Keepers' Diaries, January 2014

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Voi Reintegration Unit

The month began with the Voi Keepers being called upon to rescue a the snared orphan named “Sagalla” from a ranch of that name adjoining the Park, and holding her overnight until the Rescue Plane could be mobilized the next morning to airlift the newcomer back to the Nairobi Nursery.

The month began with the Voi Keepers being called upon to rescue a the snared orphan named “Sagalla” from a ranch of that name adjoining the Park, and holding her overnight until the Rescue Plane could be mobilized the next morning to airlift the newcomer back to the Nairobi Nursery.

This month Wasessa has consolidated her repossession of little Mudanda, following the death last month of Mbololo. Although the largest female of the Voi Unit, Lesanju is the main Matriarch, ably assisted by both her best friend, Lempaute, as well as Wasessa and Sinya. Due to Wasessa’s extreme possessiveness (and selfishness in sharing the Copra supplements) she has not ingratiated herself either with the other Juniors or for that matter, the Keepers, so everyone welcomed an event which took place on the 26th. During the supplement handout that day Wasessa shoved Dabassa aside, who inadvertently barged into Mbirikani making her bellow. This instantly brought Lesanju, Sinya and Lempaute to investigate the cause, and observing that Wasessa was still pursuing Dabassa, Lempaute caught up with her, clamping Wasessa’s tail firmly between her teeth and held on ignoring Wasessa’s cries of pain! When Lempaute finally released Wasessa’s tail, Wasessa was much chastened, aware that her behaviour deserved punishment, thereafter trailing the herd when they headed out, keeping an eye on Lempaute for the remainder of the day. The next day she was impeccably behaved even during the supplement handout!

Emily’s Ex Orphan herd were regular visitors this month, meeting the Juniors either at the Stockades, out in the bush or the noon mudbath. They came to the stockades first on the 2nd after the Juniors had already left, accompanied by 2 wild Bulls who were after Sweet Sally who is now 13 years of age, and ready to become a new mother herself. Sally sought respite from her suitors in one of the Taming Stockades, where they were unable to access her due to their height and the rest of Emily’s unit hung around the Stockades for about an hour to allow Sally a rest before heading out again, the suitors still pursuing Sally.

Both Wasessa and Lesanju are wise to the “baby-snatching” tendency of Senior Ex Orphans females such as Icholta, Thoma, Seraa and Mweya from Emily’s unit as well as that of wild female elephants. With the Ex Orphans in the area for the first half of the month, fraternizing with the Juniors regularly, Thoma, Seraa and Icholta have been the main would-be “snatchers” intent on the three fairly new Ex Nursery elephants - Kihari, Naipoki and Ishaq-B who remain closely bonded and tend to feed slightly apart from the others whilst out in the bush.

Snatching attempts began on the 3rd when the Ex Orphans joined the Juniors out in the field, and Layoni enjoyed playing with Emily’s calf, Eve. The Ex Orphans accompanied the Juniors to the noon mudbath where Morani and Sweet Sally put on a good demonstration of wallowing, watched by the Youngsters, and Mweya supervised Lesanju at the dustbath. Meanwhile Thoma and Seraa were doing their utmost to try and hijack Kihari, Naipoki and Ishaq-B, pushing them towards the head of the column as Emily began to move her unit off. However, the Keepers managed to recall the three Nairobi orphans, much to the relief of Lesanju, who was watching events carefully. Thoma and Seraa hung around the Junior unit for a while, before running to catch up with the Ex Orphans who, by that time, were some distance away. Mzima followed them for a while, but eventually turned back to rejoin his Junior peers.

The Ex Orphans joined the Juniors again at the Stockades on the 6th and were with them until it was mudbath time, but on this occasion Emily decided to take her unit elsewhere, before the Snatchers moved into action, much to the relief of Lesanju, Wasessa and Sinya.

On the 11th, during a Stockade visit, Seraa, Thoma and Icholta tried top snatch little Mudanda while their peers were monopolizing the Juniors’ morning handout. Bellowing for help, Wasessa just managed to extract Mudanda from them and steer her into the safe-keeping of the Keepers who were standing near the fenceline, after which she ran to consult Lesanju. The two Big girls then began to round up their herd, foregoing any chance of the supplement handout, and instead hurriedly moving off. During this process poor Layoni and Naipoki found themselves stranded on the far side of the Ex Orphan unit, but the Keepers escorted them out to join the other Juniors who were being hurried off by Lesanju, Lempaute, Wasessa and Sinya. On that occasion the “Snatchers” decided to remain polishing off the handout!

When the Ex Orphans turned up again the next morning to again monopolized the supplement feeding, Lesanju hurriedly led her herd away, and for the next two days, she made sure that she and the Juniors left earlier than usual to avoid meeting the Ex Orphans, having been given their supplements in the safety of the Stockades. Ndara led the Ex Orphan herd to the Stockades on the 14th and also on the 15th when they turned up very thirsty and Big Boy Laikipia tried to tease Lolokwe and Irima by blocking their access to the water.

Ex Orphan Bull Irima came alone to the Stockades one evening, seeking out Mzima for a sparring match which lasted until it was time for Mzima to go in for the night. Irima obviously rejoined the Ex Orphan herd during the night, for he was back with them the next day (16th) again eager to engage Mzima, making an obvious effort to befriend him and tempt him into upgrading himself. Yet again Lesanju was forced to steer her unit away intact, which disconcertingly was trailed by the entire Ex Orphan herd, Icholta especially hot on Lesanju’s heels but luckily Emily suddenly decided to change direction taking her unit off with her. That was the last time that the Ex Orphans were seen in January, obviously having decided to move elsewhere where there were better pickings. This must have come as an enormous relief to Lesanju and the other Big Girls.

