Keepers' Diaries, January 2005

Voi Reintegration Unit

This month’s Diary for the Voi group is extremely interesting, since a pattern is developing which is new ground, following the graduation to total freedom of Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally, who are no longer enclosed with the other orphans in the Night Stockades. This is, of course, a n elephant Matriarch hand-reared from early infancy has an extended elephant family still human dependent, with whom she keeps in close touch, as well as wild friends. What has surprised us most is that none of Emily’s favourite orphans have followed the example of Sweet Sally, who definitely made it known that she did not want to be separated from Aitong, and who is now very much part of “Emily’s now fully independent Group, comprised of herself, Aitong and Sweet Sally, who are often joined by the independent Big Boy Bulls, Edo and Dika, with whom she shared the Nairobi Nursery. Both have been Keeper independent for a long time, and now spend extended periods of time away from base, but remain still very much part of the extended family, spending time with the dependent orphans whenever they happen to be in the area. Edo is particularly caring and gentle with the still dependent babies, and in this month’s Diary has joined them on many occasions when Emily’s group has been away, sharing the mudbath with them and lying down so that they can romp on him, loosening red soil with his tusks so that they can dust themselves more easily, and taking on the role of Leader whenever with them, yet parting when the time comes, all the others understanding when he wants to leave them, and making no attempt to follow.

01 January 2005

The orphans left the Stockades in the morning without Emily’s group present. They were extremely jovial, tossing their heads and swinging their trunks from sidie to side, Natumi relishing her new role as the Matriarch of the group. They went to feed on the Eastern side of Mazinga Hill.

02 January 2005

The orphans joined a small family of one wild cow with two calves of about 3 and 6 years old respectively. Natumi, who is adored by all the younger orphans, sought the cooperation of Laikipia to introduce the group to the wild herd. These two made soft rumbles as they led the orphans towards the wild group, and were greeted warmly upon arrival. After a few minutes of socialising, they began to play with age-mates. Burra, Solango and Morani took it in turns to engage the smaller baby, whilst Laikipia played with the older calf. The two groups browsed together happily until it was time for the mudbath, when Natumi led her family to the wallow.

03 January 2005

The orphans became wildly excited when Emily, Aitong, Sweet Sally, Dika and Edo, along with a wild bull of Edo’s age, joined them at the noon mudbath. The orphans ran in and out of the water, trumpeting with excitement. They all mudwallowed wonderfully together and fed together afterwards until 3 p.m. when Emily and her friends moved off to the western side of Mazinga Hill. Ndara followed them for a short distance, but then came running back to join Natumi’s group when she realised that Emily was heading somewhere else. Natumi and Icholta ran to escort her back into their fold.

05 January 2005

Mweya led Natumi, Ilingwezi and Salama in charging and chasing off baboons who were in amongst a group of impala. The impalas ran away, but the baboons enjoyed a game of running round the orphans, climbing and hanging on nearby branches. The game became to fascinating that all the orphans joined in until the elephants became exhausted and returned to feeding, although the baboons would have liked to continue the game. Emily’s group, together with Dika and Edo came to the Stockades in the evening, 20 minutes after the babies had returned. They went around greeting everyone before leaving towards the Western side of the hill. Natumi’s group all lifted their trunks to acknowledge them.

06 January 2005

The orphans left the Stockades without Emily’s group. On the way to the noon mud bath Mweya, who was leading the group, almost stepped on a Monitor Lizard in long grass, which struck at her foreleg with its tail, making her run back to the Keepers, trembling with great fear. Laikipia, Natumi, Mvita, Loisaba and Mukwaju demonstrated against the lizard, but with caution, not wanting to approach too close! The lizard disappeared into a nearby bush, and the orphans proceeded on their way. The orphans wallowed wonderfully in a compact group. Icholta and Salama lay on one another, enjoying the bath. They then enjoyed rubbing against the red earth mudwalls surrounding the waterhole, before going back to feed.

07 January 2005

Laikipia went to feed alone, separating from the others at 9 a.m. He lifted up his trunk to test the wind, as though trying to locate other wild groups, but there were none in the vicinity, so he returned to the other orphans.

