Keepers' Diaries, April 2007

Voi Reintegration Unit

“Thoma’s Group” are the younger Voi orphans, who are still enclosed at night in a Stockade, along with weakling Mweiga. “Natumi’s Group” are the older orphans, who are now no longer confined at night. And Emily’s group (who have been conspicuous by their absence this month) is comprised of Emily, Aitong, Tsavo, Sweet Sally, and now Natumi and Ndara, Ilingwezi having returned back to Natumi’s group). This month Emily’s group have obviously gone further afield with the wild herds, exploring new pastures, which is a positive development although she and her satellites have been missed back at home.

01 April 2007

Thoma’s group (the youngsters who remain in the Stockade during the hours of darkness) left early on their own, without being accompanied by the older orphans who now spend the nights out. The two groups linked up out in the bush an hour later, to be joined by a wild elephant herd who were feeding near the orphans’ waterhole. The wild herd allowed two of their number to join the orphans at the mudbath, and after a soil dusting session, the orphans and their wild friends again mingled with the wild herd. One teenaged wild boy paid a lot of attention to Edie, sniffing her genitals. When the orphans began returning to the Night Stockades in the evening, the wild group headed towards the Voi river.

02 April 2007

Natumi’s group arrived at the Stockades early in the morning to escort the younger set out into the bush. There were trumpets and deep rumbles of joy when the two groups met to greet each other at the Stockade waterhole. Mweiga, who is still weak, remained apart from the exuberant celebrations. They all then went in single-file to feed at the foot of Mazinga Hill, until Burra led them to the mudbath, after which all enjoyed a quiet afternoon.

03 April 2007

Thoma’s group rushed out of the Stockades, eager to meet up with Natumi’s group. Morani enjoyed several stop-overs to feed en route, while Thoma was bent on meeting the others. Soon they spotted the older group, and joined them, again greeted with great joy and exuberance. Morani enjoyed feeding close to Mukwaju, since his two favourites, Ndara and Loisaba, are now with Emily. Salama lay down in an attempt to attract Thoma while Icholta watched closely nearly. Sosian found a tree-trunk which he enjoyed pushing around using his head. They all enjoyed the mudbath, and fed near the waterhole for the remainder of the day before returning.

04 April 2007

Thoma’s group had already left the Stockades when Natumi’s group arrived to fetch them. Natumi’s group took water and then followed them swiftly, meeting up to a joyous reunion, when Seraa made a great fuss of Mpala, watched by Lolokwe. All then concentrated on feeding for the rest of the day.

05 April 2007

It was a lovely morning, because Edie arrived alone at the Stockades to escort the babies out. Edie, who seemed to know exactly where Natumi and the others were feeding, indulged in delaying tactics as she escorted the youngsters, wanting to enjoy them all to herself, but the youngsters were anxious to meet up with the others, so hurried her along. As usual, after a rapturous greeting, the two groups fed slowly towards the mudwallow, where they had a lot of fun, running in and out of water, splashing their whole bodies with mud. They fed calmly for the rest of the day.

06 April 2007

Today, it was Laikipia and Nyiro who had their turn in coming to fetch the youngsters in the morning, draping their trunks lovingly across the backs of the youngsters as they went to join Natumi’s group out in the bush. The two groups fed close to the big waterhole during the morning, where they were joined by a teenaged wild bull, who has been a frequent visitor last month. The bull lay down so that the orphans could climb on him. They all left the mudbath, having had a fantastic time. Later the bull left to join a wild herd on the northern side of Mazinga Hill. Mukwaju was tempted to go with him, but turned back later when none of the others kept him company.

07 April 2007

Thoma’s group met up with that of Natumi a few yards from the Stockades in the morning, with all the usual jubilation, later returning together to the Stockade trough for water. All fed quietly throughout the day, a highlight of which was when Seraa, Burra and Solango teamed up for a fantastic pushing game. Having escorted the babies back to the Stockade in the evening, Natumi’s group left, after taking their Copra hand-out.

