Keepers' Diaries, January 2003

Voi Reintegration Unit

Nursery Elephants:- This month we took the decision to return "Maungu" to the Nairobi Nursery, because she has not been thriving as she should down in Tsavo. This calf, who fell in a manhole on the Mombasa Pipeline on Rukinga Ranch on the boundary of Tsavo, was taken directly to the Voi Relocation Centre, her age when orphaned estimated at approximately 8 months. We felt she would be happier amongst the older orphans and that her remaining milk dependency could be completed in Tsavo rather than subjecting her to the additional trauma of being transported back to Nairobi.

01 January 2003

At the noon bottle feeding time, Sosian gulped down his share rapidly and then tried to take that of Maungu. Maungu retaliated by shoving him away, but was not strong enough to push him down. He retired to the bushes to sulk. In the afternoon, whilst sheltering from the sun, Yatta, Kinna and Laikipia took fright when a flock of weavers landed in the branches of their tree. They began to scream, which frightened the birds, and frightened the elephants even more! The Keepers had to come and soothe them. At 6 p.m., back at the Stockades, Tsavo went to take a drink of water. Emily stood by him, resting her trunk lovingly on his back, and then escorted him to their Stockade.

02 January 2003

This morning Maungu and Mweya left the other orphans and fed near the Keepers. Sally and Sosian led the others in the opposite direction and were very independent until "a bucking baboon" scared them, when they rushed back to the Keepers. It was a very exuberant mudbath today, with all the orphans running in and out of the water, trumpeting happily, until Icholta slipped and fell, and the others ran over her. The Keepers helped her up, after which she was not so happy as before.

03 January 2003

When leaving the Stockades, there was a disagreement amongst Sally, Mweya and Sosian about which one should lead the Baby Group. Sosian benefited from his small tusks, and took the lead, forcing the two girls to come behind him. During the endless competition between the young bulls, Nyiro decided to accompany his friend Tsavo to Emily's Stockade. Noticing his unusual presence, Salama decided to eject him. Nyiro put up a brave performance, but eventually returned to his usual Night Quarters. The wart on Mweiga's trunk, which we have been treating with Thuya, fell off, and now we are just treating the wound.

04 January 2003

Sally pushed Solango against the metal bars, which brought Solango's friend Sosian to the rescue. He prodded Sally with his little tusks, making her scream for help. A huge wild bull elephant approached the orphans from behind without them knowing he was coming, until he rumbled a greeting. Natumi, Kinna, Mukwaju and Icholta were very scared and rushed to the Keepers for protection. He proved to be very friendly and smelt Emily and Aitong before moving off into the bush after being with them for about half an hour.

05 January 2003

Sally, Mweya and Maungu separated themselves from the new babies and fed apart. They rushed back to join the others when Sosian screamed, having been scared by two dikdiks chasing one another. At the mudbath Natumi accidentally pushed down Mweiga, but this time Mweiga was able to get up before Aitong reached her to help her up.

06 January 2003

At noon, Sosian blocked Sally from taking her milk. The Keepers had to caution him. At 10 a.m. Emily, together with Aitong, Tsavo and Loisaba climbved Mazinga Hill to feed on the slopes. Natumi, Yatta, Nyiro, Mvita, Icholta and Salama stayed at the bottom to keep Mweiga company. Emily arrived to join the others at the noon mudbath. She came happily swinging her head and trunk from side to side and all the orphans left the mudbath to welcome her. The mudbath was then a very joyous occasion dominated by trumpets of happiness.

07 January 2003

At 9 a.m. Dika and Ndume peeled away from a wild herd of elephants and came to greet the orphans. All the orphans surrounded them and gave them a very warm welcome. When they left, they took Imenti with them. Mweya led the others chasing the tractor carrying drinking water to the mudbath area. When they realised that it was not the milk tractor, they were very dejected, but drank water instead before going into the mudbath.

08 January 2003

Solango, Mweya and Sally were left behind feeding whilst the others (i.e. Thoma, Tosian, Maungu and Burra) proceeded to their mudbath. When the stragglers heard trumpets of happiness from the mudbath, they hurried to join their friends. Burra, especially, had a wonderful time, tossing his trunk skywards and spraying the water around. Emily took Aitong, Mweiga and Tsavo off at 2.30 p.m., leaving Loisaba with Yatta and Natumi's group. Upon realising that Emily was absent, Loisaba became very restles and started rumbling. She then started pushing the other orphans, but Nyiro, Mukwaju and Salama combined efforts to keep her at bay. Eventually the Keepers intervened and took her to join Emily's group.

