Keepers' Diaries, April 2017

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Voi Reintegration Unit

The rain was slow to arrive in the Voi area and it was only towards the end of the month that the cloud cover eventually started to give way to small showers; enough to wet the earth and moisten the grass which the orphans enjoyed feeding on the next day. During cold days they had avoided the mud bath but whenever there was any sunshine, they were straight into the mud to enjoy a happy bath.

The rain was slow to arrive in the Voi area and it was only towards the end of the month that the cloud cover eventually started to give way to small showers; enough to wet the earth and moisten the grass which the orphans enjoyed feeding on the next day. During cold days they had avoided the mud bath but whenever there was any sunshine, they were straight into the mud to enjoy a happy bath.

On the 17th, with the assistance of one of the Trust’s pilots, a young elephant was spotted wandering all alone. A rescue team from Voi was mobilized and he was transported to the Voi stockades with the aid of a canter as he was too big to fit into a Landcruiser. He was very thin and thirsty and was placed into one of the Voi Taming Stockades which have proved extremely vital for rescued orphans are too old to be sent to the Nairobi Nursery and yet are still vulnerable in the wild without the protection of their herd. Without these stockades elephants like Nguvu would have probably not survived in the wild, and those injured like Ajali would never have been able to receive the treatment they required or the gentle conditions and easy access to vegetation and water. Given such orphaned elephants become used to the Keepers and accept them as a surrogate human family as they progress back into the wild along with the older dependent orphans who also begin to undertake that transition. The new orphan was named Pasaka, the Swahili word for Easter.

Matriarchs such as Kenia, however, have not taken to Ajali, perhaps because he is an older elephant and no longer milk dependent, considered sufficiently old to leave the natal herd. Also she may not like the idea of an older bull being around ‘her’ babies. Even although he is older, as a newcomer he can still be pushed around a bit by the other orphans, as are the newcomers to the Nursery in Nairobi. However, he has some friends like Suswa who always keep him company when browsing. Boys, like Tundani, who is one of the oldest bulls at the stockades but a couple of years Ajali’s junior, enjoy initiating the odd wrestling game with him to gauge their strength, as does little Bada who is several years his junior! The interesting thing is Ajali is now very attached to the dependent Voi orphans, and even the Keepers, and dutifully returns of his own free will to the stockades every evening, seemingly with no desire to head off with the wild herds. This will happen in the fullness of time, but in the meantime he has found a new family.

Suswa and Arruba, who are still close friends, take it upon themselves to chase away the baboons whenever they try to steal their morning supplements. Meanwhile Mbirikani, who is already 7 years old, is showing signs of becoming more independent this month. She has been disobeying the usual age bracket for milk and has been turning up at milk feeding times. On another day she chose to remain the whole day on Msinga Hill by herself when the rest of the herd had moved away, so a Keeper had to remain with her until she re-joined the others in the evening, by which time she was very thirsty!

Kivuko and Layoni are two partially independent orphans who remained within the vicinity of the stockades this month and frequently either visited, or browsed with the younger orphans. Kenia does not seem to mind having Layoni with her herd as he keeps a low profile and leaves the leadership roles to her and Ndii. However, she has not always been happy with female Kivuko’s presence, and one day took this out on Kihari, Ajali and Nguvu in pushing games, which was unusual for her.

Kenia was delighted that the Ex Orphans and Lesanju’s herd had not visited for over a week, which meant she could have the babies in the dependent herd all to herself. On the 9th, after the dependent herd had left the Stockade, Ndara with her new baby, Neptune, Lesanju, Sinya, Lempaute, Dabassa, Kivuko, Tassia and Taveta arrived back to drink water from the stockade water trough. Ndara is evidently very attached to her baby and as such did not make it easy for Lesanju and Sinya to interact with him. However, while Ndara was busy feeding on lucerne, Lesanju managed to sneak a little “alone time” with Neptune, eager to implant herself as one of his Nannies. Other members of Emily’s herd as well as the few missing members of Lesanju’s herd were not seen that day.

The next morning partially independent orphans Wasessa and Rombo, in the company of a teenage wild elephant calf, were seen browsing towards the Voi River without the other members of Lesanju and Emily’s herds. The three seemed to be very comfortable in each other’s company. Kenia bellowed when she saw them, but the three didn’t bother to come and join the juniors, leaving Kenia and Ndii very relieved.

April 2017 day to day

01 Apr

It was a lovely morning with the sun’s rays hitting the stockades just as the orphans were leaving their night quarters to begin their day. The stockade dependant orphans concentrated on their usual morning feeding activities before engaging in some amazing hide and seek games around the stockade compound. Nguvu had a lovely time lying on the soft soil piles of soil brought in by the stockade construction team but had to be moved as the team needed the soil to carry out their work. Nguvu saw Nelion and Mashariki following him closely wanting to engage him in strength testing and pushing games. He was however not in the mood to play with them and thus avoided all their advances. Kivuko arrived alone at the stockades half an hour after Kenia’s herd had left. She had a drink at the stockade water trough before heading off in the same direction as that taken earlier by the orphans. The day was spent browsing with the orphan herd stopping only to visit the middle waterhole at noon where they drank their milk before quickly splashing themselves with water after which they continuing with their browsing activities.

Kivuko arrives at the stockades alone

Mbirikani lying in the water

Ajali at the mud-bath

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