Keepers' Diaries, December 2016
Voi Reintegration Unit
It was Emily’s herd of Ex Orphans who heralded an excellent start to the month when they arrived at the stockades for the first time on the first day of the month since they migrated to Taita Conservancy for the duration of the dry season. They were a herd alongside a few hundred other elephants that managed to hone in on their traditional migratory routes to access these long-established dry season browsing grounds. This was a huge relief given the drought that gripped the southern area of Tsavo East. All the elephants that made it to these ranches managed well through the dry season compared to many of their counterparts who stayed in the south of Tsavo and other dry lands which suffered from a severe drought, and thus how many of our babies arrived at the Nairobi Nursery over the last few months, as their mothers expired from starvation conditions, or they were simply unable to keep up with their herd searching for browse and water.
01 December 2016
It was a remarkable beginning of December with the Ex Orphans in Emily’s herd majestically arriving at the Voi stockade for the first time since they went to Mgeno ranch in the dry season in search of browse. We were happy to have the Ex Orphan herd back home and were thrilled to see they were all safe and sound.
Emily came in with Ndara, Mweya, Icholta, Sweet Sally, Laikipia, Siria, Wasessa, Rombo, Edie, and Morani. Thoma who had given birth to her fist born male calf (Thor) only a few weeks ago was missing and was believed to be on the way together with her baby. Seraa who was the nanny of the new born baby was missing too, together with Lolokwe and Irima.
Ex Orphan Bull Laikipia has a soft spot for both Eden and Emma and enjoyed resting his trunk softly across the backs of the two babies. Emma and Eden had fun climbing and playing on their favorite rock in the stockade compound with Eve settling into a wonderful scratching game on the same rock below the two babies. Mashariki and Arruba engaged Emma in a pushing and strength testing game under the watchful eyes of Mweya and Ndara.
02 December 2016
The morning was good with all the orphan’s enjoying their morning milk and supplement feeding before heading to the browsing grounds. Kenia, Embu, Nelion and Suswa took the lead of the others up the western side of Msinga Hill.
Kenia today was determined to reach the peak of the hill but was the only one to do so. Her adopted baby Araba gave up the journey half way up the hill and remained there together with the rest of the orphan group.
When it was time to go to the noon mudbath and milk feed Kenia was left behind as she was enjoying her private browsing session. She rejoined the rest of the group and her baby Araba at the waterhole after the milk feed.
The rest of the day was spent browsing close to the water pool.
03 December 2016
The morning was cold with the stockade dependant orphans coming out of their stockade and assembling for their milk bottle before heading to the browsing grounds. The orphans had a wonderful morning browsing in single file on the northern side of Msinga Hill. They all enjoyed feeding on nice green grass and creepers which had sprouted as a result of the continuing rain showers.
At 11.30am, two wild elephant bulls approached, joining the orphans in their browsing activities. Ishaq-B fell in love with them, browsing with them and attempting to join them when they moved away towards the Voi River.
It was another unique day in its own way, when Lolokwe, who was believed to have been left behind with Thoma when the rest of Emily’s herd visited on the 1st, arrived at the stockade and had a drink of water before leaving. Thoma, Seraa and Irima were still not seen today.
04 December 2016
The orphans exited their respective stockades in a happy mood after which they drank their morning milk bottle before enjoying the supplements that had been put out for them. They then headed to the northern side of Msinga Hill for the beginning of their browsing day. They settled down to browse with Arruba moving to a nearby tree trunk that had a hole in it. She stuck her trunk into the hole, investigating its contents after which she bravely smelled her trunk. This caught Kihari’s attention and she came over to investigate the hole as well.
After a wonderful milk feeding session in the afternoon the orphans browsed close to the big water hole with Tassia and Kivuko coming to join them at about 2pm. Kivuko had a soft spot for Bada today browsing close to him for the afternoon.
The orphans ended the day playing in the erosion trenches before leaving for the safety of the stockades for the night.
05 December 2016
The earliest caller at the stockade this morning was Morani who came alone at 6.30am and joined the stockade dependant orphans for some dairy cubes after they had finished their delicious milk bottle. Morani was being adored by Mbirikani and Bada, who browsed close to him enjoying his company while at the stockades.
