Keepers' Diaries, August 2009

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.

01 August 2009

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.

02 August 2009

The orphans enjoyed playing around the Stockades as soon as they were let out in the morning. Initially they browsed along the foot of Mazinga Hill but then moved into the main Park. They then fed on the Northern side of the hill, enjoyed an eventful mudbath, and browsed peacefully until evening when they returned to their Stockades.

03 August 2009

It was a warmer day. The orphans left in single file, led by Lesanju. They browsed peacefully throughout the morning, enjoyed their noon mudbath, and returned happily in the evening to enjoy their milk, their Copra ration and the Grewia branches which they love.

04 August 2009

It was a cool day, so the orphans concentrated on feeding, except for time taken out by Siria and Mzima who engaged one another in a strength pushing game. At the mudbath, they took their milk and some water, but decided against a wallow because of the weather. They fed close to the waterhole for the rest of the day.

05 August 2009

The orphans fed around the hill, and went to the waterhole where they played with the water using their trunks, since it was another cool day. They spent the rest of the day on the Western side of Mazinga Hill. Today Lesanju allowed Mzima to lead the group back home. She was comfortable with that as long as it was not Wasessa, whom she regards as a rival for the Leadership. Meanwhile, the three orphaned kudus, Mkuki, Njia and Aruba went off to feed as a threesome, and never came back. A search was mounted, but they were not seen.

06 August 2009

The orphans, led by Lesanju settled to browse on the Northern side of Mazinga hill, slowly working their way to the noon mudbath and milk. Mzima and Siria tested the temperature of the water and opted against a wallow. After feeding for the rest of the day, Shimba got a chance to lead the column home, but was overtaken en route by Lesanju.

07 August 2009

The orphans spent time around the Stockade this morning, plucking grass, before heading out again to the Northern side of the hill. Siria and Mzima found some soft soil to roll in for a time. They spent only a brief time at the mudbath because it was a cool day and then fed for the rest of the afternoon.

08 August 2009

An orphaned elephant calf rescued at Morondo Ranch abutting the Park was brought to the Stockades before being airlifted to Nairobi. The calf was a young bull, and very weak, who had been feeding on Prickly Pear cactus. The dung was pale red in colour, as though containing blood.

09 August 2009

The orphans enjoyed wonderful games playing around the compound before heading out today towards the Eastern side of Mazinga Hill. As it was cool, they were not interested in a mudbath, but instead took water at the stockades in the evening when they returned for their milk feed and the night.

10 August 2009

It was games in the morning before the orphans headed towards the Eastern side of the hill to browse today. Siria lay down to warm up in a patch of warm soil, hoping that others would come and play with him, but none were interested, busy scratching themselves against rocks and chasing each other around.. He therefore joined them. They returned to the Stockades for their milk and then headed to the western side of the hill until Lesanju led them back home in the evening.

11 August 2009

The orphans browsed up the hill today, and slowly made their way down to the waterhole at noon for their milk. Siria tested the water with his trunk and decided that it was too cold. This message was transmitted to the others, who left to feed on the plains, passing by the waterhole in the evening for a quick drink as they made their way back to the stockades.

12 August 2009

After the usual Stockade games, the orphans browsed peacefully for the rest of the day. They enjoyed their milk feeds and returned satisfied in the evening.

