Keepers' Diaries, July 2005

Voi Reintegration Unit

Mweiga, who has always been a very weak elephant, suffered a bout of diarrheoa on the 11th, which caused us a few anxious days, and was yet another set-back for this very fragile elephant. However, having been dosed with Sulphadimidine, she has recovered, but her health has been further compromised in a very dry, and challenging year. Extremely protective of her, are two rather unlikely orphans, the young 5 year old bull named Sosian, and the once pushy little Ugandan elephant, Mweya. Both have demonstrated an enduring compassion and love for Mweiga which has stood the test of time. Both are always by her side, keeping her company when she lags behind and cannot keep up with the rest of the group, and shielding her from the exuberance of the other young bulls, who enjoy demonstrating one-up-man-ship by mounting. Sosian and Mweya were there for her when she remained back in the Stockades during her bout of ill-health, too weak to go out with the others. Their love and care of her is proof yet again that elephants feel compassion for the plight of the less fortunate, and have an enduring loyalty to those they love, even at a very young age.

01 July 2005

Mvita led the orphans to feed on the Northern side of the hill. A small wild group consisting of 2 big cows, and three youngsters met up with the orphans at noon. Thoma, who was lagging behind, obviously expecting the arrival of the wild elephants, rumbled to alert the others to their presence. Laikipia, Icholta, Ndara, Seraa and Solango spent time coaxing one of the wild calves into the orphaned group, after which the two groups mingled freely, until Laikipia gently pushed the wild calf away from its family. At first its mother had no problem, but later ran to retrieve her calf, when Laikipia returned to feed in amongst all the elephants. The wild herd spent two hours with our orphans.

02 July 2005

At 6 a.m. Natumi, Laikipia and Loisaba led the orphans into the main Park. At the noon mudbath the wild herd led by the Matriarch called “Naomi” came to join the orphans. The initial contact with the wild group was highly charged with a great deal of confusion and excitement, until Naomi herself, who had been left behind, appeared a little later and introduced herself and her family to the orphans. Naomi has become a frequent visitor to the orphans out in the bush, and she was greeted enthusiastically and with great affection by all the orphans. As usual, the orphans targeted her small calf, Laikipia and Natumi going round and round Naomi hoping to be able to take the calf, but Naomi kept a close eye on it. The two then returned dejected to the main orphan group, but Mvita kept following Naomi hoping that she would be allowed access to the calf. Natumi and Salama then enjoyed pushing games with their wild age-mates until Naomi left, heading for the Airstrip, 4 hours later. Mukwaju was a nuisance to Mvita, trying to repeatedly mount her, so she took a branch and placed it on her back, which proved sufficient deterrent for a while!

03 July 2005

Some soft soil was poured beside the orphan’s mudwallow for them to play in, and this made them very happy. They sacrificed the mudwallow to play in the soil and were in heaven, rolling around in it, and trumpeting with happiness. Their joyful trumpets attracted Naomi’s wild group, who came to join them. Mukwaju found himself in trouble, receiving a sharp prod from Naomi’s tusks when he left the pile of soil and went into the mudbath bent on taking her baby! Mukwaju bellowed, scaring all the orphans, who ran to Naomi for protection. The two groups then left the mudbath to feed on the Eastern side of Mazinga Hill, until Naomi left them 3 hours later. Laikipia went with Naomi’s group, but returned after half an hour.

04 July 2005

Again, the new soil pile became the focus of attention. Edie lay in the soil, and was mounted by Laikipia. Ilingwezi and Icholta rolled around together, as did Burra and Solango. After a period of feeding, Salama and Laikipia returned to wrestle in the pile, when Lolokwe came in on the side of Laikipia, who is dominant to the smaller bulls.

05 July 2005

The morning was cool, so the orphans concentrated on feeding. After the mudbath, Icholta, Natumi and Ilingwezi led the other orphans to join Naomi’s group who were feeding close by. Naomi allowed them to play with her calf, as long as they did so next to her. At first Natumi was reluctant to show too much attention to the calf, but when she saw the others succeeding, she came in as well, after which Naomi moved in to repossess her baby. Thoma engaged a larger wild cow, who obligingly lay down, to make the contest more even, allowing Thoma to clamber all over her. Naomi only left when the orphans returned in the evening to their Night Stockades.

