Keepers' Diaries, September 2019

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

Maxwell our resident rhino has become very used to the morning routine of Kiko being in the stockade next to his.  This happens as we keep Kiko away during our daily visiting hour as he is very much his own boss, and who knows what antics he might get up to, so to avoid any mishaps we make sure he is next door to Maxwell for that hour. When Kiko arrives next door, Maxwell likes to walk over to greet the young giraffe. One morning Maxwell lifted his head right up to smell Kiko, and Kiko lowered his head and nibbled one of Maxwell’s ears as if greeting him back. The two spent a couple of minutes at the same gate before moving off and continuing with their normal morning routine. This is now happening regularly.  

Maxwell has been full of energy in general this month, charging out of his bedroom first thing in the morning to head straight for his morning lucerne pellets. Sometimes he is in such a happy mood he doesn’t even mind the warthogs coming in to share his pellets either. He enjoyed a very sweet interaction with Luggard one morning as well, when Luggard walked round to where Maxwell was sleeping and reached out to tap him with his trunk. As Maxwell felt the tap, he got up very quickly and started to joyfully bounce around in circles, pushing his horn through the gate to greet Luggard and then running up and down his stockade. Luggard also began to run up and down as fast as he could with Maxwell, trumpeting in excitement. 

We have begun familiarising Kiko with his translocation crate so he can become comfortable with it as we prepare for his move to Sirikoi in Northern Kenya, where he can assimilate back into the wild with other Reticulated giraffe.  Sirikoi has been carefully chosen because there is another hand-raised female Reticulated giraffe there, and it is Reticulated giraffe territory. We have in the meantime built Kiko palatial quarters there, a new stockade safe from lions inside an electric fence that he can be led into every evening until such time that he is big enough and comfortable enough to spend his nights out. During the familiarisation sessions, Kiko at first didn’t want to enter the crate to have his milk and no amount of temptation from the Keepers could lure him in. It is very important to remain patient throughout this process no matter the animal species, for if we were to scare Kiko during this process we could lose all hope of ever getting him close to the crate! Eventually, after rearranging the inviting food and adding some delicious lucerne pellets to entice him in, Kiko is getting closer to getting his whole body into the crate. This was great news for the Keepers, who were having to deal with Kiko’s usual mood swings this month. One minute, butter-wouldn’t-melt with Kiko, acting as demure as can be and dutifully obeying his Keeper, and the next day he can flatly refuse to do anything they ask – as always, he marches to the beat of his own drum! At four years old, Kiko is certainly ready to begin the next step and make his move to Sirikoi, and now he has fully recovered from the trauma of his lion attack, we have commenced that preparation.

The elephant orphans were also having fun this month and we saw no end to their frolicking and pushing games with each other. Maktao and Mukkoka have recently become full time playmates. Maktao comes out of his stable in the morning and playfully knocks Mukkoka’s milk bucket outside, waiting for him to come out. As soon as Mukkoka hears his friend outside he knocks at his door eager to be let out to play and as soon as they are united, they speed off together towards the forest.

Ziwadi is such a clever girl and has learnt all the milk feeding points and is not afraid to walk herself to all of them in search of her delicious bottle ahead of time as well. Her health issues seem to have stabilized and she hasn’t had any seizures recently. We are hesitant to say she is completely recovered, but we are delighted that she seems to be improving. The Keepers have noticed that she becomes quite stressed when some of the boisterous boys such as Maktao, Dololo, and Mukkoka playfully push her around and when she is stressed, she shows signs of her seizures. The Keepers believe that this may be one of the reasons she sticks to herself and avoids any stressful situation. Luggard seems to have noticed that Ziwadi likes to keep to herself and doesn’t always rush to follow the others, and the quiet boy is happy to keep her company while browsing.  

Since Tagwa’s return she has latched onto little Larro, like most of the older girls, and she likes to take care of and protect the young calf, making sure that none of the young boys disturb her. She also helpfully pulls down the higher green branches for all of the youngsters below, like Larro, to enjoy, who cannot quite reach as high. Tamiyoi, who was the matriarch before Tagwa’s return, also has the utmost respect for her and helps her in her matriarchal duties. The other older females like Nabulu, Enkesha, Maisha and Kiasa are helpful ‘nannies’ in the Nursery as well, and all enjoy looking after the younger ones, or dishing out discipline where necessary. As the older girls are always working together to protect Larro, some of them have become quite close such as Tagwa and Kiasa. The three can often be spotted out in the forest browsing together. We are pleased that Tagwa has been doing so well in the Nursery since we brought her back from the grips of the dry season in Tsavo last month.

Kiombo seems to enjoy being with any of the other orphans, and is often seen walking among them all when making his way to the feeding point or out to the forest. He and Nabulu seem to have very similar personalities, in that they are both quite shy and nervous when they aren’t surrounded by the other orphans. Even when they are having their milk, they prefer to drink in the company of others. The Keepers have noticed that if they are the last two to have their bottles, they approach the Keepers very cautiously and don’t rush down to have their milk. Once they are finished drinking, they don’t even try to get more milk unlike Kiasa, Luggard, Mukkoka (who still yells for his milk if any of the others try to overtake him as they run for their bottles) Sattao, Maktao and Larro, but they simply walk off to continue browsing.

September 2019 day to day

01 Sep

After their midday bottles of milk, the orphans made their way over to the waterhole were they enjoyed a long mud bath. It was quite amusing to watch as Tamiyoi, Maisha, Enkesha, and Nabulu similarly sat with their bums in the mud and were all splashing mud all over their bodies with their trunks. Even though most of the orphans enjoy a long mud bath there are a few orphans that don’t always seem so eager and prefer to stay dry. Today, Kiombo and Sattao were not in the mood to have a mud bath as they both preferred to browse on the shrubs around the waterhole. When the Keepers tried to get close to spray them with some muddy water, Kiombo went running off, trumpeting in protest. 

Tamiyoi and Maisha at the mud bath

Nabulu running down to the mud bath

Kiombo busy browsing