Keepers' Diaries, August 2011

Voi Reintegration Unit

Drought conditions again prevail in the Southern Section of Tsavo so browse within the orbit of the Keeper Dependent orphans is scarce. Hence supplementary feeding on Lucerne and Copra has become part of the daily routine for the elephants to help them maintain condition during another very challenging dry year. This has also been enjoyed on several occasions by some of the Ex Orphans such as Emily and others who came with her as well as Ex orphan Lissa’s family. Wild elephants have partaken on one occasion as well and regularly come to drink at the Voi Stockade water trough. It has been an exciting month for the Dependent Juniors with plenty of interaction with wild elephant herds. On the 2nd the Orphans shared their water bins at the mudbath venue with a wild herd, met another herd en route to the mudbath the next day when Wasessa focused on the small baby of a very big wild cow with long tusks and on the 22nd a wild herd actually accompanied the orphans to their noon mudbath and shared the water bins with them. Later on that day a very large wild bull with enormous tusks turned up to join them, but the orphans were in awe of him and chose to watch him from a distance! However, on the 24th Lesanju and Siria were allowed to play with a wild calf belonging to the wild herd they joined briefly. They have even tolerated the presence of a large male impala and two waterbucks at the water bins, allowing them access without chasing them off, which is unusual and illustrates understanding on the part of the orphans. They are not usually so accommodating to wild intruders other than other elephants.

01 August 2011

Drought conditions in the Southern part of Tsavo have impacted on the available browse around Mazinga hill and within range of the Voi Stockades, so the orphans are having supplementary rations now in the form of Lucerne and Dairy cubes. Today they fed halfway up the Eastern side of Mazinga hill where there is still some vegetation, enjoyed a wallow at the Stockades when Taveta and Ndii enjoyed an interesting dusting game, tossing chunks of red earth into the air and Lesanju gave Dida a lot of t.l.c.

02 August 2011

Water is becoming an issue. Many animals, including wild elephants, now come to drink at the Orphans’ Middle artificial waterhole, sometimes wild elephants waiting for the tractor to refill the drinking drums, standing very close without signs of aggression since they know that water is on its way. Today the wild elephants actually shared the drinking bins with our orphans and spent time socializing with them before moving off.

03 August 2011

The orphans encountered a wild herd on their way to the noon waterhole, amongst whom was a cow with massive tusks. Wasessa approached them closely, focused on a tiny calf, but was not allowed close access. Since it was a cool day, only Mzima went into the wallow.

04 August 2011

Today the Keepers enlarged the Stockade waterhole which is often now used for the noon mudbath. Lesanju and Wasessa introduced Dida to a buttock scratching game and a dustbath, while the others all enjoyed the newly dug wallow.

05 August 2011

The orphans thoroughly enjoy their Lucerne handout each morning and look forward to the Grewia branches that await them in their Stockades when they return in the evenings. A very large male impala and two waterbucks turned up to beg a drink at the Orphans’ Middle waterhole today. The orphans took their fill, and then allowed the antelopes a turn, never charging them.

06 August 2011

Once out in the browsing area today Taveta challenged Siria to a test of strength but Mzima moved in, poking Siria with his little tusks every time he tried to turn to Taveta. In the end Siria challenged Mzima instead, leaving Taveta disappointed! Ndii led the orphans back in the evening.

07 August 2011

For sometime Wasessa’s one ear has been bent but much to the Keepers’ surprise, today she emerged with it fully erect. This initiated a discussion about Wasessa’s curious ear, since the same thing happened about a year ago!

08 August 2011

Taveta found himself left behind today, and went at speed to catch up with the others who had already left the compound, bumping headlong into Tassia on the way. The two immediately engaged one another, but Wasessa moved in to break up the fight.

09 August 2011

The orphans had fun at the Stockades today chasing off a troupe of baboons bent on sharing their Copra cake, helped by the Keepers. Ndii is often the leader of the column now, since Kenia likes to keep pace with Dida, who is slower.

10 August 2011

The orphans took their noon milk feed and mudbath at the Stockades today, and later enjoyed playing around the compound, Siria dominating the usual scratching rock but then allowing Tassia a turn. Later they moved off towards the western side of Mazinga hill led by Lesanju.

