Keepers' Diaries, April 2016

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Voi Reintegration Unit

Lesanju’s herd, who have recently become independent of their Keepers, no longer come into the Stockades at night. Included in her herd are Lempaute, Sinya, and Kivuko, and bulls Taveta, Mzima and Dabassa. Wasessa seems to have opted to remain within Emily’s herd. The transition to a wild life of this group is certainly assisted by the presence and guidance of Emily’s herd, with whom they fraternize. When not with Emily’s Ex Orphan herd, Lesanju’s group often browse closer to home around the Stockades, either searching for left over copra cake or visiting the dependent orphans wherever they may be, the incentive being the fact that many of their friends remain within the dependent herd. Should they absent themselves for a few days, the Keepers are not concerned, but celebrate their new found independence and successful reintegration back into a wild life, as they are often seen in amongst both the Ex Orphans and wild herds alike. On the 22nd Lesanju’s herd was spotted in the distance in the company of a wild bull, unfortunately too far to be able to capture on camera.

Lesanju’s herd, who have recently become independent of their Keepers, no longer come into the Stockades at night. Included in her herd are Lempaute, Sinya, and Kivuko, and bulls Taveta, Mzima and Dabassa. Wasessa seems to have opted to remain within Emily’s herd. The transition to a wild life of this group is certainly assisted by the presence and guidance of Emily’s herd, with whom they fraternize. When not with Emily’s Ex Orphan herd, Lesanju’s group often browse closer to home around the Stockades, either searching for left over copra cake or visiting the dependent orphans wherever they may be, the incentive being the fact that many of their friends remain within the dependent herd. Should they absent themselves for a few days, the Keepers are not concerned, but celebrate their new found independence and successful reintegration back into a wild life, as they are often seen in amongst both the Ex Orphans and wild herds alike. On the 22nd Lesanju’s herd was spotted in the distance in the company of a wild bull, unfortunately too far to be able to capture on camera.

All is well amidst the dependent orphans herd who remain still attached to their human family of Keepers, escorted back to the safety of the Stockades at night. Kenia and Ndii are the Matriarchal Leaders s of this group now, although they allow the other females to take on this important role as well, Lentili being a key player leading the orphans out to browse. Still dependent on their milk and the protection of their Keepers, Kenia can often be seen providing reassurance and comfort to unsettled orphans such as Mudanda and her adopted baby Araba who encountered a big lizard whilst browsing one day which frightened her. Kenia’s obvious affection for Araba continues to be a source of jealousy for young Ndoria, who often seeks out Araba to exact revenge by biting her tail, a notorious habit of Ndoria’s. Mornings are usually occupied with some form of fun games around the Stockade compound before heading out to the browsing grounds. Such games involve ‘chase and ambush’ of baboons to defend the precious piles of copra cake from invading troops, much to the entertainment of the Keepers. Nelion loves leading an expedition up the Mazinga hill behind the stockades, his Mount Kenya genes obviously deeply entrenched. He does this simply because he enjoys climbing, but also to browse on different and varied vegetation. However when he tries to do this in the afternoons, his plans are often thwarted by the others who are more eager to return to the safety of the stockades for the evening. Nelion, Bada and Tundani are the only three remaining males in the dependant orphan herd. Nelion and Bada often engage one another in wrestling matches in a bid to show off to the females and decide who amongst them is the bigger bull, whilst Tundani is more reserved with a more peaceful disposition, preferring to observe from the sidelines. The friendship between Suswa and Arruba which blossomed in the bosom of the Nairobi Nursery, endures in Tsavo, the two often seen browsing close together totally content in each other’s company. Very special friendships such as this will endure throughout life, which is why careful consideration is always given to move special friends together when leaving the Nairobi Nursery.
Elkerama has still not returned to the fold of the stockade dependent orphans, but then again he always was a more independent orphan; even when he was in the Nairobi nursery he was always wondering off on his own. Because of his age and confidence in the wild we are sure he is safe and sound, content amidst wild friends.