The stockade dependant orphans left towards the browsing grounds under the leadership of Lentili and Ishaq-B, leaving Morani feeding on an acacia tree in the stockade compound. Nelion took over the lead once they were out in the field leading the group half way up Msinga Hill for the morning browsing session
After three hours of a serious browsing mission, the orphans came down the hill and made their way to the middle water hole for an afternoon milk bottle and mudbath.
The rest of the days browsing activities took place close to the middle waterhole.
06 December 2016
It was a beautiful beginning of the day with the orphan elephants enjoying their early morning milk bottle and supplement foods.
Rorogoi practiced a leading role today, but she does not have much experience in this role. She walked out quite quickly and found herself all alone, she turned and charged back to rejoin the group who were walking slowly as they were also busy browsing.
Ndii tried to introduce them to a game of dusting on some wet sand but was unable to get anyone to join her as it was still quite early in the day and the orphans wanted to make browsing a priority. Although Naipoki did join her for another dusting game a short while later they still did not manage to get anyone to play with them.
The orphans browsed on the northern side of Msinga arriving at the water hole in the afternoon. Taveta was see later in the day moving around Msinga Hill in an effort to locate the stockade dependant orphans, but was unsuccessful in doing so as they had moved away and were near to the middle water hole.
07 December 2016
The stockade dependant orphans came out of their three respective stockades this morning and assembled for their milk bottles after which they fed on the special Lucerne grass pellets, copra cake and dairy cubes. When they were almost finishing feeding Laikipia arrived, his huge size scaring most of the stockade dependant orphans who left to begin the days browsing activities, leaving Laikipia drinking at the stockade water trough. Mbirikani and Ndii stopped to greet Laikipia as they made their way out to join the rest of the orphan herd. Laikipia hung around the stockade for half an hour enjoying a share of the supplements before moving off to the main park.
08 December 2016
It was a unique day when Nguvu the stockade dependant orphan came out for the first time since he was rescued two months ago. Nguvu was not very sure whether to fully re-integrate with the other stockade dependant orphans and resorted to taking a private soil dusting position away from them. Embu was the first one to notice his presence and went to greet him. Ndii also quickly noticed him and was constantly following Nguvu who kept running away from her as he was not quite sure of her intentions.
Soon the stockade was filled with happy trumpets from the stockade dependant orphans when Seraa and Thoma brought little Thor all the way from Mgeno ranch to the stockade.
The keepers were equally happy and surprised to see them. Thoma who had been aggressive when she was a nanny for Inca had calmed down quite a bit after giving birth to Thor. Seraa kept guard not allowing the stockade dependant orphans to access tiny Thor.
Later in the day, Irima was seen at the foot of Msinga hill in the company of a wild elephant bull. They two never came to the stockade for a visit.
Thoma and Seraa took Thor to the middle water hole for a wallow which they all enjoyed.
09 December 2016
It was a perfect beginning of the day with Nguvu coming out of his usual stockade. Nguvu has started settling down and is quite wary of the other boys like Nelion and Bada who often want to take him on in strength testing games. To keep away from the boys Nguvu has resorted to leading and being at the front of the group giving him time to nurture his relationship with everybody before he can be comfortable to mix freely with the other stockade dependant orphans. He has proved to be a heavy feeder spending most his time browsing.
In the afternoon after the noon milk feed Bada kept following Nguvu in what was seen as an effort to engage him in pushing games. This scared Nguvu who ran into the thick bush on the northern side of Msinga Hill. After three hours of through searching, Nguvu was found by the keepers but was reluctant to return. As such the rest of the orphan group was walked about two kilometers, amid rain showers, to join him so that they could all return to the stockades together.
10 December 2016
The morning was good with the stockade dependant orphans coming out of the stockade full of energy. They drank their morning milk bottle before proceeding to the supplement feeding.
Nguvu appeared more comfortable today among the orphan herd and seemed to be very happy to spend the morning browsing in Mashariki and Panda’s company.
