Keepers' Diaries, July 2006

Voi Reintegration Unit

Yet again, finding sufficient browse has dominated the month for the Voi unit, where drought conditions worsen as the dry season progresses following a shortfall of rain during the last wet season. Mainly they have been searching for browse either up Mazinga Hill, where a few green shoots remain in amongst the rocks or to its northern side. However, despite this, all remain in good condition – better, in fact, than that of the wild community in this area, and even Mweiga has shown a marked improvement following the extra supplements and medication she has been receiving. Her best friend, Sosian, is never far from her side, but all the orphans take turns in keeping her company when she fails to climb more than halfway up Mazinga hill, in this Diary namely Mvita and Mpala Itwo young bulls) who deliberately came down to relieve Sosian and remain with Mweiga. A light shower fell mid-month, which made the orphans very playful and happy and when even Mweiga rolled around in the puddles. However, the puddles soon dried out, but the rain did soften the existing vegetation a little.

01 July 2006

It was a cool morning when the orphans left their Night Stockades, Mweiga keeping pace with the others at the rear of the column. En route to the feeding area, they had a lot of fun chasing two dikdiks, and Mweiga joined in, throwing her foreleg forward and emitting a shrill trumpet. After this they all settled down to feed.

02 July 2006

It was another cool morning when the orphans left the Stockade. Laikipia and Solango enjoyed a test of strength, whilst Icholta scratched her trunk against a rock. Edie and Irima led the group rapidly out to the feeding grounds, and all the orphans wasted no time in getting as much food as they could. At the mudbath, Solango and Burra enjoyed chasing off some impala. Feeding resumed shortly afterwards, because it was too cool to wallow, and in the evening Laikipia led the group back home, denying Burra and Solango this privilege. In the evening Emily came alone to the Stockade to greet the orphans and take a drink of water. She left at 7.20 p.m.

03 July 2006

The orphans enjoyed a game before leaving the Stockade, when Thoma, Edie and Laikipia wrestled with one another to test their strength. Icholta and Natumi took the lead to the feeding area, where Sosian and Mweiga remained close to the Keepers. Laikipia led the group home in the evening.

04 July 2006

When the orphans emerged in the morning, Mweya tossed her trunk towards the baby kudu, Rukinga, so the Keepers moved in to ensure that she did not play any mischievous trick. Burra and Solango led the group Northwards to feed today. Seraa and Mpala had to cut short their pushing match in order to keep pace with all the others, who were moving fast. There was a great deal of fun and excitement at the mudbath, before the orphans headed to Mazinga Hill to find some browse.

05 July 2006

The serious search for food occupied the orphans’ morning, it being too cool for a mudbath. Instead they all lined up to have a turn at scratching themselves against a stump worn smooth by this activity. Mpala waited patiently for Thoma to finish scratching, but Solango was impatient, and kicked her out. Feeling guilty because of this, he kept to himself for a while, only joining the others later, obviously fearing a reprisal! A wild family herd unit came past them, heading for the mudbath. The big female seemed very tame and looked very much like Eleanor. The configeration of her family suggested it could be Eleanor too. Mukwaju joined her, keen to interact with her wild calf and she was most accomodating. He remained with them for hours before coming to rejoin the other orphans, when Sosian and Nyiro rushed back to welcome him.

06 July 2006

Natumi and Edie had a difference to sort out at the foot of Mazinga Hill, but soon had to make peace in order to catch up with the others. Laikipia took on Thoma and Loisaba in a test of strength, and some of the others enjoyed a dust- bath in friendship pairs, Lolokwe with Seraa, Edie with Thoma, and Burra with Solango.

07 July 2006

Following their morning milk feed, the orphans halted on the way out to feed to play. Thoma, Morani and Mpala enjoyed a game of hide and seek, whilst Edie rolled around in the dust. The rest of the day was spent seriously feeding, because it was cool. In the evening, Laikipia trumpeted to round up the herd and return them to the Stockade for the night.

08 July 2006

The orphans greeted each other enthusiastically before heading out north to feed. They were all very active in the mudbath today. Mweiga stood on the bank and sprayed water over herself using her trunk. Burra was disappointed to be overtaken by Laikipia on the way back in the evening.

09 July 2006

The orphans left hurriedly eager to begin the day’s search for food. Nyiro took a wonderful ride on Seraa’s back, after which she avoided him for the rest of the day. He then went to Morani and Solango, but his intentions were interrupted when Mpala intervened. Sosian accompanied Mweiga to take a mudbath after the others, and Natumi deliberately remained behind to see that they had it to themselves. As usual it was Laikipia who led the group back in the evening.