09 January 2003

At 7 a.m. the orphans joined a wild group of 9 elephants, amongst which was a cow with a calf of about l month old. Aitong tried to abduct the calf from her mother and was repulsed violently, sustaining a tusk wound on her back whilst being chased away by the wild cow. However, the wild cow welcomed Emily into her family and spent time with her and the other orphans. At 11.20 p.m. that night, Sosian became upset when he heard a wild cow crying. We think she was being mounted against her will by a bull about l km. from the Stockades. Eventually, the Keepers joined Sosian in the Stockade and remained with him throughout the rest of the night to calm him.

10 January 2003

Back at the Stockades, Burra deliberately blocked Solango from taking his share of the Copra cake. He blocked him with his buttocks and used his rear foot to kick him. The Keepers intervened, warning Burra to behave. At 9 a.m. all the orphans raised their trunks to test the air, and soon afterwards Edo approached them. He was welcomed warmly. Edo paid special attention to Aitong, of whom he is very fond, but did not mount her. After the noon mudbath, which he shared with the orphans, he left.

11 January 2003

Maungu seemed unwell today and took her milk very slowly, lagging behind the others, but Maungu remained near her all day. At 3 p.m. the orphans climbed Mazinga Hill when Mukwaju, Yatta, Kinna and Ilingwezi initiated a game, sliding down a gentle slope on their knees. The game ended when Ilingwezi lost control, rolling down the slope over and over three times and had to be lifted up by Tsavo and Aitong.

12 January 2003

Mweya tried to assert her dominance by testing her strength against Sosian, but Sosian was the winner. Sally came to help Mweya up when she fell down. In the evening Laikipia found himself left behind when Emily and her group had already taken their place in their Stockade, so Aitong, who normally sleeps with the younger orphans in the Old Stockade, came out to escort him to the correct place.

13 January 2003

Emily, Aitong, Loisaba, Kinna, Edie and Icholta chased two buffaloes who were resting in thick bush. The buffaloes rfan for about 100 metres, but then turned to face the orphans, who retreated hastily to the Keepers. Today, it was Salama who remained behind to keep Maungu company as she slowly climbed the hill. He then spent 10 minutes with her before going to his own Stockade for the night.

14 January 2003

Maungu went to the mudbath early today, accompanied by the others, but did not wallow. Instead she splashed water over her body and watched the others closely. During the mudbath, Lolokwe accidentally trod on Loisaba's trunk, who screamed loudly, bringing Emily and Aitong to the rescue in a rush. Lolokwe did not wait for the repercussions, but retreated, and watched the others from a distance.

15 January 2003

After showing signs of increasing weakness, Maungu was returned to Nairobi. Sally, Mweya and Sosian escorted her to the truck, but when Sosian saw Maungu going inside the truck, he screamed in distress. Aitong came rushing to comfort the babies, and took them to join Emily out in the bush.

16 January 2003

Leaving the Stockades this morning, Emily noticed that Maungu was missing. She searched all the Stockades and the orphaned group, calling and rumbling, but eventually had to give up the search. At 5.20 p.m. Mweya, who usually escorts Maungu, was reluctant to return to the Stockades without her. She searched one bush after another hoping to find Maungu, but after 5 minutes she, too, had to give up and join the others.

17 January 2003

Finding himself behind when the others were running for the Milk Tractor, Burra tried to latch onto Sosian's tail to help himself along. After the mudbath, Tsavo mounted Salama who strolled over to a short tree, scraping him off against a branch. Salama yelled when his neck became entangled, and Mulika came to support his head to help him up.

18 January 2003

At 9.20 a.m. Thoma was scratching her trunk against a tree trunk, watched closely by Mweya, who came up and pinioned Thoma's trunk to the tree. Thoma screamed, and the Keepers had to reprimand Mweya for her to release Thoma's trunk. A small wart was noticed on Natumi's bottom, which is under Thuya treatment.

19 January 2003

Sally attempted to hijack Solango's milk at noon, and got pushed hard. She retreated into a nearby bush to sulk. After a wonderful mudbath, Nyiro tried to mount Kinna, but she, Icholta and Mvita combined forces to discipline him and sent him into the nearby bushes where he sulked on his own, foregoing the mudbath.

