Keepers' Diaries, December 2012

Voi Reintegration Unit

Several heavy rainstorms turned the barren landscape around the Voi Stockades green again, so it has been a happy and interesting month for the Voi Unit’s Orphans, who head out each morning swinging their trunks with happiness, with food and water again plentiful. It has also enjoyed an action packed month with plenty of interaction with both the Ex Orphans now living wild, as well as other wild elephant herds who have moved into the area in response to rain. Seldom a day has past that the Ex Orphans have not visited the Junior Keeper Dependent elephants either at the Stockades to share their supplement breakfast handout, or meeting up with them out in the bush. Interestingly it would seem that Ex Orphans Icholta and Mweya have been detailed to keep in closer touch with the Keeper Dependent Juniors, frequently turning up at the Stockades well ahead of all the others. They always pay special attention to weakling “Panda” who has been suffering from an abscess on one back leg, and who has not been sufficiently strong to be able to accompany the others out to browse. Instead, she is happy to remain close to the Stockades, the Voi Unit’s orphaned zebra, “Lualeni” her constant companion. Panda is clever, ensuring that she is sheltered from rambunctious orphan boys at milk feeding times by positioning herself behind the Keepers, where she also enjoys her ration of supplements uninterrupted. Wasessa, who shares the Matriarchal duties with Lesanju, and is the biggest Big female of the group, especially becomes selfish over the supplements, tolerating only her favourite calf, Emsaya, around her at such times.

01 December 2012

Recent rains have been a blessing for the Voi Orphans, greening the vegetation so that browse is abundant again. Therefore the orphans were in no hurry to leave the Stockades this morning, indulging in scratching and Compound Games. Having reached the foot of Mazinga hill, Mzima gave a good display of how best to scratch an elephant body, while Emsaya took advantage of being Wasessa’s favourite, now that Panda remains closer to home, a boil having developed on one of her hind legs. Panda is a fragile member of the herd. The mudbath took place at the big Red Waterhole in the main Park where Shimba and Taveta put on a fine wallowing display. Later they browsed close by until Dabassa led the group back to the Stockades in the late evening.

02 December 2012

The orphans enjoyed playing Hide and Seek at the Stockade compound before heading out, led by Lesanju. Emily and Edie’s Ex Orphan herd came to the Stockades and amongst them was Ndara who has made a miraculous recovery from her previous injuries, but who has been left with a slight limp. When the main group left, she remained behind for a while, making a fuss of the Keepers who had saved her life, and obviously remembering the special handouts she enjoyed during her long convalescence back at the Stockades. She then caught up with Emily and the other Ex Orphans, who did not link up with the Juniors today.

03 December 2012

The smaller elephants enjoyed their milk before joining Lesanju and the older Orphans at the dairy cube and copra cake pile. After a brief time playing, the Orphans headed out in single file to browse until it was mudbath time. However, since it was a cool day, only Tassia bathed briefly before joining his colleagues who were concentrating on browsing. Back at the Stockades in the evening Rombo bellowed loudly when he suspected that Layoni, who was just ahead of him, might try to snatch his milk!

04 December 2012

Sinya led the way out to browse on a warmer day than yesterday, heading for Mazinga hill, and going half way up. Dabassa and Taveta led the milk dependent youngsters to the mudbath today, with Lesanju and the other older elephants following behind. Rombo and Kivuko enjoyed wallowing games, as did Mzima and Kenia who were soon joined by all the others. After about 20 minutes Lesanju ran out of the pool as though something had bitten her, and this prompted a mass exodus, Wasessa pausing at the edge of the waterhole to look back in an effort to establish what had triggered the exodus. In fact, we suspect that this was a ruse on the part of Lesanju to persuade them all to continue browsing for the rest of the day!

05 December 2012

The day began on a high note with Ex Orphans Thoma and Seraa turning up to greet the Juniors, which excited Kivuko especially. Shimba and Taveta displayed their wrestling skills to the Seniors, Tassia also eager to join in, but the two contestants merely moved away from him. Seraa and Thoma then focused on Panda, trying to get her to join them by pushing her from behind. Panda bellowed so the Keepers intervened, taking Panda into a Stockade and ushering the two big elephants out to join the other Juniors. En route the Junior group, including Seraa and Thoma, met up with Ex Orphan Ndara who was accompanied by Tsavo. Ndara went to greet Dabassa with a loving trunk kiss, before catching up with Emily and the other Ex Orphans who were heading towards the Voi River.