11 August 2011

Today Taveta and Tassia engaged one another in a fierce battle, overseen by Shimba, who ended up chasing each in a different direction, in the Keepers’ words earning the “Nobel Prize for Peace Keeping”.

12 August 2011

It was a warmer day, so the orphans all enjoyed their mudbath, Lesanju escorting Dida into the pool to cool off while Mzima tried to mount onto Shimba’s back. After the mudbath Mzima wanted to engaged Shimba in a Pushing Match, but Shimba opted for Taveta instead. Siria shared a scratching tree with Lempaute. All began heading back to the Stockades in the evening, arriving dead on time!

13 August 2011

Another hot day, so even Sinya went into the mudbath today when usually she doesn’t much enjoy cold water. Dida also went in, but soon came out when the others became a bit too exuberant. Shimba revolved round and round in the water, while Lesanju encouraged him by touching his head with her trunk. As usual Ndii led the way back in the evening.

14 August 2011

Today, there were many wild herds that could be seen feeding in the distance, but none close by. The orphans enjoyed their noon mudbath at the Stockades, and browsed peacefully before and after.

15 August 2011

Today Emily and her baby Eve, Sweet Sally, Vita and Irima turned up at the Stockade compound just after the Juniors had left for the bush. Irima was behind the girls, and it was noticed that Emily was trying to deter him, so the Keepers gave him his share of the Lucerne apart from the females. By this time the Juniors were way up the hill, and never met up with the Ex Orphans.

16 August 2011

Emily and Eve plus Sweet Sally Vita and Irima again visited the Stockades in the morning and again in the evening, but missed meeting up with the Youngsters. Meanwhile the Juniors were scattered as they browsed out in the bush trying to find sufficient food before reaching the mudbath at noon. There Mzima tried to mount onto Taveta but Siria pushed him away. Mzima was furious and bit Siria’s trunk. The two then confronted one another for a fight, but Mzima broke off and as he ran away Siria managed to bite his tail several times making him scream. This upset all the others, who ran to their keepers, not knowing the cause of the upset! Meanwhile, Siria kept his distance, obviously feeling somewhat guilty.

17 August 2011

The Voi Stockade orphaned ostrich (who has been named “Rafiki” by the Keepers, yesterday went off with some wild ostrich friends. Today she turned up at the Voi Safari Lodge Staff quarters, delighted to see humans again, dancing round and round in circles, which terrified the Staff, who all took to their rooms! The matter was reported to KWS who alerted the Keepers so that they could fetch the ostrich. She was overjoyed to see them, and walked back home happily with them. A wild elephant herd, who have been frequent visitors to the Stockade water trough came again with their two small calves to drink. Kenia rumbled to them and they rumbled back in return, moving off after about 10 minutes having quenched their thirst.

18 August 2011

Emily and Eve, Sweet Sally, Vita and Irima joined the Juniors at the stockade compound in the morning for the Lucerne handout, demolishing several bundles. They then enjoyed playing with each other Sweet Sally challenging Siria to a Pushing bout, while Lesanju moved to separate Dida from the group, putting her trunk lovingly across her back. She then managed to get the Juniors away from Emily’s group who were left behind feeding on the Lucerne. However, once out in the bush Lesanju’s Juniors met up with a wild herd and were allowed access to a small calf belonging to a female with very long tusks. Lesanju was able to pull the wild baby towards herself watched jealously by Tassia and Wasessa. The wild baby seemed to enjoy this contact, and even tried to suckle Lesanju’s dry breasts. The orphans only separated from the wild herd at noon, heading off for their milk and mudbath. Emily’s group returned at 3 p.m. for another handout.

19 August 2011

Emily and Eve, Sweet Sally and Vita came to the Stockades at 3 p.m., soon to be joined by Lissa and her last born, Lugard, the rest of Lissa’s group being still making their way down Mazinga hill. Emily’s group moved aside to allow Lissa access to the Lucerne, after which the rest of Lissa’s group joined them. All then took water from the Stockade trough. They were then joined by a wild herd with two small calves, one slightly smaller than Eve. Eve was very happy in amongst this large congregation of elephants, playing and scratching herself against a rock which enticed a young teenager female to do the same. Meanwhile Sweet Sally was concentrating on Emily’s calf, Eve, lying down to allow Eve to climb over her. Irima then arrived at the Stockades, accompanied by Lissa’s second born (Lali), and having had a drink moved in to take over a young wild cow with whom Sweet Sally had been wrestling. Later Emily’s group along with that of Lissa all left the Stockades together as one large herd, playing with each other as they went.

