Keepers' Diaries, January 2018

Select your unit:

Voi Reintegration Unit

The big girls of Voi continue to wrestle over the affection of the young babies, Tahri and Araba. Ndii is most attached to Tahri and is reluctant to allow the other girls like Panda or Ishaq-B near her. Sometimes she will allow Kihari but that is only because they are very old friends.

If the area around Voi were not drying out so quickly, these older girls would probably be seeking a life in the wild; at ten years old Kenia is the oldest, followed by Ndii. Their bond to the younger babies in this herd is so great and the area is extremely dry at the moment so they are reluctant to be lured away from the stockades, their Keepers and the extra supplements they receive. If they do come across wild elephants Kenia and Ndii remain anxious that ‘their herd’ might be enticed away; ironically this reaction is even extended to interested male wild bulls, seeking their attention. Kenia and Ndii are leaving nothing to chance and savour being in charge of their predominantly female herd.

Mbirikani is another little leader and likes deciding which way the orphans should go and when they should have their milk. Now eight years old, she has come such a long way from the horrific cable snare injury which cut into her foot to the bone and rendered her an orphan when she was just three years old. Today, she has only a very slight limp and surprises her friends with her ability. One day young Mudanda tried to overtake her in an effort to reach the milk bottles first but Mbirikani was able to maintain her lead much to the little one’s surprise!

Little bull Bada seems unwilling to accept he is junior to Tundani and engages him in numerous wrestling exercises to test his strength. With only five dependent males in the whole orphan herd, the young males are often spotted trying to establish their position in the hierarchy!

Ex Orphans Lesanju, Lolokwe, Thoma, baby Thor, Ndara, baby Neptune, Tassia, Sinya and Siria visited at the beginning of the month without the rest of Emily’s herd, but they and the others in the herd including Emily, Sweet Sally, Icholta, the babies and the other Nannies did turn up to the stockades on the 22nd, and again a few days later. They have certainly already proven that they are capable of riding out any extraordinarily dry season and can look after one another even in such a challenging year as last year, when more elephants died from drought that in the past 20 years. Only Layoni and Dabassa seem to be separate from this main Ex Orphan herd and roam together as a duo; they were spotted sporadically throughout the month but did linger to socialize with the dependent orphans.

At the beginning of the month the orphan eland Tawi also returned. Hand raised at Voi, he had reintegrated himself with a herd of zebra over a month ago, but one day he approached the orphans with a wild herd of zebra whilst they were all out browsing. Tawi came to greet the elephants while the zebra herd watched him and waited patiently for him to rejoin them so that they could continue on their way. He returned to see the orphans a couple of days later with the zebra again, but this time spent the whole day with the elephants and the Keepers, before choosing to return with them that afternoon to the stockades. He ran up to his old stockade and interacted with his friend Kore, the female eland orphan he was raised with. His friend Ngulia the orphan zebra, and the reason we believe he decided to go wild with a herd of zebra, was very happy to see him, and became very protective of him, not allowing Kore anywhere near him!

January 2018 day to day

01 Jan

The morning started well with the babies playing games around the stockade compound following their milk and supplement feeding. Ndii blocked Panda and Ishaq-B from interacting with her adopted baby Tahri when the two tried to engage her in games. Mbirikani and Bada wanted to lead the orphan group up Msinga Hill to browse but Lentili, Suswa and Arruba had a different idea and led the group to the lower western sides of the Hill for the morning browsing session. The orphans made their way slowly to the baobab waterhole in the afternoon where they engaged in a mud bathing competition with Tundani sitting in the centre of the mudbath where he shone before being followed by Embu who wanted to challenge him in a strength testing game; Tundani was not ready for it! Kenia and her adopted baby Araba tried to introduce the others to a game of lying and rolling around in the red earth piles but were not successful in attracting any of the other orphans to join them. The afternoon was spent browsing close to the waterhole.

Nguvu following the other uphill

Ishaq-B playing in the water

Tundani mud games