sprinting to and fro in front of them, and even returning to prompt continuation of the game. With Simotua and Mwashoti recovering from severe injuries, and Alamaya a fragile little Eunuch having had his genitals ravaged by hyenas, this scene exemplified the new found mobility of these three injured elephants. Simotua was trying hard to reach his feathered friends, charging with outstretched trunk and ears akimbo, desperate to pluck at some feathers, but wily Pea and Pod kept one stride ahead and avoided the plucking!

On another occasion nearby giraffe stirred the undergrowth and this freaked the orphans out – with most of them hurtling towards their keepers for comfort save Elkerama, who took off in a different direction with little Ngilai Simotua and Godoma in tow. They were later rounded up in the forest by the Keepers and the herd brought together again. Kamok, Mbegu, Boromoko and Mwashoti never tire of chasing the resident warthogs.

Two orphans who have shown a marked improvement health wise this month are Balguda and Tusuja. Both are gaining condition and their energy levels have increased. Balguda is now spending every day in the mud wallow, when, during the previous months he was afraid since he felt he would not have the strength to climb out, or that he might be barged by the rambunctious stronger orphans surrounding him. Tusuja is gaining condition and strength too, able to get himself to his feet on his own, and sometimes first in line running for his milk. His cheeks are filling out and his skin condition is improving.

Dupotto is an elephant who has definitely suffered severe trauma. The reason she lost her mother has never been confirmed, but whatever the reason it has definitely left its scar. When she first arrived in our care she suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome, and her disruptive behavior proved challenging. Then thanks to love from older Embu who arrived days after her, and her Keepers, she settled and appears now to be a happy little elephant. She has recently developed a new tendency of swaying on her feet for hours when she returns to her stable, has difficulty sleeping peacefully throughout the night and sometimes even cries out. Everything else about her suggests that she is settled, happy and content, apart for this recent development. We hope it is a passing phase, but it reminds us all how traumatic it is for the orphans in our care to lose their loved ones, more often than not under terrible circumstances, and the memories that persist resulting in daunting nights and dreams.

Rorogoi, Elkerama, Arruba and Embu were all seen one day jostling to see who would browse ahead of the rest, competing for the greens now that the Park is so dry. A chance encounter with a very tame, very skinny buffalo who, to their delight retreated when they charged, boosted confidence. The group continued bush bashing for a good long time afterwards feeling very pleased with themselves.

Another day Olsekki, Sirimon and Enkikwe went to feed on lucerne outside Maxwell’s gate which caught Maxwell’s attention. He sauntered up to where the preoccupied little bulls where and then all of a sudden turned and sprayed urine in their faces which resulted in the three boys retreating hastily, trumpeting in protest! Maxwell charged around his boma repeatedly returning to the gate to rub his horn up and down in order to reinforce possession of his patch. This month Solio has visited on a number of occasions. She saunters between the orphaned elephants while out in the bush and even lets them caress her with their little trunks. She never comes without spending time with Maxwell who responds with delight, snorting, huffing and puffing.

On the 19th of September we were called about the rescue of a tiny baby giraffe and adorable Kiko came into our care from Meru National Park. He is is extremely tame and affectionate and upon arrival was just a few days old and has settled in well. Then on the 29th of the month we received another tiny elephant calf from South Turkana – who arrived very gaunt and thin, but this is not surprising coming from such an inhospitable and challenging area. He obviously has impressive genes, as despite being one so young, he dwarfs tiny Ndotto, Lesayan and Ngilai!

So much more detail about the various individuals in the Nursery can be found throughout the keepers daily entries for September

September 2015 day to day

01 Sep

It was hot today during public visiting hour, which meant most of the orphans decided to enjoy a lengthy mud bath. As usual, Mbegu, Dupotto, Roi and Rapa were the first babies to kick off the mud bathing event. They all had a joyful time spinning around in the mud pool, with Mbegu and Dupotto showing a dramatic display of scratching their hinds against the edges of the pool at the same time. They then both left the mud wallow and began charging at Pea and Pod (our ostriches) who were standing on the sidelines, though the ostriches managed to sprint away in time. After failing to chase Pea and Pod, the two girls decided to go and roll on the loose soil, posing wonderfully. This attracted the attention of Lasayen who joined and had a happy time; he sat on Mbegu’s head and scratched himself against her which drew much applause from the visiting public who saw how happy and content the little babies are in their nursery.

Pea and Pod with the orphans behind

Mbegu playing in the mud bath

Mbegu and Dupotto rolling in the soil

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