06 December 2012

Ndii and Dabassa led the Juniors out today after their usual Stockade antics, Mzima chasing after Tassia in order to try and mount him. At the noon mudbath the Juniors encountered a wild Bull who was still sitting in the middle of the waterhole, while the rest of his group were slowly ambling off. The orphans obviously knew him, because they plunged in happily to join him and wallowed happily along with him. He showed some interest in Wasessa, but later left to join his peers who had moved further afield.

07 December 2012

Kivuko was very greedy today, refusing to share the copra cake handout with Layoni and Rombo, pushing them down whenever they approached. This called for the intervention of the Keepers. Later Sinya and Ndii took the lead, but having been scared by baboons coming down the hill, they fled back to the Stockades where they were met by Lesanju and Wasessa who comforted them. It was a warm day, so the Orphans arrived at the waterhole earlier than usual where they found the same wild bull nearby, who happily joined them wallowing. Later, he left the Juniors busy dusting themselves.

08 December 2012

The Juniors headed out to browse as soon as they had finished their milk. The Ex Orphans led by Emily and Edie came to drink at the Stockades at 8 a.m. after the Juniors had left. Icholta and Thoma then led Emily’s entire group in search of the Juniors, whom they joined, browsing together until noon when Emily led the Ex Orphans to the Pipeline road, while Lesanju eagerly encouraged her group to separate and go to their usual mudbath venue, where they had a lot of fun. In the evening Layoni led the Juniors back to the Stockades.

09 December 2012

It was a showery morning and a cool day, so at forest the orphans were in no mood to bathe at noon until Emsaya jumped in, soon to be joined by Wasessa who protected her from the exuberance of the boys, especially Mzima, whose antics were rough, pushing all who entered the pool forcing them to actually lie down in the water. In the end he was left alone to crown himself as the best swimmer of the day!

10 December 2012

Emily and Edie’s group of Ex Orphans were early callers at the Stockade compound today and were able to share the Juniors’ handout of copra cake with them. Meanwhile Panda received her second antibiotic injection for the abscess on her leg, and had the wound cleaned out. Lesanju then led the Juniors off to browse, leaving the Ex Orphans behind when Thoma and Seraa again focused on Panda, eager to take her off with them. The Keepers kept Panda enclosed, fearing that the antics of the two big elephants might cause her leg pain. Shimba decided to remain with Thoma, Seraa and the others in Emily’s unit, but joined the Juniors at the big waterhole at noon. The new orphaned zebra (named Lualeni) was unwell today, and was given a Penstrep injection. She finished her bottle of milk.

11 December 2012

Emily and Edie and the Ex Orphans turned up at the Stockades soon after the Juniors had already left. Mweya went into the Stockade to see if Panda was there, but missed her, since she was browsing elsewhere. The Ex Orphans then searched out the Junior Group and joined them, Sally having a soft spot for Taveta and taking him from the others. Meanwhile Icholta investigated a hornbill’s nest in a hole in a tree, which intrigued the Juniors as well, but they were unable to reach it. Taveta went with the Ex Orphans for a short distance, but later rejoined his peers as they made their way to the Waterhole.

12 December 2012

Emily and Edie’s Ex Orphan group turned up at the Stockades at 9.30 a.m. after the Juniors had already left and enjoyed a Copra Cake handout, Lolokwe positioning his large tusks carefully onto Morani’s bottom to encourage him away from the Copra and try and challenge him in a Pushing Match. Morani declined the challenge. Emily’s baby, “Eve” got into the drinking trough, watched closely by Edie’s baby, “Ella”. As the Ex Orphans decided to move off, Eve refused to get out of the drinking trough, so Mvita and Sweet Sally (Eve’s main “Nannies”) remained behind to watch over her, Emily confident to entrust her baby to their care. The Ex Orphans did not join up with the Juniors today.