Kenia stayed close to Araba leaving the juniors to make Nguvu feel comfortable and welcome. He was happy to watch as Bada, Tundani and Nelion enjoyed a bathing competition at mudbath.
A short while later Araba and Nguvu were seen happily spraying themselves with muddy water in the centre of the wallow.
Ndii closed up the bathing occasion by showing off her mudbathing skills and techniques to Nguvu.
11 December 2016
It was a nice beginning of the day with the stockade dependant orphans coming out of their night quarters amid some light rain showers. Soon after finishing their milk bottle, the juniors were joined by Taveta who joined them at the copra cake feeding session. Taveta then went and joined Suswa in a wonderful scratching game on the rock boulder close to the stockade water trough. Suswa became a bit shy to have this big boy so close and eventually moved off to join the others who were heading to the browsing grounds.
Nguvu was more settled today moving among the other orphans. He was given a little bullying push by Mbirikani to officially welcome him into the stockade dependant herd.
Ajali, the orphan elephant who was knocked down by a vehicle along the Mombasa-Nairobi high way was recovering well with his limp now nearly gone. Ajali is the only orphan to remain in the stockades now that Nguvu has joined the others in the park. He is putting on some weight and enjoys feeding on the grewia branches and supplements given to him.
12 December 2016
A rain session from the previous night continued into the morning with a heavy storm of wind sweeping across the entire Tsavo area. Soon after the stockade dependant orphan elephants were out of the stockades one of the stockade roofs was blown down.
The orphans browsed in a single file visiting the water hole that afternoon. Rorogoi and Araba had a wonderful mud bathing competition with Rorogoi giving it her all, sliding in and out of the water like an expert. Nguvu was also in the water enjoying the mudbath with the others. Bada went for a private bathing session, away from his competing friends, smearing thick red mud onto his body. Arruba took a little siesta drawing warmth from the soil while Ndii, Kenia, Kihari and Suswa enjoying their bath in the centre of the wallow. Lentili, Kenia and Rorogoi each took to their respective separate tree trunks for a wonderful scratching session.
13 December 2016
It was another perfect beginning to the day with the stockade dependant orphan elephants emptying a morning milk bottle and feeding onto supplements before following Ndii, Kenia and Naipoki towards the browsing grounds.
On reaching the northern foot of Msinga Hill, Mbirikani, Bada and Ndoria noticed the presence of Taveta and Tassia browsing further uphill. The three started to make their way towards them but had to stop half way there when they saw that the other orphans did not join them. The three came down at noon, joining the others as they made their way to the water hole.
The orphans went to drink their afternoon milk bottle in three groups with Mashariki, Naipoki and Kihari leading the 1st, 2nd and the 3rd groups respectively. Nguvu was comfortably taking his milk bottle in a settled pose and was more relaxed than he has been so far. The rest of the days browsing took place nearby once the orphans enjoyed a mud bathing session.
14 December 2016
It was a bright morning as the stockade dependant orphan elephants assembled for a delicious milk bottle and the supplement foods before they moved away from the stockade under the leadership of Ishaq-B and Lentili.
Two hours after they left the stockade, Thoma, Thor, Seraa and Mweya visited the stockade. It was evident that Thoma and Seraa have caught up with Emily’s herd as Mweya who was with Emily’s herd was now with them. Thor was happily playing with a dry stick at the stockade compound before it was time for him to return to the park with his mother, Seraa and Mweya.
While browsing on the Northern side of the stockade browsing grounds the orphan group passed by a large puff adder which they managed to successfully avoid. The rest of the browsing day went by uneventfully with Embu leading the orphan herd back to the stockades in the evening.
15 December 2016
The morning started well with the stockade dependant orphan elephants enjoying their usual milk and supplement feeding routine.
The orphans then went to the eastern side of Msinga Hill, arriving at the middle water hole at midday. As soon as Ndoria and Mudanda had finished their midday milk bottle they ambushed Nguvu who was still milk feeding. The keepers were quick to move in and defend Nguvu, keeping the two naughty orphans away.
The orphans then had a lot of fun playing mud bathing games, with Nguvu taking his rightful position in the bath together with the rest of the group. The afternoon was spent browsing close to that water hole with Rorogoi and Suswa enjoying a lead of the group to the stockades in the evening.
