Keepers' Diaries, January 2021

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Voi Reintegration Unit

This seems to be a favourable time of year for our wild-living to pay us a visit, for just like at Ithumba where we have all of Yatta’s wild living herd visiting for the past two months, so our wild living orphans Mweya, Edie and Ndara have chosen to remain around the Voi stockade area. It was in January last year that Mweya and Edie came to visit too, before drifting further afield again, taking some of our older Voi orphans with them as nannies to their two adorable yet rather unruly newborns, Eco and Mwitu. They stayed away for the whole year, before returning last month, this time with Ndara and her baby boy Neptune as well. We haven’t seen Emily and the rest of the herd for a while now, and we believe Bada must have stayed behind with them too, as he didn’t return with the others. 

We feel incredibly privileged to have Edie, Mweya, Ndara and their wild born babies with us, for however long they choose to stay. It is an exciting time for our dependent orphans as well to have the opportunity to socialize, interact and bond with their older friends, and most importantly, their wild born young too; given any opportunity young females like Tamiyoi are delighted to play with Eco, Mwitu and Neptune. Often the ex-orphans chose to visit us early in the morning to share Lucerne pellets with the juniors and socialize awhile, before heading out to the Park either in the same direction, or sometimes taking different paths. A couple of times this month ex-orphan bull Laikipia, now an impressive 22 year old, chose to visit and share Lucerne with the orphans as well. Our orphans at our Reintegration Units at present are so incredibly fortunate to have such wise role-models to learn from, ones who have already made this great step to living a wild life once more, and are happy to visit from time to time to socialize and impart their wisdom. 

Mweya is obviously in season at the moment as towards the middle of the month we noticed various wild bulls following her herd and trying to get close to her. Sometimes she was so unsettled with the wild bulls around she would take off from the herd, leaving her little calf Mwitu, nearly a year old now, with capable Edie and the other nannies which include Panda, Naipoki, Nguvu, Kihari, Mbirikani and Lentili. One day we noticed that seven year old bull Nguvu was missing from the group of ex-orphans and the Keepers suspected that he may have been chased away by the big wild elephant bulls pursuing Mweya.

Most mornings the Voi orphans enjoy the routine of rushing out of their night stockades to line up at the milk feeding area for their milk bottles. It is usually Godoma, Emoli, Pika Pika and Tamiyoi first to the feeding area and they guzzle down their bottles in a matter of seconds. Then the milk-dependent babies join up with their friends who are no longer milk-dependent (Arruba, Suswa, Mashariki, Mudanda, Tundani, Kenia, Ishaq-B, Ndoria, Suswa, Rorogoi, Embu, Ndii and Araba) and they all head over to enjoy some Lucerne pellets spread out for them by the Keepers. Some will then take the opportunity to greet each other and enjoy a few morning games too. This is usually when Ndotto will take the opportunity to enjoy playing with one of his friends, more than likely Arruba who is still his favourite sparring partner. Others like Ndii, Suswa, Sagala, Tahri, Pika Pika and Rorogoi will take the opportunity to roll around on the pile of loose soil provided in the compound for the orphans to play on, which they so enjoy. If she isn’t sparring with Ndotto, Arruba can be found here, allowing little Pika Pika to clamber all over her. Tundani is often spotted on his own to one side of the stockade compound, stretching his trunk over the electric fence to reach the untouched and most delicious fresh green shoots on the other side. Eventually, most mornings, it is Sagala, Tagwa and Tamiyoi who decide it is time to leave, and they lead the rest of the dependent Voi orphans out to the Park to browse for the day. We feel very proud of Mbegu for in many ways it is because she stepped back and allowed Tagwa to lead with her friend Tamiyoi that she at last started showing some improvement. At different times both were matriarchs for a while at the Nairobi Nursery, however when Tagwa arrived back at the Voi Unit she visibly seemed the most unsettled of all the orphans there, perhaps feeling a little lost without a matriarchal role in the face of both Kenia and Mbegu being there with their own groups. Once Mbegu stepped back a bit however and allowed Tagwa to lead the orphans, she has made such an improvement and seems very much more content and happy now.

We are noticing a change in the bulls Lasayen and Murit as well. Unlike their age-mates Ngilai and Ndotto who are always messing around, playing and wrestling with the others, Lasayen and Murit seemed to be a lot more dignified these days, and the Keepers hardly ever spot them playing around. They are very quiet, and quite content with their browsing activities, and as they get older perhaps they think such antics as wrestling games too childish, and revere the more dignified manners of their older friends like Laikipia! 

Although Kenia, Ishaq-B, Ndii, Tundani, Mashariki, don’t have milk anymore, they still come back to the stockades at night for safety, and are very happy sleeping in the stockades still, and spending their time with the dependent herd. They are free to do as they will, and sometimes orphans like Tundani, Ndoria and Ishaq-B, weaned off their milk, will remain browsing rather than joining the whole herd at the mud bath for milk feeding time, if they wish to simply carry on browsing.

Mudanda can sometimes be in a bad mood and take this out on little Pika Pika, but luckily for her she is always under the watchful eye of Ndii and Ishaq-B too, and they will chase Mudanda away if she is being too much of a bully. Ndoria has been very well behaved recently too, and is much mellower, although as we all know that elephants have exceptional memories and the other orphans are still a little wary of her at times, and keep their distance.  

The orphan elephants still spend their day with the two buffaloes Ivia and Cheza and zebras Nzuki and Diria. Ivia is the most playful with the elephants by far and will often initiate games with them. His favourite play mate of choice is still Ngilai, but we watched one day as he played with Godoma as well, chasing each other around the mud wallow. The elephants aren’t always so accommodating however, especially the older females, and those like Arruba would rather try and chase Ivia away sometimes, than play with him.

Like the rest of the country this month we did experience a short period of uncharacteristic rainy weather, and the cloudy days and perfect browsing conditions for our orphans who don’t need to take a break to rest from the heat on such days, and can browse to their hearts content. 

January 2021 day to day

01 Jan

After the morning feed the Voi orphans hung around the stockade compound feeding on pellets and engaging in different activities before heading out for the day. Mashariki led the orphans up the rocky side of Msinga Hill. The orphans maneuvered their way through the rocks, browsing on the nice new tufts of fresh grass as they went.  

At noon the orphans visited the baobab tree waterhole where they had their milk feed before making their way to the mud bath.  Ndotto, Mbegu and Arruba spent most of their time playing and wallowing while the rest of the orphan herd spent their time browsing around the mud bath. Later Ngilai, Embu and Mashariki came to take Ndotto, Mbegu and Arruba’s place in the mud bath, and the three exited the water to join the others who were still busy browsing.  

The afternoon was spent browsing until the evening when Tamiyoi led the entire orphan herd back to the safety of the stockades for the night.  

Ndotto testing the water

Mashariki having fun in the water

Suswa splashing with her trunk