Keepers' Diaries, February 2006

Voi Reintegration Unit

The happiness and joy with which the 23 Keeper dependent Voi orphans greet each morning, is always heart-warming to behold and is something clearly illustrated in the Diary, as is the fact that they are a very cohesive and happy “herd” of growing babies. Every early morning is greeted with anticipation and playful games around the Stockade, whilst the Keepers take their early morning tea. As usual, an important event of every day is who is going to be Leader of the group as they go out to the feeding fields, and this month many of the youngsters have been able to take a turn, whilst Natumi eagerly prompts the Keepers to “hurry up”!

01 February 2006

The orphans were in high spirits when they left the Stockades in the morning, running hither and thither and trumpeting with joy. Once out in the Park, they concentrated on feeding, with few other activities, apart from the usual mudbath hour.

02 February 2006

This morning, Natumi was anxious to get going out into the Park, standing near the Keepers whilst they took their morning tea. Upon reaching Mazinga Hill, Mukwaju, who is the champion climber, lost no time in being first at the top to get the tasty green shoots. Sosian went deliberately slowly in order to keep pace with Mweiga who only managed to get half way up the hill. The orphans collected her and Sosian when they began coming down for the mudbath, where they had fun playing and dusting themselves. No wild elephants were visible throughout the day.

03 February 2006

Once again, the orphans went to Mazinga hill, where there are still some good greens. Laikipia tried to lead the climb, but Mukwaju manoeuvred himself in and around the rocky outcroppings to again be first at the top. Icholta stood peacefully, kicking up little morsels of grass with her front toenails. Led by Solango, the youngsters went for their noon milk, and returned to the hill where they all fed until 4 p.m. before heading for the mudbath. There they had a wonderful time, romping in the pool, and throwing dust over themselves until it was time to return to the Stockade for the night.

04 February 2006

Natumi, who as the new Matriarch, is in full control of the group’s movements, led them to the main Park, but because it was a very hot day, they had to seek shade under a flat topped acacia tree casting long shadows. They then moved to the mudbath. Thoma and Seraa abandoned their milk feed to settle an old score, closely watched by Natumi, who came and stood behind them, stretching out her trunk with a hissing rumble. We think this was a warning. Soon the warring parties returned to feeding, and later enjoyed a mudbath together, feeding peacefully for the rest of the day. A group of impalas fed near to the orphans during the afternoon, having enjoyed a drink from the water barrels after the orphans had quenched their thirst. They clearly enjoyed mingling with the orphans since a big dog baboon was close by, and possibly posed a threat to the young fawns.

05 February 2006

It was fun to watch Icholta, Irima, Mvita and Loisaba ambush a group of baboons as they were coming down Mazinga hill. The four elephants stood silently in strategic positions with one clear thought in mind – not to scare the baboons off prematurely, but as the troupe approached, they suspected a hidden agenda, And one of their number scaled a rock and sent a warning signal to the others. This triggered the chase, and without wasting any time, the four elephants charged, causing chaos when a mother baboon dropped her baby, and the whole troupe turned back to rescue the infant. This deterred the elephants, who gave up the chase and allowed the baboons to take their baby and retreat back up the hill, before taking another route down the hill. The orphans fed at the foot of Mazinga Hill, and then enjoyed an extensive noon mudbath, playing fascinating games in the water.

06 February 2006

It was a quiet and warm morning as the orphans gathered at the waterhole. Upon reaching the feeding ground, the orphans bunched in a tight group, as though discussing the prevailing drought, but the Meeting was disrupted when a zebra came galloping towards them. The orphans ran helter skelter, very startled, and it took the Keepers a long time to round them all up. Mweiga fed close to the Keepers for the rest of the day.

07 February 2006

The orphans went up Mazinga hill again today, but Mweiga remained at the base with Sosian and Mweya. The orphans enjoyed their mudbath, leaving Mweya in the water as they left. She rushed out to join them, and inadvertently knocked Mvita to the ground. Mvita, determined to take revenge, then chased Mweya, but was unable to catch her. For the rest of the day, Mweya kept a safe distance from Mvita, until Laikipia rounded them all up and led them back to the Stockades for the night.

08 February 2006

Emily came to the Stockade to drink water at 9.30 a.m. She then went to join the orphans on the Western side of Mazinga Hill. Her intentions were very clear, because she kept on trying to persuade Salama to follow her at l0 a.m., taking a few paces forward and waiting for Salama to come slowly towards her, separating him from the others. Salama went for a short distance, but then turned back to rejoin the main group. Emily then returned, and spent the rest of the day with the group, leaving to head towards the airfield after the noon mudbath.

