Keepers' Diaries, December 2014

Voi Reintegration Unit

December was blessed with rains and the landscape has been transformed into a green paradise littered with flowers.

01 December 2014

The orphans had a peaceful day. Laikipia came to the stockade in the evening when the orphans were already in their stables enjoying their grewia branches. He drank some water and a few minutes later Emily and her whole herd arrived to drink. Emily sniffed the air and gave a deep greeting rumble to the orphans, especially Lesanju, making sure they were all there and safe. Emily’s herd stayed half an hour and were given some copra cake before they headed off to the browsing grounds on the main park. The vet unit brought in an orphan baby zebra from Amboseli but she was looking dull and worn out and was not active at all. She was quickly given her injections and milk bottle and taken into a nice new stable complex where she spent the night.

02 December 2014

Ngulia, our resident orphan zebra, was very happy at the arrival of a new orphan baby zebra and celebrated by running around the new one before settling and watching her get some routine injections. The keepers quickly noticed that the breathing of the new baby zebra was not good at all. Ngulia also noticed her health was not promising and came even closer to console the sick baby lying on the mattress. Unfortunately, despite intensive care, her condition worsened and she succumbed, dying later in the afternoon. She had been rescued too late. Wasessa claimed the spotlight today by coming out of her stockade then pushing the door closed again, locking the others inside so that she could spend some special time with Bada who had come up to meet her. Bada would really like to spend the nights with Wasessa but the playful boys like Taveta and Rombo would probably make her life a misery trying to mount and play all night. Wasessa and Bada started some dusting games outside the stockade whilst Lesanju and all other big ones were reduced to spectating from inside. Wasessa knew she had their full attention and had a wonderful time playing with her love Bada until the keepers gave the others their freedom, opening up the stable door for them to come out. The other orphans were not happy with Wasessa’s rude action and all went off quickly for a browsing day in the bush. They covered many miles after visiting the water hole at noon and came back a little late in the evening. On their return they met up with Emily’s ex-orphan herd who were also just arriving. Eve and Seraa sneaked into Lesanju’s stable to steal her grewia branches, running out with them in their mouths looking guilty. Lesanju was very sad but refused to be consoled by Seraa and Icholta, instead moving into her stockade with the rest of her herd. Emily’s herd left at about 7pm.

03 December 2014

Voi was blessed with heavy rains all last night and today. After milk and supplements Lesanju, who always takes her role and responsibilities very seriously, took the other orphans out to the field. They browsed on the wet lush grass and twigs arriving at the middle water hole at noon, an hour later than usual. They circled the water hole with nobody willing to take the plunge until Ishaq-B broke ranks, plunging herself into the water and slapping it with her trunk. Her games attracted Rombo into the water and the two had a wonderful bathing time. Whilst out on ex-orphan monitoring patrol the keepers saw Moran browsing alone, without other members of Emily’s herd, on the southern side of the park. The ex-orphan boys are usually now seen away from the females in Emily’s herd as they try to join wild bull groups. At 5pm the keepers were called for an elephant rescue between the Mwatate sisal estate and the Mgeno ranch. The orphan elephant calf was in their small establishing ranch and we hoped she might be the one that was seen and went missing a month ago. The orphan calf was named Ndoria, a Taita name for a water pool where she was found at the time of rescue. Returning at 3am with the new orphan the team was met by Seraa and Thoma, waiting alone in the stockade. They quickly noticed the new arrival being off loaded and nearly forced themselves into the electrified spring gate to see the orphan calf. The keepers managed to stop them and they went off half an hour later.

