Keepers' Diaries, August 2007

Voi Reintegration Unit

The dynamics of the Voi group are very interesting of late. A large part of Natumi’s group, Sosian, Loisaba, Laikipia, Nyiro, Icholta and Lolokwe have all joined up with Emily and Aitong’s group, Sweet Sally, Ndara, Tsavo, Illingwezi, who chose not to return this past month. Natumi has been trying in vain to get them back to join her small group which now consists of Mukwaju, Edie and herself. However, despite being unsuccessful there she is making great headway in usurping Thoma’s group who all respect and idolize her so she has concentrated her efforts this month on spending time with the youngsters and seldom a day passed without the three bigger orphans, Natumi, Edie and Mukwaju, joining up with the youngsters.

01 August 2007

The younger group left the stockades early in the morning with enormous energy. Natumi never appeared this morning having spent time with Emily and the other orphans. The younger group went on up Masinga hill, with Thoma, Moran, Seraa, Solango and Mweiga left behind feeding at the foot of the hill. The group kept Mweiga company and it made her feel good having the others around her and as a result not having to tackle the hill. Later the others clambered down the hill, Mpala, Burra and Mweya, and they all headed off to the mudbath together. They had a very active mudbath, with Moran and Seraa enjoyed a wonderful game in a deep trench. Mud flying everywhere with lots of slipping and sliding games. Mpala and Mukwaju along with Thoma and Moran headed off to feed close to the airstrip leaving the others behind, but later they returned and headed back to the stockade in the evening. Mukwaju went to the stockades for some greens but later went feeding on Masinga hill at night with Mpala for company.

02 August 2007

Early in the morning Mpala and Mukwaju were at the stockades to meet up with their friends having spent the night out. They all then headed to the far eastern side of Masinga hill, meeting up with Natumi’s group along they way. As the orphans water tubs were filled with fresh water from the bowser they were quickly drained by a wild herd that arrived ahead of the orphans and finished all their water! They had a marvelous time before the orphans reached there, but spooked as the orphans arrived charging off towards the Voi River circuit. We had to refill the water buckets for our orphans. Seraa was particularly persistent in requesting for Mweiga’s milk today, but the Keepers were having none of it.

03 August 2007

A beautiful morning saw our young orphan group hang around the stockade area playing before leisurely moving off towards the lower parts of Masinga hill, stopping to feed and moving again until noon when they all went in unison to quench their thirst at the mudwallow. They played for a long time in the mudwallow, all acting in a mature way, playing their favorite games but not interfering with each other. They spent a considerable amount of time at the mudbath today before heading off to browse in the afternoon. Natumi at this point joined them with Mukwaju and Edie in her group. They accompanied the others to the stockades in the evening and then Natumi and Mukwaju and Edie wandered off up Masinga hill for the night.

04 August 2007

Serena the young Zebra orphan and Rukinga were joined by an impala at the mudbath today as they came to take their midday water. When the orphans approached with their Keepers the impala dashed off. The orphans today were joined by Natumi’s group who were very mindful of Mweiga walking slowly so that she could keep pace with them. Mweiga is becoming stronger nowadays and able to keep up a lot more, but it is so beautiful to see how considerate the other orphans are towards their friend. Natumi’s group returned to the stockades, fed on Copra cake, stayed with the others for sometime before heading up onto the hill in the evening.

05 August 2007

Thoma group of younger orphans joined up with Natumi’s group in the morning amidst lots of happy greetings and urination before settling in to the feeding. With the beginning of the dry season taking hold the leaves of the various bushes had fallen calling for a slow feeding motion. They striped off bark from the acacia and spent time digging out the roots of various plants. The orphans later joined a wild group of elephants on the way to the waterhole. They went together to drink and took a wonderful noon mudbath. Thoma secured her wild playing mate and they had a lot of fun together. So much so that Thoma was very tempted to join the friend when they left towards the northern side of Masinga an hour later but came back to join the others who were feeding slowly towards the stockades.

