Keepers' Diaries, August 2022

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Voi Reintegration Unit

The month began with another visit from Nguvu. Although most of Voi’s ex-orphans venture further afield during the dry season, Nguvu and his adopted wild family have remained in the area. He approached the mud bath at a good clip, as if he couldn’t wait to say hello to the dependent orphans. Embu was particularly excited to see her old friend and tried to block Nguvu from leaving, but he was adamant that he had to stay with his new family. We treasure these visits, however brief, and are happy to see how well Nguvu is navigating the drought. 

Sagala continues to pine after Thamana, although she knows that Mudanda has claimed the younger bull as her own. One afternoon, Mudanda took Thamana off to the side for some gentle sparring lessons. Sagala, who was jealously watching from the sidelines, immediately launched her own side show with Ngilai. It looked like she was trying to prove to Thamana that she was a superior sparring partner! 

Lemeki continues to prefer her Keepers’ company above all else, but she is slowly coming out of her shell. Ndotto has been instrumental in this, singling her out for one-on-one sparring sessions and showing her how fun it is to spend time with the rest of the herd. She has even started proactively inviting Ndotto to play, which shows wonderful progress.

Ndotto might be a great friend to Lemeki, but the jury is still out on Pika Pika. One afternoon, she tried to initiate a sparring match with Lemeki by pulling her over with her trunk. Lemeki didn’t appreciate this pushy approach and walked away. The Keepers wondered if Pika Pika was being intentionally unfriendly; everyone knows that she holds a grudge against Lemeki and Thamana for usurping her position as the youngest orphan in the herd. She doesn’t need to worry, however, as she is still Arruba’s favourite baby. 

Little Juni remains the apple of the older girls’ eyes. Mbegu, Sagala, and Tagwa have assigned themselves as her nannies and circle around her as she browses. While Tagwa is happy to share Juni with Mbegu and Sagala, she gets very jealous when anyone else tries to spend time with the younger girl. She has some competition in that department, as Tahri has also started showing interest in caring for Juni!

Tamiyoi, meanwhile, remains fixated on wild babies. Whenever a herd visits with a little one in tow, she makes a beeline for them. One afternoon, a big family group approached the water trough. Tamiyoi immediately set her sights on the one-week-old calf in their midst, but unfortunately, the baby’s big sister refused to let her get too close.

On 8th August, our Kaluku Field Headquarters alerted the Voi team of a female orphaned elephant who needed rescuing. As they were loading that baby onto the plane to go to the Nairobi Nursery, they received reports of an orphaned bull at Hildana. During the drought, we receive these calls on a weekly basis — but two in an afternoon was a lot! As the second orphan was on the older side, he returned with the rescue team to the Voi stockades. We called him Hildana.

Exactly a week later, Kaluku alerted the team about an orphan who had been spotted alone in the nearby sisal estate. He was reported to be very thin and dangerously dehydrated. The Keepers prepared everything and rushed to the scene. With the help of the community rangers, they successfully rescued the bull and, because he was also on the older side, brought him directly to Voi. The baby was named Dabida.

Compared to the likes of Ngilai, Ndotto, and Emoli, Murit and Lasayen are very gentle bulls. However, they do enjoy sparring with each other, as they have similarly laid-back temperaments. Even the way they initiate a game is relaxed! One afternoon, the Keepers saw Lasayen invite Murit to a sparring match by resting his trunk on his back. Godoma also appreciates their style and often invites herself to their games.

Everyone loves to play in the mud bath, following their noon milk feed. This is when the Voi orphans really live up to their nickname, the ‘showboats.’ Each orphan has their own wallowing style; some swim like mud fish, others splash along the periphery, but everyone has a wonderful time. 

Late in the afternoon of 22nd August, we received yet another report of an orphaned elephant who had been spotted by a Sheldrick Trust pilot while patrolling the Kanderi area. Once again, KWS instructed the Keepers to mobilise a rescue bringing the orphan back to the Voi stockades. We named him Kenderi, with a slight spelling amendment so as not to confuse him with the area where he was found.

The following day, our pilot spotted and reported another orphan in the Kanderi area. This calf was browsing alone in a thick, thorny bush. Fortunately, she ran towards the sandy Voi River, where she too was rescued. Because she was also a bit older, we brought her back to the Voi stockades. She is called Siri.

28th August brought the fifth addition to our Voi herd. In the afternoon, another orphan was spotted in Southern Tsavo East. The reason she was orphaned remains unknown, but amidst such harsh conditions, many young elephants struggle to keep pace with their herds, or else their mothers succumb to the drought. She was also on the older side, so she went directly to Voi. We named her Ushindi. 

All five newcomers, Hildama, Dabida, Kenderi, Siri, and Ushindi, are doing very well. We hope it won’t be long before they can join the other orphans out in the bush, but we will wait to take that step until they have fully regained their strength. For now, they enjoy socialising at the Voi stockades and spending time with their Keepers.

Meanwhile, our non-elephant orphans are also enjoying time closer to home. Ivia the buffalo and Diria the zebra have become favourite sparring partners, while Cheza the female buffalo prefers to watch from the sidelines.

Tsavo is in the midst of a difficult chapter, but there is still plenty of joy to go around. Everyday moments remind us of this: For instance, one morning, Sagala created an elaborate ruse to get attention. After enjoying rolling games on the ground, she pretended that she was having trouble standing up. Suswa ran over to assess the situation. She seemed convinced that Sagala was indeed in trouble and enlisted Mudanda’s help. Together, they anchored Sagala’s head with their tusks and lifted her up. Sagala was extremely happy with this outcome: She received the attention she wanted and felt like a pampered youngster again!

August 2022 day to day

01 Aug

It was games as usual after the milk and supplement feeding this morning. Mudanda went to invite her new best friend Ndotto for a fun sparring match.

As the orphans left the stockades this morning, the morning monitoring patrol left at the same time and came across a lone lioness lying close to the baobab tree water hole. Upon seeing the vehicle approach the lion ran off, ensuring a peaceful environment for the orphan elephant to visit the baobab tree water hole later in the day for their milk bottles and to enjoy a mud bath. 

Today, Nguvu the ex-orphan was seen walking at a good pace at the front of his adopted wild elephant herd. He was moving quickly at the front to greet his stockade dependent friends beside the baobab tree and didn’t want to miss an opportunity to say hello to his old family. His herd arrived and they all shared water from the large water trough together. The orphans chose not to mud bath today however as it was overcast and there was a slight wind blowing. Embu tried to catch up with Nguvu and was all over him, but Nguvu kept shying away and moving away with his adopting wild herd members.

Mudanda and Ndotto sparring

Nguvu coming to join the orphans

Embu waiting to greet Nguvu