Keepers' Diaries, September 2020

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Nairobi Nursery Unit

It was an exciting month for the Nursery orphans this September as Bondeni and his two girl friends from the Kaluku neonatal nursery arrived into the fold. This was the first move from this little Nursery that we established a couple of years ago, born out of necessity at the time, and was perfect timing for Bondeni, Kinyei and Kindani as Tsavo had become incredibly dry, and these three orphans arrive at an age where they really stand to benefit from interacting and socialising with older elephants, and forging the all-important friendships that will remain with them forever.

Of course the Nursery matriarch Maisha immediately took to the three youngsters, although being an experienced matriarchal figure now, even when checking on the new arrivals, she never forgets Naleku and especially Roho, who remain the youngest in the Nursery. Fortunately Roho is becoming less territorial over Maisha’s affection as well, and doesn’t seem so jealous when Maisha is paying attention to the other young orphans. This is an important part of Roho’s development as he learns to become more independent and fend for himself a little more. 

Larro was initially the most interested in Bondeni and the others, as one of the most caring and gentle females we have in the Nursery at the moment. Towards the end of the month and as the new babies settled however, we saw the most notable change in Kiasa. Kiasa can sometimes be mischievous, especially around feeding times, but the arrival of the new babies seemed to have a calming effect on her, and she has been increasingly concentrating on her nurturing side, rather than her roguish one! She has become particularly protective of little Bondeni and likes having him right by her side, and now having realised she is his role model her behaviour has adapted accordingly. She is very protective of him and is always making sure that the other orphans don’t play too rough with him. Bondeni is certainly the most playful new arrival, and perhaps out of the whole Nursery! He loves having the Keepers dote on him at the mud bath and piles of loose soil, as the Keepers dotingly shovel piles of soil onto him in his own private dust bathing experience. In some ways Bondeni reminds the Keepers of Ndotto, now at our Voi Reintegration Unit, as he has a similar character and he always wants to play with his Keepers. All the new arrivals will be placed on the fostering program when they are ready, so you will learn the stories of the other two little girls who came with Bondeni shortly.

Larro’s main companions are still Olorien and Ziwadi, being her neighbours she seems to have developed a particular attachment to them, and Naleku has been spending a lot of time with them as well. Naleku is such a caring and independent young little girl. Although she is close to all the orphans in the Nursery, she does really enjoy spending time with Mukkoka and Maktao, two much older bulls. She has known Mukkoka since she arrived at the Nursery and stayed in the next door stable to him, and they have become quite close, and she enjoys Maktao as he is always calm and gentle with her.

Ziwadi, who likes to take her time and amble slowly through the forest, enjoys the company of the youngest girls in the Nursery, Naleku and Olorien, the most. She has a funny habit in the morning as well, as she and Olorien like to come out of their night stables and make their way over to the water troughs outside Maisha and Maktao’s stockades, where they stand splashing and playing with the water with their trunks. Ziwadi dunks her whole mouth into the trough to drink, as she still has not yet mastered the technique with her trunk. One of the older females, Nabulu, has been spending a bit of time with Olorien as well and likes watching over her.

Mukkoka and Larro are excellent time keepers and they always seem to know when it is time for their milk, and they are always sure to make their way down to the milk feeding point. Even if Mukkoka leads some of the nursery orphans further afield, he knows to always have them back in time for their milk bottles. It is normally Mukkoka and Naboishu however who are first to arrive at their milk feeds. Sometimes they enjoy a race down to where the Keepers are waiting! Mukkoka seems to be the faster runner, but occasionally he underestimates Naboishu’s appetite for his milk and consequently is overtaken every now and then. Naboishu has become so well known for his loud yelling as he runs for his milk bottles that the Keepers have nicknamed him “Makelele” which is the Swahili word for being noisy! Naboishu has settled a lot over the past few weeks however and is much more playful these days, and less shy than before. Once out in the forest he had a lovely time playing with Kiombo as the two became engaged in a wrestling pushing game which they enjoyed until Nabulu came and separated them as she is not as fond of pushing games as the boys tend to be.  

In amongst a month of cool mornings and intermittent rain showers, for one week this September it became incredibly hot, and as the dry sun beat down, black rhino Maxwell indulged in a mud bath every single day to cool down, before taking a nap in the cool shade of the trees in his stockade which offered up a refreshing breeze as well. When the temperature returned to a much cooler setting and the mornings were really quite brisk, Maxwell preferred to stay in the warmth of his nice covered hay bedroom, not emerging until the sun came out. His favourite activity in the morning is to come out and sort out his fresh greens the Keepers have placed in his stockade for him, which he does with his horn, before feasting on his favourite ones and moving on to his Lucerne pellets. He is looking in such fine health at the moment and the filarial sores which bother scores of black rhinos have healed over very nicely this year with the treatment we have been giving him. 

September 2020 day to day

01 Sep

As the orphans were happily browsing in the forest, they decided to split into two groups. On the one side of the forest was Roho of course with Maisha, but they were also joined by Nabulu, Maktao, Kiombo and Ziwadi and on the other side of the forest was Olorien with Mukkoka, Naleku, Larro, Naboishu and Kiasa. Maisha’s group decided to stay close to the Keepers but Olorien’s group began to wander further into the forest, but always remaining under the watchful eyes of their Keepers. 

Mukkoka and Larro always seem to know when it is time for their milk, and they are always sure to make their way down to the milk feeding point. As Mukkoka and Larro knew it was time for their midday bottles of milk, they began to lead their group down to the milk feeding point and didn’t need any encouragement or direction from their Keepers. 

The other group, however, seemed to have no idea that it was time for their milk and the Keepers had to come and usher them down.

Later in the afternoon, as the orphans were browsing, Kiombo, Mukkoka and Olorien all had a long dust bath in the forest, rolling around covering themselves in dust. 

Roho browsing between Nabulu and Maisha

Olorien huddles behind Mukkoka browsing

Kiombo dust bathing