06 August 2007

It was a cool and calm morning when Thoma lead the smaller group of orphans to the feeding grounds in the morning from a peaceful nights rest in the safety of the stockade. It was a most thrilling sight to see a long silent line of the elephants moving down from the slopes of the Masinga hill to the lower lying grass lands, and later to the waterhole for the climax of the morning feeding session. Natumi’s group never turned up today.

07 August 2007

Today was fairly warm with the orphans leaving the stockade in high spirits looking forward to the day ahead. The two groups, Thoma and Natumi’s group met on the Northern side of Masinga and gathered for a common mission in search of precious food. They fed slowly towards the water hole. By midday they were very interested in the mudbath and the fresh water and had lots of fun playing in the water and dust. Just as the orphans were moving away to take up feeding again the big wild group of elephants reached their waterhole. Mpala spent the night out feeding with Natumi’s group. Mukwaju was happy to host him for the night and together they played their pushing games.

08 August 2007

The younger group left the stockade for the feeding ground in the morning. Solango lead them in feeding half way on the Eastern side of Masinga hill. Mweiga was comfortable remaining at the base but occasionally lifted her truck to test the air while keeping a constant rumble gesture to confirm her presence to the others. They gave her their technical company as they never went far up the hill, but remained close by her. Natumi’s group came to drink at the stockades at 10am and then joined up with the others afterwards. Natumi’s group fetched Mweiga and proceeded to the waterhole with her. Thoma’s group came down from the hill and then linked up with them further on. Today after lots of wonderful mudbath games Mweya was reluctant to leave the cool muddy waters. The others left and started to head towards the hill again and Mweya eventually when they were far in the distance fled from the mudbath charging all the way towards her group of friends. This evening Natumi left Mpala in the stockades with the younger group while she moved off up the hill for the night.

09 August 2007

This morning bright and early Natumi’s group was ready and waiting to collect Thoma’s younger group as they exited their night stockades. They were so pleased to be together that the games started early in the stockade compound. Mweiga went towards a rocky outcrop and scratched herself against the rocks. The others eventually joined her there and then headed off in single file to the feeding grounds. The mid day mudbath session was a bee hive of playing activities. Solango Moran and Mpala developed rolling on each other game which lasted an hour. Seraa and Mweya spent hours dusting up in the red soil. Natumi’s group came up to the stockades with the others and then moved off once night fell.

10 August 2007

Today Thoma’s group spent the morning feeding without anything remarkable happening. Then the mudbath time came and they were joined by a wild herd at the mudbath. A teenage wild bull spent much time socializing with the orphans. He went off with Thoma for awhile for a wonderful soil dusting game together. He lingered with the orphans for a long while before eventually joining the rest of his herd. Natumi’s group never joined the others on this day.

11 August 2007

Thomas group went up the Masinga hill above the office after a busy playing session at the stockade in the morning. Mweiga went feeding half way up the hill, but in the watchful company of Mweya and Burra who stayed behind with her. Then they obviously communicated with Natumi’s group and joined her at the stockade waterhole about two hours later. Natumi led them again to a different feeding ground. The two groups spent the whole day feeding together with Natumi leading them back to the stockade in the evening and leaving later after feeding on the supplements. Mpala thought about joining them then returned back to the stockades an hour later and was put into the safety of the stockades with the others.

12 August 2007

The orphans left the stockades early for a day of feeding. Natumi, Edie and Mukwaju had reported at the stockade early in the morning to take the youngsters out to new feeding grounds. They fed on the Northern side of Masinga hill. They scattered all over the hill grabbing a bunch of grass here and a branch and twig there. The weather was cold today with the orphans having their midday fill of water but opting not to mudwallow. Natumi and Edie and Mukwaju escorted the others to their night stables and then at night fall silently wandered off back up the hill.