04 December 2014

This morning Bada, Panda, Naipoki and Kihari were keen to greet the new arrival Ndoria. Wasessa went to find her beloved Bada and was surprised to find Ndoria the new arrival. Bada innocently welcomed Wasessa into his stable to greet the new arrival, blissfully unaware that once Ndoria joins the group his position of favorite calf of Wasessa would be in jeopardy just like Mudanda experienced. Lesanju was next to notice the presence of the new arrival and came to greet her as well. The others didn’t notice her presence and walked off to the field. The orphans went high up onto the Msinga hill under Layoni and Mzima’s careful stewardship. Wasessa, Sinya, Lesanju and Lempaute brought up the rear on a mission to help the little ones, Bada and Mudanda,over the rocks which were slippery from yesterday’s rains. They enjoyed a cool relaxed day on the peak of the hill, wandering deep into the bush. The older orphans escorted the small ones downhill for milk, arriving there at 2pm, three hours later than their normal milk feeding time. The orphans didn’t go into the main water pool but Layoni and Tassia stood on the edge filling their trunks with water and spraying it onto their bodies. Lempaute, Rombo and Dabassa bathed in a nearby small water pool that had warmer water. Taveta went in a few minutes later, to take his bath solo, after the other three were out. Everyone then had a good old scratch on the trees with Rombo and Tassia the stars of the show

05 December 2014

It was lovely to see Bada going to greet Ndoria with her adopted mother Wasessa and Lesanju as well. Kihari and Ishaq B had a tussle that was obviously a fight but it was not clear what it was about as a few minutes earlier they had been happily sharing copra cake together. The other orphans were busy engaged in a rock scratching session in the stockade compound, with Ndii and Lesanju using one big rock for a scratch. Taveta joined them then they all went off to browse. Dark clouds blocked the sun and closed in on Msinga Hill, bringing a light rain shower to the thirsty ground a few minutes before noon. Milk was taken a few miles from the middle water hole where the orphans were browsing. The orphans took their baths in small water pools that they encountered in the field not coming to their usual middle water hole. It was a lovely end to Wasessa’s day when Bada leaned on her giving love and affection before marching behind the others, led by Mbirikani,back to the stockades in the evening.

06 December 2014

Ndoria is taking her milk bottle faster than it was expected, having spent only three nights in the stockade. It is amazing to see her posing, bending her rear legs while raising the front ones. Ndoria is enjoying her delicious milk bottle as if she’s never had anything sweeter in her life, which is a great relief. We were worried as she has been without her mother for a considerable time and the milk is essential for her survival and her condition is poor. This is a vulnerable and precarious time as they begin to get milk again after such a long time without. Very often it leads to other complication. Ndoria cannot get enough milk but we are careful about how much she is getting as we do not want to overload her stomach. The other orphans walked out of the stockade to start their browsing day, swinging their trunks side to side in a happy mood. They settled to browsing in a single file, walking long distances and arriving at the water hole well before noon. Here there was a show down when Mudanda and Bada both went to scratch on Wasessa’s legs after bathing. Wasessa, who had enough space for both, allowed them to enjoy themselves but Mudanda got jealous of the Bada’s place on Wasessa’s front legs, pushing him away from her.

07 December 2014

It was a nice beginning to the day, with the milk dependant orphans emptying their morning milk bottle and joining their older colleagues in supplement feeding. There were a few games in the stockade compound before the orphans left under the careful leadership of Sinya today. They had a calm browsing session throughout the better half of the day, visiting the middle water hole at noon. Panda and Mbirikani had a great game of lying on each other in the water. Panda then decided Mbirikani was getting too much of the attention and decided to disrupt the game by shoving Mbirikani on the back with her small tusks. Mbirikani left the waterhole but later returned with Rombo who had been very impressed with her previous bathing performance.

08 December 2014

The orphans came out of their stables and encountered unexpected ex-orphan guests, Thoma and Laikipia, this morning. The two were waiting for the small ones to share their sweet pile of copra cake and dairy cubes. After the feeding was over Thoma took charge, dominating the whole stockade and the small elephants as well. She played rather rough, bumping Lesanju’s bottom with her forehead and chasing Rombo and Dabassa for a mimic mounting game that scared Bada and Mudanda. Wasessa moved fast, taking the small ones and running with them towards the browsing field. Thoma left Laikipia and hurried after them, crossing erosion ditches, but later came back realizing she had lost favour with the small ones. The two ex-orphans headed off deep into the Park and left the juniors in peace.

