Keepers' Diaries, January 2007

Voi Reintegration Unit

January has been a very joy-filled month for the Voi orphans, with plentiful food at hand, brim full waterholes to submerge in, mudwallows at every turn, and the close friendship and support of one another to enjoy. Every day has found the orphans romping playfully together around the Stockade compound each morning, feeding on the fresh lush vegetation, and enjoying a swim at a time of their choosing in a large natural rain-filled waterhole below the Park Headquarters, into which Lolokwe dragged a log, which serves as an amusing play-thing for the swimmers.

01 January 2007

The orphans woke up in a jovial mood, and indulged in the usual games around the Stockade. Icholta and Mweya found a scratching post on a tree trunk within the compound, until Nyiro forced himself between the two, interrupting this activity. Following this they all headed out to the feeding area, where the orphans had a wonderful day, bathing, and taking mudbaths in between bouts of feeding.

02 January 2007

As the orphans left the Stockades in the morning, there were light showers, so the orphans huddled together for body warmth, avoiding rain on their faces, led by Natumi, their Matriarch. Like yesterday, the elephants enjoyed bathing in rain pools and rolling in the mud until it was time to return home, Laikipia, as usual taking the lead back.

03 January 2007

Serena (the young zebra orphan) and Rukinga (our baby lesser kudu orphan) joined a wild herd of impalas who were feeding near the Stockades. To begin with Rukinga was a little wary, but he soon understood that the impala posed no threat, and he and Serena had a wonderful time in their company.

04 January 2007

The orphans fed close together, moving at a leisurely pace to accommodate Mweiga, and allow her to lead from time to time. As water puddles were plentiful, there was no need to walk to the mudbath.

05 January 2007

Today, the orphans went to the Eastern side of Mazinga Hill and began to ascend. Mweiga struggled to reach the top, urinating frequently, panting and resting from time to time on the way up. At 2 p.m. they came down the hill and went to the large waterhole below the Headquarters, plunging in and enjoying a lengthy bathing session, before emerging and dusting themselves with earth. They fed well for the remainder of the day.

06 January 2007

The orphans hurried out to the feeding grounds. Seraa, knelt down to inspect something at her feet, and found herself knocked down by the others who were coming behind. She bellowed and Natumi and Icholta rushed to help her up, remaining beside her to ensure that she was not knocked down again. They had a good day feeding until it was time to return in the evening, this time Burra taking the lead.

07 January 2007

The usual games were enacted prior to leaving the compound in the morning. Thoma and Seraa enjoyed a pushing match, as did Mpala and Mweya. By noon, the temperature was rising, so they headed for the large waterhole where they all enjoyed a lengthy swim, before taking a dust bath. After the afternoon feeding session, they headed home.

08 January 2007

With food still plentiful, the orphans were in no hurry to leave the compound today, but instead concentrated on playing pushing games whilst others lay and played in erosion trenches. The happiness was palpable, trumpets and clouds of dust filling the air. Laikipia wrestled with Salama while Nyiro challenged Ndara, overseen by dignified Natumi, who kept a close eye on events. They again enjoyed a swim in the large waterhole at 3 p.m., and then fed leisurely for the rest of the afternoon, ending up at the Stockades.

09 January 2007

This morning it was Morani and Irima who had an old score to settle. Mukwaju was attracted to the battle ground and the contest ended as the two combatants suspected foul play from Mukwaju! By this time the others were a long way off, heading to the feeding grounds. At the large waterhole Lolokwe climbed onto Mukwaju, submerging and almost drowning him, which called for the quick intervention of Laikipia and Natumi, who drove Lolokwe out and kept him isolated as a punishment. The orphans remained feeding close to the waterhole until Laikipia signaled that it was time to head for home.

10 January 2007

It was a cool morning, so the orphans were happy and active. Icholta trumpeted the instruction to head out to the feeding area, all following her lead in single file like soldiers! Mvita found an Acacia tree to bark, eating some of the stripped bark. At the waterhole, Seraa went in with a mouthful of grass still in place, which she enjoyed whilst seated in the water. Mweiga joined in, going into the deepest part of the pool. Burra earned the title of “Best Swimmer of the Day” because he was left in the pool when all the others left, upside down, with all four feet facing skywards! They all fed calmly until the end of the day.