20 January 2003

Whilst attempting to mount Thoma, Solango fell onto Sally, who tried to exact revenge, sending him running off. Edo came to the Stockades very early to accompany the other orphans as they came out. He spent the morning close to Aitong, but did not mount her. He left after the mudbath.

21 January 2003

Tsavo found himself unable to get up on the slippery wall of the mudbath, so Aitong and Laikipia came to help him. Burra was very afraid when he found a large, hairy baboon sitting in his path. He screamed loudly, but this did not deter the baboon and the Keepers had to chase it off.

22 January 2003

Sosian and Sally had a disagreement over a shrub they were sharing. Sally eventually sort refuge with the Keepers. After the mudbath, Nyiro and Tsavo detached themselves from the rest of the group and chased each other for mounting. But got a terrible fright when they ran into a large buffalo hiding in a nearby bush. All thoughts of mounting disappeared as they both retreated rapidly, screaming loudly. They were welcomed back to the group by Ndara. Today, Imenti was sedated by The K.W.S. Capture Unit and moved to the Tiva River in the Northern Area of Tsavo. He was punished for putting a tusk through a minibus windcreen when the bus almost ran into the orphans who were with 21 wild elephants crossing the Aruba road near the Airfield. He then tried to prevent buses from entering and leaving the Park, so the Warden insisted that he was moved, fearing that he might threaten the safety of tourists and damage vehicles. (Comment by Dr. Sheldrick. From Imenti's perspective, the tourists posed a threat to his elephant family and it was very irresponsible of a tour leader in charge of tourists to drive into a herd of elephants and be within range of one that has been angered by such behaviour! The Tsavo elephants are not as habituated to vehicles as those of other Parks, having suffered decades of harassment, so the Sheldrick Trust is now sponsoring the printing of Stickers which will be attached to every vehicle entering the Park telling tour drivers to keep their distance, since Elephants have right of way).

23 January 2003

Having left the Stockades in the morning, Emily took most of the orphans to feed up Mazinga Hill, but Mweiga, who is weaker than the rest and not fond of climbing, remained at the foot of the hill, joined by Mweya and the babies, who kept her company for the rest of the day.

24 January 2003

Solango tried to push Thoma this morning, but connected with Sosian's legs in the process and landed in a heap instead. Sosian, however, was not angry but supported his friend's head so that he could rise again. Today Aitong lagged behind with Mweiga and took her to join the others, when they were greeted warmly by Kinna and Mukwaju.

25 January 2003

Burra was angry with his friends today, who had been pushing him, so he went to feed close to the Keepers. All the orphans joined a wild group of 13 elephants today and spent the entire day with them, returning to the Stockades in the evening.

26 January 2003

Sosian sorted out a disagreement between Mweya and Sally about who should lead the group home in the evening. Sosian took control and was the front-runner! The older elephants wandered a long way today, feeding, and Mweiga became very tired. She returned to feed near the Keepers and was joined by the others in the evening at the Stockades.

27 January 2003

Solango tried to suckle Emily's ears today, but was pushed away by Mweiga. Emily lifted Solango up and allowed him to suckle her ears. The wound on Aitong's back was seen to be healing well.

28 January 2003

Mweya, Sally and Solango had a wonderful chasing game this morning, but they avoided Sosian, who was not in the mood to join in. The orphans were scared by two wild bulls who were having a tussling match, retreating back to the Keepers to allow the hooligans to pass by!

29 January 2003

Mweiga decided to join Mweya's Baby Group today, but got pushed down by Sosian. Mweiga yelled and Aitong came rushing to the rescue.

30 January 2003

Sosian seems unpopular with the others today, because of his sharp small tusks, which he uses liberally! Ilingwezi got herself into trouble when she blocked Loisaba from the water drums at noon. Loisaba chased Ilingwezi and grabbed her tail to bite, but Ilingwezi put on speed, and managed to escape punishment

31 January 2003

Solango enjoys suckling the Keepers' dust coats, and then tried to suckle Sally's ear, but she repulsed him, so he returned to the coats. After a wonderful mudbath, Mukwaju went to Emily who was resting under a tree, and lovingly rested his trunk over one of her tusks, closing his eyes. His rest was disturbed by Edie, who was jealous and pushed him away.