Keepers' Diaries, April 2015

Voi Reintegration Unit

On the 1st of the month our dependent Voi orphans were joined by a wild herd – Ndoria remembering her wild family stuck close following them for a good long while before eventually deciding to head back to her new found orphan family. Her new found love and happiness amidst new friends won the day and persuaded her to part from the wild herd and rejoin the orphans.

01 April 2015

It was a beautiful morning as the orphans exited the stockades to greet another day. The small ones enjoyed their delicious milk bottles before joining their old colleagues in copra cake feeding a few minutes later. There were only a few games in the stockade compound, where Taveta and Tassia took each other to task over a test of strength games, before running to catch up with the rest of the group who were headed out to the park. After an hour of wonderful browsing, a small herd of wild elephants joined the orphans for a short while. Ndoria stuck close to them while they browsed following them for a short distance as they left the orphans and headed further afield. The keepers were quick to intervene and call her back and she quickly rejoined the orphan group. The orphans visited the middle water hole in the afternoon but due to the cold weather did not have a mudbath. They had their milk feed and browsed close to the waterhole for the rest of the day.

02 April 2015

It was another beautiful morning with a sprinkling of showers as the orphans exited their stockades and headed towards the airstrip browsing as they walked. At noon they visited the big waterhole where they found some water collected from the morning rain and were able to enjoy a mudbath. Bada went down in the mudbath playing rolling games which attracted the attention of Taveta who came to join him and challenge him in a bathing competition. As Taveta has not played bathing games in a while Bada won the competition and was congratulated by Lempaute who came over and touched his back. Dabassa managed to get stuck in some deep mud and was having difficulty getting free. He called for help but was able to extract himself from the mud on his own. The afternoon was spent browsing around the big waterhole. Ishaq-B led the group back to the safety of the stockades in the evening.

03 April 2015

Another morning had started and the young orphans ran out of their stables emptying a morning milk bottle before heading onto the far northern side of the park to browse. They arrived at the middle water pool half an hour later than their normal 11am time for milk and quenched their thirst at the water trough before making the difficult decision as to whether or not to have a mudbath as the water was rather cold. Bada decided to forgo the mudbath and instead enjoyed scratching his buttocks on the edge of the mudbath while being watched by Dabassa who stood next to him as if on guard duty. Once Bada had finished scratching Dabassa took his place and enjoyed a good scratch before the two headed off to rejoin their group for an afternoon browsing session.

04 April 2015

The morning was cloudy and cold as the orphans left the stockade to head out in search of browse. They went round Msinga hill exploring the area for rich vegetation. Their noon milk feed was taken close to where they were browsing. The orphans moved slowly stopping to browse along the way eventually arriving at the big water pool at 2:30. The water pool was drying up and the mud was very thick. Kivuko and Panda challenged each other to bathing games smearing themselves with the thick mud so much so that they could barely see out of their mud encrusted eyes. After the mudbath they moved to some nearby acacia trees to scrape some of the excess mud away before joining Kenia for a dust bathing session. In the evening the orphans returned to the stockades under Mbirikani’s careful leadership.

05 April 2015

It was a dramatic morning with Mudanda and Panda taking on one another in a battle of what was seen as fighting for space in Wasessa’s group. The two took each other task and got left behind as the others, led by Wasessa headed to the browsing grounds. Sinya who was bringing up the rear saw what they were doing, stopped in her tracks and came back to intervene and bring and end to their fighting. The three then ran to rejoin their group who were already on the base of the Msinga hill heading to the main browsing grounds where they all settled enjoying each other’s company.

06 April 2015

It was a nice day with the orphans leaving the stockade early to head out for the day. The orphans fed in single file, with Mzima and Tassia remaining behind as the others proceeded for the noon mud bath. In the water Rombo made both front and back strokes attracting Bada to join him. Panda took Mudanda for some beautiful mud bathing games, with the absence of the two around Wasessa; Ndoria was able to get some one on one time with her adopted mother. Kenia took Ndii and Ishaq -B in the bathing games, with Kivuko avoiding the bathing competition and staying out of the water altogether Kenia, Layoni and Rombo stayed in the water competing with one another even after the others had left and as they had no referee there was also no winner. The rest of the browsing day went well with Kihari taking the lead back to the stockade that evening.