09 February 2006

Because it is getting very dry, the orphans are having a busy time finding sufficient food, even up Mazinga Hill. At the mudbath, Laikipia knelt down to enlarge the pool by digging the banks with his tusks and became so involved that he did not notice the others leaving and had to run to catch up with them. In the evening, Ilingwezi led the orphans back home.

10 February 2006

The orphans can never hide their happiness when they emerge from the Stockades in the mornings, for the Stockades are a very caring place for them and their Keepers. Salama and Burra enjoyed a play pushing match whilst Thoma and Edie wrestled in loose soil, creating a large cloud of dust. When the games were over, and it was time to leave, Laikipia and Nyiro led the column into the main Park where they fed until it became too hot. Having taken a brief rest under a tree, they proceeded to the mudbath where they had a lot of fun. Mweya was biting her trunk in great amusement as she enjoyed watching Seraa and Mpala excelling in mud wall games. Sosian plunged into the mud with great exuberance, anchoring himself by digging his tusks on the banks, and rolling like a fish. In the evening, today it was Irima who led the column back home.

11 February 2006

It was a cloudy morning, and the orphans were in a jovial mood. They took a drink at the Stockade waterhole where Mpala and Morani enjoyed a pushing game until the Keepers signalled that it was time to leave, with Laikipia taking the lead and the others following in a long column. When they reached a slope, they all began to run in great happiness. On reaching Mazinga Hill, Mukwaju, Loisaba and Salama went up rapidly, whilst Natumi remained at the base with the rest of the group. The three climbers came down at 10 a.m. and all headed to the mudbath where they had a lot of fun.

12 February 2006

This morning Thoma and Solango enjoyed a pushing game, as did Icholta and Natumi, a bout that was interrupted by Ilingwezi. Salama and Edie took the lead out to the main Park, where the orphans began feeding immediately. At the mudbath Mpala and Mweya shared a bucket, and then rubbed their trunks together in a friendly manner. Morani had a wonderful wallow, supporting his body on the banks while lying down, whilst Icholta occupied the loose soil pile.

13 February 2006

The morning games today was hide and seek in and out of the stables. Morani and Solango were engaged in a pushing game, which was interrupted by Mukwaju. Later, the orphans headed for Mazinga hill, where Mukwaju and Lisaba propelled the others to the top, leaving Mweiga following, along with Sosian. She managed to get to the top, having had a few stops on the say. Salama and Lolokwe had old scores to settle before joining the others feeding, and later coming down to the mudbath.

14 February 2006

Icholta, with a loud trumpet, signalled that it was time to leave the Stockades this morning. In the main Park, they spread out in small groups to feed, before taking a rest under shade, and enjoying the mudbath. Burra led the group back in the evening.

15 February 2006

The morning was spent concentrating on feeding until the mudbath, when the orphans enjoyed themselves, throwing loose soil over their bodies after cooling down. Lolokwe dominated the show and was so pleased with himself that he trumpeted, which prompted Salama, Edie and Laikipia to return and give him a shove. Lolokwe fell down, and Edie took the opportunity to climb onto him whilst Laikipia held onto his trunk, making it difficult for him to get up. When Lolokwe was released, he took on Salama for a shoving match, before turning to Laikipa. The three found themselves left way behind the others, who had already headed for the hill.

16 February 2006

The orphans headed for the hill early this morning, spending a short time playing at the base before climbing up. Mweiga was determined not to be left behind, and helped by Morani and Sosian, managed. When they reached the mudbath at noon, they met a herd of wild elephants who were also coming to drink, but both the orphans and the wild herd were scared off by a lone buffalo, who proceeded to occupy the mudbath. Natumi did her best to scare him out, advancing slowly with outspread ears and a swinging trunk. Eventually, the buffalo took the hint, and went into a nearby bush. After the orphans had finished their wallow, they charged in the direction that he had taken, but he had already left.

17 February 2006

This morning saw the usual games around the Stockade, the orphans running around kicking up the soft earth with their front feet. Seraa and Burra led the group to the feeding grounds. Because it was hot, they went to the mudbath sooner than usual, and were startled by a warthog, who ran out at the approach of the elephants. Mweya, Ndara, Irima and Mvita charged and hastened it on its way before enjoying the wallow. It was a beautiful day which the orphans enjoyed to the full, returning satisfied in the evening.