13 August 2007

Natumi and the youngsters left for Masinga Hill for an early start. All was well with Mweiga pacing energetically with them looking forward for to a long successful feeding day. They went to the waterhole at mid day and played baby games before moving off onto new feeding grounds for the better half of the day. Lissa’s three claves and Mpenzi came to drink at the stockades today at 7.00pm. Mukwaju had a wonderful time testing his strength with Lissa’s first born Lara. Lissa chose to hang around the stockades for a good deal of time allowing the kids to play. Lissa and her calves then went off with Natumi’s group for the night.

14 August 2007

The orphans moved to the northern side of Masinga only to find a huge buffalo herd ensconced and eating all the green grass shoots that they were after. They turned back and headed further down to the plains below and fed there moving onto the mudbath at noon. They had a wonderful mud concert, with Mweiga even joining in, although she avoided too much contact with the boisterous youngsters. Natumi’s group escorted the youngsters to their night stockades, and then left with Mpala joining them for the night.

15 August 2007

It was Mpala today who came to join the youngsters in the morning, with Mukwaju, Natumi and Edie choosing to remain high up on the hill browsing at the peak of the mountain where beautiful bush seemingly untouched ensured that they did not join up with Emily’s group nor the youngsters but instead spent the whole day feasting. It was a cold and overcast day which meant the orphans concentrated on feeding more than playing and mudbaths. At 7.30pm Natumi, Edie and Mukwaju ventured down the hill for a drink at the stockades.

16 August 2007

Natumi came down the mountain early in the morning to collect the youngsters and took them up to her special reserved feeding grounds at the mountains top. Mweiga could not make it to where the others were but she found a good bushy patch and had little Serena and Rukinga as company. She loves them both and often spends time with the Zebra and Kudu and their Keeper Mohammed. They all ventured down the mountain in the evening and fed on the Grewia greens brought into the stockades for the evening. The stockade doors were left open and the rest headed back up the hill after a few hours with Mweiga remaining behind with Solango as company.

17 August 2007

Early in the morning the orphans were at the stockades waiting for Mweiga and Solango. It was a blessing today for Mweiga that they decided to change their feeding grounds to the northern lower lands of Masinga hill and not up the mountain. Mweiga was happy as she doesn’t favor up hill feeding tours. It was also a fateful day for the Keepers when they attempted to rescue an orphaned calf that had been reported. The calf attacked Julius injuring him slightly, with only bruiser thankfully. The calf went off joining a wild group of elephants that made a further rescue attempt impossible. Julius went to hospital and it was established that everything was ok no substantial injuries were inflicted.

18 August 2007

The orphans today moved to feeding on the far northern side of Masinga hill. An operation for the search of the reported orphan was underway using The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s mobile veterinary unit. The target was to establish where the herd that the orphan had joined was for monitoring. Amazingly it was the Keepers that spotted the calf in the afternoon a few kilometers away on the plains below Masinga hill. She was all alone. We immediately alerted the Veterinary Unit and then took the orphans to where the calf was. Led by Natumi they all merged with her showing great interest in her and calming her down. She was frightened of the Keepers so we kept a distance. They amazingly the orphans walked the young calf back to the stockade. Once at the stockade she refused to enter the stockade. At this point the veterinary unit sedated her to make it possible. She seems a lovely young female, in not poor condition, but relieved to have found orphan friends.

19 August 2007

Mweiga spent the night with the young orphan whom we named Masinga with a different spelling but after the hill where she was spotted from. Today Mweiga and Masinga remained in the stockades all day with plenty of food cut by the Keepers. The calf is about 3 years old and settled in well. Mweiga seemed delighted to have her own baby. Natumi led the others high up the hill again today. They came down for their mudbath and back in the evening to inspect the young calf and to check on Mweiga.

