Keepers' Diaries, April 2018
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.
01 April 2018
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.
02 April 2018
The morning began with the orphan elephants finishing their morning milk bottles before settling to enjoy the copra cake and range cubes that had been put out for them. As they were about to finish their supplement feeding, Layoni joined them together with his friend Dabassa. Layoni went straight for Ndii to engage her in a strength testing game, which had Tahri running to Kenia for refuge. Dabassa went to engage Ishaq-B who was able to evade Dabassa’s advances, so Dabassa took on Layoni instead.
While the two older boys were busy playing Kenia led the group to the browsing fields. When Layoni and Dabassa saw the juniors leaving, they quickly ended their game and followed the youngsters, joining them for the morning browsing session.
They all visited the middle water hole where Layoni entered the water and joined Mbirikani and the rest of the orphans in some mud bathing games. The two ex-orphans then separated from the juniors and headed towards the Voi River to browse.
Mukuki the male ex-orphan lesser kudu visited the stockade briefly in the evening before heading back to the Park.
03 April 2018
It was a bright morning as the orphans came running out of their stockades assembling for their morning milk bottle followed by supplement feeding and games around the stockade compound.
Bada engaged Lentili in a strength testing pushing game, which Lentili was not really interested in playing and as such kept avoiding Bada’s attempts to engage her. Bada was upset to be turned down and turned on Tundani pushing him hard with his tusks. Tundani tried to get away from Bada, but Bada kept following him and pushing him which resulted in Tundani turning and engaging Bada head on, surprising him and causing him to run away, Tundani gave chase, trying to catch Bada’s tail so that he could bite it.
Once the morning stockade activities ended the orphans made their way to the Park where they spent the day browsing peacefully.
04 April 2018
The morning began with the usual milk and supplement feeding. Tundani had not forgotten being bullied by Bada yesterday and seemed set on settling the score this morning. Ndii did not want a repeat of what had happened yesterday and got between the two making sure that they did not engage in a fight.
The elephants browsed in single file all the way out, and when they got to where they were browsing Kenia lay down in the grass to play with Tahri while Nelion sought refuge from the bright sun by getting under the canopy of a small tree that was covered with a creeper providing the perfect cover from the sun’s rays. Ajali soon came over and pushed Nelion out from his spot, enjoying the shade while watching the rest of the orphan herd who were busy browsing nearby.
05 April 2018
The morning began perfect with the orphans happily downing their morning milk bottle before engaging in different activities around the stockade compound. Mashariki took her up rock rubbing position, while Mudanda developed an interest in a different rock. That was the same rock Tundani was busy enjoying a scratching session on. Tundani saw Mudanda approaching and decided to try and enjoy a ride on Mudanda’s back. Mudanda was spared this ordeal when Tundani saw Bada and the two became engaged in a friendly pushing game.
Lentili, Rorogoi and Mbirikani took the lead of the others out to the field to begin the days browsing activities on the eastern foot of Msinga Hill. Once there Panda managed to sneak away with Tahri, leading her in a different direction to her adopted mother Ndii. Upon noticing that Ndii was not with them, Tahri turned and made her way back to her.
Even though the orphan herd had enjoyed the noon mud bath they still had a lot of fun today bathing in the numerous water pans that they found in the area while browsing in the afternoon.
06 April 2018
The morning was good with the orphan elephants playing happily around the stockade compound after their milk and supplement feeding. Panda had a wonderful scratching session against a rock with Ishaq-B coming in to try and take Panda’s spot which Panda was not ready to give up and as such managed to hold her ground until she was ready to leave.
Naipoki enjoyed a game of rolling in the soil pile close to Ndii, Tahri and Kihari in an effort to get Tahri to come and join her. Mudanda was standing close to the group and managed to steal Tahri away. Ndii was quick to notice what happened and came running up to the two, reclaiming her adopted baby from Mudanda.
At the noon mud bath Ndoria gulped down her afternoon milk bottle at a very fast pace, before ambushing Nguvu who was a few meters in front of her, wanting to engage him in a strength testing game. Nguvu was not interested and ran towards the baobab water hole. By the time they got there Ndoria had given up the chase. Nguvu however remained wary of Ndoria for the rest of the day, choosing to browse a safe distance from her so as to avoid being engaged in any strength testing games.