11 January 2007

January has been a very pleasant month for the orphans, who have enjoyed an abundance of fresh food, and plenty of fresh water to play in. Mvita and Lolokwe entwined trunks before leaving this morning, in a display of friendship, which turned into a test of strength, Lolokwe being the loser, and Mvita trumpeting her victory over him. Today, feeding took place at the base of Mazinga Hill. At the waterhole Salama and Lolokwe had a contest, the winner of this difficult to determine. They all browsed close to the water for the rest of the day.

12 January 2007

The orphans left the Stockades in high spirits, some heading towards the hill to pluck some branches from the trees. Following the usual games, they moved towards the Eastern side of Mazinga Hill where they settled into feeding for the morning. At 3 p.m. they enjoyed the usual swim in the big waterhole, when Lolokwe and Salama resumed their battle, with no distinct winner emerging, so no doubt the contest will continue tomorrow.

13 January 2007

Mukwaju, who loves climbing, propelled the orphans to the hill, and they all climbed up, leaving Mweiga with Morani at the base. The climbers came down at 2 p.m. and all then strolled towards the waterhole, where they had a wonderful time, running in and out, and making as much splash as they could, amidst a cacophony of trumpeting. They took a lengthy swim today, before emerging to dust, and feed, moving slowly back to base in the evening.

14 January 2007

It was a beautiful morning, as the orphans made their way towards the Eastern side of Mazinga Hill. Laikipia and Salama started a wrestling game, but gave up when they noticed that there were no spectators. At 2 p.m. the orphans went to the waterhole. Lolokwe dragged a tree trunk right into the pool, and pushed it around like a toy. Edie tested her strength against Mpala, while Mweiga watched with interest. The orphans returned to the base of Mazinga Hill to feed for the afternoon session.

15 January 2007

A very large wild bull saluted the orphans, who were feeding up the hill, by rumbling and raising his trunk. The orphans responded, doing the same, but the Bull was on a mission, and did not stop to make contact. At 3 p.m. they went to the waterhole where they were joined by Emily’s group, who kept them company during the afternoon feeding session. Ilingwezi, who is now in Emily’s group, was torn between returning to Emily, or joining the younger orphans, but Emily called her back and she obeyed.

16 January 2007

The orphans fed at the foot of Mazinga Hill this morning and went to the waterhole at 2 p.m. where they were joined by Uaso, who obligingly lay down in the water so that they youngsters could climb on him. Other than sniffing Edie’s genitals, he was well behaved, and joined the orphans during the afternoon feeding session, before leaving, heading for the Voi River. Morani lay down to dust himself, guarded by Loisaba, who prevented any of the others from taking advantage by mounting him. Morani placed his trunk into Loisaba’s mouth to express his gratitude “with an elephant kiss”.

17 January 2007

The orphans again went up Mazinga Hill, leaving Mweiga at the base with Sosian and Mweya. They went to bathe at 3.50 p.m. when Laikipia enjoyed a game with Mvita which was interrupted by Salama, who became jealous. Mpala, Edie and Nyiro enjoyed playing with Lolokwe’s floating tree trunk, kicking it around the pool. As Edie and others were enjoying a wonderful soil dusting session, Sosian gave Mweiga and trunk to mouth “kiss” as she watched. Emily’s group joined the youngsters in the afternoon, when again Ilingwezi was torn, and this time decided to join the orphans, returning with them to the Stockade whilst Emily’s group headed towards the Voi River. Ilingwezi took water at the Stockade trough, and then happily joined her peers inside the Stockade for the night.

18 January 2007

Ilingwezi left along with the others this morning, looking relaxed and comfortable amongst the youngsters and showing no anxiety at being away from Emily’s group. After a happy feeding session in the morning, Edie decided to engaged Salama in a test of strength, and regretted this by being not only defeated, but mounted by him as well. Salama persisted with his mounting mode in the waterhole at the noon mudbath, causing her a lot of inconvenience. Meanwhile Mweiga, after a quick bath, commandeered first position at the scratching tree, with Seraa in second place. Ilingwezi returned with the other orphans in the evening since Emily’s group did not turn up.