16 December 2016
It was a wonderful beginning of the day with the stockade dependant orphans concentrating on the supplement feeding after downloading their delicious milk bottle.
A short while later Lesanju’s herd arrived together with Lesanju, Tassia, Kivuko, Dabassa, and Sinya. The five joined the juniors in supplement feeding before socializing with them. Kivuko went to greet Rorogoi and the two had an amazing trunk touching encounter. Lesanju noticed Nguvu’s presence and went straight to greet and socialize with him. Ndii went to greet Sinya and together with Kivuko they had a drink at the stockade water trough. Kenia was in a hurry to get her group moving and away from the older group.
Dabassa, who had missed Tassia, took him to task in a tough wrestling match to test their strengths in competition with one another. The test of strength took long than expected with Lesanju intervening to stop the game. As soon after Tassia backed up, Dabassa felt victorious and celebrated by riding on Tassia’s back. Lesanju’s herd left for the field after the juniors but did not link up with them again.
17 December 2016
The orphan elephants came out of the stockade and drank their milk bottle in no time at all before settling for the supplement feeding.
Panda went to scratch on a rock boulder at the stockade but had to rush as the others were already leaving for the browsing grounds. The orphans had a wonderful browsing morning before visiting the middle water hole to drink milk, water and have a mudbath. Bada and Ndii ran into the water and had a wonderful bathing competition as all the others watched.
The orphans spent the afternoon browsing nearby and were joined at 3:30pm by a herd of wild elephants. The wild herd left after browsing with the orphans for more than twenty minutes but Nguvu left together with the wild herd. The de-snaring land-cruiser was deployed together with the keepers to separate Nguvu from the wild herd and get him back to the stockade as he was not ready to join them.
18 December 2016
It was a beautiful beginning of the day with the stockade dependant orphans leaving the stockade for the field as soon as they had finished their morning stockade routine. The orphans browsed their way onto the northern side of the stockade which had some tall green grass.
After a three hour browsing session, Thoma, Thor, and Seraa in company of the whole of Emily’s herd joined them for a while. The Ex Orphan herd had come with two wild elephant bulls. It is suspected that Laikipia, Lolokwe and Irima, who were the only ones missing, had been chased away from the group by the wild bulls.
All the wild born babies Emma, Eden, Safi, Inca and Thor were all very well and happy and they enjoyed playing with the stockade dependant orphans. Emma had some wonderful pushing games with Mudanda and Bada, with Rorogoi later coming in to join them. Emma then engaged Kenia in some pushing games which made Araba a little jealous and she gave her a side bump. Lentili had a soft spot for Thor and she stuck close to him while they browsed. One of the wild bulls has been with Emily’s herd for a while and today was enjoying following the junior’s games closely.
As the older orphans left towards the Voi river circuit, Nguvu placed himself in the middle of the Ex Orphan herd and left with them. Reinforcements were called from the stockade to get Nguvu back again as he is still milk dependent and needs to be with the orphan herd.
19 December 2016
The morning was quiet with the stockade dependant orphan elephants concentrating with their normal milk and supplement feeding before leaving for the browsing grounds. Soon after they left the stockade, Emily’s herd arrived. Two wild elephant bulls were among her group today, as well as the orphan’s long time wild bull friend that has only half a trunk. This wild bull enjoyed a buttock scratch against the rock boulder close to the stockade water trough.
Emma and Eden had a wonderful playing moment at the stockade water trough as they splashed the water. Mweya lay down to provide a platform for Eden and Inca to ride on her stomach and they all enjoyed the game. Dabassa engaged Safi in a pushing game, with Dabassa applying just a small amount of strength so as to ensure that Safi would not feel outclassed and as such, she would want to continue playing. Lesanju played some hide and seek games with Emma and Eden chasing each other around the stockade compound.
20 December 2016
The morning started on a high note with the milk and supplement feeding getting priority before the stockade dependant orphan elephants engaged in varying socializing games whilst still in the stockade compound.
