Keepers' Diaries, August 2009

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Voi Reintegration Unit

Lesanju, Lempaute, Sinya, Wasessa, Mzima, Siria and Shimba, now very settled at the Voi Rehabilitation Centre, were very happy to welcome Tassia and Taveta into their midst on the 13th, when the two young boys were transferred from the Nairobi Nursery. Lesanju, especially, immediately homed in on Tassia and has focused on him ever since, which has diverted her attention from her best friend, Lempaute. Lesanju is a very dominant and proficient Matriarch, who is extremely possessive of both her Matriarchal status, but also of Tassia, now to the excusing of Lempaute, who doesn’t seem to mind. In particular she resents Sinya and Wasessa having too much to do with Tassia, who has emerged her favourite, so they can satisfy their maternal instincts on Taveta. The two newcomers settled in instantly, and are delighted with their newfound popularity. They could not have had a warmer welcome from the older group, who, of course, remember them well from their Nursery time, although there the two young boys were never hot favourites during that time.

Lesanju, Lempaute, Sinya, Wasessa, Mzima, Siria and Shimba, now very settled at the Voi Rehabilitation Centre, were very happy to welcome Tassia and Taveta into their midst on the 13th, when the two young boys were transferred from the Nairobi Nursery. Lesanju, especially, immediately homed in on Tassia and has focused on him ever since, which has diverted her attention from her best friend, Lempaute. Lesanju is a very dominant and proficient Matriarch, who is extremely possessive of both her Matriarchal status, but also of Tassia, now to the excusing of Lempaute, who doesn’t seem to mind. In particular she resents Sinya and Wasessa having too much to do with Tassia, who has emerged her favourite, so they can satisfy their maternal instincts on Taveta. The two newcomers settled in instantly, and are delighted with their newfound popularity. They could not have had a warmer welcome from the older group, who, of course, remember them well from their Nursery time, although there the two young boys were never hot favourites during that time.

Mzima and Siria remain best friends and are never far apart, romping and sparring with one another endlessly, while Shimba is quite happy to take a back seat in this respect and retain his loner status. August is always a cool month in Tsavo, so there have been many days when the mudbath has not been popular, and the orphans have opted for a dustbath instead, or merely taken their milk and a drink before moving off to continue browsing. With the drought tightening its grip, and browse becoming limited, feeding is a priority.

The new orphan rescued from Morondo Ranch abutting Tsavo spent a brief time at the Voi Stockades, awaiting the arrival of the Rescue Plane from Nairobi. He was very emaciated and weak, so the prospects for survival were not good. Sadly he died a day or two later in the Nursery.

The Voi orphans follow roughly the same routine on a daily basis – after their morning milk feed, they enjoy playing around the compound until the Keepers are ready to escort them out to the feeding area selected that day. This is usually either along the slopes of nearby Mazinga Hill, alternating between the southern, eastern, western and northern sides, sometimes actually climbing the hill and sometimes moving out onto the plains in the main Park. They gradually make their way towards the mudbath venue as the morning wears on, where they enjoy their noon milk feed, and, weather permitting, enjoy a mud or dust bath with more fun and games around the waterhole. Feeding resumes during the afternoon, as they slowly make their way back to the Stockades for the night. there to enjoy another milk feed, plus Copra and Greens provided in their communal Stockade. The Grewia branches are cut and brought in for them from the community lands are a special favourite, being rich in all the minerals an elephant needs to remain strong and healthy.

2009 has been the driest year in living memory and there have been many Tsavo elephant casualties reported to us by visiting Tourists who have been extremely distressed by what they have witnessed, not least by the hordes of domestic livestock illegally grazing the Park. Even if the livestock is chased out of one part of the Park, they again intrude elsewhere, so it has been a losing battle that the Government seems unable, or unwilling to face head on, despite the fact that the fragile arid environment of Tsavo is being visibly degraded over large stretches of the Park.

With Lesanju’s attention now focused on Tassia, Shimba and Wasessa have had a chance to enjoy leading the column out to feed and back in the evenings, something that normally Lesanju insists upon doing. She views as both Wasessa and Sinya as rivals for the Leadership role, and is determined to assert her authority over them.

An exciting event occurred when the orphans and their Keepers came across some lions on a waterbuck kill on the 22nd, and had to hurriedly change course!

On the 13th a wild cow and her three calves came to drink at the Stockades, whilst the orphans were elsewhere, and this same cow reappeared on the 27th with her family, all on the lean side On the 25th another lean wild cow was seen nearby with an extremely emaciated 5 month old calf, who was obviously not getting sufficient milk. Sadly, this is something that has been a common sight during this terribly dry period, and with the rains not due until late October or November, will become even more so.

Others:- The 3 little orphaned kudus, Mkuki, Njia and Aruba have been progressively becoming more independent for some time, and this month severed their human ties on the 5th. They have been seen again feeding in amongst the resident kudu and impala groups, but have shown no desire to return for milk. The little orphaned eland bull is now the only antelope orphan at the Voi Stockades.

August 2009 day to day

01 Aug

Led by Lesanju, the orphans left their Night Stockades in the morning in high spirits. Towards noon they came running down Mazinga Hill for their milk feed and then moved towards the waterhole for a bath, where they had lots of fun. Later they fed along the lower slopes of Mazinga Hill until it was time to return in the evening.

Lesanju leads the others to the stockades

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