08 January 2005

Edo, Emily, aitong and Sweet Sally joined the orphans on their way to the mudbath. Natumi, Tsavo, Loisaba and Ndara became so excited that they made enormous trumpeting in welcome. During the mudbath when the two groups were having a wonderful time, Dika showed up and joined them. In the centre of the pool, Emily used her foreleg to lift up Ndara, who was struggling to come up from a recumbent position. Icholta also sought Loisaba’s assistance to lift up Lolokwe, who was also having difficulty getting up having lain down in the water. Lolokwe accepted the help, holding Icholta’s head with his trunk to lift himself up.

09 January 2005

Salama wanted to grab a branch from the mouth of Laikipia, but without success. He became so annoyed that a tough battle erupted, watched keenly by Morani, Solango and Seraa. Nyiro came to support Solango, and Laikipia was out-numbered and had to give up. He retreated and carried on feeding, leaving the branch with Salama.

10 January 2005

The orphans left the Stockades again without Emily’s group, but she, Aitong and Sally and Edo turned up at the noon mudbath, when the babies were wallowing wonderfully. Emily plunged into the water, which at first scared the group, but when they realised who it was, they were overjoyed and rushed back in, to wallow extensively and wonderfully together. Whilst soil dusting Edo loosened soil with his tusks whilst lying down so that Seraa could take it and puff it over her back. After the mudbath rituals, Emily’s group left heading in a Northerly direction.

11 January 2005

Salama was so intent on feeding that he found himself left behind when the others went to the mudbath. He yelled and began running through the bush, when suddenly Emily appeared running to scoop him up. Natumi was also returning at a run to field him and saluted Emily by tossing her trunk in front to touch her when she discovered Salama with her. The two groups were together for the rest of the day, and Emily’s group escorted the babies back to the Stockades for the night, leaving at about 8 p.m.

12 January 2005

Emily, Aitong and Sally joined the other orphans on their way out of the Stockades in the morning. Emily again took charge of the group and led them to feed up Mazinga Hill. They all went to mudbath together, but afterwards Emily’s group left towards the Airstrip.

13 January 2005

The day began with a light drizzle of rain, which made the orphans very happy. Icholta led the orphans to the feeding grounds, and kept on increasing her pace whenever Natumi struggled to overtake her! However, they all had to halt at the Spring Gate because the Keepers had to catch up and open it for them. Natumi was annoyed with Icholta, and wanted to fight her, but Icholta avoided a confrontation.

14 January 2005

On the way out in the morning, Emily, Aitong and Sally came from behind to catch up with the orphans, which scared Mweiga temporarily, because they quietly surrounded her. Emily gently touched Mweiga on the mouth to calm her down before joining the other orphans. Emily’s group left hurriedly at 2.45 p.m., pacing fast as though to keep an appointment with another group.

15 January 2005

Edo joined the orphans at the foot of Mazinga Hill, welcomed by Solango, Loisaba and Natumi, who went forward to greet him. At the mud-wallow, as Edo was getting out, Mpala held onto his tusk with his trunk to try and pull him back into the water, but was unsuccessful because Edo had other ideas. He headed off Southwards.

16 January 2005

Dika joined the babies from the Eastern side of the hill at 9.25 a.m. He escorted them up the hill to feed until it was time to go to the mudbath, when they left Dika up the hill.

17 January 2005

Upon arrival at the feeding grounds, Salana and Tsavo engaged each other with both head and trunk, pushing each other, which caught the attention of Nyiro and Lolokwe, who came to support Tsavo. Salama went to shield himself behind Laikipia, hoping for his support, but Laikipia ignored him. However, the other smaller bulls did not want to risk being pushed away by Laikipia, who is the largest bull in the group.

18 January 2005

Solango and Burra had a strength-testing compeititon, but hurriedly disengaged when they noticed Edo approaching from behind. Edo browsed with the orphans all day, but separated from them on the way back to the Stockades in the evening.