13 August 2009

A wild cow with a 3 year old calf and 2 grown up calves came to drink at the stockade water trough at noon. The orphans, who were not far away, awaiting the arrival of Taveta and Tassia from the Nursery, saw them from afar and came to take a closer look. Only Lesanju showed interest by following the small wild calf for a while before giving up. Just before 11 a.m., the truck from Nairobi carrying the two new orphans arrived at the Unloading Ramp, and immediately the orphans sensed that there might be new arrivals in there, since they themselves had been transported quite recently in that way. As soon as Tassia emerged, Lesanju fondled him, greeting him in a very loving way before turning to greet Taveta. All the other orphans, Lempaute, Sinya, Wasessa, Mzima and Shimba surrounded the pair trumpeting a welcome and touching them with their trunks. They watched the newcomers take their milk, and then led them to the water trough for a drink. Tassia immediately jumped into the trough to cool himself down before the Keepers could lead them to the mudwallow that had been prepared nearby. Once at the mudbath, Lesanju and Lempaute took charge of the wallowing exercise, giving a good example of how it should be done, while all the others kept fondling them with their trunks. For the rest of the day Lesanju and Lempaute fed close to Tassia and Taveta at the foot of Mazinga Hill and escorted them back to the Stockade in the evening, where they settled in well.

14 August 2009

The new arrivals enjoyed a lot of “petting” from their older peers during the night. All the older elephants, obviously remembered them from the Nursery, and were delighted to welcome them to Tsavo. Tassia, especially, was basking with approval, enjoying the undivided attention of Lesanju, whilst Taveta was more reserved, but had Sinya, Wasessa and Lempaute near him to console him. The two newcomers were taken all round Mazinga Hill on a feeding orientation, and went to the waterhole at noon, but did not go into the mud. They relished the Grewia Branches provided for them back in their stockade during the night. Mkuki, Njia and Aruba were once again sited at around noon, feeding happily in the main Park near a small group of wild kudus. They acknowledged the presence of the Keepers, but were shy of the orphaned elephants who were with them.

15 August 2009

Shimba had an opportunity to lead the group out this morning, Lesanju being still preoccupied with the latest arrivals. They fed along the eastern side of Mazinga Hill, went to the mudbath briefly at noon, but concentrated on feeding. In the evening they were pretty exhausted after a long day.

16 August 2009

The day began with fun and games at the Stockade as soon as the orphans were let out of their Night Stockade. Siria and Lempaute lay down, hoping to entice the newcomers to join in, but Lesanju rounded them all up and led them out to the feeding grounds. They fed well during the morning and enjoyed a wonderful mudbath at noon. The day ended well, with all the orphans happy and content to return for the night.

17 August 2009

The orphans enjoyed chasing some baboons in the morning, Tassia and Taveta careful to keep behind their elders. They fed half way up the hill, came down just to take water, and returned to the same place for the afternoon.

18 August 2009

When the orphans reached the western side of Mazinga Hill, Siria and Mzima engaged one another in a tough pushing competition while the others watched. Mzima later lay down in some soft soil, which attracted Tassia. Siria became jealous and moved in to disrupt what was becoming a beautiful game. The orphans then fed, making their way slowly to the waterhole, where Lesanju encouraged Tassia to wallow and stood by him to ensure that none of the others mounted on him whilst he was in the mudbath.

19 August 2009

Today Mzima was very warm towards the newcomers, feeding close by them, and touching them gently with his trunk. Lesanju became jealous and moved in to push him away from Tassia and Taveta, which started a fight between her and Mzima. Eventually Mzima gave up and moved away. At the mudbath Siria and Mzima put on a good demonstration for the new arrivals, but Lesanju stood guard over them so that they could not join in. The rest of the day was spent feeding.

20 August 2009

The orphans fed along the lower slopes of Mazinga Hill today. Tassia began to play a rolling game, but the others were prevented from participating by Lesanju, who stood guard over him! Lesanju is very possessive of Tassia.

21 August 2009

It was a bright sunny day today, as the orphans browsed their way along the eastern side of the hill, ending up at the mudbath. As it was hot, they all went into the water for a wonderful wallow. The Keepers had a busy time preventing the older elephants from submerging the little ones. Having left the wallow, and fed for a while, the orphans returned for a second wallow. Today, it was Wasessa who led them back in the evening.

