Keepers' Diaries, August 2020

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Voi Reintegration Unit

The Voi orphan herd makes for an eclectic and enchanting bunch at the moment with the two orphan buffalo babies Ivia and Cheza, along with the two zebra babies Diria and Nzuki, all accompanying the elephant orphans with their Keepers out for their daily ambles around the Msinga Hill. Diria and Nzuki keep close to the Keepers and never stray too far, apprehensive of their other charges, the boisterous elephant babies. During this dry season, the buffaloes and elephants have been thoroughly enjoying the mud bath on searing hot days, as the water helps to cool them down. One day Ivia and Cheza were watching the orphan elephants play, when Ivia decided to plunge into the water at the same time. Pika Pika just looked on in astonishment at the daring buffaloes.

The dry season provides the perfect opportunity for the orphan elephants to interact with the wild elephants too, providing important opportunities for them to hone their wild instincts and enjoy social interactions. As wild elephants pass through the southern area of Tsavo, they frequent the water troughs beside the big baobab tree where the orphans take their midday milk bottles and enjoy a mud bath too. If the wild herds are friendly, the orphans can play wrestling and pushing games with wild friends their own age, or perhaps stand and admire the size and stoic gracefulness of an adult wild bull. Godoma and Rorogoi in particular enjoy playing with wild friends, and Ndotto and Lasayen enjoy greeting them too.

The happy and playful month was of course marred by immense sadness at the loss of our dear Nelion. His loss was felt throughout the establishment, as at nine years of age, many of the Keepers at the Nursery as well as the Voi Unit had played a hand in raising this fine bull. The injuries inflicted by a pride of 12 lions which seemed innocuous at first, wreaked havoc internally by damaging his anus muscles, leaving him with the inability to pass stools as he should; despite the vets best efforts, on the 24th Nelion collapsed and died. An autopsy revealed a compacted gut high up in his system where the vet could not access. His attack brought the other members of Kenia’s herd closer to the stockade compound again, despite the fact they had been much more independent of late, as well as Nelion’s close friend Tundani of course. They even started spending the nights in the stockade compound again, encouraged by extra Lucerne feeds to keep them safe. Despite being big elephants the Tsavo lions are formidable, and especially so when in a large pride like the one that set upon Nelion.  

As Kenia and Ndii returned to spend more time with the dependent herd, they assumed their leadership role once more, being the oldest in the collective herd. They prefer to lead the group straight out to browse in the morning, and don’t allow for the usual fun and games the youngsters enjoyed previously in the compound after their feed. Kenia’s herd understands that it is very dry at the moment and they want to get going as soon as possible to maximize feeding. 

Arruba and Ndotto, who had taken over the stockade as the new bosses, have since stepped back and relinquished control to Kenia and Ndii. Arruba, having enjoyed spending time with baby Pika Pika, had to surrender her affection to Kenia who came to take over looking after the little one, spending most of her time browsing with her. It was interesting to note that after the lion attack on Nelion, Ndoria seemed to change her character somewhat, and she has become much friendlier to the rest of the herd, who in turn are quite happy to be in her company now! They are not nearly as wary of her as they used to be. One day she went and lay behind Mashariki while playing at the mud bath and Mashariki didn’t seem fazed at all, and didn’t move away as she once might have done.

Pika Pika, Godoma and Emoli are perhaps our greediest milk feeders. One morning Pika Pika was heard banging on the gate of her stockade, demanding her milk bottle which wasn’t even prepared yet. Often they are the first to arrive at the mud bath for their noon bottles too.

Ndotto is still desperate to engage all and sundry in his wrestling matches, and while Mbegu is often unwilling to cave in to him, he can often find a sparring partner in Arruba. Mbegu is more concerned with looking after the others, and Emoli in particular. She will sometimes stand guard over him as he enjoys lying or rolling on the ground, to ensure none of the others bother him. She’ll even let little Emoli and Tahri climb on her back too when she is on the ground. Ngilai enjoys playing sparring games with Emoli, and so too does Murit. Tagwa, Tamiyoi and Sagala are still a friendly trio and enjoy doing activities together, like enjoying the soil piles for a dust bath. 

August 2020 day to day

01 Aug

It was a wonderful morning with all of Kenia’s herd members joining the stockade-dependent orphan elephants for the Lucerne pellet feeding when they visited the stockades early this morning. After the supplements Ndii went and hugged Tahri while Godoma went to watch the sparring session that Ngilai and Emoli were engaged in.  

Tagwa, Sagala, and Tamiyoi stood on the dust hill away from the action of Kenia’s independent group. Lasayen went to scratch his bottom against the favourite rock, where he could watch the goings on around him while Embu scratched her neck by rubbing it against the big rock close to the stockade water trough.  

Mbegu took the lead of the orphan herd out to the Park today, with Kenia’s herd going off to browse on the eastern foot of Msinga Hill. When the orphans arrived at the water hole in the afternoon following the noon milk feed, a big wild elephant bull had already had his fill and was leaving the area. After the mud bath Mbegu lay on the dust hill with Emoli and Tahri coming in to take turns to climb on her back. After all the fun and games the orphans returned to their browsing activities for the rest of the afternoon.  

Ndii hugging Tahri

Lasayen sitting on the famous rock

Emoli riding on Mbegu