Keepers' Diaries, December 2005

Voi Reintegration Unit

This month’s Diary incorporates the details of days from November 21st, which came too late to be incorporated in the November Diary. The long expected rains came late everywhere, and whilst being a very welcome relief in Tsavo, especially for the Voi Unit, they were poor. However, they led to quality time for the orphans, who have enjoyed a new flush of green shoots and emergent grasses along with a great deal of contact with their wild elephant friends. Every day from the 26th November until the 10th December, the orphans hurried out of their Night Stockades each morning, to join the wild herd, running joyfully to meet them, trumpeting, urinating, entwining trunks and rumbling, all part of a very warm elephant greeting. This wild herd obviously harbours many of the orphans’ wild friends, so apart from feeding and wallowing together, they were able to play with wild age-mates at will. Each evening, Laikipia (who is very conscious of the time, and the Big Boy of the still dependent group) rounds up all the members of his orphaned family and marches them back home to their Night Stockades. It is interesting to note that the orphans willingly return to their Night Stockades, for they could easily remain out all night with their wild friends if they chose to do so.

01 December 2005

Today, it was Laikipia, Loisaba and Burra who took the lead, with all the others following in single file. Although it was a cloudy day, this did not detract from the happiness of the unit. From a distance, they sighted a wild herd, and upon seeing them, Burra made an excited charge coupled with excited noises as he ran towards them, and coiled his trunk around a wild age mage in an emotional greeting. He and his wild friend remained together all day, as the other orphans mingled happily, with Edie, Natumi and Mweya enjoying quality time with age-mates. It was a wonderful day for the orphans.

02 December 2005

Emergent green vegetation brought on by the rains welcomed the orphans, who obviously looked forward to meeting their wild friends again. Burra took the lead, with Seraa as a runner-up. Four groups of wild elephants were feeding nearby, and this time Laikipia and Salama initiated contact, and our orphans were greeted enthusiastically by the wild herd, who made a hissing sound whilst slapping and sliding their ears against their necks and shoulders. A wild teenager tried to tempt Mweya to a game, which deteriorated into a serious fight. Loisaba and Sosian moved in on Mweya’s side and drove off the wild teenager. In the evening Laikipia led the group back to the Night Stockades.

03 December 2005

Laikipia, Burra and Solango led the others from the Stockades today. Lolokwe and Edie had a tug-of-war session to establish who was the stronger. Eventually, the Keepers intervened. Out in the feeding grounds, the orphans enjoyed the soft green shoots and there were wild elephants all around, with whom they mixed with ease. Sosian and Mweya remained together all day, whilst all played with wild age-mates. Laikipia was anxious to lead the orphans home at the end of the day, but Burra was reluctant to leave his wild friends, and returned sluggishly.

04 December 2005

Laikipia again led the group from the Stockades, with Sosian and Mweya at behind with Mweiga. Soon they met up with their wild friends again, when there was a jubilant welcome accompanied by trumpeting and urinating. They enjoyed a wonderful mudbath and had an enjoyable day by the time it was time to go back in the evening.

05 December 2005

It was a cold morning, after rain the previous day. Burra, Solango, Morani and Seraa enjoyed testing the puddles until the orphans came upon a wild herd, who welcomed them into their midst. Laikipia and Salama had wonderful playing games with wild age-mates and even Mweiga had a good time playing with Sosian in amongst the wild herd. It was a joyful day for the orphans.

06 December 2005

The orphans soon met up with their wild friends again and spent the entire day amongst them whilst the Keepers followed at a safe distance. Emily, Aitong, Sally and Tsavo were spotted also following a wild herd, Tsavo having a great deal of fun. Laikipia, who is always conscious of the time, led the group back home in the evening.

07 December 2005

After a peaceful night, the orphans greeted the new day with joy as they filed out in the morning. Mweya mounted on Laikipia, who obligingly lay on the ground whilst Thoma and Seraa found themselves way behind after a pushing game and rushed to join up, tossing their trunks happily. Loisaba led the group to join the wild family, who welcomed them warmly. Burra ran forward initiating a game with a wild friend whilst Natumi invited a young calf to come close and play, which made the mother of the calf slightly uneasy! She came and took her baby away. However, the orphans spent the entire day with the wild herd, returning only in the late evening.