06 July 2005

Having left the Stockades, Laikipia and Salama engaged each other in a pushing game, entwining their trunks, only to find themselves left behind when the others moved on. They came later to join the main group, trumpeting. Once again Naomi and her herd joined the orphans at the mudbath. Now a close friend of all the orphans, they left the mudbath to welcome Naomi and her group, trumpeting and tossing their trunks forward to touch the wild group. Only Natumi remained in the water, watching the greeting carefully, and then she joined in. They all then enjoyed a wonderful mudbath together, after which Naomi took her herd off. In the evening, when the orphans were already in their Night Stockades, Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally turned up to drink at the Stockades, and enjoy some Copra Cake, having done the rounds of the Stockades to greet all the occupants warmly. Aitong and Sally seem to have lost condition due to the very dry season. The three then headed towards the western side of Mazinga Hill.

07 July 2005

Since it was cool, the orphans enjoyed playing in the soil pile rather than the mudbath. Salama mounted onto Mweya, whilst Mukwaju watched helplessly, hesitant to take on Salama who has become a great wrestler. Morani and Edie rolled around together before Edie, together with Ndara and Mvita, stood aside to admire Morani’s rolling game. Edie then lay down, trying to emulate Morani, but the others were disinterested, and left her alone. Baby plays again started in the evening, when Salama again mounted onto Mweya, whose forward progress was blocked by Laikipia to enable Salama to remain aloft! Mukwaju and Salama then had a wonderful game, entwining trunks, whilst Morani and Solango enjoyed a game until Salama took on Morani.

08 July 2005

It was warmer today, so the orphans enjoyed playing before leaving the Stockade. Solango and Burra played a game of hide and seek, until a baboon carrying a baby on its back drew their attention. Burra and Solango game chase, hoping the baboon might drop its baby, but instead it climbed onto a nearby tree, hiding in the greenery. Their charge of the ;baboon attracted Salama, Nyiro, Lolokwe and Natumi who came to search for the baboon, but could not see it.

09 July 2005

Having fed along the western side of Mazinga hill, Loisaba found herself left behind when the others left for the mudbath. She bellowed, and her best friend, Tsavo, rushed back to fetch her, followed by the others. Loisaba wanted Tsavo only, and pushed the others away when they came to calm her. They all then enjoyed a wonderful mudbath.

10 July 2005

Having taken a drink of water after leaving in the morning, the orphans, led by Natumi and Laikipia, went to feed up Mazinga Hill. Tsavo and Salama initiated a game, chasing each other up and down the hill. This game became so fascinating that it attracted all the others, except Mweiga, who was not strong enough to join in. The area was then filled with trumpeting and charging happy elephants whilst the Keepers took a cup of tea. Only Sosian and Mweya remained beside Mweiga, to keep her company. All the orphans had a wonderful mudbath today.

11 July 2005

Mweiga was very unwell today, shivering and not feeding as she should. This worried the Keepers, because she passed a very soft stool with mucus. The matter was reported to Nairobi, who sent down medication for her. We separated her, and left her in the Stockade with her two closest friends, Sosian and Mweya. Meanwhile a wild group of 3 big cows, two grown up daughters and a calf of about 4 years joined the orphans after the noon mudbath. The two groups fed together until it was time to return in the evening, when one of the wild calves came too. However, noticing that its family were not amongst the orphans, it bellowed and charged back, met by its family, who were rushing forward to retrieve it.

12 July 2005

Mweiga was given her first dose of medicine today, and was again left to feed near the Stockade, accompanied by her friends, Mweya and Sosian. Tsavo, Mvita and Irima chased off a warthog who came to take a bath at noon. The warthog went into a bush to hide, where it waited until the orphans left, before enjoying a wonderful wallow. Only Burra went into the mudbath today, watched closely by Solango and Mpala. When none of the others joined him, he left to scratch himself against a tree. Ndara, Icholta, Thoma and Morani enjoyed the soil pile together.