20 August 2007

The rescued calf was responding well to Mweigas company at the stockades and feeding well on Copra cake. She still was not prepared to take milk. The orphans only returned to the stockades late that evening at 7.30pm

21 August 2007

Early dawn saw Natumi, Mukwaju and Edie at the stockades again to check on both Mweiga and the young calf. Thoma who showed a great urge to join and greet the calf was let into the stockade and Mweiga was left out to join the others for a day of cruising the feeding grounds. Thoma assumed the responsibility of taking care of the new comer, feeding and taking her round to show her the stockade complex. Taru and Roan, Angela’s young sons and Angela and Dame Daphne spent the day with the orphans. Edie was very interested in socializing with them both, very gentle with the little boys. The orphans returned to the stockades that evening, with Thoma group remaining in the stockades that evening and the older orphans heading off as night fell.

22 August 2007

Both Natumi and Thomas group gathered at the stockade water hole in the morning. Mweya was in a naughty mood and would suck up water in her trunk, close her trunk finger tip and hold the water in there for a while and then spray the cold water on the others. They did not like this much and ran off down the hill. Thoma remained with the rescued calf again in the stockades. They all headed up the hill again today leaving Mweiga with her Keepers at the base. At 10.20am Mukwaju, Edie and Mpala came and fetched Mweiga and started off towards the water hole. Natumi, Solango, Seraa, Moran and Burra came down half an hour later and joined the others for a bath. All was well for the remaining half of the day, with Natumi’s group coming and leaving the stockade much later that evening.

23 August 2007

The youngsters joined Natumi’s group who were on their way to meet up with them and they all headed to the Western side of the hill today. Today there were rain showers that caused the orphans to become very playful and in jovial mood. They never went to take a mudbath today. They all concentrated on feeding today. Burra stayed in the stockade tonight with Mweiga.

24 August 2007

The two orphan groups did not come to join Burra and Mweiga this morning, and Burra and Mweiga said their goodbyes to Thoma and the calf as they headed off down the hill in search of food. The two were on the move with their Keepers following them and soon we joined up with the others on the lower eastern reaches of Masinga hill. They all teamed up for their favourite games in the mudbath. Mweya was terribly interested in Masinga the new calf this evening and swapped with Thoma who spent the evening out with the others while Mweya baby sat Masinga. Solango remained back with Mweiga and the others went off having fed on the Copra and Grewia branches.

25 August 2007

The orphans met up in the morning, Mweya stayed back with Masinga, they were getting on really well and feasted all day on fig branches and Grewia cut from Sagala Ranch. The others fed down of the pipeline road. It was a very hot day today.

26 August 2007

Burra who spent the night with Mweiga left the stockades with Mweiga very early in the morning, and it was not long before the met up with the others who were walking towards the stockades to meet up with their dear friends. It was another warm day so most of the day was spent close to the waterholes feeding and playing. On returning to the stockades Thoma’s group decided to stay in the stockades all night keeping Mweiga, Mweya and Masinga company. Natumi’s group left for the night.

27 August 2007

Thomas group came out of the stockades full of games before leaving for the grazing fields. Natumi’s group were no where to be seen on this day. Moran was particularly playful, the usual mounting games and wrestling games. At the mudbath they were joined by Natumi, Mukwaju and Edie and the games continued with Edie resting on a soft muddy bank with her head pillowed against the convenient banks. She closed her eyes pretending she had a complete slumber, but was soon disturbed by Morani. Solango again remained behind with Mweiga.

28 August 2007

The two orphan groups who had spent the night out of the stockades did not return this morning. It took Solango and Mweiga some time before joining up with the others, and it was not until Noon that they managed to connect with the others on the way to the waterhole. They were coming from the far northern side of the hill where they were large wild herds feeding so they had obviously been having a good time with their wild friends. They returned to the stockades again and again it was Solango who chose to spend the night in with Mweiga. Masinga and Mweya were together again and it was clear that Masinga had settled down and now was comfortable with the Keepers so it is almost time to let her come and go freely with our orphans.