Keepers' Diaries, December 2002

Voi Reintegration Unit

Nursery Elephants:- Once we could be sure that the rains in Tsavo had turned the vegetation lush and green, plans went ahead to move the four oldest Nursery Elephants, Thoma, Burra, Sosian and Solango all of whom had now past their first birthday. All were now in fine fettle, ready for the next phase of growing up and ultimately returned to where they rightly belong - within the wild community, but in the interim to join the older Tsavo group to begin their gradual period of reintroduction.

01 December 2002

After such a long dry period, the orphans were very happy when green shoots appeared after the rain. Mweya and Sally played a wonderful pushing game in the morning, closely watched by Maungu. At the noon mudbath Laikipia submerged himself fully, with just his trunk above the water like a snorkel, but was interrupted when Edie grabbed it and prevented him from breathing. He shot out and took himself off, refusing the participate again. In the afternoon Imenti joined a wild group of 7 elephants, who had a small baby with him. Imenti tried to touch the calf, but was prevented from doing so by the mother. However, he spent the day with the wild group, reporting to the Stockades at 6 p.m. in the evening.

02 December 2002

Today, Nasalot decided to join the baby group of Sally, Mweya and Maungu, but was distressed when her friend, Mulika, did not want to join her. Finally, having bellowed for Mulika, she returned to be with her and Natumi's group. At the mudbath Aitong lay down so that Tsavo and Mulika could clamber over her, something Tsavo enjoyed very much, rubbing his nether regions against Aitong's body.

03 December 2002

At 9.30 a.m. a group of 5 wild elephants with one large bull mounting a cow strolled close to the orphans. Emily and Aitong joined them, and Aitong tried to prevent the bull from mounting the cow by moving in between them. The bull separated the cow from the other elephants and chased her, mounting her as she ran. At the mudbath, Maungu was very active, rolling round and round in the mud, whilst Mweya and Sally rushed in and out of the water, making as much splash as possible. Maungu wanted to join them, but got stuck in the mud, and had to be helped by the Keepers.

04 December 2002

Whilst out browsing near the electric fence, Salama tried to climb on Ilingwezi in order to pluck leaves from a high branch, so she shoved him away, which annoyed him. He then retaliated and Ilingwezi pushed him into the electric fence. Both got a shock, and went running in opposite directions. Whilst running to the tractor carrying the noon milk, Sally slipped and fell and Mweya, who was following, tripped over her and also fell down. Both screamed, but were so intent on the milk, that they soon forgot their difficulties. Tsavo and Loisaba were restless when they noticed that Emily was not with them when they arrived at the noon mudbath. They started deep rumbling, and Emily immediately appeared from a nearby bush, which made them all very happy, so that the mudbath was a wonderful event.

05 December 2002

A wild bull, walking alone, joined our orphans at 9 a.m. He came to sniff Emily and Aitong, who were not as nervous of him as the others. Maungu gave Mweya a hard shove when she tried to steal her ration of milk.

06 December 2002

Naomi, (a wild Matriarch) and her baby plus 4 other wild elephants joined the orphans at 8 a.m. Naomi was happy to share the bush she was feeding on with all the orphans, but chased Imenti off, which scared Ndara, who ran to the Keepers. Naomi left the orphans after all had partaken of the noon mudbath.

07 December 2002

Sally tried to snatch some vegetation from Maungu's mouth, and ran off fast when Maungu became annoyed and gave chase. Nyiro tried his luck trying to mount Kinna and Yatta, who retaliated by giving chase. He took refuge between Emily's forelegs. Edie, Laikipia and Natumi got a bad fright when a baboon leapt from the tree under which they were resting. They all yelled and ran to the Keepers for protection.

08 December 2002

After leaving the Stockades, Mweya joined Nasalot, Mulika, Lolokwe, Mvita and Icholta in a chasing and trumpeting game. Mweya charged at Icholta during the game, and Icholta, thinking she was under attack, pushed her down. She screamed loudly, and the game came to an end, as Natumi tried to support Mweya's head so that she could get up, and Lolokwe kissed her mouth with his trunk to comfort her. At 3 p.m. Emily and Imenti tested their strength by pushing each other, and when Imenti was being defeated, he lost his temper and charged Emily, who merely turned her back on him and walked away.