13 July 2005

Mweiga’s diarrheoa has stopped having taken the Sulphadimidine, and she took her milk well. She rested a lot during the day, closely attended by Mweya and Sosian, and in the evening looked a lot better than the previous day. Since it was a cool day, none of the orphans went into the mud today. In the evening they returned in single file, led by Burra, with just one brief stop-over to chase 2 squirrels, which disrupted the orderly line.

14 July 2005

Having fed at the base of Mazinga Hill, the orphans went to the mudbath at 11 a.m. where Mpala dominated events, rolling and sliding in the mud, his antics admired by Loisaba, Morani and Mvita. Seraa then plunged in and this initiated a tough competition between the two, which prompted Edie and Burra to go in and drive the two out of the mudbath. Mpala scratched his backside against the mud-wall, whilst Ilingwezi and Laikipia occupied the dustbath. They spent a long time at the mudbath, before going back into the bush to feed.

15 July 2005

This morning the orphans ran down the hill from the Stockades, led by Ilingwezi. They had a wonderful mudbath at noon when Seraa and Thoma enjoyed playing with one another, walking alongside each other rubbing their muddy bodies against each other. They were so engrossed in this game that they found themselves left behind when the others left, but Ilingwezi returned to fetch them.

16 July 2005

It was a cold day, so the orphans could concentrate on feeding throughout the morning, spreading randomly. At the mudbath, Burra engaged Seraa whilst Solango took on Mukwaju in a test of streth. Mukwaju was not that interested, so Solango went to take on Lolokwe. Tsavo became very frustrated because he could not reach some greenery on a tree, so the Keepers went to help him.

17 July 2005

The day began with a lot of baby play near the Stockades, rolling down the sloping ground. Nyiro took the lead out to the feeding area today. They enjoyed a wonderful mudbath, when Burra entered the water in a different way, sliding in kneeling on his hind legs, and sitting in the mud. Thoma tried to copy him, but slipped in, which made Burra get up, and splash water all over the others with his front legs. They ran off, because it was cold. Seraa went to scratch her buttocks against the wall, and Laikipia then went into the mud, and lay down, trying to entice others in. Icholta held Mweya’s back and gently pushed her down in the soil pile to play. The two then rolled around together happily whilst Irima and Solango submerged their foreheads in the water and blew bubbles with their trunks. Solango sprayed some water at the others, which made them run off.

18 July 2005

Whilst feeding at the foot of Mazinga Hill, Natumi took Solango and Mpala off to feed away from the others. A warthog who was drinking at the mudbath, took to its heels when it saw the orphans approaching at speed. Natumi tried to empty all the bins of water, but was prevented from doing so because some of the orphans had yet to drink. They all enjoyed the mudbath today.

19 July 2005

The orphans met up with a wild group consisting of 3 big cows and 5 middle aged calves, roughly the same age as the orphans. Natumi had a wonderful game with a wild age-mate and then went to feed very close to the wild Matriarch, the two standing close to one another touching trunks and obviously communicating something of mutual benefit. The Keepers deduced that Natumi may be trying to get some leadership tips from this wild cow, since they spent so much time together. Ilingwezi engaged a wild age-mate, whilst Laikipia teased a young wild boy, keenly watched by Morani. It was Tsavo who came in to give Laikipia a helping hand, since he was having a tough time! The wild group wandered off at noon, after which the orphans went to food up Mazinga Hill. On the way back to the Stockade Morani enjoyed lying on Mukwaju’s stomach when Mukwaju lay down to take a rest. This was tolerated, so Morani returned a happy baby!

20 July 2005

It was a cold day, so none of the orphans took a mudbath, but concentrated on feeding. In the evening the pushing games began. Burra took on Solango whilst Morani took Edie.

21 July 2005

Sosian, who has been very concerned about Mweiga’s ill health, returned to be with her when she was left way behind the other orphans upon leaving the Stockade. He kept pace with her slowly, and stayed beside her all day. After the mudbath, Natumi took the orphans up Mazinga Hill to feed, where they encountered and chased a lesser kudu. Solango took the lead back home today.