13 December 2012

The Junior Orphans have enjoyed the company of the Ex Orphans this month. Ndara especially has enjoyed intermingling with the Juniors with whom she formed a close friendship during her long convalescence at the Stockades. Today, Mweya came ahead of the other Ex Orphans to check on the Juniors, who ran to greet her, rumbling and trumpeting their joy. Mweya enjoyed some Copra cake with them before Lesanju led her group out, leaving Mweya behind to await the arrival of her Ex Orphan peers. Out in the browsing field the Juniors met up with one of the many wild herds also browsing the area, Taveta and Tassia marching around searching for playful wild age-mates while the others greeted the wild herd enthusiastically. Tassia succeeded to finding a playmate, but Taveta decided to embark on a solo charging game in which Dabassa, Rombo, Layoni, Ndii and Kenia joined as did some of the wild Juniors. Suddenly there were elephants rushing around everywhere with outspread ears, trumpeting joyfully. Soon another wild herd came to join our orphans and their wild friends and together all went deeper into the Park, watched by the Keepers who had positioned themselves on a rock up the hill. Emily and her Ex Orphans joined the Keepers up the hill, and after rumbling and trumpeting their greetings, headed to the waterhole to quench their thirst and wallow before walking towards the Park airstrip. The Juniors split from their wild friends just before the noon milk and mudbath venue. After the mudbath, they browsed their way back to the Stockades after a very joyful day.

14 December 2012

It was Ex Orphan Thoma’s turn to turn up early at the Stockades to check on the Juniors. She ran around the compound in a jovial mood trumpeting and flapping her ears which encouraged the Youngsters to join her. Soon all the other Ex Orphans arrived, forming a huge congregation of Orphaned Elephants, all saved and reared by the Sheldrick Trust! All lined up outside the Store hoping for a handout of Copra and Dairy Cubes. Laikipia, who loves the cubes most, kept raising his trunk, as though to say to the Keepers “Hurry Up” while the Ex Orphans’ two wild-born babies, (Eve and Ella) played charging games, targeting the Keepers! Meanwhile Morani, Thoma, Lolokwe and others played Strength Testing games. Soon Lesanju led her group off to browse, the Juniors splitting into two groups, Lesanju taking 5 with her in an easterly direction whilst Wasessa took the rest westwards. As Lesanju and her group climbed higher up the hill, Lempaute and several others returned to the southern foot of Mazinga hill, browsing with a wild friend, who went first to salute Dabassa and Rombo before joining Wasessa and her group, who had met up with Lempaute. This wild bull friend enjoyed the company of our young bull Orphans who invited him to a Pushing Game, as Lempaute and Wasessa distanced themselves from the wild bull, unsure of his intentions. When the wild bull began head butting the Junior Orphan boys, the Keepers intervened to drive him off. The rest of the day passed peacefully for our Orphans, all of whom reunited before returning to the Stockades in the evening.

15 December 2012

Lesanju led the Juniors off to browse the slopes of Mazinga hill, the orphans running ahead of one another in an attempt to be first at the browsing area. They browsed all the way up the hill until noon when they came down for the milk and mudbath, three boys remaining behind up the hill, Shimba, Layoni and Rombo. Shimba is currently in the habit of remaining behind in the evenings when the others return, sometimes returning late and in his own time! After the mudbath Emily and the Ex Orphaned herd joined the babies browsing up the hill until Lesanju decided that it was time to return to the Stockades, leaving the Ex Orphans at the hill.

16 December 2012

Ex Orphans Thoma, Laikipia, Mweya, Icholta, Lolokwe and Morani were at the Stockades very early in the morning drinking at the Stockade trough. After a few minutes of pleasantries, Lesanju and Wasessa led the Juniors out to browse up the hill before it became too hot. (The orphans decide where they want to go each day, the Keepers merely following them). Emily and the rest of the Ex Orphan group then arrived at the Stockades where they met up with Thoma’s group. Meanwhile the Juniors climbed the hill just behind the Malaika House, and then again split into two groups, Lempaute, Kenia and Ndii left with their 4 favourites while Lesanju took the rest. Shimba opted to remain with Lempaute’s group, not liking being rushed around, which Lesanju tends to do! Meanwhile little Panda is happy to remain behind alone with her Keepers, where she can rest and quench her thirst without walking long distances, but she is recovering well. Emily left the Stockades with her group heading west of Mazinga Hill, and did not return. In the evening Lesanju and Lempaute’s groups rejoined and browsed the base of the hill until it was time to return.