09 December 2014

It was a beautiful morning with the early clouds clearing to bright sunshine, perfect bathing conditions! The orphans used a small water hole which was close by but not big enough for them all at once. Lesanju went in first but quickly got out to give the others a turn. Mzima was in next and, paying no regard to the waiting queue, took a long time showing off his bathing skills. Layoni became impatient and pushed Mzima with little sharp tusks. The orphans then went in one by one, with Layoni first as he had ousted Mzima. They came out covered in mud then went to the usual water hole where they just had water and milk.

10 December 2014

Sinya had a good scratch on a big rock with Dabassa watching on but there was not enough time to join in as the orphans moved off to browse. The day grew warmer and the orphans visited the big water hole to bathe for the first time since the start of this short rainy season. Bada kept close to her adopted Mother to avoid the naughty orphans riding onto his back in the deep water. Rombo, Dabassa and Kivuko had a tough bathing competition rolling and making both front and backward strokes. Ishaq-B took Bada for a wonderful scratching game on an acacia tree as Wasessa was busy enjoying the water. Mbirikani and Lesanju had a soil dusting game after bathing, lying on each other’s stomachs. Later in the day the Kenya Wildlife Service contacted the keepers to rescue a female elephant calf of about three years old whose mother was thought to have been poached. The calf was reported to have been seen on a number of occasions over the last three weeks but the KWS rangers could never locate it. The calf’s tail had been bitten off completely by predators and it had some scratches that were obviously from struggles with predators. The orphan elephant calf was not in good condition having been without her mother significant time.

11 December 2014

After having their morning milk bottles the orphans headed to the bush to browse. Naipoki, who was leading, encountered some grazing impala and teased them with a chasing game. The morning passed quickly and the orphans started towards the water hole to get their noon milk bottles. There was a little commotion between Mudanda and Ishaq B each not allowing the other to overtake in running for their delicious milk bottles. Ndoria, who was next to the new orphan elephant that had arrived yesterday, became sad on noticing her deteriorating health. The keepers tried their best to revive the collapsed new calf estimated to be three years old but at noon after struggling with drips for an extended period she died. Her weakened state coupled with all the stress of the rescue had proved too much.

12 December 2014

The orphan baby elephants were welcomed by the presence of Thoma, Seraa and Lolokwe today who had come to share with their copra cake and dairy cubes. Seraa headed straight for Bada touching her and rumbling in a way that Wasessa did not like. Lesanju also realized that Seraa intentions was to commandeer little Mudanda and Bada and quickly led them away. Thoma and Seraa realized too late that the stockade was empty and went looking for the little ones without success. Lolokwe went back on the same direction they had come from, where other members in Emily herd were believed to have been. The rest of the browsing day went on undisturbed.

13 December 2014

Emily’s herd came into the stockade with Emily today. They are definitely hanging around the area which is surprising as for months they have been totally absent. Today they found the small ones taking their morning milk bottle and Lolokwe, who used to like milk very much, requested a bottle resting his big head on the backs of the feeding babies. Emily discouraged him by slowly pushing him away and standing in the way to give the small ones a peaceful feed. The big elephants followed Lesanju’s herd when they left the stockade for the field but were left behind when they stopped to enjoy some buttock scratching on the rock boulders at the foot of Msinga hill. They later rushed to catch up with them but went the wrong way at Voi river missing the route that the small ones had taken.

14 December 2014

It was a nice day once again with Emily’s herd coming into the stockade early in the morning and interacting with the small orphans having copra cake and dairy cubes. Today they came in with a friendly teenage wild elephant boy. Seraa head towards Mudanda and later went to show off with the wild boy. Mudanda watched them closely all through their game but then the wild boy became very shy and ran and disappeared from the stockade on seeing the keepers. Ella ex orphan Edie’s wild born baby played an amazing pushing game with Taveta testing their strengths. The small ones then regrouped before moving out of the stockade compound while Emily and her herd remained behind. Seraa and Thoma followed the orphans for a little while before turning back to join their ex orphan friends. The rest of the orphan’s routine went as usual, with the two groups not linking up for the rest of the browsing day.

