Keepers' Diaries, August 2004

Voi Reintegration Unit

Overview - Voi Unit:- There is interesting behaviour recorded in this month’s Diary, illustrating the human aspect of elephants. Examples are when Laikipiacunningly deliberately enticies Morani away from the others in order to try and mount him – Morani then bellows and Emily and Aitong rush to the rescue, sending Laikipia into “Coventry” for several hours. Then Emily demonstrates to Seraa how to dig up roots using tusks and a forefoot, and Seraa immediately emulates her, kneeling down to do likewise. Jealousy is illustrated when Sweet Sally refuses to allow Morani to suckle Aitong, although Aitong is obviously happy to comply. Mvita picks up a stick and uses this to scratch a leg and when all the orphans respond to Irima’s cry for help when Mweiga threatens to snatch his bottle, lining up behind him to ensure that he gets his rations unhindered. On the 20th we read how Solango has an altercation with Burra and resorts to picking up sticks which he “accurately” throws at Burra. Aitonggives Sweet Sally a lesson in pushing, holding Sally’s head gently and pushing her away, after which Sally manages to overcome Mweya who would otherwise usually win!

01 August 2004

It was a cold morning, so the orphans were not very active, feeding huddled together. Salama and Laikipia initiated the action by playing a game of hide and seek in which Mweya, Mpala and Mukwaju joined. The orphans soon entered into the spirit of it becoming happy, charging each other and trumpeting, and all enjoyed a wonderful mudbath. However, the day ended sadly when both orphans and Keepers were charged by an ostrich sitting on eggs near the route they had taken back to the Stockades. Morani fled, leaving all the others in his wake, hiding behind the spring gate until the others arrived and it was opened, when he rumbled and was first back home!

02 August 2004

Sweet Sally realised she had made a mistake when she went to pick up a green branch she had accidentally thrown on the hot wire of the electric fence. She screamed and Aitong immediately rushed to the rescue and reassure her, laying her trunk across Sally’s back. Upon joining the others, Sally was subdued, sucking the tip of her trunk. A wild group of 5 big cows and 2 calves hurried past the orphans heading for the orphans’ drinking water. One wild calf was hanging onto its mother’s tail in order to keep pace. The orphans did not join them, but raised their trunks to smell them.

03 August 2004

Icholta and Mvita enjoyed a test of strength, pushing each other around for l0 minutes, but Icholta soon realised that Mvita’s one small toothpick tusk could do some damage, she gave up, and moved away, ending the contest. It was a hot day, so the orphans returned to the mudbath at 2 p.m. where a group of baboons joined them. Mweya lay in the water, stretching her trunk towards them in a welcoming gesture, but once they were all drinking, Mweya separated the group, sending them up trees.

04 August 2004

Ndara mudwallowed wonderfully at noon when the others had left the wallow and she was left with only Emily. When Ndara noticed that Emily was about to leave, she held onto her hind leg tightly with the trunk, as if pleading for her to remain. Emily obliged and remained until Ndara was ready to get out, when she rubbed herself happily against Emily’s body. Loisaba, Tsavo and Ndara gave Emily backing chasing off a male waterbuck who startled the group running towards them chasing a female. The orphans separated the two, and displayed obvious satisfaction having done so.

05 August 2004

A tough competition emerged between Morani and Thoma at the noon mudbath, each one trying to outdo the other. It took Morani some time to master Thoma’s rolling techniques, after which he rubbed his buttocks against the mudbath wall, feeling out-done!

06 August 2004

This morning Lolokwe, Mpala, Seraa and Solango fed in a straight line like athletes lining up to receive their Gold Medal, intertwining trunks. Later the orphans joined three wild cows with a yearling calf. Laikipia went forward immediately to greet the baby. They intertwined trunks, after which Laikipia escorted the wild calf to spend some time with the other orphans, wrapping his trunk around its body. Seraa and Mweya chased off some waterbucks, and returned in a jovial mood, swinging their trunks round and round to celebrate victory.

07 August 2004

Aitong chose to go up Mazinga Hill on her own this morning in search of the wild cow called “Catherine” and her family. One Keeper remained behind until she returned 20 minutes later, after which they joined the other orphans. Laikipia silently enticed Morani away from the other orphans, and then tried to mount him, which made Morani scream. This brought both Emily and Aitong at the run to the rescue, so Laikipia fled, fearing retribution, and remained an outcast for the next 30 minutes. In the evening Lissa and her 2 babies came to drink at the Stockade waterhole. The orphans joined Catherine’s group who were also on their way to the Stockade waterhole, but Emily chose to ignore Catherine and led her family into the Stockade, leaving Aitong who joined Catherine’s group, but kept some distance, since Catherine looked somewhat aggressive. Aitong remained outside the Stockade for a while near the wild herd, which made Sweet Sally scream. When Catherine approached the waterhole, Lissa left with her two babies, avoiding close contact.