19 January 2005

Mweya and Lolokwe enjoyed chasing a dikdik at the foot of Mazinga Hill. Mweiga tried to join in, but could not keep up, so she stopped to watch the action. Having seen the dikdik off, all three trumpeted happily as they rejoined the others. Dika came down from Mazinga Hill at l0.30 a.m. and took water at the Stockade, leaving again at 11 a.m. heading in a westerly direction. Emily, Aitong and Sally joined the babies on their way back to the Stockades in the evening, and having seen them safely inside, left towards the West at 6.50 p.m.

20 January 2005

During a wonderful noon mudbath, Laikipia used his front leg to splash water onto Icholta who was lying in the water. Irima joined in and tried to do the same, but spurted muddy water into Icholta’s eyes. She yelled and ran out of the water.

21 January 2005

Mukwaju pinned Seraa against the red earth bank after mudbath, which made her very uncomfortable. The Keepers went to Seraa’s rescue.

22 January 2005

Edo appeared, raising his trunk to test the wind for the scent of the babies who were some 300 metres from him on the flat land. He joined them there at 8.30 a.m. and smelt Icholta and Tsavo’s genitals, which prompted them to avoid him. Edo wandered off after having been with the babies at the mudbath. Earlier Icholta and Laikipia gave a lesser kudu a spirited chase all the way from the foot of Mazinga Hill to the waterhole, so they took an earlier mudbath, before returning to join the others. Morani and Mpala trumpeted to welcome them back after the chase.

23 January 2005

At 8 a.m., all the orphans turned their attention to a herd of 20 giraffe who were in their way. They lifted up their trunks and put out their ears as they approached the giraffes, led by Laikipia. The giraffes got scared and ran off. Edo again joined the babies in the absence of Emily’s group, which has not been seen for the past three days. When Edo is with the group, they are happy to follow his lead, and they greatly enjoy his company in the mudbath, because he lies down and allows them to play on top of him.

24 January 2005

Mweiga became irritated when a helicopter made a terrible noise as it passed over the group at 2 p.m. She stood on the spot and screamed loudly, so Natumi came to place her trunk on Mweiga’s back to reassure her.

25 January 2005

The day was scorching hot, so the orphans went to take a rest under the shade of a large Acacia. The peace was disrupted when Sosian went to grab a piece of bark that Mukwaju had pulled from the tree, but Mukwaju managed to hang on to it.

26 January 2005

Emily, Aitong and Sally, who have been absent for the past 6 days, came to join the babies from the Northern side of the bill. The two groups spent time greeting each other. Tsavo, Loisaba, Ndara, Mpala and Morani were very curious and tossed their small trunks towards her. After the mudbath, Emily left the babies, heading southwards. Edie was tempted to go along with them, but ran back to rejoin Natumi’s group a little later.

27 January 2005

Emily, Aitong and Sally were greatly disturbed by Tour Drivers who drove too close to them whilst they were crossing the main road leading to the Voi Gate. Emily charged to make the buses give them space, and then crossed peacefully. They did not join the orphans that day.

28 January 2005

It was a cold day, so none of the orphans were keen to take a mudbath. Mweya took water in her trunk, and splashed it over the others, which made them run away. She stood there slyly on her own for a while, and then rejoined the others, obviously anticipating some reprisal, but they ignored her.

29 January 2005

Dika turned up at the mudwallow and polished off a whole drum of fresh water that had been made ready for the other orphans. He then went to the Western side of Mazinga Hill, raising his trunk to test the wind, perhaps looking for Emily’s scent. He did not meet up with the young orphans today.

30 January 2005

Burra became very frightened when a stone loosened by Mpala rolled down the hill, hitting the bush upon which he was feeding. He ran down screaming, and the Keepers had to calm him down. He browsed very close to the Keepers until it was time to leave for the mudbath at noon.

31 January 2005

It rained during the night, so in the morning the orphans enjoyed taking a mudbath in the rainwater pools. Salama, Solango and Seraa made a nice small mudbath which they relished, whilst the other babies enjoyed sliding down the anthills.