07 April 2018
It was a beautiful morning as the orphan elephants assembled for range cubes and copra cake following their morning milk bottles. Soon the orphans noticed the presence of Ngulia, Oltukai, Tawi and Kore who were busy feasting on their own share of the Lucerne grass pellets on the other side of the fence. Rorogoi, Naipoki and Kihari charged at in an effort to chase them away from the pellets but were unsuccessful in doing so as the four ignored the orphans threats and continued feeding.
Bada was enjoying a game of rolling around on the piles of red earth in the compound before spotting a troop of baboons. This got him quickly to his feet and he began charging at them in a chasing game. He was trumpeting so loudly that he caught the attention of Tundani who disrupted his ‘chasing baboon game’ by engaging him in a wrestling game.
Once out in the fields the orphans spent the day browsing peacefully, stopping only for the noon milk bottle before resuming their browsing activities until it was time to return to the stockades for the night.
08 April 2018
After their bottles today the morning began with the orphans playing happily around the stockade compound, before proceeding out to browse. On arriving on the western side of Msinga Hill, Kihari went ahead of the others in an effort to lead the rest of them uphill to feed. The rest of the group was not interested in joining Kihari, choosing instead to browse on the northern side. Upon finding she was on her own Kihari came running down the hill to catch up with the rest of the orphan herd.
Later in the day Nelion, like Kihari, found himself alone when he was left behind by the rest of the group as they made their way to the waterhole at noon, he also had to run in order to catch up with the rest of the group. After the noon milk feed the orphan herd encountered a big herd of impala, some of whom were grazing while the others rested. They walked past the impala herd and even though they passed quite close to them, the impalas did not feel threatened in any way and continued with their activities.
09 April 2018
The orphan elephants came running out of their stockades to assemble for their morning milk which they downed in a matter of minutes. Some of the group then enjoyed playing hide and seek games, while others dust-bathed or enjoyed scratching sessions against rock boulders.
Today Rorogoi and Bada led the orphan herd towards the browsing grounds and the group spent the morning browsing near the peak of the Msinga Hill. Mbirikani and Embu made their way to the top of the hill and didn’t notice the rest of the group heading downhill as it would soon be time to make their way to the baobab waterhole for the noon milk bottle and afternoon mud bath. The two quickly made their way downhill but did not rejoin the group until they reached the waterhole as they had been left quite far behind.
10 April 2018
Another day began with the elephants happily gulping down their milk bottles before proceeding for the supplement feeding. There were some brief games around the stockade compound before the orphans made their way to the browsing grounds amid some light rain.
The orphan herd enjoyed browsing on the moist lush green grass and creepers until it was time for the noon milk bottle and mud bath at the baobab water hole. A lot of the sand that had run down with last night rain into the water hole had been excavated and piled onto the banks of the water pan. After the milk feed Arruba, Suswa and Rorogoi teamed up for some dusting games while Kihari and Bada enjoyed a game of sliding down these piles of soil into the water. The rest of the orphan herd enjoyed a partial mud bath after which they all had fun playing on the soil piles with their friends.
11 April 2018
This morning the orphans moved in a near-perfect straight line towards the browsing field following their milk and supplement feeding. After one hour spent browsing, Ndii took her darling Tahri for a private feeding session. Kenia and Ishaq-B were a little worried about the two and went in search of them. When Kenia found them she kept some distance from them as they were not in any hurry to leave and rejoin the group.
The orphans visited the baobab water hole after the noon milk feed. They had a lot of fun playing mud bathing games with Ndii showcasing her own bathing style of plunging in to the water trough for a swim. The afternoon browsing session took place close to the waterhole.
12 April 2018
The morning began with the orphan elephants proceeding for the supplement feeding after emptying their morning milk bottle. They then made their way to the browsing fields where they settled to feed on the lower northern flat areas of Msinga Hill.
Ndii, Kenia and Araba went up to a tree that has a hole in it and usually collects rain water, and were quick to dip their trunks into the hole to taste the water that they found there. Araba stretched her trunk but was unable to reach the hole as she is not yet tall enough. She soon found another hole a little lower on the same tree but was disappointed to find that there was no water in it.
The orphan herd visited the baobab tree water hole where they had a lot of fun playing mud bathing games. In the late afternoon Tundani and Bada engaged each other in a strength testing pushing game and were nearly left behind by the others who were heading back to the safety of the stockades for the night. On the way home the orphan elephants encountered the ex-orphan male lesser kudu Mukuki, and the ex-orphan female kudu’s Aruba’s family.