08 August 2004

Seraa watched Emily closely as she dug up roots using her tusks and a foreleg, after which Seraa knelt, and using her tiny tusks and a foreleg, tried to do the same. In the evening Lissa and her family returned to the Stockade for water, after which she remained until midnight, busy de-barking Grewia branches.

09 August 2004

Seraa watched Emily closely as she dug up roots using her tusks and a foreleg, after which Seraa knelt, and using her tiny tusks and a foreleg, tried to do the same. In the evening Lissa and her family returned to the Stockade for water, after which she remained until midnight, busy de-barking Grewia branches.

10 August 2004

The orphans were in a happy mood leaving the Stockades this morning, separating into groups of friends, soil bathing wonderfully, trumpeting and rolling onto each other. Salama took Solango whilst Mpala chose Morani as a companion. Burra, Solango, Mpala and Sosian joined forced to chase off a jackal who was pursuing a hare. The orphans interrupted the chase, and the rabbit was saved, running in amongst all the other orphans.

11 August 2004

Today was hot. The orphans enjoyed competing against one another to test their strength. Tsavo challenged Laikipia, Salama chose Lolokwe, Mpala, Morani and Ilingwezi, Icholta.

12 August 2004

There were three wild herds feeding at the top of Mazinga Hill. The orphans did not join them, but raised their trunks to smell them. At the noon mudbath, Morani had difficulty getting up, so Aitong came to help him, using her trunk and foreleg to lift him. Morani emerged as happy as a baby at a bath-day party!

13 August 2004

Mweya and Nyiro spent a long time together playing pushing games. In a show of appreciation, Nyiro put the tip of his trunk into Mweya’s mouth, but Mweya bit it, which made Nyiro scream. This interrupted the friendship, and Nyiro then chose to feed far from Mweya! Meanwhile Mvita picked up a stick and used it to scratch her front leg. Edie wanted the stick, but Mvita resisted parting with it.

14 August 2004

Emily, backed up by Aitong, chased off a buffalo who was near their feeding area. Their absence made Sweet Sally, Tsavo and Loisaba very restless. They screamed, which prompted Emily and Aitong to leave the chase and return to comfort them. At noon we got the message of a lonely baby on the banks of the Galana river, so some of us went to help with the rescue. Upon arrival at the Stockade that evening, Aitong rushed to welcome the new baby, who spent the night in her stockade. Sweet Sally, Icholta, Mweya and Aitong spent all night very close to the baby, touching her gently with their trunks to reassure her.

15 August 2004

Aitong refused to leave the Stockade and the new baby, named “Galana”. She held the baby tightly with her trunk, gently pushing her to go out with her, but the baby was scared of the humans. In the end the Keepers enticed Aitong out with copra cake. When the orphans returned in the evening, Aitong went in search of the new baby, looking everywhere for her, and rumbling most of the night. Emily seemed not to have noticed the presence of the newcomer.

16 August 2004

Mweiga homed in on Irima’s ration of milk at noon, which made him scream loudly, beinging Emily and Aitong along in a rush followed by all the others. They all lined up behind Irima to ensure he got his milk.

17 August 2004

Mpala wanted to mount Solago at ll.15 a.m. but Solango thwarted him by sitting down, supporting himself with his forelegs. Solango then came round to try and pull Mpala down by the head, but was not strong enough to succeed, so he wandered off. Meanwhile Salana, Nuiro and Lolokwe enjoyed a pushing game. In the evening Lissa and her two babies came to drink at the Stockade. Afterwards they went into Emily’s Stockade, where Ilingwezi stretched out her trunk to greet them but could not reach them due to the wire. Lissa wandered off at 7 p.m.

18 August 2004

It was a hot day so the orphans enjoyed a mudbath earlier than usual. Mweiga was very active in the mudbathg, squirting water over her body and lying in the mud, trumpeting with joy and happingess, watched closely by Aitong. Natumi waylaid 2 lesser kudus who were heading for the drinking bins whilst Mweya and Burra attempted a charge, but were reluctant to leave the other orphans.

19 August 2004

Due to the continuing dry season, the mudbath was moved round the hill to the Baobab tree venue. The orphans enjoyed the new area in which to feed, and also being able to scratch themselves against the Baobab. The orphans joined a group of 5 wild elephants who had a baby of about 7 months old. Aitong followed the baby closely, caressing it and exploring all over its body with her trunk. Its mother ignored the attention, but 2 grown daughters in the group kept a close eye on Aitong. Meanwhile Natumi and Edie enjoyed a pushing game with their wild age-mates. The orphans left the wild group to return to the Stockades in the evening.