08 April 2007

Natumi’s group arrived on time to fetch the youngsters. They scattered over the feeding area, heading towards the northern side of Mazinga Hill. The friendly wild teenager boy joined them after the noon mudbath and the youngsters enjoyed his company, tossing their trunks towards him. Later he left, heading in the direction of the Airfield.

09 April 2007

Natumi’s group came to escort the babies in the morning, all having a drink before heading out. At the mudbath, they enjoyed games, Morani challenging Mpala, Laikipia taking Sosian, and Seraa choosing Irima. Icholta and Mweya enjoyed scratching their buttocks on the banks. They all returned in the evening, Natumi’s group leaving once the youngsters were ensconced in their Stockade.

10 April 2007

A large wild herd arrived at the waterhole a few minutes ahead of the orphans today, amongst whom was the friendly teenaged boy, who came to welcome the orphans and introduce them to his wild herd. Edie enjoyed soil bathing with some wild cows and was in her element when allowed to play with two tiny calves. The wild group fed with the orphans for a few hours before leaving, heading towards the Voi river. Natumi kept tight control over the orphaned group, ensuring that none joined the wild herd as they were leaving!

11 April 2007

The orphans found yesterday’s wild herd already at the waterhole taking a bath and Edie moved in first, trying her luck to reach the tiny calves at the centre, but without success, since the calves were sandwiched by their mothers, sisters and Aunts. When the wild group left, Edie tried to follow them, bent on access to the two babies, but when she failed in this quest, she returned later.

12 April 2007

Today, Mukwaju (the mountaineer) happily propelled all the orphans up the hill, leaving Mweiga at the base with the Keepers. The orphans all came down for the waterhole at noon, and in the evening Laikipia led them back and saw the babies to bed.

13 April 2007

When Natumi’s and Thoma’s groups joined up in the morning, the greeting was, as usual, rowdy and joyous. Trumpets filled the air with huge chunks of dust being tossed around, as the orphans indulged in a game of hide and seek. Sosian, who has always been greedy, decided to abandon the game and escort Mweiga out to feed, which prompted the others to run and join them, carrying on the hide and seek games as they went along. All enjoyed the mudbath, after which there was serious feeding, until Laikipia led them back for the Copra Cake.

14 April 2007

The youngsters left the Stockades in a hurry to search for Natumi’s group, who did not turn up today. Whilst the search was on, Mweiga had to rest now and then. When they had still not made contact by l0 a.m., they had to resort to feeding. Natumi’s group came down the hill to the Stockades at noon, and having taken water, hurried off in search of the youngsters. As they came into view, the youngsters charged towards them happily, so excited and overjoyed that they had come, that they had to be calmed down by Natumi. All was well for the remaining half of the day.

15 April 2007

The youngsters rushed out to search for Natumi’s group, who, again, had not turned up in the morning. However, the two groups linked up later in the morning at the foot of Mazinga Hill. They had fun at the waterhole, but then had to concentrate on feeding or the rest of the day. Laikipia and Salama enjoyed a pushing match, into which Seraa injected herself. The game came to an end when it was time to return in the evening.

16 April 2007

The youngsters emerged with great jubilation since Natumi’s group was there to escort them. There were initial games around the Stockade before heading out to feed. At the foot of Mazinga Hill, there was confusion, since Mukwaju and the bigger boys wanted to go up the hill, and Natumi’s group preferred to feed on the lower slopes. Mweiga was glad of their company until it was time for the mudbath, after which they all fed close to the waterhole before returning in the evening.

17 April 2007

Natumi’s group, having spent the night up the hill, arrived at the Stockades early. Thoma was so excited when she was allowed by Natumi to lead the entire herd out to feed. At the waterhole, Natumi lay down to entice the youngsters to play on top of her, but this only attracted Seraa. They wound up their final feeding session at the base of Mazinga Hill.

18 April 2007

Natumi’s group did not turn up today, having spent the night with a wild herd on the Eastern side of Mazinga Hill. Ilingwezi and Nyiro detected the approach of Thoma’s set by scent, and moved from the wild herd to escort the youngsters back and introduce them to their wild friends. When the wild group moved further towards the eastern side, Laikipia went with them for a while, but then returned to join the orphans who were heading to the mudbath. They fed in a tight bunch for the rest of the day. Catherine’s group came to the Stockade waterhole to drink in the evening, when Laikipia urged Natumi’s group to join them, securing a wild age mate for a test of strength. The older orphans then went with Catherine’s group once the youngsters were in their Stockades.

