Keepers' Diaries, February 2005

Voi Reintegration Unit

February was a hot month down at Voi, but with lengthy mud bath sessions the orphans at the Voi Unit didn’t seem effected by it. Fortunately the area is still flush and green with plenty of food. Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally continue to thrive spending nights and many days completely independent of the younger orphans, fraternizing with wild groups all the time. However their ties to the unit are still strong and they spent significant time this month joining up with the group, either early in the morning greeting them at the stockades, and spending most of the day with them, or joining them at mud bath time at noon. When ever they join the group it is met with great excitement, Ndara, and Tsavo and Loisaba particularly delighted, but when Emily and Aitong and Sally are not part of the group the undisputed mini Matriarch is Natumi. She leads with a wisdom, and caution and sensitivity that is quite remarkable to see. She takes time to pull the higher branches down from trees in order for the younger orphans to be able to browse, when ever there is a shaking branch or something suspicious that is causing alarm she is the first there to inspect the scene. When there are squabbles she gently intervenes and takes charge in order to restore peace. She is obviously absolutely thriving in the role. Moran is turning into an independent little boy, despite being the youngest in the group. He is always one of the first to join a wild herd and fraternizes with wild friends, often followed by Illengwesi. Mpala continues to prefer sparring games, testing his strength against any who dare. Solango is usually up to the task.

01 February 2005

Illingwezi and Edie fought each other over a branch that Edie attempted to steal from Illingwezi's mouth. It became a rather fascinating drama, with Illingwezi turning around and around blocking Idie with her buttocks. This infuriated Edie, and Illingwesi had to make a hasty dash towards the Keepers still with her branch intact.

02 February 2005

Vita found herself in a compromised situation whem she put her trunk into Salama's mouth to sample some of his food. Salama wasn't having any of this and bit Vita's trunk hard, causing her to scream in pain. Vita took revenge and a tough fight broke out, but Vita's one sharp tusk did the trick and caused Salama to retreat. For the rest of the day the browsed avoiding each other.

03 February 2005

On arrival at the grazing fields in the monring, Natumi stood semi-erect on her hind legs to reach the higher branches of an acacia tree. She then tenderly held the branches with her trunk enabling the little chaps, Moran and Mpala to feed off the delicious pods and leaves. She continued to do this all morning.

04 February 2005

Solango fell off Icholta's back when trying to climb onto her. He let out a terrible scream which completely disrupted and disorientated the other orphans, who all were flying off randomly in all different directions. It took quite some time for the Keepers to calm the more frightened orphans.

05 February 2005

Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally came to the stockade this morning from the eastern side of Mazinga hill. They arrived a few minutes after Natumi's group had exited their night stockades. The greeting they received from particulaly Ndara, Loisaba, and Tsavo was very warm. Lots of trumpeting as they held their trunks outstretched to Emily and Aitong. Then the three babies started charging into all the other orphans in their exitment, and Emily then took charge, calming them down and contantly touching them to reassure them. They fed together until the noon mudbath, and then Emily's group headed off down towards the airstrip. After the noon mudbath Thoma lay down and allowed Moran to climb all over her.

06 February 2005

On Mazinga hill, where the orphans were feeding in the morning, they were threatened by a bucking baboon who made a terrifying sound. All the orphans got a terrible fright and ran down the hill but on realising it was only a baboon they bunched together and retaliated in numbers scaring the baboon off.

07 February 2005

The orphans concentrated on feeding and playing and pushing games today. Mukwaju took Lolokwe on, and Mpala sparred with Seraa. The orphans used their trunks to splatter themselves with mud and dust, following by much rubbing on the walls of the waterhole.

08 February 2005

In the morning when heading towards the northern side of Mazinga hill to feed, the orphans came to a halt when they saw a buffalo standing in their way. They quickly ensured the Keepers were made aware of this danger. Natumi and Edie and Laikipia charged the buffalo but he stood his ground despite their most galliant efforts. Natumi made the decision to change the direction the orphans went to bypass the buffalo, quickened her pace passed him, and then later made sure that all the orphans and Keepers had passed successfully and went to check on Mweiga who was coming slowly behind.

09 February 2005

After a wonderful noon mud bath, Thoma knelt down on her fore legs and started excavating a pit using her small tusks. On reaching the wet soil, she laid down enjoying the cold conditions as the day was an very hot one. She was enjoying her pit so much that she didn't notice the others had all moved away, and once she finally became aware of this she rushed towards them looking decidely ruffled.

10 February 2005

Mweiga screamed when the younger orphans were overtaking her as they rushed for their milk bottles. She was then escorted by the older orphans to where they were feeding and they later went to take a wonderful noon mudbath.

11 February 2005

At 9.35am, Natumi, Edie and Laikipia chased off a water buck who had come feeding quite close to them. The three orphans eventually gave up the chase and concentratd on feeding, and playing. They had a wonderful mudbath on this hot day.