19 January 2007

Burra and Mpala engaged in a pushing contest at the base of Mazinga Hill in the morning, leaving them both exhausted. At the waterhole, Mweiga went into the deepest part to avoid the baby games in the shallows. Mweya tried to climb onto Salama’s back but kept slipping off. Again Loisaba stood guard over Morani in the water to ensure that none of the playful youngsters submerged him, charging and striking any that came too close to him. After feeding well for the remainder of the day, Laikipia took the lead back home in the evening.

20 January 2007

Again, the orphans marched in unison to Mazinga Hill, some climbing up the hill, and others remaining with Mweiga at the base. At the noon swim, Burra and Salama teamed up to demonstrate their prowess, diving into the pool before tossing their heads and trunks skywards. Seraa submerged her entire body, with just the tip of her trunk visible above the waterline, moving around like a submarine periscope, occasionally popping up to ensure that none of the others were threatening to climb on her. Later Lolokwe loosened soil by digging it up with his tusks, but his work proved fruitless because Icholta hijacked the pile, sitting on the soil and enjoying it alone. She remained there trying to entice Mweiga to come and take her place, but Mweiga was reluctant, fearing reprisal from Lolokwe. Icholta left eventually to enjoy a scratch against a nearby tree.

21 January 2007

Having snatched some grass before leaving for the feeding grounds, the orphans concentrated on feeding during the morning. At the waterhole, Mweiga remained in the pool after the others had left, and enticed them back for another swim by striking the water with her trunk. The orphans had a lot of fun there, running in and out, and trumpeting with joy. In the evening they again went to the base of the hill to feed before returning.

22 January 2007

The orphans enjoyed their usual exuberant games around the Stockade, but Mweiga, knowing that she was the slow-coach, headed off alone towards the feeding grounds. The others eventually caught up with her, and she was able to keep pace with them thereafter. They all fed well throughout the day, with no sign of Emily’s group.

23 January 2007

The orphans set out in a jovial mood, swinging their trunks from left to right as they went. Morani took the opportunity of helping himself from the contents in Loisaba’s mouth, as a calf does from its mother. Loisaba seemed comfortable to share it with him. Morani fed close to Loisaba all day, with Ndara (another of her favourites) relegated to a back seat! After a swim, and the afternoon session, Laikipia and Burra led the orphans back in the evening.

24 January 2007

The day was devoted to feeding in the thick bush brought on by the recent rains, interrupted by baby games now and then, and fun at the waterhole in the afternoon, before feeding again and returning back in the evening.

25 January 2007

The day began well, with fun and games at the Stockade before proceeding to the feeding area, where all concentrated on feeding. The orphans took a rest under shade at noon before heading for the waterhole, where they had more fun. In the evening Solango challenged Mpala, while Burra chose Seraa. Burra later found himself pinioned, with Seraa engaging his head, and Morani his buttocks! Burra then delivered a final blow to Seraa, causing her to scream, when Burra sought refuge near Salama, ingratiating himself by placing his trunk into Salama’s mouth.

26 January 2007

The orphans began their day feeding on Mazinga Hill, when Natumi remained at the base to keep Mweiga company. They all later went to the waterhole where they had the usual fun and games, before another feeding session in the afternoon, and a leisurely stroll back to base.

27 January 2007

The orphans fed on the lower slopes of Mazinga Hill where they were joined by a herd of about 15 impalas, all feeding calmly together until the orphans left for the waterhole session, arriving at 3.40 p.m. There Mweiga secured her usual position in the pool, and Morani enjoyed the special security detail of both Loisaba and Ndara.

28 January 2007

Ilingwezi, who has again joined the orphans, seems very happy to be back with them, since Emily has not appeared again since. It will be interesting to see whether she will again join Emily’s group when they do return, or opt to remain with the other orphans. All the orphans are now weaned off milk, and Mweiga has lost condition again, and does not favour climbing the hill any more. This month there have been no encounters with wild groups (other than Emily’s group) since the natural waterholes are still holding water and the wild elephants are widely dispersed over the Park.