Keepers' Diaries, December 2018

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Voi Reintegration Unit

The short rains fell generously across greater Tsavo, including the southern area surrounding Voi, and actually it continued to rain well into December. This saw the happy return of many of our ex-orphans after a long absence throughout the dry season.  

It is always a welcome sight when they make their habitual return to the Voi stockades and the southern area of Tsavo East to not only link up with the dependent orphans there, but to meet any new arrivals from the Nursery and of course, salute their old human family, the Keepers. We were delighted to see how well they all looked as did their wild born babies, all of whom had grown significantly during their time away. 

On the second of the month we first came across Lesanju’s herd including Lempaute, Wasessa, Rombo, Taveta, Thoma, baby Thor, Seraa and her baby Solar browsing on the far western side of Msinga Hill, the hill that our Voi relocation unit is situated against. We were very excited to see them as we had not seen them since March! Now Seraa’s baby Solar is nearly one year old, having been born in Feb 2018 close to home. After such bountiful rains this past year, we cannot help but reflect on why he was named Solar, as it was during the extended drought that gripped Tsavo in 2017 that Seraa was pregnant with him throughout that challenging time. The ex-orphans and the stockade dependent orphan elephants enjoyed interacting together, with Ndii, Panda and Naipoki having the opportunity to play with Thor who is normally under close supervision from his nannies Lesanju and Wasessa. 

Lesanju’s herd then seemingly linked up with Emily’s ex-orphan herd, as they all arrived at the Voi stockades the very next morning altogether, startling poor Mbegu’s herd who had never seen so many excitable and overly familiar elephants before! Mbegu’s herd, only arrived from the Nairobi Nursery in June, so had not met these ex orphans before!  The Keepers noticed that one of Emily’s tusks has broken, so she only remains with one intact one now.

Emily and Lesanju’s herd stayed in the area so we were blessed to see them almost every day this month. The wild born babies Inca, Neptune, Solar and Thor were quite eager to meet and play with the dependent babies, although always under the watchful eye of their diligent nannies. One day Lentili and Kihari teamed up to try and steal Neptune away from Ndara, but ever watchful nanny Sinya thwarted their attempts. Often the dependent herd were not allowed to approach or get very close to the wild babies, and Kenia and Mbegu grew frustrated constantly being denied the opportunity to interact with them. Often, they would try to lead the dependent herd away from the ex-orphans, purely out of irritation.

Lempaute was often excited to meet up with the dependent orphans, and one day was so happy to see them from afar she came charging over to join them. Mbegu’s herd was alarmed by Lempaute’s approach and took refuge behind Kenia, Ndii and Kihari until they felt it was safe. All in all the six most recent arrivals have settled down into their routine at the Voi Stockades extremely well, and have enjoyed the fun and games since the rain came and the pressure to walk large distances in order to browse for food has been relieved. One day we watched on as Lasayen, Godoma, Murit and Mbegu enjoyed sliding from the top to the bottom of an erosion trench. Murit proved to be the best at the game until Lasayen and Godoma teamed up to lie on his stomach and spoil it. 

Ngilai has developed a bit of a greedy nature and tries to ensure he is always the first one at the milk feedings, sometimes in close competition with little Tahri. At times he and Tahri squabble over milk bottles and Mbegu has to intervene to break up the fights. Even Ndotto can act up at milk feeding time and one day tried to steal extra bottles from the back of the vehicle; ever the opportunist! He tried his best to grab one of the milk bottles, attempting to lift them to his mouth, but was unsuccessful.  

Ishaq-B is still trying in earnest to make herself part of Mbegu’s inner herd. She often tries to woo them away from the main dependent herd led by Kenia. Mbegu, as leader of that little mini-herd who came together from Nairobi (Ngilai, Godoma, Murit, Ndotto and Lasayen), is not always happy with Ishaq-B trying to get too close or interfering, but she does tolerate her most of the time. Ndii does not like it when Ishaq-B tries to lead Mbegu’s little group away however, as she likes them to be altogether and not upset the herd dynamics. 

All the dependent orphan herd have been enjoying the results of the rains; the fresh wet grass, delicious new shooting buds and the small water pools that have formed almost everywhere. One day we looked on as Embu rolled around in the centre of the main mud bath, then Bada approached and tried to mimic her. She was watched by Mashariki and Ishaq-B, who showed their appreciation of the game by trumpeting loudly. Bada showcased his skills by diving and rolling around until Tundani came over and ousted him from the water to take the bathing position for himself. Normally Nelion and Bada try to engage Tundani in pushing games in order to learn from him, but Tundani is such a gentle and quiet bull, he usually ignores them and they give up in the end. That day, Kihari was also mud bathing, lifting and striking the surface of water with her trunk while lying down, and Naipoki stirred the water with her front leg as Ndoria kneeled half in and out of the mud bath in such a funny position – it was quite a funny yet beautiful scene to behold.

We were happy to see ex-orphan big boy Laikipia again this month as well, when he came to join the dependent orphans one morning for a drink from the stockade water trough. We had not seen Laikipia since last June. The juniors were all in awe of their older friend and kept touching him with their trunks. Laikipia followed the orphans out of the stockade compound before separating from them and heading in a different direction.

Very tragically, our hand raised eland Kore’s new baby Karibu died from a very unfortunate accident at the beginning of the month when she was spooked by a galloping Ngulia, our orphaned zebra, and hit her head on a post. It was a very tragic ending to this little baby’s short life. Karibu’s father, the other stockade-raised eland Tawi, has been returning to the stockades sporadically throughout the month however, and escorting Kore and Oltukai, the buffalo, out into the Park with him, so that they might begin the process of becoming more independent. On the 28thhe escorted them out, and they did not return, choosing instead to spend the night with their wild friends.  

December 2018 day to day

01 Dec

It was a nice beginning to the day with the orphan elephants coming out in a joyful mood. They first downed their milk bottles before proceeding to the supplement feeding area, after which they engaged in a game of hide and seek around the stockade compound. When they were done with the morning activities they made their way to the browsing grounds where they settled to browse in single file.

Today we had some very sad news as Kore’s baby Karibu died unexpectedly. Ngulia was playing with Oltukai when the two went running past Kore’s stable complex. Karibu got a fright and ran into a stockade post which resulted in her death. The Keepers were saddened by the death of sweet little Karibu who will be missed by all.  

Lempaute playing on the stockade terrace

Solar and Neptune playing

Kihari playing with Emma