The orphans then marched behind Lentili and Ishaq-B towards the northern side of the stockade where they had a peaceful morning browsing. They also had a wonderful dusting session inside an erosion trench, with Nguvu interacting closely with the rest of the group. Arruba went to touch and investigate Nguvu, patting him all over with her trunk which started to annoy Nguvu so he moved away from her.
The orphans visited the middle water hole in groups of four, enjoying a noon milk bottle and having a lot of fun in some mud bathing games. The rest of the browsing activities took place close to the water hole with Mudanda and Tundani enjoying a lead of taking the group back to the stockades for the night.
21 December 2016
It was a wonderful morning with the first caller to the stockade being Laikipia who left after drinking water. He was soon followed by Dabassa then Tassia. Soon after Tassia arrived, there was a tough wrestling match between him and Dabassa with the stockade dependant orphans watching as spectators, waiting to see who would be the winner. After the match ended, the two followed the stockade dependant orphan elephants to browse after the supplement feeding, but later they left towards the water pipe line area.
Emily and Lesanju’s herds were later seen moving towards the big water hole. The two Ex Orphan groups did not link up with the babies who were browsing at the base of Msinga Hill.
Mudanda was seen taking a leading role in browsing today, with Mbirikani, Ndii, Bada and Ishaq-B shining in the mud bathing games that took place after the afternoon milk bottle.
The orphans then browsed their way to the big water hole before turning around and making their way home.
22 December 2016
The morning was perfect with the stockade dependant orphan elephants coming out amid light rain sprinkles. They had a wonderful hide and seek game after the milk and supplement feeding before taking off towards the browsing grounds.
The rain was on and off throughout most of the day, with the orphans milk getting delivered to them on the northern side of Msinga Hill where they were busy feeding on the moist green grass. The orphans took a break from browsing for a wonderful dusting game. Nelion proved to be the best at the game, but Tundani managed to stop his being the star by riding on his stomach. Nelion was then stuck in a really difficult situation, calling for Ishaq-B to intervene and rescue him from Tundani. Bada and Ndoria saw what had happened to their friend Nelion, and decided to take their dusting session away from the rest of the orphans.
23 December 2016
The stockade-dependant orphan elephants concentrated on their usual milk and supplement feeding before proceeding to the browsing grounds. Nelion and Mbirikani led them to browse half way up the western side of Msinga Hill.
At 9.30am, Emily and Lesanju’s herds browsed past them at the base of the hill, with Lempaute, Layoni and Mzima who had been previously missing from Lesanju’s herd present today. There were also three new wild elephant bulls with them today as well as their other three usual wild bull friends which included the one with a half trunk.
24 December 2016
The day started well with the orphan elephants coming out of the stockade in a happy mood and drinking a morning milk bottle before settling for supplement feeding. Ishaq-B today took the golden opportunity to lead the others to the browsing grounds, with Mudanda, Embu and Lentili following closely behind. Ishaq-B refused to let Mudanda take over the leadership role which she attempted to do as they were heading to the field.
On arrival, Embu, Nelion and Ndoria went to their private browsing place away from the rest for one hour before rejoining the group. The morning browsing session took place on the eastern side of the stockade all the way to the northern side arriving at the middle water hole in the afternoon. There was a lot of fun in mud bathing games with the rest of the day’s browsing taking place close to the water hole.
Naipoki and Mashariki enjoyed leading the group back to the stockades in the evening.
25 December 2016
The day began with the stockade dependant orphan elephants emptying a morning milk bottle then proceeding to the supplement feeding area before taking off to the browsing grounds. The orphans went up the northern side of Msinga Hill, settling to browse in single file.
Emily and Lesanju’s herds arrived at the foot of the hill with Lempaute, Mzima, Layoni and the rest of Lesanju’s herd all present and accounted for. There were two wild bulls present as well making this one of the largest herds in the whole of the Tsavo conservation area. They settled for a short while browsing, with Kivuko, Lesanju and Mzima eying the babies Emma, Eden, Safi, Inca and Thor. Mzima went to start a pushing game with Emma but was met with some resistance from her sister Eve who blocked him in the fight. Emily’s herd then took off to the middle water hole, past the big water hole before finally settling to browse along the Voi river circuit.