08 December 2005

Again the orphans left the Stockade joyfully in the morning, teasing each other as they made their way out. Soon they joined their wild friends with happy trumpets. Mweiga looked very happy playing with Seraa in amongst the wild elephants, whilst Solango and Burra tackled Mpala, which prompted him to back off. Soon the entire herd concentrates on feeding, the only sign of movement being the swaying of trunks grabbing and tossing handfuls of grass to and fro. Snapping sounds of soft branches assures the Keepers that the orphans are having a good time. Later the entire herd headed off for the mudbath. The orphans separated only in the late evening to return to the Stockades.

09 December 2005

There were slight showers during the night, and a heavy dew in the morning. Lolokwe and Loisaba enjoyed a pushing match which was interesting to watch, since both elephants have damaged tips to their trunks. Mweya and Irima cornered Edie who had to work hard to defend herself, after which Laikipia led the group to the main feeding grounds, Natumi second. The wild herd was ready and waiting to greet the orphans, rumbling and flapping their ears, and coiling trunks with our group. All was peaceful until the entire herd began to flee in all directions, leaving Mweiga short of breath. It was, however, nothing more sinister than a herd of zebra running towards them! Soon, order was restored, and the remainder of the day was spent happily feeding.

10 December 2005

Laikipia led the group out today, with Mweiga second. They met their wild friends at the other side of Mazinga Hill. Laikipia ran forward, followed by all the rest, and the greeting between the two groups was extremely warm, with rumbling, ear flapping, trunk coiling and urinating. Again, the orphans spent the whole day with the wild herd whilst the Keepers followed at a slight distance, just observing events.

11 December 2005

The orphans greeted the day in a jovial mood, and began playing within the compound. Burra and Solango had a pushing match whilst Mvita and Loisaba had a more gentle match. Laikipia took on Edie, pushing her with his huge body whilst the others enjoyed scratching against a large rock. When they decided to move, Loisaba took the lead with Mweiga at the rear of the column. No sign of their wild friends today, so the day was spent quietly, just feeding.

12 December 2005

Laikipia again took the lead out this morning. The vegetation is beginning to dry again because it is very hot. During the morning Laikipia and Salama had a game, joined by Edie. Mweiga and Sosian led the group to the mudbath at noon, after which the afternoon was spent feeding.

13 December 2005

Another lovely early morning. The orphans enjoyed playing around the compound with Burra chasing Seraa, Morani and Solango pushing one another and the others playing hide and seek, running hither and thither. Lolokwe, Laikipia, Loisaba and Mukwaju spear-headed the column today. The wild elephants have disappeared from the area, so the orphans just enjoyed each other and concentrated on feeding until it was time to return in the evening.

14 December 2005

Today was much like yesterday, with playing in the compound before heading out, Loisaba and Laikipia taking the lead, with Sosian escorting Mweiga at the back. The orphans concentrated on feeding, took an early mudath because it was very hot, and then went back to feeding, as though they knew that they had to get what they could whilst they could.

15 December 2005

After the usual playing in the compound, Laikipia led the orphans out. Today they met up with a wild herd and began to feed together. Laikipia initiated a game with a wild age-mate whilst Ilingwezi found a wild contestant. Meanwhile Burra, Seraa and Mpala cornered a wild age-mate, pushing him from all angles, before settling down to feed. The orphans separated to go to the mudbath and then rejoined the wild herd again, remaining with them until the evening.

16 December 2005

Laikipia led the group out again where they met yesterday’s wild herd in the same area. Today, rather than waste time playing, all the elephants concentrated on feeding until mudbath time when they all enjoyed a mudbath together. They were with the wild herd until it was time to return to the Stockades in the evening.

17 December 2005

During the usual games at the compound, Edie and Icholta had an altercation over a branch they found. Natumi moved in to separate them. Today the orphans decided to feed on the slopes of Mazinga hill, with Mweiga and Sosian remaining at the base. The wild herd were on the other side of the hill, but the orphans did not join them. After mudbath, they returned to the hill, and fed there until it was time for the Stockades.

18 December 2005

Sosian and Mweya dominated the play at the compound with Laikipia and Salama engrossed in a tough pushing match. In the Park later the orphans joined up with the wild herd, with whom they are now good friends. They all enjoyed the mudbath together, and in the evening our orphans returned to the slopes of the Hill, before returning to the Stockades.

19 December 2005

There were jubilant games at the compound this morning, soil bathing, trumpeting, rolling on one another, and indulging in pushing games and intertwining trunks with a lot of affection. Salama challenged Sosian whilst Mpala took on Morani. Once in the main Park, Burra and Solango enjoyed chasing some baboons before the orphans joined their wild friends again, and were with them for the remainder of the day.