07 April 2015

It was a sunny morning when the orphans left the stockades but it quickly clouded over and became quite cold which was perfect for the orphans who spent the day browsing on both the eastern and western sides of the park visiting the middle waterhole in the afternoon where they had their milk and water before heading back out to browse. While the orphans were browsing a wild bull approached them where he was quickly greeted by Mzima and Tassia. The wild bull headed straight for Wasessa who is the oldest female in the orphan herd and smelled her genitals before settling to feed alongside the orphans. He remained with the group for more than an hour as they then moved off. Layoni remained with the bull for an additional half an hour before rejoining the orphans who were making their way back to the stockades for the night.

08 April 2015

It was another beautiful day with the orphans as the orphans came out of their respective stockades and engaged each other in games before heading to the browsing grounds. Once out in the field they scattered around, each one grabbing as much of the fresh grass and bush that had resulted from the recent rains that they could. At the middle water hole Kenia and Panda had a bit of a tussle over who would look after Ndoria. Lempaute and Bada enjoyed a mudbath followed by soil dusting games while Wasessa was happy to remain with her “baby” Mudanda. The afternoon was spent browsing back in the fields. Mbirikani and Kihari had a competition over who would lead the group back to the stockades in the evening with the two of them taking turns as one overtook the other for the lead position.

09 April 2015

The day started well with Ndii, Kenia, Mbirikani and Sinya chasing baboons away from the stockade before joining up with the others who were already headed to the browsing grounds. The better half of the day was spent quietly browsing with the youngsters in Panda’s herd to the middle water hole at noon to take their milk bottle before interacting with their older counterparts in Lesanju herd for a very brief bathing session. The orphans browsed until evening when Rombo and Layoni stopped browsing to sort out an old score in a head butting encounter which attracted the attention of the females who were looked for a way to end the fight. Wasessa communicated with the other older females for a solution at which point Kihari and Ishaq-B took the chance to steal Ndoria away for some love and affection. Upon seeing this Wasessa gave up on trying to end the boys fighting and went to reclaim Ndoria. Taveta then took charge and confronted Layoni head on to bring and end to the quarrel and bring peace to the group.

10 April 2015

The day started with the orphans playing hide and seek at the stockade compound before leaving for their normal browsing journey. An hour after they had left, both Emily and Edie’s groups arrived at the stockade. This is the first time that they have visited this month. The two groups headed straight to the water trough where the ladies were first to quench their thirst wile Laikipia, Lolokwe and Irima waited patiently behind them. Mweya was busy charging the baboons to keep them away from the two little treasures Eden and Emma, while Icholta enjoyed some rock scratching games. Ndara has a soft spot for both Eden and Emma and tried to pull them close for some love and affection. After one hour of relaxing at the stockade, the ex-orphans left heading towards the main park. They did not encounter the youngsters.

11 April 2015

It was a wonderful beginning to the day as the clouds cleared up paving the way to a sunny day. The orphans browsed their way to the far northern side of the park, before making their way to the middle water hole where they found a big wild herd of elephants that had already taken a bath and were relaxing close by. Taveta, Tassia and Mzima extended their trunks in greeting while Sinya, Lempaute and Wasessa concentrated on moving the small ones Bada, Ndoria and Mudanda past the wild herd as quickly as they could. Kenia, Naipoki and Ndii followed the wild group for a while intending to take a small wild calf from the herd, but were prevented from doing so by its sisters. The two herds separated after ten minutes with the orphans remaining close to the water pool for the rest of the day. Ishaq-B enjoyed leading the group back to the stockade in the evening.

