Keepers' Diaries, January 2023

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Voi Reintegration Unit

The beginning of the month was marked by quality time with the ex-orphans. ​​Laikipia, Mweya, Edie, Kenia, and co. ate breakfast with the dependent herd most mornings. Current and former orphans mingled contentedly, occasionally rumbling at and trunk touching each other.

On January 3rd, little Busara joined the herd for the first time since her rescue. Calm Sagala welcomed her warmly into the herd, trunk touching her in a reassuring manner and shepherding her off into the bush. The rest of the herd were also happy to meet Busara, gathering around to welcome her with rumbles. Everyone was gently jostling to spend time with her.

Sweet Godoma has taken little loner Baraka under her wing. They are always together, and the older female is being very protective of the young bull. Baraka and Busara have ousted Pika Pika and Thamana from their positions as the favoured babies of the herd. Godoma is vigilantly on the lookout for any unkind behaviour towards the newcomers. Perhaps nursing a grudge, Pika Pika and Thamana once attempted to give Baraka a petulant shove. Godoma immediately stepped in and chased them off. Thamana shouldn't be greedy, as he always has his best friend Lemeki to hang out with!

This has been a time of personal growth for Pika Pika. Since her rescue, she has enjoyed the adoration of older females, particularly her adopted big sister, Aruba. However, Arruba finally heard the call of the wild and has decided to link up with the ex-orphans, which is a wonderful development for her. Pika Pika has accepted this transition with grace, but she still misses her big sister. One day, she quietly slipped away from the dependent herd and snuck over to visit Arruba, who was browsing with Laikipia. Realising that she was missing, a Keeper shepherded her back to the herd. She is too young to abscond with her ex-orphan friends.

Now that Arruba and Mudanda are spending most of their time with Mweya and Edie’s ex-orphan herd, Suswa, Embu, and Mbegu are firmly slipping into their matriarchal roles as the oldest females in the dependent Voi herd. With so many new rescues this year, all the girls have plenty of little charges to look after. Tagwa and Sagala are neck-in-neck as they vie for Juni’s affections, while Pika Pika has struck up a new friendship with Embu. Everyone gets plenty of nurturing, that’s for sure.

Suswa may be the oldest dependent Voi orphan, but she sometimes behaves like an attention-hungry young bull. She loves to be in the spotlight! One day, outgoing Murit and reserved Lasayen were having an exciting sparring game — that is, until Suswa got jealous and inserted herself into their game. She commandeered Murit, leaving Lasayen to walk away with a disgruntled shuffle. Enjoying her victory, Suswa walked majestically into the stockade compound, flapping her ears and trumpeting her triumph. 

The same thing happened later in the week. Tamiyoi was posing on a large rock while Suswa rolled dramatically on the dust piles. Lasayen and Murit were enjoying some early morning sparring until, again, Suswa took control of the game and ousted Lasayen.

Lasayen could play with Ndotto — goodness knows he is always on the lookout for playmates! Now that Arruba and Mudanda are spending their days with ex-orphans and wild elephants, he has fewer sparring partners at his disposal. However, Lasayen is not as keen on aggressive games, so they are not a good fit in that department. Ndotto’s style better suited to boisterous bulls like Ngilai and Emoli. 

One day, Ngilai couldn’t resist a little peacocking in front of the new rescues. He slowly clambering and crawling up one of the stockade terraces, making a big show of it. Standing close by, Hildana, Kenderi, Dabida and Baraka were most impressed by the display.

Emoli usually loves to play, but one afternoon, he just wasn’t in the mood. Instead, he lay spread eagle on the red earth as Thamana clambered onto his stomach. Ngilai felt left out — normally, he would be the one playing with Emoli — so he climbed atop of Thamana in order to spoil their fun. Thamana trotted off, but Emoli stayed in his supine position, refusing to engage in anything but relaxation. However, Ngilai was equally determined and continued to taunt him. In the end, persistence paid off, and Emoli was forced to start sparring.

The Keepers are still getting to know the personalities and quirks of all the new orphans who were rescued during last year’s drought. Ashanti and Kenderi are usually quite demure, until milk is involved. In fact, they have become so pushy that the Keepers now let them out last. This allows innocents like Busara and Baraka to drink their milk in peace. 

This has been a month of positive development for our Voi herd. Bonds between older females and younger orphans were cemented. Mbegu has taken on the role of nanny to Busara, Godoma to Baraka, Embu to Pika Pika, and Tagwa to Juni. The other females have been left to choose from several newcomers to the stockades, a few of whom have not yet joined the herd properly. The Keepers are pleased that the Voi herd has many capable females with the potential to mature into wise matriarchs.

January 2023 day to day

01 Jan

On a bright sunny morning, the orphans emerged from their stockades for breakfast – the milk-dependent elephants gulped down their bottles of milk before joining their older friends for lucerne pellets and grass. Former orphans Laikipia, Mweya, Edie and Kenia arrived to eat breakfast outside the stockades with them. Current and former orphans mingled contentedly, occasionally rumbling at and trunk touching each other. Before long, the orphan herd set off to the bush for their daily wander, leaving Laikipia and the others outside the stockades. The orphans settled at the foot of Msinga Hill to browse in the open plains near the baobab mud wallow. After the afternoon milk feed, the orphans wandered down to the water trough for a refreshing drink and a splash and then headed back out into the bush for a final browse before bed.


Kihari and Edie leading

Orphans busy browsing