15 December 2014

The younger orphans were happy to welcome the ex-orphans as they marched into the stockade compound. Mweya quickly grabbed little Bada, marching majestically with her in front of Wasessa’s stable. This upset Wasessa and she nearly broke the electric wire trying to recapture her baby until the keepers came to open the stable gates. Wasessa took the advantage of the ex-orphans concentration in copra cake feeding to take her loved little one Bada away from Mweya. The small ones briefly stayed with the ex-orphans feeding on supplements before moving off to the field to browse leaving the ex-orphans behind. Mweya headed after them but didn’t catch up as they had gone too far by then.

16 December 2014

It was another beautiful morning once again with the ex-orphans being the first callers at the stockade this morning. The ex-orphans gulped water from the stockade water trough in preparation for having some supplements. Seraa went to drink with Wasessa, Rombo and Dabassa before joining others feeding on the supplements. The elephants then socialized, with Ndara engaging Lolokwe in a beautiful pushing game and Mzima squaring off with Seraa. The orphans left the stockade for the field with the ex-orphans following behind them but then moving off towards the Voi river. Panda led the milk dependant orphans back to the stockade in the evening.

18 December 2014

The ex-orphans missed the orphans for the second consecutive morning. They had to team up in their own games with Icholta pairing up with Lolokwe for a wrestling match. Later they followed the foot prints of the orphans but gave up the search on finding that they had gone up Msinga hill. Laikipia seems to have detached himself from the females in Emily’s herd as he has not been seen with them recently. Kenia and Ndii led the orphans downhill at noon for some milk. They had a wonderful bathe as the day was hot before taking refuge from the scorching sun under a big acacia tree and browsing on the grass there.

19 December 2014

The orphans joined a wild herd of elephants after three hours of serious browsing in the morning. Rombo found two wild friends for some pushing games. The wild herd was very friendly to the orphans and they enjoyed the interaction very much until they headed off towards the Mzima Mombasa water pipeline. Rombo following them for a few miles but later came back to join others who were already enjoying their noon mud bath. Rombo took his noon milk bottle before joining his friends in the middle water hole for a bath. Later on the day the keepers were asked by the Trust management to pick up an orphan Oryx at the request of KWS that was about a week old and was following a herd of wild zebra desperate for company. Some tourists had noticed that she had injuries from the zebra who were kicking her when she was looking for milk from them. The orphan had some bad injuries on the head and was bleeding from her nose. She was given medical treatment and milk to increase her chances of survival.

20 December 2014

It was a lovely morning with the ex-orphans arriving early enough to catch up with the orphans before they headed out to the field. Icholta had a wonderful time sharing a pile of dairy cubes with Panda, Mudanda and Kihari. Lolokwe later went to greet little Panda and smell her genitals which made Panda uncomfortable so she tried to move away. Lolokwe kept following Panda until the keepers had to warn him off as it looked like he was going to try and ride on her back. Seraa went to take Bada from the door where he was waiting for his beloved adopted mother Wasessa. On coming out Lesanju and Wasessa avoided a direct interaction with the ex-orphans and went for their own separate dusting games. They later ganged up leaving the ex-orphans in the stockade and heading off to the field for browsing. In a wonderful noon mud bath, Dabassa was doing very well and Sinya decided to plunge into the water to stop him as he was attracting a lot of spectators. Sinya went to sit on the bank to scratch afterwards. Sinya’s aversion to water is well known so today was an extraordinary event to see Sinya do that. Mzima held Bada back pushing him slowly into the water for a bath but Bada later sneaked away from the legs of the big elephants that came to see his games in fear of getting injured. Dabassa and Kivuko came in to challenge the ex-orphans, bathing, wrestling and sharing the same tree for a scratch afterwards. Panda enjoyed a solo dust bathing game. The orphans then browsed close to the middle water hole for the rest of the day.