The three Ex Nursery orphans, Kihari, Naipoki and Ishaq-B remain glued to each other, often feeding slightly apart from the others. Naipoki has been responsible for leading her peers astray this month, always anxious to fraternize with wild elephants, which has caused both the Junior Matriarchs and the Voi Keepers a huge headache. On the 17th she did that although the wild Matriarch was not welcoming, but the three Nairobi Ex Nursery orphans nevertheless remained on the periphery of the wild herd, although Junior boys Tassia and Dabassa were doing their best to persuade them to return, Lesanju meanwhile keeping the rest of her unit well away. Eventually the boys returned empty handed, the Keepers still scouring the bushes for the three truants, who were still trailing the wild herd. Since it was getting late, the Keepers called on the Trust Pilot, Nick Trent to bring the plane to try and locate Naipoki, Kihari and Ishaq-B. They were eventually spotted along the Lugards Falls road, still following the wild herd and it subsequently took the Keepers the next 3 hours to round them up and escort them back to the Stockades!

On another occasion when Naipoki was leading the Junior herd followed closely by her two friends, they suddenly bolted back towards the others bellowing, having been scared by something in the bush ahead. Meanwhile Wasessa, Lesanju, Sinya and Lempaute began running forward to assess the nature of the problem, but their approach through thick bush further scared Naipoki who did a U-turn and ran even faster in the direction from which she and the others had come. Things went from bad to worse, when the older elephants also panicked, increasing their speed, while the Keepers were bellowing at the top of their voices to try and restore order! By the time they managed to regain control, both humans and elephants were totally worn out!

Again at month end on the 30th, when Naipoki, Kihari and Ishaq-B were the morning leaders of the Junior unit, they by-passed Mazinga hill and their usual browsing destination and kept on as though on a mysterious quest. The Keepers followed at a distance, interested to try and interpret their intention but Lesanju then took matter in hand by rushing forward to halt the column and refusing to allow anyone to bypass her. In the end they all settled down to browse where they were! Kihari, Naipoki and Ishaq-B had never previously met any of the Voi Unit orphans, and have probably not yet fully integrated themselves, possibly scared of Wasessa who has always been a force to be reckoned with. However, we are assured by the Keepers that they are happy in their new home and the problem is usually due to the investigative curiosity of Naipoki.

On the 20th Lesanju’s Juniors were joined by a wild female teenager out in the field who fed in amongst them, joined them at the mudbath and even accompanied them back to the stockades in the evening, peeling off only at the last minute. The previous day, the Juniors felt satisfaction in assuming that they had been responsible for scaring off a wild herd they encountered at the base of Mazinga hill, the Junior Boys celebrated this “victory” with a Bush-Bashing display! In reality, it was actually the presence of the Keepers that scared the wild herd! Proof of this is that on another occasion the Junior herd browsed very close to another wild herd who ignored them completely!

Each day, Naipoki, Kihari and Ishaq-B are usually first at the noon milk venue, followed by Panda and Mbirikani. Ishaq-B tried her luck by swilling out her mouth with water from the drinking bins one day to remove all trace of having had her share of milk, and then sneaking back to try and fool the Keepers into giving her more when Panda and Mbirikani arrived for theirs a little later! Unhappily, for her the Keepers were wise to the ruse and she was ushered off to the wallow instead! This month Mbirikani surprised everyone by joining Layoni to climb to the top of the hill beside the Malaika house despite the fact that her snared front foot is still tender, and that she still walks with a limp. She and Mbirikani must have found good pickings there, because they didn’t even come down for their milk at noon, and the Keepers had to actually also climb up in order to get them down in the evening!

Every day is not without fun for the orphans, usually beginning by trying to expel the irritating baboons from their supplement handout, or playing with the resident impalas who leap over bushes and equally enjoy the game. Tassia has found the ubiquitous swarms of quelea birds irritating, flapping his ears at them and trying to charge them trumpeting whenever they fly past. Lualeni, the orphaned Zebra is good for a diversion, either around the stockade compound or turning up unexpectedly having followed the milk delivery truck to the bush mudbath. January is always a hot month in Tsavo, so Lualeni has preferred to graze in amongst the resident impala herd, and return to the shelter of the Stockades early rather than travel with the elephants. The Keepers spotted an unusual zebra which, instead of the usual black stripes, had round dots instead. They also received another tiny orphaned zebra female foal this month, whose mother had been killed by a lion and were surprised that Lualeni was not happy to see it, instead trying to kick and bite the baby, who has been named “Ngulia”. By month end the new foal was doing well and hopefully, when older, will make a companion for Lualeni, although, being a Stallion, he could well become overly possessive of her, and regard the human Keepers as competitors for his mare, as have other orphaned male zebras in the past!

January 2014 day to day

01 Jan

After the usual morning supplements, it was games as usual for the Voi Keeper dependent orphans, Tassia and Dabassa enjoying a wrestling game until Lesanju signaled that it was time to move out to browse, all trailing her in a straight line heading to the northern side of Mazinga hill. At the noon mudbath, the Juniors were joined by Emily’s Ex Orphan Unit. Ex Orphans Lolokwe and Icholta gave a good demonstration of how to enjoy the water, watched by all the Juniors. Ex Orphan Ndara then escorted Lesanju, Sinya, Kenia and Ndii for a dustbath, after which the Ex Orphan herd began moving off towards the Voi River, Junior boy Mzima following them for a while until he had second thoughts, and turned back to join his Junior peers. In the evening the Keepers were involved in the rescue of the snared calf from Sagalla Ranch. She spent the night at the Voi Stockades since it was too late for the plane to come from Nairobi that day.

Tassia and Dabassa strength testing

Icholta enjoying a mudbath

Ndara drinking water