09 December 2002

Mweya, Sally and Maungu fed with Emily's group, as we remained close to the Stockades awaiting the arrival of the four babies from the Nursery. When they arrived, Mweya was very excited, greeting Thoma and Solango warmly, while Sally rushed around trumpeting. Natumi and Emily showed great interest in the newcomers, following them closely and touching them with their trunks.

10 December 2002

At 8.20 a.m. Kinna, Yatta, Icholta and Lolokwe fed close to the new babies, but Mulika showed little interest, shoving away Burra when he tried to feed on the same bush. After the noon mudbath Mvita tried to jump on Natumi, and was chased away, falling over in the process so that Natumi trod on her head. She screamed loudly, which brought Ilingwezi to the rescue. Whilst all the orphans were resting in the shade of a tree, Tsavo climbed on Solango, and was pushed off by Aitong.

11 December 2002

Again Nasalot wanted to be with the small babies, but missed her friend, Mulika. She began rumbling, and Aitong came to "kiss" her by touching her lips. Aitong took her to join Emily's group, who were feeding further afield. Maungu seemed dull today, lagging behind the others, when Mweya kept returning to keep her company at the back. When heading for the mudbath Sally insisted on leading the baby group, not wanting to be overtaken by the newcomers. Today, Mweya, Sally and the four new babies did not go far, because Maungu could not keep pace.

12 December 2002

The new babies thoroughly enjoyed the Big Waterhole today, running in and out of the water with Mweya and Sally, but Burra did not want to go in, although he watched closely. Maungu emptied a drum to make her own small muddy patch, in which she lay down. Laikipia and Ilingwezi had a disagreement when Laikipia attempted to mount her. Emily escorted Mweiga to the milk tractor for her share at noon, and later returned together to the mudwallow.

13 December 2002

At 10.20 a.m. Sally played a trick on the other babies, hiding herself in a bush, and shaking it from within, rumbling unusually deeply. All the babies became very scared, and Sosian led the stampede back to the Keepers. Then Sally emerged shaking her head happily in victory! A wild group joined Emily's group at the noon mudbath, when Imenti tested his strength against a wild age-mate, encouraging him to join in the mudbath, and allowing him to play with his special "toy", which is a log of wood he enjoys pushing around the pool.

14 December 2002

A tussle broke out between Laikipia and Tsavo, when Tsavo tried to prevent Laikipia from being close to Emily. Loisaba backed up Tsavo, making Laikipia surrender. Mweya, Sosian and Solango enjoyed a squirrel chasing game after the mudbath.

15 December 2002

Solango and Mweya enjoyed a pushing game today, in which Sosian wanted to join, but Mweya retreated, fearing a prod from his tiny tusks. Natumi separated her group from that of Yatta, and headed off with Imenti and Emily's group towards the Voi River. They came back to the Stockades in the evening.

16 December 2002

Sally seemed not to like Solango today, pushing him away. She had to be warned by the Keepers. Salama and Natumi were rooted to the spot with fright when a monitor lizard crossed their path, and had to be calmed by Emily, who laid her trunk across their backs. Solango had an upset stomach today, and was given Colloidal silver, which sorted out his diarrhoea.

17 December 2002

At 11 a.m. Sally again tried to scare the babies, by creeping up behind them as they were resting under a tree and trumpeting loudly. This time, the trick did not work! Imenti and Emily had a pushing competition, and Imenti lost his temper and charged onto Emily, who ran away. Maungu seems more active today, and is putting on a little weight.

18 December 2002

On their way from the Stockades in the morning Mweya was leading the new orphans when they met four gazelles, which they chased, separating a youngster from the group, who they enjoyed threatening. Whilst Mweiga was lying down enjoying a sand bath, Salama deliberately trod on her tail, exerting increasing pressure until Mweiga got up, and chased him off.

19 December 2002

Loisaba and Icholta had a disagreement at the mudbath when Loisaba tried to mount Icholta, who ran off. In the evening, on the way back to the Stockades, Maungu, lagging behind the others, found a thick bush and was feeding quietly inside, so that the Keepers could not find her. Mweya then ran back and found her, escorting her safely back home.

20 December 2002

Imenti came to the Stockades very early in the morning and left with the other orphans, soon all meeting up with a wild group of 10, with whom they spent the day. Emily brought the orphans home in the evening, but Imenti remained with the wild elephants.

