Keepers' Diaries, August 2021

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Voi Reintegration Unit

The dry season continues to grip Voi, which means the orphans are rather businesslike in their daily activities. Of course, there is always time for the usual hijinks — especially when Ngilai is involved. He has such an infectious personality, always eager to play and create fun. He and Tagwa have become special friends, which has gone a long way in bringing our shy girl out of her shell.

Cheza and Ivia, our two orphaned buffalos, are doing very well. Cheza is fond of her elephant friends, but she prefers a sedate life. One morning, she approached Lasayen in greeting, but quickly ran away when he tried to turn the moment into a sparring match. Ivia, on the other hand, is almost always up for a tussle with Ngilai. Sometimes, Mbegu even joins their games — and she isn’t above bending the rules of good sportsmanship! One day, she helped Ngilai by aiming little sidekicks at Ivia, which sent the buffalo scampering off in defeat.

Diria, our orphaned zebra, is growing up quickly. One afternoon, he spotted a group of wild zebras at the water hole and approached them without hesitation. This made Cheza and Ivia uneasy, so they decided to shadow him. After allowing Diria to interact with his new friends for about ten minutes, the buffalo pair escorted him back to the Voi herd.

On the 24th, after an absence of more than seven months, ex orphan Naipoki showed up at the Voi stockades. It soon became clear that she had returned seeking help: She had a puncture on her rump, and while it wasn’t a grave injury, it was clearly causing her discomfort. The SWT/KWS Tsavo Mobile Vet Unit was called in and treated her wound while the other orphans calmly observed proceedings. In the days that followed, Naipoki chose to remain at Voi, relishing time with her best friend, Panda, and seamlessly slotting into the old routines. Naipoki is part of Mweya and Edie’s ex orphan herd, who have taken up residence near Tsavo West, so she likely travelled upwards of 80 kilometers to return to the Voi stockades. We have seen ex orphans return for help time and again, as they know they can always circle back to us in their hour of need. You can read more about Naipoki's return and treatment here.

Kenia began the month with a sore eye, which was nothing serious, but enough to cause her discomfort. To make administering her morning eye drops a more palatable procedure, the Keepers would lure her over with a milk bottle. This special treatment did not sit well with Emoli, who yelled in protest when he saw her exiting her stockade. The Keepers go above and beyond to treat all the orphans fairly, but they still notice the smallest little detail!

While Kenia is the undisputed matriarch of the Voi herd, Tamiyoi has really been trying to establish herself as a leader recently. One morning, Embu decided to lead the herd out into the wilderness. Tamiyoi was unhappy to be relegated from the front of the line, so she sped up to overtake Embu. Once Tagwa saw what she was trying to do, she also picked up her pace, to support her friend.

As the youngest orphan in the Voi herd, Pika Pika is constantly spoiled by Kenia, Ndii, and the other older girls. Mashariki, who loves to play, made a big mistake when she invited Pika Pika to frolic with her in the mud bath. Ndii immediately plunged into the water, pinning Mashariki down and forcing her to use her trunk as a snorkel. Peace was only restored when Kenia came running over to break up the drama.

Always hoping to establish her own mini herd, Mbegu has decided to focus on looking after the second youngest orphan, Emoli. Mbegu’s sidekick, Godoma, is also very fond of Emoli. She expresses her affection in all sorts of sweet gestures, from resting her trunk protectively over the young bull while he finishes his milk bottles, to escorting him from activity to activity.

Wild elephants continue to filter through, which provides lots of wonderful opportunities for the orphans to mingle with local herds and learn their ways. Pika Pika, ever the social butterfly, relishes these interactions. During one mud bath, she became very excited when she saw a small group of wild elephants waiting nearby. She began charging around in the water, inviting them to play. Another evening, a herd with several calves came to drink just outside the stockade compound when the orphans were shut into their rooms for the night. Pika Pika lifted her trunk to smell them and rumbled at them in greeting, which sent Kenia and Ndii into a spiral. They thought their precious girl was on her way out to join the visitors, so began yelling in warning until the herd left.

Overall, it was a peaceful month for the Voi herd. Nurtured with milk and supplements, the orphans don’t feel the bite of the dry season as much as their wild friends. However, they are learning skills that will help them navigate the dry season when they have transitioned from our care.

August 2021 day to day

01 Aug

The Voi orphans came out of their stockades running and assembling for their delicious milk bottles. After finishing her milk, Pika Pika decided to hang around the milk feeding area in the hope of receiving another milk bottle. She lifted her trunk and sniffed the Keepers as they started washing out the finished milk bottles. Eventually Kenia and Ndii came to get her and take her to join the others who were already at the lucerne pellet feeding area, enjoying their morning supplement feed as part of their normal morning routine. There wasn’t much playing or messing around after the feeding today, and Tamiyoi quickly led the orphans out to the bush to begin their busy day of browsing.

Mashariki soon took over from Tamiyoi and lead the herd up Msinga Hill to browse where there was abundant vegetation compared to lower down the slope. 

The orphans came down hill just before noon, moving in groups of five for the milk feed, and then proceeded to drink water at the baobab tree water trough. The weather was windy and cold and only Mbegu attempted to have a swim in the waterhole, but she soon reversed backwards, finding the water too cold today, and she went to lay down and play with Ndotto and Murit instead.

Meanwhile Ngilai went straight away to invite his new good friend Tagwa for a wonderful sparring game, and later went to catch up with another best friend Emoli, providing him ample excitement this afternoon before he went to join all the others who were well stuck into their afternoon of browsing by the time he had finished all his games. 

Kenia and Ndii with Pika Pika

Ndotto and Murit playing with Mbegu

Tagwa on the left and Ngilai