13 April 2018
This morning the orphans teamed up for a variety of games following the milk and supplement feeding. It was a big day for Tundani who was the centre of focus today as he engaged his friend Bada in a strength testing game which Bada ran away from when he realized he was losing. Kihari, who was sitting on a rock boulder watched all the events unfolding between the two and upon seeing Tundani approaching her, engaged him in a pushing game, with Ishaq-B also having a turn once the Kihari and Tundani were done. By the end of all the pushing and strength testing games Tundani, who has gotten stronger than he used to be, was quite exhausted and had had enough for one day.
The orphans proceeded to the browsing grounds where they spent the day browsing peacefully until it was time to return to the stockades for the night.
14 April 2018
It was another morning full of feeding and playing activities around the stockade compound before the orphans left for the browsing fields for the day. Upon arriving at the western side of the stockade browsing grounds, the orphans moved at a quick pace compelling Suswa and Ndoria who are slow feeders to remain behind. The two caught up with their friends at the baobab water hole in the afternoon, after the noon milk bottle.
The orphan herd enjoyed their mud bath very much today, with Araba and Tahri enjoying a scratching session against the same tree. The afternoon was spent browsing close to the waterhole with Kihari engaging Lentili in a pushing game. Lentili was not very interested in the game as she wanted to continue browsing. Kihari was quite insistent however and kept engaging
15 April 2018
The orphans enjoyed their milk and supplement feeding this morning before proceeding to the browsing fields under the leadership of Rorogoi and Mudanda. On arriving on the northern side of Msinga Hill they saw Dabassa browsing half way up the hill, without his close friend Layoni.
Dabassa later came down and headed away towards where Layoni was thought to have been left behind.
After a wonderful noon mud bath, Mashariki, Mudanda and Rorogoi were busy dust bathing on the soil piles on the banks of the water hole when Ndoria came over and tried to evict Arruba from her scratching and rubbing position against the trunk of the baobab tree. Arruba was having none of it and pinned Ndoria’s head to the tree with her buttocks making Ndoria pay the price for her naughty behaviour. The rest of the day was spent browsing peacefully close the water hole.
16 April 2018
The herd made their way to the browsing fields this morning after all the feeding and playing at the stockade compound was over and done with. After four hours of serious browsing Lentili began a rolling game hoping to entice Mudanda and Araba, who were busy browsing behind her, to come and join her. Bada approached showing his intention to climb on her back for a ride. Lentili quickly got to her feet and Bada took her position on the ground wanting to see if he had any better luck getting Mudanda and Araba to join him, but was unsuccessful in his efforts.
The orphans visited the middle water hole that was close to their browsing grounds for their noon milk bottle and mud bath. In the late afternoon the ex-orphan lesser Kudu Aruba and her family came to graze close to the orphan elephants. Mukuki the male ex-orphan kudu was missing from the herd today.
17 April 2018
It was a happy beginning to the day with the orphans coming out from their respective stockades to line up for their morning milk bottle. There were some brief games around the stockade compound before the group followed Lentili and Rorogoi to the browsing grounds where they browsed in single file for the morning, while stopping for partial baths in rain puddles that they came across.
At around 4:30pm Naipoki engaged Tundani in a tough head butting encounter. The game lasted for quite a while and attracted the attention of Nelion who approached the two wanting to join them. Naipoki and Tundani had no intention of including Nelion and kept moving around, blocking him from joining them. Nelion eventually got bored and left to join his other orphan friends who were heading to the stockades for the night.
18 April 2018
It was a nice beginning to the day as the orphan elephants played happily around the stockade compound after the milk and copra cake feeding. It was games as usual, with Bada moving forward to engage his best friend Tundani in a tough test of strength. Nelion found that he didn’t have a playmate as Nguvu and Ajali have not wanted to participate in any strength testing pushing games. Nelion went to engage Ishaq-B in a wrestling match but was not really satisfied as he needed and wanted to play with a boy to prove how strong he is.
The orphans made their way to the browsing grounds where Mbirikani, Rorogoi and Kihari led them in the morning browsing session on Msinga Hill. Tundani stood leaning against a big rock boulder as he browsed. He seemed to have found the perfect spot today as he drank water from a shallow cave at the base of the rock.