21 December 2014

Today Sweet Sally, Mweya, Seraa, Thoma and Ndara visited the stockade without other members of Emily’s herd. This recent concentration of ex orphans around the Voi stockades is unusual as for half of the year they have been absent altogether. With Sweet Sally, Mweya, Edie, Icholta and Emily pregnant we are all waiting for some change. The five just missed the orphans as they had left for the field a few minutes before. They only stayed briefly before moving off to look for Lesanju’s herd. They went all the way to the middle water hole searching but they were a bit early as the orphans hadn’t arrived there yet. They then headed towards the water pipe line area where other members of Emily’s herd were. The orphans later arrived at the water hole and the milk dependant ones emptied their noon milk bottle in haste and went to drink clean water from the water barrels. The weather was fairly cold and Mbirikani just splashed a bit of water onto her body. Only Bada took a complete bath with others just moving round the water pool without touching it. They browsed close to this water hole for the rest of the day.

22 December 2014

It was a bright morning with Emily’s herd visiting the stockade in the company of a wild boy. They just missed Lesanju’s herd who had moved out to the field. The keepers suspect that the wild boys who are joining Emily’s herd are chasing the ex-orphan boys away as only Lolokwe was left with the girls for security. All other boys, including Laikipia, have detached themselves from the females and are enjoying their time out in wild bull groups. It was lovely to see the wild bulls with Emily’s females as they settled in to drink at the stockade water trough. Eve had a scratching game on the rock close to the stockade water trough. On coming back in the evening Naipoki and Panda went to greet Ndoria in her stable pinching a few of her grewia branches to eat. Ndoria is making excellent progress, is taming down well, feeding really well and nearly ready to take the plunge and be out with the dependent babies. We are being cautious as we cannot afford the ex orphans to whisk her away.

23 December 2014

It was a wonderful morning with Emily coming to the stockade with her herd at around 9.30am, drinking water briefly in the stockade water trough and moving off. Emily did not show any signs of labor pain so it was a big surprise when she separated herself from the others, moving to a safe place, to give birth to a beautiful female elephant calf. We immediately reported this extraordinary incident that we could watch to Angela and Daphne. Robert, Taru and Roan immediately got into an aeroplane to fly down from Ithumba to partake in this celebration. Ndara and Mweya were the first to notice Emily’s situation and they moved in giving her enough space but alerting all the others who came in to greet the new arrival. They made rumbling songs with some making very funny postures in celebration. Emily gave the others a chance to touch and greet the new baby. Eve Emily’s first born and Ella Edie’s first born, who had difficulties in reaching the calf, had to force their way amongst the big legs of the ex-orphans to see the new arrival, Eve’s little sister. Mweya who was first in line to help nurse the small one was later mated by Lolokwe as everyone was extremely excitable. It was a big day for the orphans, the ex-orphans fraternity and the keepers receiving this wonderful present. On coming back to the stockade in the evening, Wasessa noticed where Emily had given birth and attracted Lesanju, Sinya and Lempaute who surrounded the area making celebratory screams. Emily and her calf later in the evening walked away from the stockade surrounded by the tight security of the rest of the herd.

24 December 2014

The orphans left the stockade early in the morning to catch the first light of day in the field. They had a wonderful time browsing for three good hours. Kenia then went round and round Wasessa trying to snatch little Bada from her. Wasessa noticed and kept a keen eye on her adopted baby. It is interesting how Wasessa has left Mudanda for the others to play with but now everyone wants to adopt Bada. The orphans then marched slowly arriving at the middle water hole later in the day. They went past the big water hole but did not bath there as the water was deep and hadn’t warmed up enough. They later moved on to the eastern foot of Msinga hill for the remaining part of the day, with Ishaq B and Kihari competing to lead others back to the stockade in the evening. Today Emily and her herd did not come to the stockades.

25 December 2014

It was a nice Christmas day with Lesanju, Sinya and Lempaute stopping where Emily had given birth yesterday to confirm the birth. They later followed behind the others to the browsing grounds. Today they went to the far northern side of the stockade, taking long strides as they tried to locate Emily’s herd. The milk dependent orphans had their milk feed close to where they were browsing and then enjoyed bathing in the small pools that they found in the area. The keepers were also on the lookout for Emily and her ex-orphan herd but sadly they were not spotted at all today.