17 December 2012

None of the Ex Orphans showed up today. Lesanju led her group out, accompanied for a short distance by Panda. The Juniors returned for their milk and mudbath at noon, Panda having already cooled herself and once the others arrived, walked away slowly to avoid being “bumped: by the rambunctious boys. Shimba decided to remain at the hill, and came down an hour later and went straight into the mudbath followed by a dusting session. Meanwhile Lesanju had taken the Juniors back to the hill for the afternoon browsing session, where they were joined by Shimba, who then took Rombo and Layoni off in the opposite direction to the others. Lesanju knew where the boys were, and went to join them, but when it was time to return in the evening, Shimba decided to remain behind. Shimba ambled in just after dusk.

18 December 2012

Mzima was so busy chasing some baboons that he could not locate the others when he attempted to catch up with them. He bellowed loudly, and ran back to the Stockades, where he met up with the Keepers who took him to join Kenia, Ndii, Sinya and Taveta who were half way up Mazinga Hill, Lesanju and the others already having reached the top. He was so happy to see his peers, so there was an amazing reunion! Meanwhile little Panda, who was left behind, chose to browse in the large enclosure that once housed Emily’s group, and where Solango and Ndara recuperated when they returned injured. The Keepers filled the large waterhole within the stockade, so it was paradise for Panda. At noon Lesanju and Wasessa led the babies to the Middle Waterhole where all wallowed cheerfully. Later the Juniors split up again, Wasessa, Lesanju, Emsaya, Mzima, Sinya, Kivuko and Layoni heading back to Mazinga hill while the remaining group under the leadership of Lempaute decided to browse near the waterhole where Tassia and Taveta (our two most playful boys) engaged one another in a wrestling match until Shimba decided to join them. The two younger boys then took it in turns to take on Shimba, who has big tusks so both soon had to submit. All then browsed peacefully until it was time to return in the evening.

19 December 2012

Today turned into a walking day, Lesanju leading the group up the hill, and once there, Wasessa chose 9 youngsters and began climbing down the other side of the hill, leaving Lesanju, Kenia, Kivuko and Taveta behind at the top. Upon reaching the bottom Wasessa led her team to fields far into the Park where they joined a wild herd who were browsing peacefully. At noon Lesanju and her group descended the hill so that the three babies could have their milk while the youngsters with Wasessa missed their noon milk feed, but instead enjoyed wallowing in other large waterholes along with their wild friends, watched by the Keepers from a distance. Shimba did not join either group, but browsed alone on the slopes of the hill closer to the Stockades. Panda was happy browsing in the big enclosure with “Lualeni” the orphaned Zebra. Her leg is improving, and she is putting on condition since we changed her milk formula.

20 December 2012

The day began with clear skies and following the usual Stockade routine, Lesanju led her group to Mazinga Hill where they browsed until just before 11 a.m. In the afternoon the Orphans headed towards the Red Waterhole, encountering a herd of impala on the way, who ran off, leaping over shrubs. Mzima began to chase them, but became confused when they leapt in different directions, so gave up! Tassia then decided to give it a go, walking slowly towards the impalas, and then putting his head down, and curling his trunk he zoomed off at high speed which left the impalas fleeing, rather than dodging. This ended with Tassia trumpeting in the bushes alone before running back to the others, glancing behind now and then to see if any impalas were following! All enjoyed wallowing at the waterhole, following by a mudbath.