20 August 2011

Lissa and Lugard came to the Stockades at noon, leaving the other members of her family up Mazinga Hill and enjoyed some Lucerne. Having taken a drink, they went to join the rest of the family up the hill. They passed by the Stockades again a midnight for a drink before moving off to the other side of the Park.

21 August 2011

As soon as the orphans had finished their noon milk feed at the Stockades, Emily, Eve, Sweet Sally Vita and Irima walked in. All then played together, Mzima testing his strength against Vita while Sweet Sally lay on the ground to allow Eve to climb onto her until Wasessa and Lesanju joined forces to hijack Eve and tried to take her away. Sweet Sally reclaimed the baby, thereafter keeping a close eye on her. The entire group left together, but Emily’s group separated heading towards the Voi river.

22 August 2011

En route to the waterhole at noon, the Juniors joined a wild herd, and all moved together to the water barrels. The orphans were interested in a small calf belonging to a large wild cow, but the mother would not allow them access to her baby. The wild herd then moved off, but the orphans were then daunted by a massive bull with huge tusks who came to join them at the waterhole. They ran off and watched him from a distance.

23 August 2011

Today Mzima lay down on the way out to browse, inviting Lesanju and Wasessa to climb on him, but the two females refused to play and moved on, bent on feeding. Disappointed at being shunned, Mzima then joined them. On the way Wasessa spotted a rock hyrax which scared her until she realized that it was only a very small animal!

24 August 2011

This morning the orphans joined a wild herd who had a small calf with them. Lesanju and Siria got a chance to play with the baby before the mother took it from them. As soon as the orphans had finished taking water at the Middle Waterhole, they were joined by another wild herd who remained only briefly, leaving the orphans enjoying their wallow, Lempaute, Siria and Mzima playing together while Shimba climbed on Taveta’s back. Meanwhile a single wild cow and her calf came to drink at the Stockades in the evening.

25 August 2011

Having enjoyed their morning Lucerne, the orphans had a quiet browsing day. At noon it was too chilly for a wallow, although Siria stood in the middle of the waterhole. They later browsed their way back to the Stockades slowly.

26 August 2011

It was cool when the orphans moved to the waterhole at noon, so having taken water, they moved on to feed. At 4.30 p.m. they enjoyed playing in an erosion gulley, Shimba taking on Taveta in a Pushing game, which was interrupted by Tassia. In the evening Ndii led the way home, as usual.

27 August 2011

Today Taveta and Shimba enjoyed an extended playtime together which began at the stockades and was still going on out in the bush. This was unusual since Shimba is usually a greedy feeder and it also made Tassia jealous, who wanted also to play with Taveta. Later on all settled down to feed.

28 August 2011

Having head a wild herd rumbling from the top of Mazinga hill, Shimba led the orphans up, but halted half way. The orphans came late to the Stockades for their noon milk feed and the wild elephants turned up for a drink late during the night.

29 August 2011

The orphans browsed the north of the hill today, arriving at the waterhole as the Tractor was emptying water into the barrels. All stood by watching curiously. The orphans then enjoyed a wallow, with Sinya and even Dida joining in briefly, and Wasessa paying attention to her favourite, Tassia. The remainder of the day was spent browsing.

30 August 2011

Before wallowing, Siria tested the temperature of the water by laying his trunk on it. Having decided that it was OK, all the orphans went in after him, Kenia, Taveta and Ndii rolling around in the water. Siria then came out to toss huge chunks of red earth at Mzima, upsetting his wallowing. As soon as Mzima moved out to confront Siria, Siria moved back in where Wasessa sat on him. Having all enjoyed their time in the water, they moved out and concentrated on browsing again.

31 August 2011

Emily and her family have returned to their distant browsing grounds, and have not been back for a few days. Hopefully they are reunited with Edie’s family who have not been seen this month. Mkuki and Aruba, the Ex orphaned kudus turned up today, not having been back for several weeks, although they have been spotted out in the bush. Njia, the other orphaned kudu who was with them temporarily, has also been sited.