On the 3rd of the month, the orphans came out of their stockades amidst a revitalizing downpour of rain to refresh the parched landscape and top up underground aquifers. However, during this heavy thunder storm one particular thunder clap so terrified the orphans, that they ran far and wide in panic.. The Keepers searched for hours in vain for their missing charges, and in the end the DSWT patrol aircraft had to be called in to scan the area and help identify the missing orphans who were eventually spotted in dense bush on the far northern side of Msinga Hill. The Keepers made their way to them and escorted Lentili, Arruba, Suswa, Nelion, Mashariki, Panda, Rorogoi, Tundani, Ishaq B, Bada, and Kihari back to their friends in Kenia and Ndii’s dependent herd. We remain with the haunting memory of Shimba, when he was separated from the group and went missing during a rainstorm and was not located before nightfall and was badly mauled by lions during the night, eventually dying from his injuries. Elephants are essentially fearful animals and become very frightened during ferocious tropical thunderstorms experienced in the height of the rainy season. For the rest of the month we experienced the cloudy and rainy weather of the main April-May long rains; chilly weather also making the orphans reluctant to take a mud bath. At such times they take their milk together with the Keepers who have their lunch out in the field. However, on sunny hot days, the orphans bathe elatedly in their mud bath having taken their milk – water-loving Bada as well as Panda and Tundani being the main bathers. However, on the 24th Ndoria was particularly animated in the water, splashing the surface with her trunk and charging at the onlooking Keepers in a game of chase. She and Arruba spent hours in the mud bath on that day. Rain throughout the month promoted new growth, so towards the end of the month the orphans were feasting on luscious long grass and fresh green shoots. Voi had enjoyed more rain than Ithumba by the end of April.

The rain also meant that although we saw Emily’s herd numerous times at the beginning of the month, they did not return to the Stockade area until the 29th since natural waterholes were filled and food was plentiful allowing them to explore further afield. When they did reappear, they were often in the company of wild elephant bulls along with our own Ex Orphan big bull Laikipia. All were paying particular interest to Ex Orphan Seraa, signalling that she may soon be coming into season. The youngest members of the herd, wild born babies from last year and early this year, namely Emma, Eden, Safi and Inca, continue to grow and delight us with their antics. Mzima, from Lesanju’s independent group can often be spotted in the company of the Ex Orphans and in particular playing with these young babies whom he adores. Morani, another of our Ex Orphan bulls, is also particularly fond of these young babies and can often be seen watching over and protecting them. The younger orphaned bulls take a very active role in baby sitting duties.

We had a few visiting school groups to the stockade this month as part of our Community Outreach Programme who clearly relish the opportunity to learn more about elephants and the work that the Trust does in the area. Even for Kenyans, the opportunity to see, let alone touch, such a creature is unusual. Moreover, often community members that are afforded close up interaction with elephants and who have only viewed them in a negative light due to crop raiding, trampled fences and so forth, see another side to these very human creatures. We believe that it is crucial to provide the opportunity for the younger generation especially to learn about elephants in more detail in order to better understand and appreciate them. For children to view the orphans having their milk and behaving naturally, playing and socialising with their human keepers is invaluable. We welcome over 250 school children most week days at our Nairobi Nursery.

Our assorted herd of small orphans of varying species within the Voi stockades is also growing fast and all are in good health. Kore and Tawi, the orphaned baby elands, together with new arrival, Salla, the orphaned Oryx and Jamuhuri the buffalo are all presided over by their adopted mother, orphaned zebra Ngulia. Ngulia has a particularly special bond with the orphan baby buffalo named Jamhuri, and has become very protective and jealous over him; so much so that she charges anybody who tries to approach the baby buffalo whenever he is with her!

April 2016 day to day

01 Apr

It was a brilliant morning with the Ex Orphans in Emily’s herd coming in with Lesanju’s herd into the stockade early this morning, missing the stockade dependant orphans by just a few minutes. Lesanju’s herd separated themselves from the main herd, waiting patiently for the seniors to drink water from the stockade trough before they assembled to drink as well. Morani, who was waiting for the ladies to finish drinking, joined Lesanju’s herd to drink, moving to stand inside the water trough after drinking to cool down even more. The Ex Orphans and Lesanju’s herd then walked out of the stockade heading towards the east but did not catch up with the stockade dependant orphans who had moved further towards the northern side to browse. Panda browsed closely with Bada throughout the day. The stockade dependent orphans visited the middle water hole at noon, and had only a very brief bath before moving out browse for the rest of the day.

Emily's herd drinking from the water trough

Ex Orphan Thoma

Lempaute, left, Taveta and Sinya

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