Keepers' Diaries, August 2023

Select your unit:

Voi Reintegration Unit

In Voi, a new month began with visits from old friends. Ex-orphans Kenia, Araba, Arruba, Panda, Kihari, Naipoki, Suswa, and Mudanda have become familiar faces in recent months. The Keepers have noticed that the group has put on weight and condition since their regular visits began. We are glad that they have chosen to ride out the dry season close to home; conditions are challenging in Tsavo right now, and these elephants only recently reclaimed their place in the wild. They are showing excellent judgement by taking advantage of the support we can offer at Voi.

Meanwhile, our ‘Voi kids’ are also getting their fair share of support. These orphans were rescued around Tsavo during the drought and, given their slightly older age, bypassed the Nursery stage and went directly to Voi. Losoito is one of our newest additions. We witnessed a sweet moment one morning, when she trundled out of her stockade and met up with Busara, another Voi kid. The pair knew right where to go, sandwiching themselves between kindly Mbegu and Sagala. They ate contentedly while the older females fussed over them and trunk hugged them.

Emoli has decided that Thamana is his new best friend and little protegee. The feeling is mostly mutual, but Thamana cannot keep up with Emoli’s indefatigable energy levels. He has become an expert at thwarting his older friend’s constant efforts to play with him, making himself scarce when he seems Emoli trundling over. 

Usually, Thamana seeks refuge with his original best friend, Lemeki. They enjoy gentle sparring games together, or lay side by side in the sun for a nap. We are also happy to see a burgeoning friendship developing between Lemeki and Pika Pika. They’re both very spoiled girls with very big personalities, so it’s nice to see them joining forces. 

On 4th August, Nguvu made an appearance. He was only in our care for a short while, which is why he never joined the foster program, but he continues to visit periodically. This time, he and his adopted wild family linked up with the orphans at the mud wallow.

We have noticed that Mbegu, ever the matriarch, prefers to walk at the rear of the herd. This way, she can keep an eye on things and ensure that no one is left behind. Meanwhile, Godoma, Tagwa, Tamiyoi, and Sagala filter among the orphans, each laying claim to their favourite ‘Voi kid.’ Sagala and Tagwa used to fight over Juni, but they have learned to share and spread their love to the other orphans. Pika Pika, meanwhile, has adopted Busara as her little sister. 

Hildana, Kilulu, and Ashanti often race each other to the morning milk feed. One morning, they were so busy squabbling over who should come out of the stockade first that babies Busara and Baraka managed to sneak ahead of them. The pair then led the charge down to the feeding area. Upon discovering he had been usurped, Hildana fell into a towering mood and gave the little ones a grumpy shove when he caught up with them.

Ashanti, our little survivor, lost the bottom half of her trunk to a poacher’s snare. Although it severed the ‘fingers’ at the end of the trunk that allow African elephants to dexterously pick up food and other objects, she has adapted marvellously. She eats slowly and with great concentration, either using her short trunk to scoop up loose pellets or simply dropping to her knees to eat directly with her mouth. Her friends don’t quite know what to make of these unusual techniques; one day, we saw Akina watching Ashanti as she expertly scooped up range cubes, wide-eyed with wonder. Ngilai and Ndotto are excellent ‘big brothers’ to Ashanti and often stand on either side of her as she eats.

Pika Pika remains the reigning queen of the mud bath, but Godoma is also tossing her proverbial hat into the ring. We think of her as a composed girl, but one day, she was behaving most uncharacteristically, splashing and trumpeting as she darted from one end of the mud wallow to the other. Finally, she settled down for a quiet wallow with Murit and Emoli.

Meanwhile, Ndotto remains the reigning king of the mud bath. He can always be relied upon to give a good show. He likes to plant himself in the middle of the pool, where everyone can admire his wallowing prowess. Gentle bulls Lasayen and Murit usually remain on the edge, where they make more subdued — but no less impressive — splashes with their big feet. 

Araba went wild with Kenia’s group last year, but they have all been familiar faces around Voi recently. They were never particularly close when she was a dependent orphan, but she has developed a newfound friendship with Murit. Araba is a friendly girl, and she seems to enjoy the gentle young bull’s company — they spend time together every day that she visits. 

Meanwhile, Godoma has been boldly seeking out sparring matches with Kenia, who was the matriarch of the Voi herd before she went wild. Kenia is a benevolent elephant and patiently accepts the younger girl’s invitation to play. One day, we witnessed Godoma on the lower terrace, while the older orphan loomed over her on an upper terrace. Whatever the disadvantage, she was excited that Kenia had agreed to play with her. 

Ngilai can often be found padding after Tagwa, with whom he has a long-standing, unrequited crush. But one day, he set his sights on her best friend! Tamiyoi had found her own private patch for a dust bath. She was thoroughly enjoying herself until Ngilai plopped next to her and started scratching himself along her back. Peace well and truly interrupted, Tamiyoi got to her feet and marched away.

We had a lovely moment this month when Tamiyoi invited Kilulu, one of the ‘Voi kids,’ to join her in the mud bath. He was so excited by the attention of the older female that he sprinted into the water, splashing her face with his forelegs. Rather than be annoyed, Tamiyoi shook off the water and played gently with the young bull.

The month ended in classic Voi fashion: with Pika Pika scheming to have the mud bath all to herself! The whole herd converged in the water, until one by one, the orphans started to trickle out. Eventually, only Ngilai remained. Pika Pika trundled along the edge, waiting patiently for him to get out. The moment he exited, she dove in and enjoyed an enthusiastic solo wallow.

August 2023 day to day

01 Aug

On a cool morning, the orphans plodded slowly out of their stockades and down the path to the feeding area. After emptying their bottles of milk, they mingled with a group of visiting ex-orphans – Kenia, Araba, Arruba, Panda, Kihari, Naipoki, Suswa, and Mudanda, who have become familiar faces in recent months. Some lined up at the dairy pellet trough as others gathered around the pile of lucerne. Soon, Tamiyoi and Lemeki led the dependent herd out to browse in the open grasslands overlooking the baobab tree water hole. Kenia’s herd headed off in a different direction. 

Ngilai was in a frisky mood, browsing for a time and then darting around for fun. Nearby, Lasayen and Murit enjoyed several rounds of wrestling. Mbegu clambered all the way up Msinga Hill with Tagwa and Dabida trailing along behind. Thamana and Emoli played an extended version of the pushing game at the foot of the hill as Lemeki squatted on her haunches for a time before rolling around happily on the dry ground. Murit challenged Ngilai to yet another sparring match and Godoma stretched up her trunk to pluck off delicious branches from the top of an acacia tree. Later in the morning, Mbegu climbed down the hill and stood close to Baraka but welcomed Dabida with an embrace. Not far away, Sagala was spending time with Juni – the two friends browsed for a time and then entwined their trunks and then ate some more.

On a cloudy afternoon, the orphans padded down the slope to the baobab tree mud bath. They gulped down their bottles and continued on to the pool. Some drank from the water trough as Ndotto wrestled with Lasayen and Murit and Ngilai posed on the rocks after another energetic game. No one was keen on swimming today. They headed out for a final browse on their way back to the stockades for the night. As the elephants settled down to sleep, ex-orphans Panda and Kihari sparred with each other outside the stockades.

Kihari and Panda at the stockade compound


Ngilai in a playful mood