20 August 2004

Upon leaving the Stockade this morning, Aitong took Sally and joined a wild group. However, the others refused to come, so the two returned, bringing with them a wild bull who spent the next 3 hours with our orphans. Later Burra and Solango had an altercation over a fallen tree trunk which both wanted to scratch themselves on. Solango charged around picking up sticks which he accurately threw at Burra, but Burra was not deterred, so instead Solango decided to take out his frustration on Mpala who was quietly feeding nearby. Aitong took Sally to teach her some fighting techniques, gently holding onto her head and applying a little pressure to push her backwards. Sally appreciated Aitong’s tip, and immediately challenged Mweya, pushing Mweya to the ground.

21 August 2004

Natumi and Mweya were competing to decide who should lead the group to the mudbath, pushing each other here and there until it deteriorated into a tough fight. Emily separated them, and Icholta took the lead, after which all enjoyed a good mudbath. The orphans surrounded a buffalo, who took cover in a bush, lowering its head, prepared to attack. Emily sensed the danger, and pulled back the orphans, running away. Once her family was well out of danger, she returned and chased off the buffalo, returning with 4 wild elephants, who played pushing games with her and Aitong.

22 August 2004

The orphans felt threatened by two male hyaenas who were making a terrible noise vying to mate a female at the foot of Mazinga Hill. One male was badly injured and came running towards the orphans and the Keepers, which put everyone to flight. The orphans remained close to the Keepers for the rest of the day. Tsavo and Mvita shared a wonderful rolling game in the mudbath, and later whilst taking a rest at 4.39 p.m., Emily gently placed her head on Tsavo’s small head. Tsavo enjoyed this very much, closing his eyes, savouring Emily’s warmth and total concentration.

23 August 2004

The orphans joined a group of 9 wild elephants who had a very tiny baby. Lolokwe, Seraa and Morani lined up and watched the tiny baby suckling its mother, tossing their trunks forward to try and attract the baby’s attention, without success. Emily played a pushing game with a young bull slightly older than herself, whilst all the others kept following the small baby. Laikipia became very bold, and unsuccessfully used both his small tusks and trunk to try and pull back the wild calf who wanted to follow its mother when she decided to leave..

24 August 2004

The day was cold, so the orphans did not mudbath, but instead joined a wild group of 12 at noon. After a welcoming ceremony whereby they all touched each other, both groups settled down and fed together. Salama and Mukwaju played with wild age-mates, but mostly all concentrated on feeding. The wild group left 3 hours later.

25 August 2004

Laikipia was very happy leading the group back to the ‘Stockades in the evening, swining his trunk from side to side and increasing his pace whenever another orphan looked like overtaking him. Back at the Stockade Emily stretched her trunk out to greet Lissa, Mpenzi and Lissa’s two babies, touching each gently on the mouth, before proceeding to the Stockade.

26 August 2004

Morani and Mpala sucked water into their trunks and poured it over Emily as she was lying in the mudbath today, whilst all the others wallowed around her. Later Morani and Mpala were allowed to climb onto Emily’s tummy

27 August 2004

Burra, Morani and Mpala were highly scared when they emerged from a thicket and found a giraffe. They ran back screaming and Emily and Aitong went to retrieve them, but did not disturb the giraffe. At the Stockade in the evening, Mvita and Loisaba contested a branch which both wanted. Loisaba tried to push Mvita into the electric fence, but Mvita was able to resist. In the end Loisaba gave up and went to get herself another one.

28 August 2004

A large wild bull joined the orphans at 9.56 a.m. Morani was scared and tried to run away but Aitong held him tight with her trunk, calming him down, because the bull was friendly. The bull then wandered off in the direction of the Lodge waterhole. Lissa and her family came to the Stockades to drink in the evening, and remained nearby until 2 a.m.

29 August 2004

Mweya’s mischievous game ended in tears when she rolled herself into a bull like a millipede and got stuck in the tractor tyre she was lying on. All the Keepers had to extract her.

30 August 2004

Mweya’s mischievous game ended in tears when she rolled herself into a bull like a millipede and got stuck in the tractor tyre she was lying on. All the Keepers had to extract her.

31 August 2004

Salama and Nyiro joined forces to fight Laikipia, who had been giving both of them a hard time for the past few days. They pushed him around until he ran to Emily. At 3.30 p.m. a wild group consisting of two cows with small babies, and three older cows joined the orphans. Aitong, Emily and Laikipia made the first approach, encouraging them to join the other orphans. They all fed together for 2 hours before one of the cows became aggressive after Aitong tried to mount onto one of the middle aged wild cows. When the wild herd turned hostile, the orphans left.