12 April 2015

After finishing her morning milk feed Mudanda followed Wasessa to the stockade water trough where she grabbed Wasessa’s teats and suckled them. Her actions were watched jealously by Bada and Ndoria while Wasessa closed her eyes in happiness and enjoyment. After finishing their daily supplements the orphans headed to the browsing grounds where they fed in single file for the better half of the day. At the mudbath Mbirikani plunged into the water trying to entice her colleagues to join in but were reluctant to do so due to the prevailing cold weather. Rombo eventually joined her but never had a proper bath choosing instead to play on the banks of the mudbath. Once he had left Ishaq-B took his place and enjoyed sliding down the banks of the mudwallow. The rest of the browsing day went well with Kihari enjoying a lead of the juniors back to the stockade that evening.

13 April 2015

It was a nice morning with the orphans leaving the stockade soon after finishing their milk bottles and supplement feeds. Layoni went down in rolling games on the ground while Kivuko enjoyed a buttock scratch on the outcropping rocks. The two were forced to abandon their game prematurely in order to follow their colleagues that were heading out to the browsing grounds. At the middle water hole Mudanda who came with the first herd for milk tried to get more than her allotted bottles trying to steal Bada’s milk. The keepers intervened and shooed her away so that Bada could enjoy her milk feed. There was only a brief bathing session before the orphans headed towards the air strip area, via the big water hole. In the evening they headed straight back to the stockades so that they could enjoy grewia branches and Lucerne in the safety of their quarters.

14 April 2015

It was a wonderful beginning to the day as the orphans played happily around the stockade compound before heading out to the field to start the days browsing session. The ladies in Lesanju’s moved along move quickly but Mzima and Tassia moved slowly so that they could enjoy as much of the vegetation that they came across as they could. The weather was fairly cold and the two chose to browse in their own separate grounds away from the ladies and the other orphans and as such were missing in action by the time the other orphans arrived at the middle water pool in the early afternoon. Their absence was noticed by Lesanju who was not looking very happy about them not being there and kept the rest of the group around the waterhole in the hopes that the two would come by for a drink. Her hopes became reality when at 3:20pm the two boys arrived at the waterhole walking majestically as if they were the kings of the jungle. The others all noticed their arrival and joined them for a wallow letting them know that they had been missed.

15 April 2015

The orphans went onto the far western side of the stockade to browse in the morning before arriving at the waterhole at noon. The milk dependant orphans were the first to arrive and quickly downed their milk bottles. Bada was the first to enter the water securing his central position for the days bathing antics. He later learnt he had no real competition as the others only stood around the water reluctant to get in as it was rather cold. Rombo finally entered the water to give Bada some company before the two joined their colleagues who had headed off to browse. Naipoki enjoyed leading the juniors back to the stockade that evening withstanding a tough leadership competition from Mbirikani and Panda.

16 April 2015

Another wonderful day has come with the orphans playing briefly at the stockade before leaving to catch up with the first light of the day out in the browsing field. On arrival at the western base of Msinga hill, Mbirikani and Panda tried to lead the others uphill but no one wanted to follow them as they were focused on browsing on the lower and flatter The were reluctantly come back down the hill and rejoined the group. Later at noon, a small wild elephant family visited the stockade for a drink. This herd was not new to the stockade having visited a few months ago. Among the group was a new born calf that was approximately Emma’s age. The keepers were able to determine this as the mother was pregnant when she visited a few months ago. The wild herd was very calm and was comfortable drinking close to the keepers who were carrying on their normal stockade duties. The wild herd left after twenty minutes of relaxing at the stockade compound.

17 April 2015

The orphans spent the day browsing stopping only to visit the middle water pool at noon to drink water and quickly splash water on themselves before heading to the far northern side of the park to feed. Here they encountered a big herd of wild elephants totaling hundreds of members. Sinya and Lempaute took the lead in joining them paving the way for all the others to join them. The orphans got sandwiched among the many wild elephants which worried the keepers who were wondering whether Ndoria would rejoin the orphan group or head off with the wild elephants. Ndoria however was sticking close to Wasessa and exited from the middle of the wild group with her joining the rest of the group at the stockades where they all enjoyed their evening milk feed.