21 December 2002

Back at the Stockades, Burra got his ear entangled in the electric wire, and suffered a shock until the Keepers rushed to turn off the power. Emily and Loisaba had fun chasing six impalas who came to drink at the mudbath. Imenti forced the orphans to go with him to Simon Trevor's house where they circled round and round, wanting to go in, until the Keepers brought them back home.

22 December 2002

Silango finished his noon milk very fast, and then tried to take Thoma's rations, pushing Thoma hard. The Keepers warned him.

23 December 2002

Maungu seemed so well fed on greens that she only took one of the three bottles of milk at noon. However, she finished the remaining two after a playful mudbath where she joined the others in a game of splashing the water with her trunk. Laikipia, Natumi and Ilingwezi gave chase to 2 wagterbucks that were grazing close by, joined later by Tsavo.

24 December 2002

At the mudbath, Maungu made her own little puddle by emptying one of the drinking bins. She sprayed the mud over her body with her trunk. Aitong took Mweiga from the others to feed for four hours some distance away with her, joining the others at the mudbath later.

25 December 2002

Thoma and Solango had a pushing contest, which was won by Thoma. Natumi joined the younger set in the evening, and reported back to the Stockades earlier than the others, and whilst waiting for her peers, she happened upon Imenti unexpectedly, and became scared. Imenti calmed her down by "kissing" her with his trunk.

26 December 2002

Sosian mounted Mweya, but she didn't seem to mind, standing still. Ilingwezi got left behind busy feeding when the others went ahead to the mudbath. Finding herself alone she screamed, and Aitong rushed back to escort her. After the mudbath, Imenti in with a group of 21 other wild elephants took the orphans to the Voi river, leaving only Kinna, Yatta and Nyiro. As the orphans were crossing the road, a careless tour driver approached them so closely and cranked the engine up, which annoyed both Emily and Imenti who charged the bus. Imenti broke the windscreen and scattered some items that were packed on top. The Keepers had crossed the road and were hiding in the bushes, but some Rangers on patrol chased the orphans off the road.

27 December 2002

At the mudbath, Burra wanted to take Sosian's milk, utilizing new tactics of pushing Sosian away slowly so that he became separated from the bottle! Sosian got annoyed and engaged Burra in a tough fight, which he won easily, using his little tusks. He then went back to the bottle. In the evening, Imenti charged Craig Sadler's vehicle as it crossed the grid near the Stockades, but Craig accelerated and escaped.

28 December 2002

Sally was enjoying a sand bath at 8 a.m. when Mweya pinioned her to the ground, not allowing her to get up. She screamed, but Mweya paid no attention, so the Keepers had to intervene. At the mudbath, Natumi knelt down on the slippery bank, and Salama tried to mount her from behind, both slipping into the pool. Both screamed, which sent Tsavo rushing out to Emily for protection.

29 December 2002

Solango and Sally pushed one another competing for the milk, so the Keepers had to separate them and feed them apart. Laikipia got into trouble when he tried to smell some safari ants that were emerging from a hole with a crackling sound. One bit him on the trunk, and he yelled. Before the Keepers could pick off the ant, he managed to dislodge it against a tree trunk.

30 December 2002

At l0.20 a.m., Mweya, Sally, Thoma, Maungu, Sosian, Burra and Solango joined a wild group of 6 impala and 3 waterbucks. This time they mixed freely with them, grazing amongst them for a full hour. After a time the impalas left, leaving the orphans with the waterbucks until it was time to go to the mudbath. At 3 p.m. Ndume, with a wild group of 7 elephants joined the orphans at 3 p.m. They took Imenti with them.

31 December 2002

Ndara, who usually goes with Emily's group, was unwilling to leave Maungu who goes with the smaller orphans. In the end, Emily joined the babies and they spent 2 hours together before Mweya led her group to their usual feeding place. Salama, Natumi, Edie and Laikipia, who went off to feed alone, became highly scared when they saw a large herd of about 400 buffaloes who were coming towards them. They ran to Emily with their ears erect and trunks up, and allowed the buffaloes to pass peacefully by. Loisaba was scratching her head on Emily's rear leg when Tsavo approached. Loisaba gave him a shove, which annoyed Emily, who pushed Loisaba away, but then went to calm her down by laying her trunk over Loisaba's back. Although Maungu is feeding well, she is still very thin, lagging behind the other orphans when coming back to the Stockades in the evening.