21 December 2012

Emily’s group of Ex Orphans visited the Stockades again this morning, after several days’ absence, Icholta being the first to arrive, followed by Lolokwe with Emily bringing the rest of the herd later. The air was filled with rumbles and trumpets as the two groups met. The Ex Orphans enjoyed inspecting their old Stockades, checking out the new Taming Section before heading out to join the Juniors, leaving Laikipia and Icholta behind, who were in no hurry to join the others since a giant wild Bull had joined Emily’s group. Meanwhile the Keepers made their way up the hill so that they could monitor events without disturbing the wild Bull who was amongst them all. At noon the keepers called the Juniors, and Lesanju rounded up her group and brought them to the Keepers. Tassia and Taveta enjoyed their usual wrestling match as the Juniors made their way to the milk and mudbath venue, leaving the Ex Orphans with their wild male friend.

22 December 2012

Wasessa took over this morning, leading the Juniors to the Eastern side of Mazinga hill where the Juniors met up with Emily and Ex Orphans at around 10 a.m. After the usual greetings, Emily led the Ex Orphans towards the Park airstrip leaving the Juniors behind. Meanwhile, back at the Stockades Panda had her wound cleaned and dressed before walking a short distance along with her zebra friend, Lualeni, to browse behind the Malaika house. Back in the field Shimba led the Juniors to the Stockade mudbath where he wallowed vigorously, along with the others, while the milk dependent babies took their noon feed. Splashing, spraying and digging were just some of the activities thoroughly enjoyed, so much so that the elephants did not want to leave. Eventually Lesanju rumbled instructions leading the way with the others following her in single file to browse for the remainder of the day.

23 December 2012

The day began as usual. Little Panda is very clever. She makes sure that she is close to the Keepers when she takes her milk slowly, so that she does not have to contend with naughty and greedy boys, also enjoying her share of the Copra cake behind the Keepers who ensure that she is not disturbed. Lesanju led the others out, this time heading towards the Big Waterhole so that they could access it easily to cool themselves whenever it suited them and there Emily’s Ex Orphan unit paid them a brief visit before heading off deep into the bush. Today the orphans intercepted the milk truck at the Spring Gate, so the Keepers fed them their milk there, while the older elephants headed to the mudbath to wallow. The afternoon was spent browsing near the Big Waterhole, the young bulls spending most of their time wrestling.

24 December 2012

As Panda slowly made her way towards the large enclosure, Lesanju and the others began to follow her and went into the enclosure with her, which did not go down well with Panda, since the naughty boys were there! As soon as she saw Dabassa and Rombo, she slipped out of the Gate without them noticing and went to feed near the Office where she was sure they would not find her. Lesanju gave the others a low rumble, and one by one they left the enclosure and followed her out to browse where Emily’s Ex Orphans were also feeding nearby. As soon as the Ex Orphans heard the Juniors, they headed towards them, Icholta being the first to greet them. She rounded them all up and shepherded them to Emily’s group, so that the two groups could meet, amidst joyful rumbling and trumpeting. The two groups merged and headed deeper into the bush together leaving the Keepers behind who climbed the hill to get to a vantage point in order to monitor events, Emily being always eager to absorb the Juniors into her unit. However, the Ex Orphans know the form well, and they brought the Juniors to their milk venue, before disappearing again but leaving Icholta behind to watch the babies being fed. Having taken their milk, Icholta then herded them back to join Emily’s group, the Keepers watching from a distance. After an hour or two Icholta brought the babies back to the Keepers and spent about an hour with them and the Keepers before heading off to rejoin the Senior Ex Orphan group. The orphans slowly browsed their way back in the evening, Lesanju initiating wallowing in a small puddle which was left dry by the time the orphans had finished!

25 December 2012

It is Christmas Day, and the Orphans were up early to enjoy their ration of copra and dairy cubes, joined by Ex Orphan Icholta and later Mweya and the other Ex Orphans, while the Keepers took their Christmas breakfast of chapattis and tea. Having partaken of their Christmas handout, the Ex Orphans left the Stockades, their two young babies chasing the monkeys around with their ears wide open, playing charging games monitored by Mweya, who rumbled to tell them that enough was enough and that they must follow the herd. Leaving the Keepers behind, Lesanju led the Orphans to the base of the hill where the Keepers caught up with them later. Meanwhile, the orphans had split into three groups, Shimba, Rombo, Sinya and Layoni forming one group while Kenia, Ndii, Kivuko and Lempaute made up the second and the rest browsing the western side of the hill. All converged in the evening to head back for the night.