26 December 2014

The orphans found the ex-orphans on their way to the stockades as they headed to the browsing fields. Thoma, Seraa, Mweya and Ndara who are well known as Emily’s bouncers blocked the small ones from approaching the new calf prompting a lot of baby screams. Lesanju’s herd later gave up the struggle and moved away from the heavily guarded calf. The keepers were very happy to see that Emily calf is reaching her teats and suckling well. Eve could now closely approach the calf unlike the first day of the birth when there was a lot of pushing and shoving.

27 December 2014

It was another beautiful start of the day with the orphans emptying their morning milk bottle and feeding on the copra cake before engaging into some beautiful hide and seek games in the stockade compound. The orphans then went out to the browsing grounds, scattering all over the plains enjoying feeding on the tall grass and creepers with lovely flowers that were beautifying the entire Tsavo landscape. The orphans turned slowly, arriving at the middle water hole at noon. They took a quick bath before resuming browsing for the rest of the day. Emily’s herd did not return to the stockade today but Laikipia, who has detached himself from her herd, came to drink water at 3pm alone and left for the field afterwards. It was lovely to see our Magestic wild ex orphans Laikipia who has grown huge.

28 December 2014

It was a wonderful day once again with the orphans playing games in the stockade compound in the morning before heading to the field to browse. Kihari found herself in deep trouble when Dabassa and Taveta sat on her head whilst she was lying down playing. Kihari screamed very loudly calling for the keeper’s help to save her. Lempaute then led the way to the bush and the orphans browsed in a single file for ,ost of the morning arriving in good time at the noon mud bath. Mbirikani plunged into the water taking a thorough bath and paving the way for her bigger friends to also enjoy the bath when they arrived a few minutes later. The browsing day went on undisturbed with Lempaute leading them to soft ground where they had some wonderful soil dusting games in the evening. Kihari and Panda led the small ones to the safety of the stockades whilst Ndii led the rest of the older orphans in.

29 December 2014

The orphans concentrated on browsing today. Emily’s herd met up with them three hours after they had left the stockade and there was a highly charged interaction. It was the second time the orphans had met the ex-orphans since Emily’s calf Emma was born. Lesanju tried to pull her herd away from the ex-orphans but Wasessa went to befriend Sweet Sally as a way to approach and greet Emma. She was finally successful in reaching the baby but was later pushed away and went screaming back to join her herd. The two herds separated, each moving to their own favorite browsing grounds. Lesanju’s herd later went to the middle water hole, where they enjoyed the mud bathing very much. They then went on to browse close to this water pool for the latter half of the day.

30 December 2014

The morning was sunny with the orphans looking forward for a warm browsing day. Wasessa led them towards the far north, moving past the furthest northern baobab water hole. This was seen as an effort to find Emily’s herd that did not turn up in the morning. The orphans turned slowly arriving at noon at the usual middle water hole to drink and for the young ones to have their milk. A teenage wild boy appeared and joined the small ones in a wonderful bath. The wild boy enjoyed getting some tender and soft touches from the orphans, making him feel good and honored and Mzima, Taveta and Layoni showed off in a bathing competition to impress him. On leaving the water hole, Tassia followed the wild boy for a while before returning to join his friends who were already heading to the foot of Msinga hill for the rest of the day. Mbirikani and Ishaq-B led of the milk dependant orphans back to the safety of the stockades in the evening.

31 December 2014

Ndoria came out of her stockade for the first time today and joined the orphans for happy games. Then ex orphan Mweya arrived alone, which we worried about coming to drink at the stockade water trough and then starting some mischievous games climbing into the water trough completely and scratching in a funny way on the stockade boulders. Mweya later followed the big ones in Lesanju’s herd, which prompted the keepers to leave Panda in a small group with Ndoria in the nearby fields for orientation before they movee further a field. Ndoria trusted Bada deeply as all this month Bada has imparted company and comfort from an adjacent stable and sought for his company for browsing. Ishaq B also has a soft spot for Ndoria but it was too early to see who Ndoria will favor as her adoptive mother. Mweya left Lesanju’s herd a few minutes before noon and the herd continued browsing without the small ones in Panda’s group for the rest of the day.