Keepers' Diaries, August 2005

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Voi Reintegration Unit

Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally have been very much in evidence this month, either waiting at the Stockade Gates first thing in the morning to escort the other orphans out, taking them to feed up different parts of Mazinga Hill, or meeting up with them out in the bush later. The Keepers report that Aitong’s breasts are beginning to fill, which means that her pregnancy is far advanced. It is also gratifying to note that they have put on weight since enjoying supplementation of Copra.

Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally have been very much in evidence this month, either waiting at the Stockade Gates first thing in the morning to escort the other orphans out, taking them to feed up different parts of Mazinga Hill, or meeting up with them out in the bush later. The Keepers report that Aitong’s breasts are beginning to fill, which means that her pregnancy is far advanced. It is also gratifying to note that they have put on weight since enjoying supplementation of Copra.

Emily, Aitong and Sally were at the Stockade Gates on the 4th and on that day Aitong and Sally joined Mweya and Sosian in escorting Mweiga slowly back down the hill in the evening. On the 5th Emily turned up at 9 a.m., took some water at the Stockades and went back up the hill to join the others, when Mweiga, Salama Laikipia and Nyiro came down in a rush to give them an exuberant welcome. On this occasion Sosian was so engrossed in a tasty shrub, that he found himself left behind up the hill, and in response to his bellows, Aitong and Sally went up to fetch him, all three coming down happily swinging their trunks from side to side. This has happened on several occasions.

On the 6th Emily’s group were again at the Stockades first thing in the morning, and did the rounds of each Stockade, helping themselves to the brush left-overs, surrounded by all the others who gave them yet another resounding welcome. Only Thoma and Burra were not amongst the welcoming party, since they were engrossed in a pushing game. That day Emily took the orphans to the Northern side of the hill, and was with them all day, escorting them back in the evening, when her group enjoyed their Copra hand-out.

The 7th was a special day for Mweiga who was allowed to lead the orphans back in the evening - a special privilege and a rare treat for her, for the orphans are usually in a hurry to have their evening milk feed and Copra handout and leave Mweiga trailing far behind, in the company of Sosian and Mweya, her special friends. However, on this occasion they all followed slowly behind her at her slow pace, as though a deliberate decision had been made to reward her this way.

It was on the 8th, when Emily’s group arrived at the Stockades at 7 a.m., that worms were detected in their dung, which could account for the recent loss of body condition, so the necessary medication was hastily sent down from Nairobi, and the entire unit, including Emily, Aitong and Sally, were treated. Since then, the Keepers report an improvement in the condition of Emily, Aitong and Sally which is gratifying. All the others remain in good nick and Mweiga is coping well, despite her fragility, in view of the very dry conditions prevailing at the moment.

On the 9th, Emily’s group met the other orphans on their way down the hill at 4.30 p.m. Each reunion with Emily’s group is highly charged, characterised by tremendous joy, which is deeply touching, the younger elephants charging about happily, in between crowding Emily, Aitong and Sally and touching them with the tip of their trunks, an event accompanied by happy trumpets and welcoming rumbling. One would be forgiven for believing that the older elephants must have been absent for years than just a few hours!

The 10th was an unusual day, for Emily’s group included Lissa’s Nannie, 13 year old “Mpenzi” (another ex orphan whose name is the Swahili word for “sweetheart”) Aside from being the “Nannie” to Lissa’s two wild born calves, Mpenzi is often also within the wild herd led by the Matriarch named “Catherine”, for she, along with Lissa, was amongst those handed over to Catherine by the original Matriarch “Eleanor” when Eleanor became pregnant in her mid forties and chose to give birth far from human habitation, fearful that humans would take her precious baby from her. The hijacking of babies is common amongst females who do not have their own natural family where all age-groups are intact. The day that Mpenzi came with Emily, Aitong and Sally to the Stockades, like them, she enjoyed the Copra hand-out and greeted all the other orphans fondly, so she, too, remains part of their extended family. Mpenzi could soon have a baby of her very own fathered by a wild bull, which would be yet another success story and cause for celebration
Emily’s group came to the Stockades on the 17th, when they were greeted with “sheer ecstasy” by the others. The next day they were greeted with “great trumpets”and on the 25th Emily’s group joined the orphans in the afternoon when the babies crowded around her, each touching her with their trunk, and giving the same greeting to Aitong and Sally, who arrived a short while later. Emily and her satellites again appeared during the afternoon of the 26th for their Copra rations, when they did the rounds of all the Stockades greeting the others.

Encounters with wild groups have centred around Naomi and her family, who often meet up with our orphans, particularly at the mudbath. Laikipia has a wild friend of his age amongst that family, whom Edie fancies, and who on one occasion walked back with our orphans to the Spring Gate, before leaving them to return to his family. Once he had finished playing with Laikipia, Edie was rewarded by being able to be with him for a short while! Naomi and her wild family spent the entire day with the orphans on that occasion, and Burra also enjoyed playing with a wild friend. However, on another occasion, when Naomi was at the mudbath with her wild family, and the orphans would have liked to join her, she rumbled in a strange way, which scared the orphans off. Perhaps amongst the group was a wild elephant who may not have been so friendly, which prompted Naomi to give this rather unusual signal, for she is normally very welcoming to our orphans

The Voi orphans enjoyed meeting a large wild group on another occasion, amongst whom were 5 young calves. However, the “daughters” of this herd surrounded the babies, and would not allow the orphans access even though the wild herd spent all morning with our orphans, and even shared the mudbath.

Loisaba played a dirty trick on the others one very cold day, when all hesitantly tested the temperature of the mudbath by inserting just the tip of their trunks. Loisaba quietly sucked up a trunkful, and impishly sprayed it over her peers, putting them into a hasty retreat! However, such pranks are few in this month’s Diary, since the search for food has been paramount. In fact, it is such a very dry, dry season, that we have sent down extra supplementation for those that need it such as Mweiga, and Emily, Aitong and Sally. They will be enjoying a ball comprised of bran, boiled barley, coconut and copra mixed with molasses to help keep them in good shape.

Mweiga is coping well, tending to avoid the mudbath until the others have left, so that she can enjoy it without fear of being shoved and knocked down. Mweya and Sosian are never far away, constantly watching out for her, almost as though they have been assigned “Mweiga Duty” by the others. On the 17th, she managed to climb up Mazinga Hill with the others, and this month she enjoyed a “chasing game” which is proof that she is feeling a lot better. Natumi is the Matriarch of the orphans in the absence of Emily, and relishes this position when Emily is absent, but is every bit as joyful as the others when Emily appears and takes back control. In other words, although Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally are no longer permanent members of the “Keeper Dependent Others” they remain very much part of the Orphan Family, choosing to return and spend time with them during the very dry season, although they could easily be with wild herds who frequent better feeding grounds further afield.

August 2005 day to day

01 Aug

The month began cool, as is usual for this time of the year. The orphans began the day on a high note, climbing Mazinga Hill, where there is a lot of food, since the wild elephants have not utilized this very much. Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally came to the Stockade at 5.30 p.m. They have lost condition due to the very dry conditions, and following instructions from DSWT Nairobi, they were given Copra Cake. Having enjoyed this hand-out, they went to feed along the Southern side of the hill.

Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally visit the stockades

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