18 February 2006

Because the day was cloudy and cooler, the orphans were able to feed further afield, and none of the Keepers had time to rest until the end of the day, when the group returned to the stockade. At 7 p.m. Loisaba bit Salama’s trunk, which made the Keepers go in to keep the peace. A close watch was kept on the two throughout the night, in case they wanted to continue the war.

19 February 2006

The disagreement between Loisaba and Salama was ongoing out in the bush today, with Loisaba bent on knocking down Salama whenever they were near together. Back in the evening, Salama refused to share the same Stockade with her, and instead chose to go into Icholta’s section. Realising that he was the strongest bull there, he again caused havoc by engaging Mukwaju in a tough fight, which again meant that the Keepers had to keep vigil.

20 February 2006

Emily has been coming to the Stockades alone for the past 5 days, so when she turned up today, the Keepers escorted her to join Aitong, Sweet Sally and Tsavo, who were feeding near the pipeline road. She enjoyed an exuberant reunion, with rumbling, urinating, and tossing their trunks to touch one another. Maybe Emily had been with wild herds, and had “lost” them!

21 February 2006

Today it was Icholta that led the orphans out in the morning, after their usual Stockade games, with Laikipia leading the way to the mudbath when the time came. There Edie and Burra put on a wonderful show, tossing their trunks skywards with trumpeting. Burra emerged in a high state of excitement and took on Laikipia in a pushing match. Edie led the way home in the evening, with Sosian keeping Mweiga company at the end of the column.

22 February 2006

Competition for food in the Park is fierce these days. Lolokwe and Loisaba had a disagreement over a branch in which Natumi had to intervene to restore order. Later, having been separated, Lolokwe went to search out Loisaba for revenge, but Natumi kept following him, denying him the opportunity.

23 February 2006

Burra was eager to be leader today, and waited at the Spring Gates for the Keepers to catch up. Mweiga seemed reluctant to follow, and at first we suspected that something was amiss, but then realised that Sosian was not with her. The Keepers went to fetch him and take him to her so that the group could proceed. It was an active mudbath, with Icholta chasing Mvita, Seraa pushing Morani with Solango splashing and rolling in the water. A long time was spent at the mudbath since it was a hot day.

24 February 2006

Before leaving, Salama challenged Edie to a play-pushing match whilst Ilingwezi took on Mukwaju, until this was interrupted by Laikipia. Out in the Park, Seraa was interested in a herd of impala, and would have liked to play with them, but the impalas moved away. Mudbath Burra lay down in the water whilst the others splashed the water over him with their forefeet. Seraa, Ndara and Mukwaju enjoyed rubbing themselves against the walls of the mudbath, and Morani rolled in the sandbath. Ndara approached Morani, who was lying down, intent on climbing on his back, but he resisted strongly. Seraa rose swiftly when she spotted Solango creeping up on her and even Mweiga entered into the spirit of the occasion and played in the pool. Solango challenged Salama to a pushing match, who is Champion Pusher, so Solango picked up a dry stick and used it to scratch himself between the forelegs.

25 February 2006

After the usual early morning games, the orphans headed to the plains west of Mazinga Hill, where they met a large herd of buffalo, with whom they mingled and fed peacefully. The orphans rushed to the mudbath, and drank copiously before returning to the feeding grounds, when the Keepers received an alert that a buffalo had fallen down a well near the Trust Land on the Athi. Many of the Keepers joined the Mtito team and together, by using ropes, they succeeded in pulling the sub-adult buffalo up, and out of the deep well, sheltering behind the tractor for protection when the buffalo was free. Although very weak, he wandered off to join his herd.

26 February 2006

Today, Burra and Solango enjoyed a wrestle, whilst Icholta and Salama did likewise, raising a large cloud of dust. As the orphans splashed and played at the mudbath, the Keepers were called to rescue an abandoned baby buffalo near the Sala gate, which was handed over to a neighbouring Rancher, Rob Dodson, who raises orphaned buffalo amongst his cows.

27 February 2006

The usual early morning games kept the orphans occupied until it was time to leave the Stockades. Solango and Irima rolled around together whilst Loloke and Salama shoved each other from corner to corner. When the Keepers said “move”, the magnificent procession to the feeding grounds began, with Lolokwe leading, with the others following, swinging their heads from side to side in happiness. The orphans fed seriously until mudbath time when Loisaba and Ndara had a wonderful splashing game. Following mudbath, the orphans continued their feeding until it was time to return in the evening.

28 February 2006

It was a cloudy morning for a change, which made the orphans very happy. Natumi led the column out. At mudbath, Ilingwezi took a stick to scratch herself. Irima and Nyiro played cheerfully, before it was time to feed again, and return in the evening.