Keepers' Diaries, September 2022

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Kaluku Neonate Unit

The drought continues to hold Tsavo in its grips. On top of that, it has gotten very hot, which only intensifies the dry, dusty conditions. As a result, it was a rather sedate month at Kaluku. All the orphans have plenty of food and water, but they still seem to know that they need to conserve their energy. This intuitive knowledge will serve them well when they are grown and leading wild lives.

Stoney and Jessie, the orphaned duikers who we rescued a few months ago, are two of the tiniest members of our Kaluku herd. Funnily, they seem to gravitate towards Twiggy, who is indisputably the tallest member of our herd! 

Apollo the orphaned rhino:

A few months ago, a semi-wild buffalo arrived on the scene and 'adopted' Kaluku as her home. Kidogo, her name, became very good friends with Apollo. Although they never directly interacted much — that is not the rhino's style — she spent most of the day in his orbit. The big baobab was their favourite hangout spot, and they whiled away much of the afternoon in each other's company.

Now, however, there is trouble in paradise. Kidogo started helping herself to Apollo’s lucerne beneath the baobab, which made him very upset. When he chased her off, the buffalo simply circled back to his stockade, where she knew she would find another big stash of lucerne. Rhinos are very perceptive, and Apollo always seems to know about her duplicity. When he goes back home in the evening, he spends several minutes sniffing around, as if investigating every inch of her trespassing. Of course, there is plenty of lucerne for everyone, but all the animals are quite territorial about their stash is these particularly dry conditions.

Otherwise, Apollo had a fairly sedate month. He pulled his disappearing act twice, but now everyone at Kaluku knows how to assemble a rhino search party at the drop of a hat. Generally, he seems happier wandering closer to home, particularly up and down the side of the airstrip.

The orphaned elephants:

Manda used to be the wallflower of the Kaluku elephants, but that seems to be changing. Now, he loves to wander over and investigate visitors at the mud bath. He is clever and immediately senses when there is a new person. Like Rokka, he has a naughty streak and enjoys unexpectedly nudging newcomers, just to see how they react.

Manda also seems to be evolving in terms of playfulness. For several months after his rescue, he remained on the sidelines and never got too involved in the mud bath or herd games. Now, he can't wait to dive in. In fact, it often takes a lot of convincing to get him to exit the mud bath.

Rokka is our resident imp. She is always up to something! The Keepers must be on high alert when onlookers are around, because she takes every opportunity to test the limits. Although she is the smallest member of the Kaluku quartet, she packs the biggest punch.

At one mud bath, Kwale the hartebeest wandered too close to their bathing proceedings. Rokka, who is a famous water baby, was upset that he interrupted her favourite activity. In retaliation, she chased him all the way back to the stockades, her ears spread wide and trumpeting up a storm.

If Rokka and Manda are full of spice, Mayan is all sweetness. He is unflaggingly good-natured, with friends old and new. Now that it’s starting to grow hotter, Mayan has rediscovered his love of the mud bath and cannot get enough of it. 

To see him now, so healthy and plump, it is easy to forget the health saga that Mayan braved after his rescue. Tiny signs remind us. With the warmer weather, for instance, his energy levels sometimes drop during the day. The Keepers give him rehydration salts which promptly raises his energy levels..

Vaarti is another sweet boy. He is always looking to make friends, even in unlikely places. This month, he set his sights on Scooter and Sprite, Kaluku’s warthog duo. He always tried to follow them around, only for them to dash off in the opposite direction. When this happened, he would stare at their retreating tails for a long time, as if unable to comprehend why they don’t want to be friends.

Luckily, Vaarti has no shortage of buddies. Although he dotes upon all the Keepers, he has a soft spot for King’oo, who has raised him since he was rescued.  

Twiggy the orphaned giraffe:

It is hard to believe that Twiggy’s first 'rescue-versary' is approaching. She is now totally at home at Kaluku and knows her way around the compound and its environs. One of her favourite haunts is the staff canteen, where she happily accepts any chapati that is on offer. The team always looks forward to their rather novel lunch guest!

One would think that Twiggy would be less active amidst the drought, as is the case with most of the orphans. Interestingly, however, she seems to have the most energy of anyone at Kaluku. Throughout the month, we often witnessed her running at full speed, dashing to the workshops and looping around the compound, before making a triumphant return to the stockades. Twiggy has the advantage of reaching the leaves of our well watered trees around Kaluku so she hasn’t felt the drought. There are wild giraffe spitting just two kilometres from where Twiggy calls home. As she grows older, we anticipate her orbit will widen as she ventures deeper into the Park.