Keepers' Diaries, April 2018

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Voi Reintegration Unit

For the DSWT team throughout our numerous projects, coming to terms with the loss of Dame Daphne has been hard. We have chosen to direct our pain and loss by focusing on the living, just like she has always taught us, by celebrating her life, and watching over our precious orphans here in Voi knowing that each and every one of them is with us and alive today thanks to her extraordinary legacy, dedication and life’s work. We have been able to take time to think and appreciate just what a monumental difference she has made to the world, to our world as part of her team, and to our many elephant charges in our care. We are so committed to driving her work and conservation mission forward under the stewardship of Angela, Robert and their boys Taru and Roan, and we are more committed than ever before to do so.

This month we have enjoyed the company of two ex-orphans Layoni and Dabassa who have chosen to remain close to home throughout the month despite such exceptional rains falling in Voi and throughout Tsavo. These two big boys chose to visit the orphans almost every day from morning until evening seemingly babysitting the juniors! In the morning they would arrive at the stockades as the orphans left their nigh quarters, before accompanying them out to the bush to browse for the day. Kenia, Kihari and Ndii put up with their presence because they did not feel these older boys threatened their matriarchal status in the dependent herd, and unlike the ex orphan females were not partial to kidnapping any of the younger babies. Ndii still very much dotes on little Tahri and vice versa. One day Panda managed to convince Tahri to follow her but she didn’t get very far as when Tahri noticed Ndii wasn’t with them she turned back to follow her adopted mum.

After all the rain the area Voi is the greenest it has been for a long time. We have had more rain in two months here than in the past three years. The place is looking more beautiful than we can ever remember, and the memories of the drought have been all but forgotten there is so much food an water everywhere, and such extraordinary vegetation growth. We are of course blessed with some drought victims that we were able to save in time, and seeing them enjoy the bountiful food immersed within their new elephant family is has been deeply satisfying. The bountiful food has delighted the orphans who relish munching on all the nice soft grass and creepers, luxurious greens that they have not experienced for two years. On the hot days interspersed between the rains the orphans can take refuge under the now thick shade of the trees, or cool down in the shallow ubiquitous water pools. They like to explore the holes in tree trunks for fresh water too which must taste nice with the infusions from the bark, and perhaps it is the certain minerals they enjoy too. Despite trying Tahri and Araba watch older orphans like Ndii and Kenia doing so but unfortunately their trunks are not yet long enough to reach to taste this sweet water quite yet.

All the vegetation around compels slow eaters like Suswa and Ndoria to take their time even more, savouring everything they can lay their trunks on, and they are frequently left behind by the herd as they move on to the next aspect of their day. Suswa and Ndoria always have to run to catch up! Ndoria was very playful this month but that makes the other orphans nervous, as they are afraid of her tail-biting antics when she gets too exited! One day she gulped down her afternoon milk bottle very fast in order to ambush Nguvu who was walking past. Nguvu wasn’t interested and ran towards the mud bath to avoid her, and made sure to browse a safe distance away for the rest of the day! Another afternoon Arruba was enjoying a nice scratching session against the baobab tree at the mud bath when Ndoria came over and tried to push her away to have her own turn. Arruba was having none of it and pinned Ndoria’s head against the tree with her buttocks making Ndoria pay the price for her naughty behaviour! Bulls Bada and Tundani are the most playful, but we thought we saw Bada breathe a sigh of relief one morning when Tundani didn’t seem to want to play their usual wrestling game. When these two are playing Nelion finds that he doesn’t have a play mate as Nguvu and Ajali are not very playful bulls. He tried to engage Ishaq B in a game one morning but felt dissatisfied, as he really wanted a boy to play with given that the girls are less than enthusiastic for strength testing exercises!

The other orphans in the Voi rehabilitation unit, elands Tawi and Kore as well as Ngulia the zebra and Oltukai the buffalo are doing well. They are very much used to the elephants of course, having grown up with them around, and when Rorogoi, Naipoki and Kihari tried to charge them away from the lucerne feeding area one morning they ignored their empty threats and just carried on feeding totally unflinching! The elephants are not always ready for every new orphan that comes their way however, and were very confused one morning when they heard the cries of some baby genet cats that had been rescued by KWS and brought to the Voi unit. The genet cats were later taken to our Kaluku HQ where they will be raised and free released back into Tsavo from there.

April 2018 day to day

01 Apr

The orphans exited their stockade in a joyful mood this morning, finishing their morning milk bottles before settling to enjoy their supplements. Layoni together with his best friend Dabassa came and joined the orphans at the supplement feeding area. When they were done eating the juniors enjoyed playing some socializing games with Mashariki engaging Tundani in a strength testing game, while Layoni took on Ndii. The juniors then followed Kihari and Naipoki to the browsing grounds. The orphans browsed their way arriving to the middle water hole in the afternoon where they had a quick bath. Layoni exited the water hole and made his way to the northern side of the mud bath where there is a lot of tall grass and thick bush to feed on. Mbirikani followed Layoni for a considerable distance before turning around and making her way back to the orphan herd.

Panda enjoying mud-bath

Araba leaving the mudbath area

Nelion finds a nice browsing spot