19 April 2018
The morning began with the orphans following their usual milk and supplement feeding routine before taking off towards the fields. They headed straight towards Msinga Hill where there was a lot of tall grass and creepers for them to feed on. Kenia introduced Araba and Arruba to some clean water from a cave at the base of a rock and the two enjoyed a refreshing drink of water.
The orphans enjoyed browsing in the cool breeze stopping occasionally to have a drink from the small holes in the rock that had rainwater sitting in them. They browsed atop the Msinga Hill for the whole day, forgoing their noon bottle as they did not want to stop browsing to come down for it.
20 April 2018
This morning the orphan elephants happily assembled for their delicious milk bottle before their supplement feeding after which they followed Mashariki and Lentili towards the browsing grounds.
After three hours of serious browsing half way up the northern side of Msinga Hill, a big wild elephant bull with huge tusks walked past the orphan elephants at the base of the Hill. Nelion pushed Suswa’s bottom with his tusks, pushing her downhill to get her to join him as he strived to catch up with the wild bull. When Nelion saw how quickly the wild bull was moving he gave up his hopes of catching up to him and instead settled to browse with Suswa.
In the evening, Mukuki the male ex-orphan kudu came in trying to mate with Aruba. The keepers believe that Mukuki is the father of possibly all three of Aruba’s babies.
21 April 2018
Today Nguvu and Ajali took the lead of the orphan herd to the browsing grounds following the morning milk and supplement feeding. The two leaders quickly noticed Dabassa and Layoni browsing on top of the western side of Msinga Hill, moving up hill to join them for the days browsing session while the rest of the orphans chose to stay at the base of the Hill to browse.
After an hour of serious browsing Ajali and Nguvu came down to join their friends but were not joined by the two ex-orphans who remained where they were. The juniors all made their way to the baobab water hole where they had their noon milk bottle and settled to browse close by until it was time to return to the stockades for the night.
22 April 2018
The morning began with Layoni and Dabassa arriving at the stockades to join the orphans as they exited their stockades beating them to the range cubes and copra cake, enjoying a mouthful before they were joined by the juniors. Ndii decided to engage Dabassa in a strength testing game soon after the supplement feeding was over.
The orphans left the stockade compound and browsed in single file having left the two ex-orphans at the stockades. The orphan herd visited the water hole at noon for their milk bottles before having a brief wallow in the mud hole.
23 April 2018
This morning Bada seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when Tundani gave him a break and didn’t engage him in a pushing game, something that has happened every morning for the past few days. The stockade dependant orphans enjoyed their milk and supplement feeding before proceeding to the browsing fields.
Mbirikani was extremely intent on feeding today as she took the lead, traversing several browsing routes, moving around steep slippery rocks on Msinga Hill in an effort to get the freshest and greenest vegetation. Lentili, who does not seem to want to accept the fact that she is junior to Mbirikani, overtook Mbirikani wanting to show that she is the superior leader.
The orphans visited the middle water hole in the afternoon, as the weather was quite warm. The babies all had a wonderful time playing mud bathing games which lasted quite a while and it was not until later that they exited the water hole to continue with their browsing activities.
24 April 2018
It was a windy and cloudy morning with light rain as the orphans exited their stockades for their milk bottle and supplement foods. Dabassa came to join the orphans and was noticed immediately by Nelion who had already finished eating. For some reason the rest of the juniors seemed nervous to see their older friend, with Ndii, Kihari and Kenia charging around keeping their adopted babies Tahri and Araba close to them.
The juniors hurriedly left the stockade compound for the browsing grounds, leaving Dabassa behind feasting on supplements. The day was spent browsing peacefully with Kenia making sure that Araba never left her side. The orphans visited the very big water hole close to the spring gate entry, but didn’t wallow as it was a cold day. The rest of the days browsing activities took place close to the water hole.
25 April 2018
The day started with the orphan elephants drinking their morning milk bottle and proceeding to feast on diary cubes and copra cake mix that had been put out for them. Ishaq-B then lay down to play but soon regretted her actions as Lentili came and lay on her stomach. Ishaq-B managed to free herself and before she even got to her feet she tried to engage Lentili in a fight, who was still seated on her bottom. By the time Ishaq-B got to her feet Lentili had taken off.
