Keepers' Diaries, January 2020

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Voi Reintegration Unit

The Voi Unit has undergone a lot of re-shuffling recently. With the arrival of Emoli and Sagala from the Nursery last year to join Mbegu’s younger herd in Voi, there became a number of dependent orphans at the Voi Unit which perhaps spurred some of the older orphans to starting to feel out their independence. 

At the beginning of the month Kenia, Kihari, Ishaq-B liked to spend their nights outside of the stockades, to link up with the dependent orphans half way through the morning, normally as they made their way to the big baobab waterhole for their milk bottles and where they can all choose to wallow on a hot day. At twelve years old now it was high time for Kenia to seek out her independence, and we think the fact that some of her friends linked up with some ex-orphans recently, and ultimately chose to stay with them, helped nudge her towards finding her independence. 

 On the 17th, the last day we saw Edie and Mweya’s ex-orphan herd this month, Kihari chose to join their herd as well, and join the other seven orphans Panda, Naipoki, Nguvu, Bada, Nelion, Mbirikani and Lentili who had already chosen to join Mweya and Edie’s ex-orphan herd a few months ago to help them look after their newborns Mwitu and Eco; it seems they have chosen to remain with them more indefinitely as they have not returned to the stockades since. It is always a proud and yet a bitter sweet moment when our orphans finally find their feet and embark on this new semi independent life; having raised them from infancy it is very emotional to see them take the next step and yet it is the sole mission of the Orphans Project so it is a time to celebrate as well. 

 Once the ex-orphans left the area with Kihari too and wandered off further into the Park, Ndii, Tundani, Nelion and Ndoria decided to join Kenia’s partially independent group as well, and towards the very end of the month, Araba too. We are not surprised, as Araba has always had a soft spot for Kenia. This group still likes to be with the Voi dependent orphans during the day, and have not left the area entirely, so we consider them partially-dependent orphans still. Araba sometimes misses her milk bottle as a result of being with Kenia’s older herd and she is always happy when they make it in time for the 11am feed so she can have a bottle as well. Mashariki has still not made up her mind, and sometimes spends time with Kenia and her herd, and sometimes chooses to return at night and be with the dependent orphans too. This leaves Mudanda, Suswa and Arruba, at seven years old, as the oldest girls in the herd for the time being, and even they have shown some temptation at joining Kenia’s partially dependent group. On the 29th they linked up with Kenia’s herd as they made their way back to the stockades for the night and chose to stay with them for a while, returning to the stockades some twenty minutes after the rest of their friends. Mudanda can be a naughty girl sometimes! She is quite bullish and is happy to push the other younger orphans like Tahri around to get what she wants.

With the departure of the majority of the older females, Mbegu is relishing her leadership role as usual. Murit is really developing a soft spot for little Pika Pika and they can often be spotted together browsing or playing together, sometimes which makes Mbegu jealous and she comes over to interrupt their fun and take Pika Pika off to play with herself. At the end of the month Mbegu appeared to have a funny stomach and seemed in a bit of pain, but this was picked up immediately by the keepers who alerted Angela and with some swift treatment she soon recovered.

Tahri, Emoli, Godoma and Ngilai are still our greedy feeders and always like to be the first to any milk feed. One day Godoma arrived to the milk feed early, just behind another group of three and obviously feeling impatient that day. Not wanting to wait for one of the Keepers to finish feeding her friends, she managed to sneak behind the Keepers and steal a milk bottle for herself! Ndotto is his usual playful self and loves playing with Murit and his long term friend Lasayen, who he has been friends with since they were infants in the Nursery. 

We saw ex-orphan bull Laikipia a couple of times this month as well. On one day he was with Edie and Mweya’s herd, his old friends. Having rescued Laikipia at only a year old, he is now in his twenties, and magnificent looking despite losing a tusk in some skirmish along the way. It is always a pleasure to see him and touching he should return as the bulls do tend to become more independent of their human family. 

January 2020 day to day

01 Jan

After the morning milk feed, the Voi orphan elephants spent some time socializing around the compound before following Mbegu out for the mornings browsing activities.  

Along the way, Pika Pika and Rorogoi took a different path, separating from the rest of the group for a private browsing session before rejoining their friends later in the morning. Kenia, Ishaq-B and Mashariki who had spent last night out of the stockades joined the rest of the orphan herd as they browsed their way to the baobab tree water hole.

After the noon milk feed, Godoma led the orphans into the water for a mud bath. Kenia did not join them as she was busy drinking water at the water trough.

The orphans spent the afternoon browsing before returning to the stockades for the night. Kenia and her older friends did not return with the rest again, choosing to remain browsing in the Park.  

Rorogoi and Murit

Sagala scratching

Mbegu and Ndotto