The stockade dependant orphans didn’t link up with them today.
26 December 2016
The morning was good with lots of rain showers throughout the day. The stockade dependant orphans had a wonderful dusting game at the stockade compound once they had completed the milk and supplement feeding session. They then browsed up Msinga Hill under the leadership of Mbirikani and Nelion.
The orphan herd came down Msinga Hill in the afternoon at which point they drank their noon milk bottle before continuing with their browsing activities until it was time to return to the stockades for the night.
27 December 2016
The morning was bright as the orphan elephants left the stockade in a nearly perfect straight line following behind Kihari and Lentili towards the browsing grounds.
Emily and Lesanju’s herd arrived at the stockade compound two hours after the babies had left. They had a drink from the stockade water trough before playing some games in the compound.
A teenage wild elephant bull who was present among the Ex Orphan group climbed on Mweya and tried to mate with her. He was unsuccessful in doing so as Mweya was having none of his antics and pushed him away. Meanwhile, another big wild elephant bull was guarding sleeping Safi with his mother Sweet Sally standing close by.
Rombo enjoyed a scratch of his neck against a rock boulder close to the stockade water trough.
They then left the stockade for the field but didn’t link up with the stockade dependant orphan elephants.
28 December 2016
The stockade dependant orphan elephants moved to the browsing grounds after all the milk and supplement feeding was over. After three hours of a very peaceful browsing session, Bada and Tundani had some score to settle and engaged one another in a tough head-on encounter. This match went on for a while until Ndii intervened, taking Bada away and keeping him close to where she was browsing. Tundani maintained the peace by not following them.
They orphans had a wonderful browsing moment with a big wild elephant herd that passed by them in the browsing fields. Ndii and Bada followed them with the others coming and joining in. When they wild herd left a big wild bull was left behind. He drank nearly all of the water at the troughs before heading off. Panda followed him for a short while before rejoining the orphan herd at the waterhole at noon. The orphans had a wonderful moment mudbathing as it was a pretty warm day.
29 December 2016
The morning was calm with the earliest caller to the stockade being Lolokwe who came alone at 6am. He had a drink at the stockade trough and left before having a chance to interact with the stockade dependant orphan elephants that had not yet come out of their stockades yet.
As the stockade dependant orphans made their way towards the browsing grounds, they met with Laikipia who was on his way to the stockade. They made sure to move to the side of the road to allow him to pass. Laikipia drank water at the stockade trough before briefly feeding on the acacia trees at the stockade compound for half an hour before heading back to the park.
On arriving at the browsing grounds, the orphans settled to feed on the northern side of Msinga Hill. A thirsty wild elephant herd approached them, moving in a hurry to drink from the water hole and nearly scaring away the orphan elephants who were browsing peacefully near there.
30 December 2016
Another morning began with Emily and Lesanju’s herd arriving and drinking water from the stockade trough while the stockade dependant orphan elephants were still in their stockades.
It was Lolokwe’s turn today to attempt to mate with Mweya. Lolokwe jumped onto Mweya’s back but was unsuccessful in coupling with Mweya. The two herds left the stockade before the juniors came out of their stockades.
The stockade dependant orphans had a wonderful time browsing in the field, but didn’t catch up with Emily’s herd as they had moved towards the Mzima Spring-Mombasa water pipe line area.
31 December 2016
It was a lovely beginning to the day when Lesanju arrived alone to greet the stockade dependant orphans when they were coming out of their respective stables this morning. Mudanda who seem to have missed her adopted mother Lesanju ran to welcome and join her for some love and attention. Since Lesanju was the loving mother for all the babies, she made a quick patrol of the stockade to establish whether there were new orphan elephants in the taming stables, and found Nguvu and Embu who spent their night in the two separate stockades so that they could be given extra supplements to boost their strength. Lesanju went to greet them between the metal bars. She then joined the orphan group as they headed to the western side of Msinga Hill for the mornings browsing activities. She descended an hour later in order to join up the rest of her herd who were in the company of Emily’s herd, who were all headed to the stockade compound for a drink.
There were some light rain showers in the afternoon which the orphans loved.