22 July 2005

It was a cool day, but nevertheless the orphans enjoyed their mudbath. Salama lay down, hoping to attract Seraa to a mounting game, but she did not oblige and went instead to scratch her bottom against the mudbath bank, where Sosian and Edie were already scratching. There followed a tough competition for position, but eventually all rubbed themselves side by side, tossing their trunks in the air in happiness. Icholta brought the game to an end by scratching herself against Seraa’s stomach. Mpala and Laikipia played rolling games whilst Thoma and Burra played a mounting game.

23 July 2005

The orphans, led by Natumi, went up Mazinga Hill to feed. Naomi’s group turned up, lifting their trunks to scent them, but because they were too far up, she left and went instead to the mudbath, where her group drank water from the drums, leaving two intact for the orphans. They then had a wonderful mudbath and left. The orphans arrived after they had left when Sosian, Burra, Laikipia, Solango, Edie and Morani enjoyed racing in and out of the water. Later they went feeding at the Eastern foothill of Mazinga.

24 July 2005

Seraa led the still milk dependent orphans to their bottles, arranged in a straight line and awaiting them. Mweiga tried very hard to keep up, and did well. Meanwhile Laikipia led the older elephants to the mudbath, chasing off a warthog who was also approaching. Icholta lay down in the mud and Seraa pressed herself against her, closing her eyes in bliss! Mweiga then came in, attempting to scratch her rear against Seraa’s head, so all three then came out, and went for a dustbath instead.

25 July 2005

The orphans were exuberant today, chasing each other in a game of hide and seek. Mweiga, who has recently been unwell, attempted to join in. This game meant that all the orphans were scattered far and wide, but they consolidated and went to feed on the Western side of Mazinga Hill. At the mudbath Laikipia introduced them to a new game – holding water in his trunk and spilling it out. When he sprayed them with cold water, they all ran away. Laikipia then charged a group of warthogs who were standing nearby awaiting their turn to wallow, and all the others joined in this chase.

26 July 2005

In a bid to test dominance, the young bulls began the day in competition with one another. Laikipia took on Nyiro whilst Lolokwe took on Salama and Burra, Solango. At the mudbath, Ilingwezi was happy when Burra, Solango and Morani went to play with her in the mud. Edie watched jealously, and when the others came out, went in and lay down to try and attract them back, but only Mpala obliged.

27 July 2005

The morning was characterized by serious feeding until the noon mudbath, when the games began. Loisaba and Edie went into the mud, rubbing against each other and trumpeting in happiness. Sosian kept watch over Mweiga to ensure that she was not mounted in the water. When competition in the mud became tough, Laikipia and Ilingwezi dominated the soil pile, rolling round and round on their stomachs, making sure that none of the others got a chance. Eventually Sosian and Ndara got a chance to dust themselves whilst Nyiro tested his strength against Solango. Mweya joined Mweiga to have a scratch against a tree, whilst Loisaba dug up soil with her toenails.

28 July 2005

Lissa, Lara, Lali and Uaso joined the orphans at 10 a.m., having already taken a drink at the mudbath. Uaso went to feed near Morani and Mweiga, which made the Keepers nervous, hoping he would not try and mount her, which he didn’t. Natumi, Mweiga and Sosian kept on following little Lali (Lissa’s second calf) which Lissa tolerated. At 11 a.m. Lissa and her group wandered off, taking Sosian with them. He eventually came back to join the other orphans at the mudbath half an hour later.

29 July 2005

It was another cool day. There were other wild elephants around at the place where our orphans went to feed, but the orphans did not interact. In the evening, Burra and Thoma enjoyed a pushing game, but none of the others decided to play.

30 July 2005

Loisaba dominated the entire pile of Copra in the evening, chasing off any others that approached. The Keepers intervened to ensure that all had their share.

31 July 2005

The morning began with the usual baby games, Solango taking on Seraa whilst Thoma engaged Ndara and Vita, Edie. Edie did not like Vita’s single tusk and ran off to join the others. They all had a wonderful mudbath before going up Mazinga Hill to feed.