20 December 2005

The orphans browsed peacefully in the main Park before proceeding to Mazinga Hill in the evening. At noon the Keepers went to rescue an orphan who was wandering alone in the community area. Upon arrival at the Stockade in the late evening, the orphans rushed to welcome “Lumo” (a little Bull).

21 December 2005

We had a long night looking after the new baby, who appeared to be doing fine until the morning when he suddenly collapsed. Everyone did their best to save the little elephant named “Lumo”, but he died at 3 p.m., before the antibiotic injections sent by Securicor from Nairobi arrived. The orphans were feeding in the bush, so were spared knowing what was taking place. They were puzzled not to find “Lumo” at the Stockade when their returned in the evening.

22 December 2005

Today was a usual day. The orphans left the Stockades in the morning as usual, had a quiet day feeding, enjoyed their noon mudbath, and returned in the evening, as though nothing had happened.

23 December 2005

The orphans must be “nutritionists” by nature, selecting a twig here, a leaf there, a little grass beneath, and some water as they head out to their feeding grounds. Mweya loves the water, whilst Laikipia and Salama indulge in their usual games around the mudbath at noon. “Who said that only humans know how to keep time? The orphans are experts at keeping time. They head for the Stockades every evening at the same time to relax and digest the days pickings!

24 December 2005

The mood at the Stockade is jubilant this morning, as though the orphans know that Christmas is approaching as they play around the compound. Mweya allows Sosian to mount her, but refuses Irima, who jealously pushes Sosian off and has a go himself. After the mudbath, the elephants relaxed under shade, before feeding again before beading back home.

25 December 2005

It was another jovial morning, with Salama and Edie engaged in a pushing match which was interrupted by Laikipia, who was acting as referee. Loisaba and Natumi led the group out to feed where they met a herd of impalas who were chased off by Seraa.

26 December 2005

It was a cloudy morning when the orphans greeted the new day with high spirits. Laikipia and Edie coiled trunks whilst Burra and Mpala had a pushing contest. Lolokwe enjoyed chasing a male baboon around the compound trumpeting and flapping his ears. The Keepers had to interrupt the compound games to take the orphans out to their feeding grounds, because the vegetation is drying fast. Even the wild elephants have moved to the slopes of Mazinga Hill, and that is where the orphans met up with them today. Salama found a wild age mate for a game, and all the elephants fed happily together until it was time to head for the mudbath. There the orphns had a lot of fun until Sosian and Mweiga led them away to feed until it was time to return for the night.

27 December 2005

The usual games dominated the early morning departure with Irima and Sosian sorting out a difference, something that was interrupted by Mukwaju. Mukwaju’s rude interruption irritated Irima who retaliated, but found Mukwaju too strong. Mweya, Icholta and Edie enjoyed a game, Icholta pushing Mweya into a corner whilst Edie was trying to free her. The rest of the day was spent feeding.

28 December 2005

After the usual compound fun, the orphans went to Mazinga hill where they split into two groups, Natumi taking her group up the hill whilst Mweiga, Sosian, Mweya and others were left below feeding slowly. All then went to the mudbath, after which they returned to the hill, and split up into the same two groups, some going up, and others remaining at the bottom with Mweiga.

29 December 2005

It was another lovely morning. After the usual games, the orphans, led by Laikipia, headed towards the hill where they joined up with a wild herd. Burra, Solango, Seraa, Laikipia and Lolokwe had a lot of fun playing with wild age-mates. Salama took on a wild bull who was stronger and found himself pushed to the ground. Immediately Laikipia rushed to the rescue of his friend. As the mudbath hour approached, the orphans split from the wild group and rushed to their waterhole, where they had a wonderful time cooling themselves down. Later they returned to the hill to feed. Meanwhile their wild friends had moved off.

30 December 2005

After leaving the Stockade in the morning, the orphans headed to the other side of the hill. Mukwaju is the team leader when it comes to climbing hills, followed by Loisaba, leaving Mweiga and her friend, Sosian at the base. At the mudbath the orphans had a lot of fun. Sosian and Laikipia pushed each other around; Thoma and Seraa played in the mud, whilst Mweya and Edie tried to splash water over each other using their front legs; Burra and Salama lay down in the water and Loisaba scratched her buttocks on the edge of the pool. Whilst the orphans were feeding in the afternoon they were joined by a herd of zebra and impala until it was time to return for the night.