Keepers' Diaries, December 2019

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Voi Reintegration Unit

In November we learnt about our two wild-born babies, Eco and Mwitu, the son and daughter of Edie and Mweya respectively, and this month we were blessed to have them in our midst almost every day, as this ex-orphan herd chose to visit the stockade compound most mornings. They sometimes spending part of the day browsing with the Voi dependent orphans as well, which has been such a highlight for these youngsters. Towards the end of last month, six of our dependent orphans chose to join this ex-orphan herd, to act as extra nannies to babies Mwitu and Eco, and throughout December it has been wonderful to see that these six orphans, Lentili, Bada, Nguvu, Mashariki, Panda and Naipoki, and Mbirikani too, are still enjoying being with Mweya and Edie’s ex-orphan herd. 

This is the whole purpose of our Orphans' Project, for our orphans to forge their own life in the wild one day, and that they have chosen to join up with this ex-orphan herd is very special. They are proving to be the most diligent and dutiful nannies to their babies Mwitu and Eco, as if wanting to prove themselves and cement their spots within their herd. Mwitu and Eco are very lucky indeed, and they seem to know it as they happily trot around the place, comfortable in the knowledge they are so well looked after. 

Naipoki in particular is a very good nanny and follows Eco and Mwitu’s every move. Often she and the other nannies aren’t too comfortable for the little ones to play with the Voi dependent babies, their own friends, blocking them from playing. Every now and then however, the dependent orphans manage to slip through the protective web and enjoy some games with the young wild-born babies, much to their delight. One morning Eco got so excited with the games he started trying to climb on Ndotto, but he is still far too tiny. Tahri has developed a soft spot for Mwitu and tries to get close to her every time the ex-orphans are in the stockade compound.  With their routine morning visit, it was funny to watch babies Eco and Mwitu not want to miss out on all the fun, and try to partake in the lucerne pellet feeding like all the others, even though they have not yet fully mastered the art of using their trunks! 

Kenia is perhaps the only one who is unhappy with the recent changes, and worries that more of her Voi herd will be absorbed into Edie and Mweya’s herd, and she tries to lead her herd away whenever she sees the ex-orphans approaching. Since Naipoki moved to the ex-orphan herd, Kenia started to show baby Pika Pika more attention, neglecting Araba somewhat, and Araba showed her discontent by yelling out loudly one day to show her distress at not being shown any attention by Kenia anymore. Since then, Kenia has been careful to look after both Pika Pika and Araba.

We were very happy on the 27th to see ex-orphan bull Laikipia, who will be 21 years old in February. As he arrived into the stockade compound very early in the morning to have some water, we noticed he is missing his left tusk now, and he must have broken it off out in the Park. Laikipia is looking in such good health and is so huge, many of the dependent orphans did not dare venture too close to him, but admired him from afar and rumbled affectionate greetings to him, which he reciprocated. Over the next few days we saw Laikipia link up with Edie and Mweya’s ex-orphan herd, providing another level of wonderful security for the babies.

Ishaq-B and Ndoria decided to browse away from the dependent herd one day and spent the night outside of the stockades too, not returning at 5pm with the others, but when they linked up the next day the Keepers managed to convince them to stay with the Voi dependent herd as there have been lions about and as two youngsters on their own they would be very vulnerable to predators.

With Bada and Nguvu gone with Edie and Mweya's herd, Tundani might be feeling a bit lonely in the Voi herd as he was close to Bada, and now Nelion is the only other older bull in the herd. Whenever Bada comes in with the ex-orphan herd Tundani can always be spotted approaching him for a friendly wrestling match. He does still have Nelion however, and Tundani and Nelion do make a good sparring pair. One morning they teamed up together to chase some naughty baboons out of the compound who were bothering the orphans while they were trying to have their pellets. 

Mbegu is still more than happy to lead the orphans out in the morning and this is a role she savours. Sometimes she has to wait for all of the orphans to finish playing and mucking about before they are ready to follow her out to browse. Mbegu’s leadership and matriarchal qualities have followed her all the way from the Nursery and she is a very special elephant.

Tawi, the male eland raised at the Voi Unit, decided to return back home to the stockades for Christmas after an absence of nearly two months! The elephant orphans enjoy playing with him in the stockade compound some mornings, and we will have to see how long he stays this time.

December 2019 day to day

01 Dec

The morning began with the usual activities as the stockade dependent orphans first had their milk and supplement feeding, before engaging in socializing games around the stockade compound. Arruba went for a drink of water from the stockade water trough where she was soon joined by Ndoria. 

The dependent orphans left the compound under Mbegu and Godoma’s leadership and settled to browse on the lower plains of Msinga Hill. They visited the baobab tree water hole after the noon milk feed but didn’t wallow as it was a chilly day. Lasayen took a considerable amount of time quenching his thirst with Pika Pika before the two rejoined their friends to resume the day’s browsing activities.  

As the day progressed it got warmer and in the afternoon the orphans enjoyed wallowing in one of the many waterholes found out in the bush. Mudanda was having the most fun mud bathing and got left behind when the others finished and resumed browsing. They did not move too far way however so she was easily able to catch up with her friends. 

Ngilai at the foot of Msinga Hill

Ngilai, Suswa and Kihari

Kenia and Pika Pika in front