26 December 2012

Wasessa was very anti-social today, not allowing any of the others to share the Copra cake pile. Only Emsaya, her favourite, was allowed that privilege! After the Copra party, Wasessa escorted little Panda to the enclosure and then joined the others who browsed quietly, no wild elephants or Emily’s Ex Orphans being around. At mudbath time Rombo, Dabassa and Kivuko enjoyed a brilliant wallow in the pool. Lempaute showed Layoni how to make a pile of mud by digging the edge of the pool with her tusks, scooping out the soil with her trunk, and putting it on her head. Layoni copied what she did, and thoroughly enjoyed cooling his head that way! When the Juniors began to leave Tassia and Taveta found themselves left behind and had to run to catch up. All sheltered under a shady tree for a feeding break, before returning in the late evening.

27 December 2012

Today, two fighting male baboons, and the chattering of other onlookers, scared the orphans, who ran from the grassy enclosure, where they were feeding, back to their Keepers. The Keepers put down their tea and calmed the elephants before leading them out to browse, Panda meanwhile with her friend, feeding near the Stockades. Shimba decided to remain apart from the others and was already at the mudbath by the time the others arrived. Wallowing lasted an entire hour, after which the orphans fed close by.

28 December 2012

Following the Copra breakfast, Lesanju led her unit out to browse, Rombo bringing up the rear. Once in the field, the orphans slit into two groups, Sinya and a group of 6 decided to go up the hill, while Lempaute and the rest browsed the base. The noon mudbath was filled with a lot of fun, Mzima and Lempaute entertaining their peers by a Pushing Game while the others splashed and sprayed water all over the place as they cooled themselves down. Eventually the Keepers signaled that it was time to browse their way back to the Stockades.

29 December 2012

Led by Lesanju, the orphans browsed happily around the base of the hill, where food is still plentiful, until Lesanju led them deeper into the Park, hoping to encounter some wild friends, but instead they came face to face with a large bull buffalo who scared them witless. They fled screaming in fear while the buffalo also took fright and fled in the opposite direction! Shimba, who normally is always last, and seldom excels in terms of speed, was in the front line while little Emsaya proved the fastest of all, leaving the others way behind! The two bravest boys, Tassia and Taveta were also screaming their heads off while Wasessa, who is expected to be the Bouncer, was just behind Shimba at the front! The Keepers ran to calm their charges, and having succeeded in doing so, the Orphans chose to feed within sight of them, without venturing further afield!

30 December 2012

Having enjoyed their Copra breakfast, Tassia and Rombo had a marvelous Wrestling Match. Taveta ran to join in, but Rombo slipped away quickly to avoid being caught in the middle by older boys who are stronger. Led by Lesanju the orphans headed out to browse but spotted a wild herd in the distance and decided to join them, but the orphans were warned off by the wild Matriarch, who intercepted them with her ears open. Lesanju halted abruptly, instantly changing. After the mudbath the Orphans returned to browse Mazinga hill where they met up with Emily’s Ex Orphan group. Suddenly the silence was broken with screams and trumpets of joy as the two groups met up. All browsed happily together until late in the evening when the Keepers called the Juniors, who walked back slowly, leaving the Ex Orphans behind.

31 December 2012

It is the last day of the year, and mercifully our orphans have ended the year without further problems. Lempaute misbehaved by lying down and rolling in the Copra breakfast, so she was warned by the Keepers who sent her to spend time out. She screamed in protest, but even her best friend Lesanju ignored her, understanding that she had been disciplined by the Keepers. When the Orphans began to head out to the field, they picked up Lempaute who was eagerly awaiting them and instantly took the lead. All browsed until mudbath time, when Rombo was as usual the best wallower, but Wasessa, Lesanju and Sinya also had a lot of fun in the pool. Shimba took only a quick dip, and then left to scratch against a log, Mzima and Taveta meanwhile enjoying a dustbath. At 5 p.m. the orphans began heading back home to start another year tomorrow.