18 April 2015

The orphans enjoyed being out in the browsing fields and browsed in single file throughout the day. Emily’s herd was sighted at the far eastern side of the park but as they were so far away they never met up with the junior group. The orphans visited the middle water hole and had a wonderful time bathing before returning the to the browsing fields until it was time to return to the stockades in the evening. Later in the night a wild elephant herd visited the stockade with two small calves. Wasessa rumbled in greeting and looked for a way to get out of her stockade to join the wild group. The keepers could not let her out due to the late hour as well as the obvious risk of predators that are very common in Tsavo. Panda, Naipoki and Kihari also gave a rumbled greeting from inside their stockade when the wild group came to the water trough for a drink. The wild herd responded in kind and hung around the stockade for half an hour before heading back to the park.

19 April 2015

The junior orphans ran out of the stockades and within minutes had downed their milk bottle before joining their older colleagues for some copra cake. At this time Kihari took the opportunity to gather together Mudanda, Bada, Panda and Ndoria, all of whom are Wasessa’s babies. She lay in front of them playing rolling games which caught their attention. The four babies surrounded Kihari enjoying watching her antics. Sinya who was blocking Wasessa’s view of what was going on moved out of the way. As soon as Wasessa saw what was happening she forgot about her copra cake and ran towards Kihari hitting her in the back with her sharp tusk. This made Kihari jump up and run off. She spent the day browsing a safe distance away from Wasessa and her group who had forgotten the morning’s antics and were enjoying the vegetation.

20 April 2015

The day was good with the orphans playing some socializing games around the stockade before heading out for browsing in the field. The orphans settled in groups of few individual but keeping a close contact to one another through occasional rumbling. The orphans then moved to the water pool at noon, with the milk dependant orphans moving at the front and followed a few minutes later by their older colleagues. It was amazing how Panda and Ishaq B jumped into the water pool taking a wonderful bath. This attracted the small ones Ndoria and Bada who went taking a bath close to them as well. On seeing that Wasessa bravely terminated the bath by leading others away from the water, consolidating her mandate and taking her two babies for browsing away from Panda and Ishaq b. Later on the day, Sinya introduced a game of knelling onto her knees digging some soil with her trunk. Layoni went to watch her, but never tried that game that looked too difficult for him. The rest of the browsing day went on perfectly well for the remaining half of the day.

21 April 2015

It was a wonderful morning with Mudanda and Bada taking on one another in a surprising friendly match instead of a fight that they normally engage in over Wasessa affections. They were playing happily today, each accepting that Wasessa loved them both. Lesanju watched their games in great amazement and disbelief keeping a keen eye to ensure that the game ended with nothing but love and respect. The two stayed close to Wasessa as the group headed out to the browsing grounds. At noon the same small wild elephant herd, consisting of two sisters and a new born calf, that visited the stockade five days ago came down from the southern side of Msinga hill and headed to the stockade water trough for a drink. The herd was very comfortable at the stockade and remained there for an hour resting under an acacia tree. A male orphan baby buffalo that was rescued by KWS rangers was handed over to the vet unit and brought into the stockade late in the evening. The male orphan baby buffalo was very dehydrated a sign that it had been without its family for some time.