22 August 2009

Shimba once again was the leader this morning as the orphans filed out to feed, Lesanju being preoccupied with the new babies. Upon reaching the feeding area, Siria lay down, wanting to play, but Mzima wanted to concentrate on feeding. Because of the drought, food is becoming scarce, and the orphans have to work hard to fill their bellies. As the moved North of the hill, the orphans and Keepers encountered 2 lions that had killed a waterbuck. The Keepers called the orphans to feed in a different location, and leave the lions to their meal.

23 August 2009

It was an uneventful day spent feeding, with just a brief pause at the mudbath. None of the elephants wallowed, because it was a cool day. They fed peacefully throughout, and returned happily in the evening.

24 August 2009

The orphans fed on the Northern slopes of the hill today, and didn’t come down. Their milk was taken to them. As it was a cool, cloudy day, the mudbath was not a priority and all were happy to run back to the Stockades in the evening, eager for their milk.

25 August 2009

At the noon mudbath Siria and Mzima enjoyed a dustbath, watched by all the others, who found it too cold to wallow. A wild elephant group was sited on the Western side of the hill. One wild cow had a 5 month old calf who was very thin and obviously not getting sufficient milk from its mother.

26 August 2009

Today, Lempaute found herself left behind the others as she spent time scratching her body against some rocks. Upon realizing that she was isolated, she trumpeted and rushed to join the group, welcomed back with enthusiasm. Mzima and Siria are best friends, as opposed to the friendship of Lesanju and Lempaute. Since the arrival of Tassia and Taveta, Lesanju has spent more time overseeing the two new arrivals, rather than playing with her best friend Lempaute, who is missing being priority No. l.

27 August 2009

The wild cow with her three calves again came to drink at the Stockades. This was the same elephant who came earlier in the month. All were lean due to lack of browse during this severe drought. They spent time feeding on some Acacia branches around the Stockades, and left before the orphans returned.

28 August 2009

Up until today, Sinya has not paid overly much attention to Tassia and Taveta, but today she took a great interest in them, urging them to feed just in front of her. This did not please Lesanju, who moved in for a fight, but Lempaute went to calm the situation down. Today the orphans enjoyed their time in the waterhole, and spent the afternoon feeding close by until it was time to return in the evening.

29 August 2009

The sun rose in a red ball over the horizon, promising a warmer feeding day for the orphans. They fed both along the hill and on the plains until it was time to move to the mudbath. All thoroughly enjoyed the water today, with Siria and Mzima emerging as the best performers. Later they moved feeding towards the Southern side of Mazinga Hill.

30 August 2009

The orphans enjoyed an energetic game of Hide and Seek around the Stockades as soon as they were let out in the morning. Lesanju brought the game to an end when Sinya accidentally collided with Taveta, making him yell. Again all thoroughly enjoyed the mudbath, and fed peacefully until evening and their return.

31 August 2009

As soon as the orphans had finished their milk, they headed straight to the southern side of the hill, where there was more browse than where they had been feeding before. All enjoyed being there. They returned to take water at the Stockade trough and immediately returned to continue feeding for the rest of the day. Others:- The ex orphans led by Emily and Natumi have not been sited during August, obviously having traveled further afield along with most of the wild elephants in search of water and richer pickings of food browse. Many elephants now drink from the waterholes fed by the Trust’s three Windmills at Ndara, Dida Harea and Aruba, or at the Satao waterhole fed by the Camp borehole. The only other source of permanent water is either along the Tsavo or Galana rivers. The current drought has been far more severe than the big droughts of l961 and l970, and will obviously take a very heavy toll of wildlife. We pray that the milk bars of Emily and Edie hold out for tiny calves born earlier in the year. It would not surprise us to find our Ex Voi Orphans turning up in the Northern Area, where browse is more plentiful, and where they will meet up with Yatta, Kinna, Nasalot and Mulika, whom they would remember as part of their original group. The three orphaned kudus, Mkuki, Aruba and Njia have made the transition to a wild life this month, having joined a group of wild kudus, and sometimes seen in amongst the resident impala herd. The little orphaned eland is still Keeper Dependent.