Keepers' Diaries, April 2021

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Voi Reintegration Unit

April was mostly overcast, heavy with the promise of rain but barely delivering it. While we had a few small showers, we certainly wouldn’t mind more before we enter the long, dry stretch between June and September. It is already turning quite cold, heralding the dry months, but we remain hopeful. This premature shift in weather did bring some perks: The lions who spent much of last month targeting well-trafficked water sources moved around to the southern side of Msinga Hill. Of course, we remain vigilant just in case they return. Little Diria the zebra has become very attached to his Keeper since losing his friend, Nzuki, and rarely leaves their side while browsing.

Otherwise the days carry on much the same at Voi. As soon as the stockade gates open in the morning, Mbegu, Godoma, Emoli, Tagwa, Tamiyoi, Pika Pika, Ndotto, Ngilai, Lasayen, Murit, and Sagala spring out excitedly. This is the milk-dependent group, so they know their tasty bottles are waiting for them. They down these in a matter of seconds, before joining their older friends to feast on lucerne supplements. Tundani still heads off in pursuit of his favourite — albeit quite risky — activity of snacking on the acacia leaves outside the compound, which requires stretching his trunk over the electric fence. Some mornings, he and Suswa head off in their own direction, but they always link up with the dependent orphans when it is time for the noon milk feed and mud bath beneath the baobab tree.

As water sources remain scarce, a few wild elephant herds passed by the baobab tree for a drink at the water trough. During one of these visits, Ishaq-B was lucky enough to play with a wild calf without her family noticing. Godoma, Emoli, Tamiyoi, and Sagala then eagerly edged in, which of course attracted the attention of the baby’s family. Fortunately, they didn’t seem to mind and merely waited a short distance away while she finished playing. The little baby had taken quite a shine to her new friends and invited them to join her herd, but none of the tight-knit orphans could be tempted. Pika Pika always seems infatuated with the youngest babies, watching them keenly when they come to visit. One day, she tried to follow a baby and her wild family off into the bush, but Rorogoi prevented her from leaving.

As the youngest member of the Voi herd, Pika Pika is fiercely protected by the older females, especially Ndii and Kenia. One day, Ndii saw Ndotto standing close to Pika Pika and assumed that he was bothering her. She came charging over and pushed Ndotto away from the little girl, managing to pierce Ndotto’s skin with her single tusk! Fortunately, it only caused a small graze, which the Keepers quickly attended to. While Pika Pika is usually sandwiched between Kenia and Ndii, Rorogoi, Ishaq-B, and Panda are always looking for an opening to look after her. She spends hardly a moment on her own, whether she is browsing or wallowing in the waterhole.

Araba has been displaced as the most spoiled member of the Voi herd, but she still enjoys the attention of the older girls. On cold days, she sidles up to her favourite, Kenia, and she can always rely on Ndii to look out for her. One afternoon, Mashariki was being a bit of a bully towards Araba. Ndii quickly came to her rescue and chased Mashariki away. We are happy that at least Ndoria seems to have matured and doesn’t misbehave with the other orphans anymore. Most importantly, she has given up her tail-biting antics that used to upset everyone!

Ngilai is still the star of the show when it comes to mud bathing. While cold weather deters most elephants from wallowing, he runs straight into the mud bath and submerges his entire head, trying to entice his friends to join him. Only Murit will occasionally oblige him, though he does this rather half-heartedly, lying on the edge of the waterhole and splashing himself with water. Because of his mud bath obsession, Ngilai has been losing out on playtime with his once-exclusive friend, Ivia the buffalo. Ivia used to shun playing with any elephant besides Ngilai, but that’s starting to change. Perhaps seeing a window of opportunity while Ngilai is wallowing, Ndotto has been forgoing the mud bath so that he can be the first to engage this coveted friend in a game or two. Even Mbegu and Godoma have been playing with the buffalo, and sometimes we find Ngilai standing on the outskirts of all the fun! Ngilai always has Emoli, who is always ready to play with his old friend and pick up where they left off. 

Ndotto, who was born premature, has always had some catching up to do. However, he is growing very tall — a fact that hasn’t escaped Mbegu’s notice! She likes to challenge him to a pushing match every now and then, just to show her superiority. While Mbegu used to have no time for Ndotto’s games, we witnessed many spirited sparring sessions between the two. However, it takes the whole herd to tire out an elephant as playful as Ndotto. Late one afternoon, he was taken to task by a number of the older females. Mashariki was first to challenge him, followed by Suswa, then Arruba. When all the games were done, Ndotto seemed quite exhausted and happy to follow the others back home for the night.  

While Ndotto remains extremely high-spirited, Lasayen has become much more subdued as of late. He is still Ndotto’s best friend, but he isn’t as playful as Ndotto, Ngilai, Murit, or Emoli. Tagwa is another elephant who seems to avoid lively games, as if she can’t be bothered to waste her time when she would much rather be browsing! She, Tamiyoi and Sagala are often still the first orphans to lead the herd out to browse in the morning. They hold this privilege quite dear, as Ngilai found out the hard way: One morning, he tried to overtake the trio, but Sagala blocked him from passing and Tagwa pulled him back by his tail!

Even as we hope for more rain, all of the Voi orphans are happy and in good health, which is a blessing we are most grateful for.

April 2021 day to day

01 Apr

The Voi orphan elephants together with Diria, Cheza and Ivia left for the Park following the milk and supplement feeding. It was raining as the group of orphans headed out to the Park following Sagala, Tamiyoi and Tagwa to the rocky side of Msinga Hill where they settled to browse before making their way to the baobab tree waterhole at noon.

The milk dependent babies had their milk before following their older friends to the waterhole where Tundani settled at the edge of the waterhole splashing himself with the muddy water. Pika Pika and Emoli had fun inside the waterhole as they rolled around playing while enjoying a sparring session before Tundani joined them. Rorogoi, Suswa and Mbegu lined up beside the water bowser at the water trough for a drink of fresh water.

Pika Pika exited the mud bath and headed to the dust pile where she enjoyed rolling around on the loose soil, with Ishaq-B and Ndii standing over her watching and making sure that she wasn’t bothered. Rorogoi then came for a dust bath as the rest of the orphans were already heading out for the afternoon browsing session. She caught up with the rest of the group once she was done.  

Pika Pika dust bathing

Ngilai mud bathing

Emoli and Ngilai sparring