10 July 2006

Natumi and Icholta led the orphans towards the western side of Mazinga Hill today, where they were joined by a small wild family consisting of 3 cows, 2 teenage females and a calf. Sosian moved in first to secure a wild playment for a pushing game, after which Burra joined Sosian in following the calf, tossing their trunks towards it. However, the wild calf was shy, and kept on avoiding them and upon noticing that her calf was reluctant, the mother took charge and chased the two orphans off. Sensing the cow’s hostility, the orphans decided to move off, and had a wonderful mudbath instead, before proceeding to browse.

11 July 2006

After the usual morning games, Mukwaju (the expert mountaineer) led the orphans up Mazinga Hill. Solango found a large rock against which to rub, which tempted Lolokwe to join him and leave the nice green shrub he had found. However, he resisted, which disappointed Solango. In the meantime Emily and her group, comprised of Aitong, Sweet Sally, Tsavo and Ilingwezi, came to drink water at the Stockades, and then went to join the orphans up the hill. They all came down to cool themselves at the mudbath, and then returned uphill, where Salama enjoyed a pushing game with Lolokwe which was interrupted by the intervention of Sosian. Emily’s group returned to the Stockade with the other orphans in the evening, and then went back to feed up the hill.

12 July 2006

The youngsters went straight up the hill to join Emily’s group. Mweiga tried hard to reach them, but found the climb too steep, so Emily came down to keep her company at the halfway mark. Mukwaju then led the others to the summit of the hill. They came down for a drink at noon, and then headed out to their usual feeding grounds. Having settled the orphans in at the Stockade in the evening, Emily’s group left heading towards the eastern side of the hill.

13 July 2006

It was a glorious morning, and the orphans are still all in good shape, despite the ongoing drought in this part of the Park. They tried to climb the Western side of the hill today and even Mweiga made a brave attempt, but could only get half way up. It is amazing to see how all the orphans take turns in keeping her company. Today, it was Mvita and Mpala who remained with her until mudbath time. They all had fun in the mudbath, before returning to the hill. Thoma lay down and allowed Mpala to climb on her and the two played happily together for some time. Lolokwe and Salama came to a mutual understanding to share a green bush for some time, until Salama decided time was up, and pushed Lolokwe off it. On the way back Icholta enjoyed scratching her belly against a tree stump and Salama decided to take a dust-bath.

14 July 2006

It was a warmer day, and once the youngsters had taken their milk, the orphans headed off to feed up Mazinga Hill, Burra and Laikipia in the lead. Because it was so hot, the orphans came down at l0.30 a.m. to go to the waterhole where Uaso joined them. The greeting was highly charged, as Uaso did the rounds of all the orphans, tossing his trunk to touch each one. Natumi took a keen interest in this procedure, perhaps anticipating that Uaso was looking for his favourite, Edie, so she moved forward fast to engage him in a pushing game and divert his attention. Although Uaso located Edie, Natumi made sure that he did not get the chance to mount her. When he left, Mukwaju and Salama were tempted to go with him, but returned about l0 minutes later.

15 July 2006

Because it was a cold morning, the orphans decided to warm up with games around the Stockade before proceeding to the browsing fields. Soon it turned hot, so the orphans left to quench their thirst and enjoy a mudbath. Solango decided to ambush the milk tractor, and when it finally arrived, Seraa and Mpala, who rushed to get their share, were astonished to find Solango half way through his! Morani wanted to fight Solango, but downed his bottle first. Meanwhile Morani and Burra took each other in a friendly pushing match, whilst Salama engaged Thoma. Edie was left behind having a dust bath, but soon came running, her trunk in the air, to determine where the others were, who by now were at the foot of Mazinga Hill.

16 July 2006

It was an uneventful day, with the search for fodder dominating events on the Northern side of Mazinga hill, where there is still some browse, interrupted only by a brief mudbath, which they all greatly enjoyed.

17 July 2006

There was some rain last night, so the orphans emerged with exuberance, and went rushing down the hill to the feeding area. Their joy knew no bounds, as they rolled in the small puddles, and played in the mud, but they had to quench their thirst at the drums near the waterhole. Mweya initiating a sliding game on her buttocks, soon to be joined by Edie and Ndara. Mweiga was in the hub of things, enjoying the wallow. Feeding resumed in the afternoon, and as usual it was Laikipia who signalled the time to return in the evening. The little orphaned kudu, Rukinga, and Serena, the orphaned zebra enjoyed feeding around the Stockades, and then lay together to take a rest after their 9 a.m. feed.

18 July 2006

The orphans were again in high spirits anticipating more rain filled fun out in the feeding area. Salama lay down in an attempt to attrack Irima for a game, and was very surprised when Irima obliged, for he is usually not a very playful character. The orphans fed on the northern side of Mazinga Hill, and enjoyed their mudbath at noon, when Thoma and Seraa lay down, tossing their trunks skywards in ecstacy. Loisaba and Mvita rubbed their bodies against the waterhole bank whilst Burra chose a tree to rub against. They fed earnestly for the rest of the day before returning in the evening.

