Keepers' Diaries, August 2018

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Voi Reintegration Unit

This month we really began to see the Tsavo region begin to dry once more despite it being the cool season, but this is to be expected, and we have been fortunate that Voi received such abundant rain earlier so the vegetation remains good despite the dry conditions. Although most days were cloudy and cold early in the month, warmer weather is on the way and this did mean the orphans chose to mud bath on some occasions, and the warmer weather led to a few light rain showers as well, just enough to settle the dust and freshen the air. The generally dry conditions however meant quite a number of wild elephants visited the mud bath and water trough by the large baobab tree, offering the dependent orphans the opportunity to interact with these wild friends.

Mbegu and her herd who were translocated from the Nairobi Nursery in May and June were initially rather apprehensive about these meetings, but it is clear this month they are becoming much braver and bolder, and now look forward to these wild interactions. Mbegu is still very protective over what she considers ‘her’ herd, that is Godoma, Ndotto, Lasayen, Murit and Ngilai. One day when graduate orphans Layoni and Dabassa arrived, who we had not seen for well over a month, the two bulls went straight up to Lasayen to greet him. Caught unaware and not entirely confident as to who these two brazen bulls were approaching him, Lasayen ran off yelling with fright, which brought Mbegu running over to defend Lasayen, standing between him and the older bulls. Kenia and the rest of the herd came over quickly, rumbling reassurances to Mbegu and the others that in fact these were just old friends and no threat at all. When Ndoria is in a bad mood, like the day she pushed Tahri for no reason before Ndii came to her rescue, Mbegu is also careful in these instances to keep her herd together to avoid any trouble. Sweet little Mbegu is always ready and quick to defend those she sees as her responsibility to protect.

Her little Nursery herd is integrating more and more with the other dependent orphans though, and they can often be seen playing together now. One day Naipoki had a wonderful play fight with Ndotto, until Lasayen got jealous and possessive over his best friend Ndotto, taking him away from the area and denying Naipoki the opportunity to continue any games with him. It seems nothing can yet come in between old friendships! The little ones are still fairly intimidated by the size of some of the older orphans as well, and one day Murit had to politely decline and run away from Nelion who had approached him for a pushing-game, as he was sensibly put off by the size of Nelion’s tusks! They do very much rely on the older dependent orphans however, to learn about their new surroundings and tactics for survival out in the wild as the seasons change. The older orphans have been able to browse from the higher branches, and Kenia and Kihari are always clever enough to find a higher base to reach the taller branches further still. For now, youngsters like Ngilai, Araba, Mbegu and Godoma are content to stand beneath and grab any leaves that fall to the ground in the process.

Mudanda has been rather naughty this month and this character change surprised us a little, as it is normally Ndoria who we need to keep an eye on with her tail-biting antics. Mudanda was spotted harassing and bullying some of the others, especially Nguvu, keeping him away from the Lucerne pellets in the morning. We thought perhaps this was just because there are new arrivals in the midst and she is vying for authority as well. Ndii still very much dotes on ‘her’ little baby Tahri, and does not like it when the others like Panda try to browse with her. There remain now twenty milk-dependent babies at the Voi stockades, as Kenia, Kihari, Ishaq-B, Naipoki, Ndii and Panda have all been weaned yet remain very much part of the group still.

This month Tawi, the 2 year old orphaned male eland that was raised in the Voi stockade, decided to leave the compound and venture out with the Keepers and the elephants. At first the elephants did not stand for this and chased him away, but soon he learnt to hide behind the Keepers so he might walk with them. It seemed this was all in aid of him joining a wild herd of eland and zebras, which he happily and successfully did on the 6th of the month, leaving Kore the female eland behind, along with Ol-tukai the buffalo and Ngulia the zebra. A week later on the 14th, the Keepers were happy to spot Tawi with his new eland herd and family. Tawi raised his head in acknowledgment of the Keepers, greeting them from a distance. He has since been spotted as far afield as Kanderi on the Voi River, together with a zebra herd, so he is evidently enjoying his new found wanderlust.

August 2018 day to day

01 Aug

The morning was good with the orphan elephants coming out of their stockades in a happy mood to begin their daily routine. Murit was full of energy and was in a greedy mood attempting to push Ngilai away from his milk in an attempt to have it for himself. The orphan elephants enjoyed playing around the stockade compound for a short while before leaving to go out to browse. Tawi the male orphan eland followed the orphans up to the northern side of Msinga Hill but had to turn and run back to the stockade when Ndotto and Godoma charged towards him to make him leave. Bada took the lead of the orphan elephants as they made their way for their afternoon milk bottle. The Keepers had to intervene however, to allow Mbegu’s herd to have their milk first. The orphans then enjoyed a mud bath, plunging into the water to wallow. Ndotto stood at the front splashing his friends with muddy water. Suswa, Arruba, and Rorogoi soon came and joined him. Panda, Suswa, Arruba, Rorogoi and Ndotto all enjoyed rolling around in the water. In the afternoon the orphans joined a wild herd of elephants who were close to the water hole. The wild herd was very thirsty and went for a drink from the baobab tree water trough leaving the orphans to their browsing activities.

Tawi browsing

Bada front leading the orphans

Ndotto front splashing