22 April 2015

It was a busy morning today as the keepers prepared for the arrival of the three orphan elephants from the Nairobi nursery. Everyone was eagerly waiting for the arrival of the juniors with the other Voi orphan crew browsing close to the stockade so as to be present to receive the new arrivals. The moving truck bringing the orphan elephants arrived at the Voi stockade at around 11am. The truck got stuck at a turning point close to the offloading ramp and sadly it was too heavy to be pulled out by the trust land rover or the stockade tractor. As the team waited for a KWS grader to come and help the orphans had to be offloaded and a temporary ramp was made using some large rocks. It was a steeper decline than normal and the newcomers seemed to slide down into the waiting Voi orphans unit. Tundani was the first to exit followed by Nelion with Lentili coming out last. Lesanju was the first to greet the newcomers and Wasessa could hardly contain her excitement at having more youngsters to take care of. Mzima went straight to Nelion and engaged him in a pushing game which Lesanju interrupted feeling that this was no way to greet a newcomer to the group. The weather was perfectly cool and the new arrivals did not encounter any difficulties settling in and were quickly taken under the care of Sinya and Lempaute as Wasessa already had her plate full with Mudanda, Ndoria and Bada. Naipoki, Ishaq-B and Kihari who knew the newcomers well were given little chance to interact with them during the day but were able to do so at night as they shared the same stockade. For some reason Tundani had a few night mares and had to be calmed down throughout the night by the keepers and the other orphans.

23 April 2015

Another beautiful day dawned as the new arrivals and Panda’s herd made up of Mbirikani, Naipoki, Kihari, Ishaq-B, Mudanda, Bada, and Ndoria exited their stockades early in the morning for their milk bottle before the arrival of their senior colleagues in Kenia and Lesanju’s herds. Sinya, Wasessa and Lempaute ran to greet the new arrivals with Wasessa rounding up her three usual babies Ndoria, Bada and Mudanda for supplement feeding. The arrival of the older orphans brought an end to Kihari, Naipoki and Ishaq-B’s closeness with the new arrivals as the older group wanted to interact with them. Lesanju stayed quite close to the newbies and led her now larger family out to the park to browse. Sinya and Lempaute were trying to take control of the new additions but where having difficulty separating them as they were moving and browsing as one. Naipoki, Kihari and Ishaq-B kept stopping to reach out and touch Tundani, Nelion and Lentili in greeting. Kenia also decided to make herself known showing affection to the three. Rombo chose to mimic mount Tundani and was copied in doing so by Taveta leaving the keepers wondering what it was about Tundani that attracted the two older boys to him. The rest was spent browsing at the end of which Ndii also came to greet the new comers and shower them with affection before the entire group headed back to the stockades for the night.

24 April 2015

It was another wonderful day with Naipoki, Kihari and Ishaq-B trying to break through to take charge of Nelion, Tundani and Lentili. This was a very difficult undertaking as their senior colleagues Sinya and Lempaute had the same intentions and had their heart set on being the ones to take charge. The day was spent browsing with the different groups vying for the attention of the newcomers as they all wanted them to join their mini herds. This was not made any easier by the fact that the three newbies all remained clustered together not wanting to separate from one another as they were still getting used to their new surroundings, routines and friends. Ndii and Ndoria who have not been gaining weight as quickly as the other orphans have recently been having porridge mixed in with their milk in an effort to have them gain condition.

25 April 2015

It was a great day with Tundani Nelion and Lentili sticking together giving the senior female in Lesanju’s herd the difficult task of trying to separate the babies and choose which ones they wanted in their herd. Kenia and Ndii succeeded in separating Nelion from Tundani and Lentili giving him a lot of love and affection. Bada became very jealous of this and engaged her in pushing games. Kenia took it as game as Bada is still quite young. Bada on the other hand meant took it very seriously. The orphans headed to the middle water hole for their noon milk bottle with the small ones moving ahead, followed a few minutes later by Kenia’s herd. Bada who seemed to carry this morning’s grudge followed Kenia from behind and gave her a big buttock push something that is rare for the small ones as they respect their seniors. Kenia ignored him as she was busy drinking her milk bottle. At the mudbath the new arrivals teamed up for some beautiful water games. Rombo was busy sitting on Taveta‘s stomach, impairing her bathing abilities. However, once he saw that Tundani was shining in the bathing games he came and disrupted the water games that Tundani, Nelion and Lentili were playing which allowed Dabassa to mimic mount Tundani. The rest of the browsing day went spent close to the water pool with Nelion enjoying a lead of them back to the safety of the stockades that evening.