12 February 2005

When going down for a bath at noon, Irima and Icholta who were leading the other orphans came to an instant halt when they saw a shaking branch in front of them. Natumi at this time then came forward to investigate, taking a long hard look and realised that it was infact nothing so gave the signal for them to move on. They wallowed together in a very tight group today, all climbing on each other.

13 February 2005

Emily and Aitong and Sweet Sally appeared from the western side of Mazinga hill to drink at the stockade water hole and visit the babies. Natumi, Tsavo, Ndara, and Loisaba lifted up their trunks to sniff them as they went past their stockade at 7.00pm. The three then left the stockade area to head towards the eastern side of the hill about 20 minutes later.

14 February 2005

After drinking water at noon, Mweiga went back to wait her noon bottles of milk at the spot where she usually take them. She stood waiting unitl finally her bottles came. Once finished she then happily went down to take a bath.

15 February 2005

Salama went to investigate a tortoise that stood in front of him where he was feeding. He lifted his front leg in an attempt to step on it, but was too frightened to actually make contact. He lowered his trunk slowly to further investigate, but then suddenly screamed and lept back, causing all the other orphans to get a terrible fright.

16 February 2005

Uaso appreared amoung a big group of about twelve elephants and joined the orphans at 4.30 pm. The orphans were unwilling to join the wild group on the foot of Masinga hill as they were browsing, slowing heading to the stockade. Mweya, Solango, Seraa and Mpala stayed away from Uaso who was trying to climb on them. Uaso accompanied them up to the stockade but later went back to the wild group once the other orphans were in their night stockades.

17 February 2005

The day was extremely hot. The orphans concentrated on serious feeding. They rested under trees across the plains as they went slowly to the noon mud bath.

18 February 2005

Emily and Aitong, Sweet Sally and Uaso came to the stockade in the monring when the other orphans were going out. The orphans went to greet them with plenty of trumpeting. They then went together in the grazing fields where Sweet Sally laid down in between the other orphans. Salama, Natumi and Edie stretched their trunks to touch her, exploring her whole body. The four later left the babies and headed towards the Western side after the noon mudbath.

19 February 2005

Emily, Aitong and Sweet sally joined the other orphans without Uaso in the monring. They went feeding with them until noon. Emily went off after escorting the babies to take their bottles of milk where she stood behind Mweiga.

20 February 2005

A small family of three cows and two calves of wild elephants joined the orphans at noon. They browsed together up to 3 p.m. Moran lead the others, following the wild group when it started wondering off. Illingwezi who had been left behind screamed forcing both the wild group and Moran to come back. The orphans then teamed up and plucked Moran from the wild ones and brought him back to their herd.

21 February 2005

After the noon mud bath, Mpala went to fight Seraa over a tree trunk they both wanted to scratch onto. Laikipia who was keen watching them moved swiftly to seperate them, but both ignored him each going to a different tree to scratch.

22 February 2005

At 2.35pm Mpala and Irima had a play of testing their strengths in competition to each other. Mweya disrupted them when he came in to help Mpala in pushing off Irima. Irima ran off to join the other orphans in feeding. When feeding towards the Northern side of Mazinga Hill, Natumi and Illingwezi who where leading the others charged at a big male baboon who was in front of them. The baboon jumped onto a nearby big rock. The two went round the rock stretching their trunks up to reach the baboon, but it was much higher and beyong their reach. The orphans later wondered off leaving the baboon comfortable sitting on the rock.

23 February 2005

Nyiro had a head on collision on a tree when Tsavo who he wanted to climb on, ran off to avoid him. He screamed in pain when he fell down, but Tsavo wondered off swinging his trunk side ways as if celebrating his victory. Emily, Aitong and Sally came to drink at the stockade at 6pm, but left immediately after drinking towards the Eastern side.

24 February 2005

Lolokwe and Tsavo had a game of pushing one another here and there. Solango and Mpala became envious and went forward to introduce their version of the sparring game. It was a day of game playing.

25 February 2005

Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally joined the orphans at the grazing grounds at 8.20am. The babies were unable to hide their delight as they ran trumpeting and rumbling to greet them. The greetings included running here and there breaking small shrubs with excitement. This came to an end when Aitong climbed on Moran who fell down screaming. The Keepers rushed to rescue Moran and this dispersed the orphans, who then went about feeding peacefully. Emily and her group left the orphans after the noon mud bath heading towards the Southern side of Mazinga hill.

26 February 2005

Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally came to the stockade to drink in the evening when the other orphans were feeding in their night stockade.

27 February 2005

Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally came and visited the others in the evening. They then heard the scream of a wild calf on Mazinga hill and left the stockade compound to join the wild herd.

28 February 2005

Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally reported to the stockade at 6.30 pm. After drinking water, they went round all the three stockades sniffing and greeting babies before wondering off towards the western side of Mazinga hill. Loisaba, Ndara and Tsavo went next to the fence enclosing their stable greeting them in deep rumbles.