19 July 2006

At noon milk feeding time, Seraa and Thoma had a race to see who could get to the bottles first, closely followed by Laikipia, who does not take milk, but wanted to see the result! All were amazed when Solango came past in high gear, overtaking them all and reaching the milk first! Having finished their milk, Seraa and Thoma mischievously forced their way through the onlooking Carr-Hartley family, scaring Taru and Roan. This is a trick the two elephant’s enjoy these days! Icholta decided to insert her legs into one of the drinking barrels to cool herself that way, but Laikipia became jealous, and came to chase her from the barrel. He then went to commiserate with the Carr-Hartley family, and thrilled the children by trying to un-lace their shoes. Mweya went to shade her head beneath Seraa’s belly, whilst Mweiga took her milk after taking water. All returned in the evening happy and well fed, led, as usual by Laikipia.

20 July 2006

Having enjoyed playing their usual games around the Stockade in the morning, the orphans were led out to the feeding area by Laikipia to the main feeding grounds, where they fed until the mudbath hour. During mudbath, Edie chased off some waterbucks whilst Solango rubbed his body against a log. Nyiro and Mvita rolled in the mud, until Natumi signalled that it was time to resume feeding, which they did until time to return in the evening.

21 July 2006

This morning, whilst Nyiro and Edie did the rounds wishing the others ‘good morning’, Seraa and Mpala went to feed behind the Stockades on the lower slopes of Mazinga Hill until the others joined them. After mudbath, Nyiro and Lolokwe enjoyed a pushing game which was interrupted by Laikipia. On the way home, Lolokwe played with Nuyiro whilst Salama took on Icholta. Then Nyiro engaged Solango interlocked trunks and tusks in a friendship bout until it was time for Laikipia to lead the group back home.

22 July 2006

This morning the orphans enjoyed chasing the baboons around the Stockades before leaving when Laikipia led the group out into the bush. After the mudbath, the orphans were scared by a lesser kudu which ran in amongst them, causing them to rush to the Keepers for protection. They also came across a herd of buffalo who looked on amazed by the combination of the elephant and human herd.

23 July 2006

Because it was a hot day, the orphans, led by Burra, went early to the mudbath, where they found a warthog trying to cool himself. The orphans trumpeted and enjoyed chasing him around before taking a mudwallow themselves. In the afternoon they fed until it was time for Laikipia to lead them home with Burra following.

24 July 2006

Out in the field, where the orphans began to feed in ernest, Irima and Morani engaged each other in a tussle, monitored by Loisaba. After mudbath they went to feed up Mazinga Hill until it was time to return, when Laikipia led the group back.

25 July 2006

The orphans fed avidly out in the main Park before splitting into two groups, Natumi taking some up Mazinga Hill, whilst Mweiga, accompanied by Sosian, Mweya and a few of the others remained at the foot of the hill. Feeding dominated their day, because it was too cool to wallow.

26 July 2006

Feeding dominated the morning. At the mudbath Salama Solango and Morani splashed water over themselves and on each other whislt Burra knelt down and Mpala and Salama rolled in the mud. Later the orphans fed near Mazinga Hill, Loisaba and Natumi leadine one group back in the evening, and Burra and Solango leading the other group back home

27 July 2006

On the way to feed, having enjoyed games at the Stockade, Thoma and Morani enjoyed a pushing match whilst Edie charged a dikdik. Natumi kept Mweiga company at the foot of Mazinga Hill whilst Sosian and Mweya fed nearby. It was a cool day, so feeding dominated the time, but for a brief period when Ndara knelt down, and Edie rubbed herself against a log. As usual Laikipia led the group back in the eveing.

28 July 2006

Although the new stables for the orphans that are not elephants are not yet quite ready, Serena and Rukinga already favour them. Serena comes back to them to take her milk. She is becoming quite independent now and feeds on her own around the Stockade, happy to be within the vicinity, but not actually in the company of a Keeper.

29 July 2006

The baby kudu, Rukinga, tried to follow Serena up the hill, but found the going too tough so came back. Serena then joined him and they fed together around the Stockades.

30 July 2006

Because it was a hot day, all the orphans enjoyed plunging into the mudbath at noon. Burra and Morani entertained the others by sitting on the bank opposite each other. They took a long mudbath today, because it was so hot, and in the evening were happy to return home, led by Laikipia.

31 July 2006

Feeding dominated the morning, until Burra led the group to the mudbath at noon, when he lay in the water and hit the surface with his trunk to entice the others in. Lolokwe, Edie and Salama played amazing games in the wallow with great energy. Sosian treated Mweiga to a wonderful dousing. Uaso turned up when the orphans returned to the feeding area, but left when they began to return to the Stockades for the night.