26 April 2015

It was a big day today as the orphans were escorted out to the bush by a large impala family. Nelion, Tundani and Lentili nearly charged them, but were blocked from doing so by Sinya who let them know that this herd of Impalas was part of their extended family. The browsing day started on the northern side of the stockades with the impalas enjoying their grazing moment close to the orphan elephant herd. Today Ishaq-B had a soft spot for the new arrivals and as did Bada who was watching them closely and upon seeing Ishaq-B’s intentions engaged Ishaq-B in a strength testing match. The orphans proceeded to the middle water pool where they jumped into the water. Mzima went to the deeper side to try and impress Nelion, Tundani and Lentili. Rombo played roughly which drove everyone out of the water. Naipoki and Kivuko proceeded to enjoy some dusting games which were interrupted by Dabassa who came and rode on Kivuko’s back.

27 April 2015

The orphans left the stockade compound very early this morning so that they could spend a long day browsing in the bush. They stopped briefly at the foot of Msinga hill, where they scratched against the rocks and trees. Two hours after their departure Emily’s herd arrived at the stockade and went straight for a drink at the stockade water trough. There was a wonderful playing moment between Emma and Eden who both lay down and played in the dust. Their beautiful game was closely watched by Emily, Seraa, Sweet Sally and Ndara Seraa the moved to the rocks for some rock scratching before the whole herd left for the browsing grounds. Sadly the orphan herd did not get the chance to meet up with Emily’s herd.

28 April 2015

There were some light rain showers in the morning that slowed the orphans browsing pace today. The clouds cleared up in the afternoon making way for the sun to come through. The orphans marched to the middle water hole to quench their thirst and have a quick wallow in the mudbath before heading back to the browsing fields. Soon after their departure a small wild elephant family arrived and the orphans saw them as they were leaving and came back to join them. This was the first time that Tundani, Lentili and Nelion have met with such big elephant since the loss of their families. Lesanju introduced the orphan herd into the wild herd of elephants with Lentili moving along side her as the two greeted a small wild calf. Lentili fell in love with the wild calf, and followed the wild herd after they separated from the orphan group which caused a fight between a wild cow and Lesanju when Lesanju went to try and get Lentili back. The keepers and the orphan herd followed the wild group for about two miles, constantly calling Lentili. Eventually she rejoined the orphans and they all returned to the safety of the stockades for the night.

29 April 2015

The orphans started their browsing journey early in the morning moving all round Msinga hill, arriving at the middle water hole at noon where they had a wonderful bathing moment before moving towards the airstrip to browse for the rest of the afternoon. Soon after their departure from the water pool Emily’s herd arrived. Emma and Eden ran fast towards the water, jumping in and rolling around like little fish. Ndara, Seraa and Eve kept a close eye on them and even charged the keepers who were trying to get some photos of the little babies’ mudbathing. Emma took the lead after the mudbath and leading Emily’s herd to the northern side of the park. Once again the ex-orphans didn’t meet with the dependant orphans group.

30 April 2015

It was lovely start to the day as the ex-orphans arrived and the stockade compound while the youngsters were still in their stockades. This was the first time that Tundani, Nelion and Lentili would get to interact with the ex-orphans. After having a drink at the water trough the ex-orphans went to greet the new additions to the Voi group who were bush watching Eden suckling her mother’s teats. After a wonderful moment of sharing the copra cake supplement Seraa went to greet Nelion, Thoma went for Tundani. The two herds headed out together and stopping to scratch against the rocks at the foot of Msinga Hill before heading further afield to browse. Lentili, who seems to have a soft spot for Eden and Emma kept following them around, sticking close to the two babies. Mweya charged at the keepers when they came to get her so that she would not leave with the ex-orphans who had already made their way to the Voi River. Lentili responded to the keepers calls and rejoined hear group in time to have her milk feed.