19 April 2007

Natumi’s group arrived early to take the youngsters. Mukwaju challenged Solango to a test of strength at noon, after a very successful feeding session. After a brief rest under shade, the usual feeding activity ensued. In the evening there was a stiff contest between Burra and Laikipia as to who should lead the group back home both pacing side by side very fast.

20 April 2007

It was a scorchingly hot day, so the orphans went to the waterhole at 9 a.m. Soon after they left the waterhole, a large herd of wild elephants came to drink, but the orphans did not make contact, but instead concentrated on feeding for the rest of the day.

21 April 2007

Serena, the orphaned zebra, was taken by a Keeper for about 2 kms. to the Northern side of the hill, hoping to make contact with some wild zebras, but she was very nervous and would not leave the Keeper. They both returned together, because no wild zebras were seen.

22 April 2007

Natumi’s group turned up in the morning to escort the youngsters. There were exuberant games at the Stockade, until Edie decided that enough was enough, and standing on an out-jutting rock blew a trumpet call. All then left the Stockade happily towards the bush, where they enjoyed feeding, and settling old scores until it was time to return in the evening. Solango had a pushing match first with Morani and then with Mpala.

23 April 2007

The youngsters left the Stockade without Natumi’s group, and pacing fast past a wild herd, went in search of their mates. The wild elephants stretched their trunks to smell and give them a welcoming gesture, but the orphans were set on linking up with Natumi’s group, who were further down the northern side of Mazinga Hill. Having joined up, they fed happily together for the rest of the day. Morani won a shoving match with Mpala, and became so excited that he rolled around on the soft soil, rising to head butt Mpala again. The two then had to catch up with the others who were on their way back home.

24 April 2007

Natumi’s group came to fetch the youngsters and lead them out. Nyiro and Laikipia then put on a good display for the others, pushing each other here and there with Lolokwe hiding behind a tree trunk to thwart Nyiro, and Nyiro rushing round the other side to take him on there. When they noticed that the spectators had moved off, their acrobatic pushing game ended, after which they fed calmly until it was time for Laikipia to lead the way back in the evening.

25 April 2007

The youngsters linked up with Natumi’s group in the bush where they all settled into serious feeding. They enjoyed the mudbath, and then fed in the afternoon. Laikipia and Mukwaju played an amazing wrestling match whilst in a sitting position which ended when it was time to return in the evening.

26 April 2007

It was another very hot day, so the orphans went to the mudbath early. Afterwards they fed close to the waterhole, going back into the water every now and then to cool themselves off. They fed on their way back in the evening.

27 April 2007

Natumi’s group came down early for a drink and to take the youngsters out after the usual games at the Stockade. All fed seriously until a brief break at the mudbath, before concentrating on feeding again in the afternoon until time to return in the evening.

28 April 2007

When the two groups met up out in the bush, serious feeding dominated the morning until noon when Solango collected an old tyre that was lying around, and brought it into the mudbath as a plaything. All enjoyed pushing this around, but then returned to feeding in the afternoon, since the vegetation is drying up rapidly, and so far there has been no rain at all, despite the fact that the rains were supposed to have come during the month of April.

29 April 2007

Natumi’s group joined the babies in the morning, and both then headed out to feed in the bush. There were few wild groups close by, since many of the inland waterholes have now dried up, and the vegetation is greenest along the Voi river valley which still holds water.

30 April 2007

It was a nice day for both Serena and Rukinga, who ventured further from the Stockades with their Keepers. They went as far as the eastern side of Mazinga Hill, but remained very close to the Keeper, nervous of venturing too far from him. Mweiga’s condition is showing a slight improvement after being put back on milk. Nowadays she can get up unaided after sleep, unlike earlier when the Keepers had to help her. The weight gain is still slow, and there is swelling beneath her belly. Emily’s group has been absent all month, and have obviously found a feeding area further afield where no doubt they are enjoying time with their wild compatriots.