Nelion paid the price for Lentili’s actions as Ishaq-B engaged him in a pushing game while Tundani engaged Naipoki. Embu enjoyed testing the sharpness of her tusks by digging them into the hard ground.
The orphan herd made their way to the browsing grounds in an organized manner under Lentili and Mashariki’s leadership. The browsing pace was deliberately slow to allow ample time for browsing on the foot of Msinga Hill. Today the vet unit brought two one week old genet cats from a village in Mwatate to the Voi stockades to be looked after.
26 April 2018
This morning the orphans were somewhat alarmed by the sounds the genet cats were making while they were having their milk feed. The two orphan genets had been found by some villagers who mistook them for leopard cubs. The villagers took them to their house and contacted the Kenya Wildlife Service who in turn contacted the DSWT/KWS mobile veterinary unit to collect the orphan genets and take them to the stockades.
There were some brief games around the stockade compound with Tundani enjoying a scratching session on a rock before joining the others as they left for the browsing grounds. The orphans spent the morning browsing on the northern foot of Msinga Hill, visiting the middle water hole at noon for their milk bottle after which they spent the rest of the day browsing close to the water hole.
27 April 2018
The day began with Dabassa and Layoni being the earliest callers at the stockade this morning.
The two boys joined the juniors for some supplement feeding after which they all played around the stockade compound with Dabassa being more playful than Layoni.
Kihari enjoyed rolling around on the ground with Naipoki running up to lie on Kihari’s stomach. Just as Kihari got free, Dabassa came and climbed on her back for a ride, which annoyed Kenia and she made this known. Dabassa stopped what he was doing and approached Kenia who ran away taking Tahri and Araba with her, signaling that it was time for the juniors to head to the browsing fields. The two older boys followed the babies to the browsing fields and then separated from the orphan herd and made their way to the Voi River.
The two orphan genet cats that are doing well were airlifted to Kaluku later in the day where they will be raised and returned to the wild once grown.
28 April 2018
The morning was perfect with the sun rising early. The stockade dependant orphans concentrated on their usual supplement feeding activities before engaging in some games around the stockade. Suswa and Rorogoi enjoyed lying on the soft red earth piles but had to abandon their game to run away from Nelion who was intent on riding on their backs. Nelion followed them closely continually trying to engage them in a game but the two wanted nothing to do with him and would not risk lying down as they knew that if they did Nelion would take the opportunity to climb on their backs.
Kihari saw the games were taking longer than normal and blew a trumpet to notify the rest of the orphan herd that it was time for them to make their way to the browsing grounds. The morning browsing session went well and continued peacefully until it was time for the noon milk feed and mud bath.
In the afternoon Kenia investigated the contents of a hole in a tree to see if she could find anything in it. Upon finding nothing, not even a drop of water, she continued with her browsing activities.
29 April 2018
The orphans had a wonderful and peaceful browsing morning as they spread out over the field grabbing as much of the bountiful browse as they could stuff into their mouths to fill their bellies.
At noon the orphans made their way to the middle water hole amid light rain. They had their milk feed and walked around the mud bath undecided as whether to wallow or not as both the weather and water were cold. Suswa was the first one to take the plunge and enter the water where she enjoyed a private mud bath as the rest of the orphan herd stood watching her. When she exited the water she enjoyed a dust bathing game before rejoining the rest of the group who were waiting for her. The afternoon was spent browsing near to the water hole with Embu and Rorogoi leading the orphan herd home in the evening.
30 April 2018
It was a nice beginning to the day with the orphan elephants coming out of their stables in high spirits looking forward to a beautiful day spent browsing and playing. Ndii and Naipoki took charge of the orphan herd today leading them to the browsing grounds once the milk and supplement feeding was over. Ndii was seen browsing with Araba leaving Tahri with Kenia. This arrangement was temporary as the two later swapped with each one taking their favourite adopted baby for the rest of the days browsing activities.
As the day progressed it became warmer and the orphans sought shelter from the sun under the trees. Rorogoi decided to not join the rest choosing instead to explore the bush and enjoy a solo browsing session. She managed to scare a wild elephant bull walking on his own when she came sauntering out of a nearby bush. Rorogoi also got a fright upon seeing the wild bull and quickly ran to rejoin the rest of the orphan herd. The orphans spent the rest of the day browsing in single file.