Keepers' Diaries, July 2014

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Voi Reintegration Unit

Emily’s group have stopped making their regular visits to the Voi stockade compound this month and keepers and elephants alike have missed them. Only ex-orphans Idie and her calf, Icholta, Mweya, Lolokwe, Irima, Serra, Thoma and Ndara came to visit at the end of the month. Mweya entertained the young ones with some acrobatic games whilst Mzima was cornered in a rough game with both Icholta and Thoma engaging him head on.

Emily’s group have stopped making their regular visits to the Voi stockade compound this month and keepers and elephants alike have missed them. Only ex-orphans Idie and her calf, Icholta, Mweya, Lolokwe, Irima, Serra, Thoma and Ndara came to visit at the end of the month.
Mweya entertained the young ones with some acrobatic games whilst Mzima was cornered in a rough game with both Icholta and Thoma engaging him head on.

Throughout the month the Voi orphans have met up with a number of wild elephants out in the bush or at the mud bath. Extrovert Mzima is usually the first elephant to approach the wild herds when out in the park. He sometimes even leaves with them, especially if he has found a wild friend to play with, and only returns to the orphan herd much later in the day when they are heading back to the stockade.

One day, Mzima wanted to follow a wild herd but was overpowering his wild opponent and an aggressive elephant cow charged and chased him off. He ran back very quickly to join his orphan friends, who had all moved off to browse, learning his lesson to play gently.

When the wild herds have a good number of wild calves the meetings tend to be full of games. Mzima, Taveta and Tassia have on many occasions engaged in a pushing games with their wild friends. The orphans love playing with wild calves their own age. However, they sometimes bite off more than they can chew, such as when Tassia was playing with a wild elephant baby who was slightly older than he was. Poor Tassia had to voluntarily give up the game after he received some hard pushes from the bigger wild elephant calf, having to take evasive action without loosing face!

The bulls; Mzima, Taveta, Tassia and Dabassa love to play whereas the girls are less inclined and instead focus their attention on any small babies that maybe in the wild herds. Sinya, Lesanju, Kihari, Ishaq-B, Kenia, Ndii, Panda and Lempaute prefer following the tiniest calf in the herd, but these small babies are guarded fiercely by their mothers, brothers or sisters who are quick to see off any baby snatchers!

One early morning the orphans were so busy eating their lucerne grass and the dry season dairy cubes handout that they didn't notice the arrival of a wild herd of elephants that came to the stockade water trough for a drink. Wasessa, Lempaute and Lesanju were the first to spot them and their reaction was to immediately ran off, leading their orphaned friends away with them. However, they soon noticed all was well and later returned to then join the wild herd back at the stockade and spent a good part of the morning in an amongst them. The Voi orphaned girls led by Lesanju are weary of time with the wild elephants, as she is extremely protective of her new orphaned family and want her herd to remain very much intact.

The orphan’s reaction to each wild elephant encounter is unpredictable. Sometimes they move away and give them a miss, and other times they immerse themselves. One morning the orphans followed a wild cow that came down to drink at the stockade as they were extremely interested in her young calf. They even followed up the hill to join the rest of her herd and stayed there with the wild elephants for the rest of the day. That day they even missed their afternoon milk bottle, which has not happened before, and only returned to the safety of the stockade in the evening. The keepers throughout this time were reduced to mere spectators.

It’s not just the orphan girls that love to snatch baby calves from wild herds. One day this month there was a huge congregation of elephants when three herds converged at the orphan’s mud bath. The orphans were having lots of fun and playing a variety of frolicking games. However, it was all brought to an abrupt end when a wild teenage calf tried to snatch Mudanda. Both Wasessa and Lesanju immediately reacted and instantly pulled their orphan herd away. Lesanju, Sinya and Wasessa are very often the three that bring these wild encounters to an end and it is usually because a wild cow or calf pays too much attention to Mudanda, which Wasessa doesn’t appreciate at all.

Wasessa still dotes on her little Mudanda and is first out of her stockade to stand over her and make sure she has her milk bottle in peace. Wasessa is starting to relax a little around the other orphans and even let Mzima rest his trunk on Mudanda when she was drinking water. This is something she would never have tolerated in the past. Beautiful Kenia has managed this month to be given the duty of watching over Mudanda at the mud bath until Wasessa arrived and both Lempaute and Lesanju have managed to sneak in some time to embrace and touch the littlest orphan baby.

Lesanju also protected Mudanda when Wasessa got herself into a spot of trouble with Mzima. She had tried to charge Ndii but missed and accidentally landed on Mzima. Mzima went for revenge which required Sinya and Lempaute’s intervention. Mudanda helplessly took refuge close to Lesanju as she watched her beloved Wassesa in the middle of a fight. This was the first time many months that Mzima has been in a real fighting situation as he is usually very calm and playful. Luckily, the two peace keepers managed to restore calm to the herd and Wasessa took Mudanda away to reassure her all was well by stroking her back with her trunk.

The orphans usually leave their stockades in a jovial mood, particularly if the morning is warm, which in this cold season is not always the case. They then enjoy a milk bottle and their supplement foods of Copra Cake and Lucerne. After they have had their fill the usual socialising games commence which are usually pushing games, wrestling matches, dust baths or rock scratching within the compound. Sometimes the orphans love nothing better than to team up and ambush the baboons that come to try and steal their supplement foods. Dabassa, Taveta, Panda, Naipoki, Ishaq-B, Ndii, Kenia and Kivuko are particularly fond of this game. On seeing these baby elephants coming full charge the baboons usually change their minds and head to the KWS camps to try their luck there instead.

Not every day this month has been cold and occasionally the orphans have woken up to a bright warm sunny day. On such days the orphans have sheltered themselves under acacia trees before proceeding to the water hole at noon for the mud bathing games to begin. Only Sinya is not a huge fan of muddy water and she was not happy when Layoni stood in front of her and accidentally sprayed her with mud and water that was intended for him. Sinya pushed Layoni into the water as punishment, but Layoni didn’t seem to mind and he moved to the centre of the wallow to take his bath.

Dabassa and Rombo are often getting up to mischief together. Dabassa introduced a game of sliding down Msinga hill in a kneeling position which was quite dangerous. Even Rombo didn’t want to join him but he did start pushing a huge rock with his head with the intention of rolling it down onto the others Luckily for the orphans the rock wouldn’t budge an inch. Of course it goes without saying that the keepers are constantly casting a watchful eye over proceedings.

The bulls prefer their strength testing games which can become very intense. Tassia found a way of beating Layoni by pretending he was defeated when it looked as if he was going to lose. He then waited for Layoni to turn his back on him to celebrate his victory and then used this moment to push Layoni very hard from behind, knocking him down instantly. Layoni screamed in distress and the typical three peacemakers, Sinya, Lesanju and Lempaute, intervened to assist him. Layoni, Tassia, Taveta, Dabassa, Mzima and Rombo are often challenging each other, but it’s usually the girls that have to put a stop to any play that gets out of hand. The boys just love to have a show of mighty power games and engage each other in an attempt to amaze the ladies with their strength, but the girls are rarely impressed by their antics.

The girls prefer different entertainment and Ndii introduced a nice game of throwing and hauling huge chunks of soil onto her back which would then burst into soft powder. This attracted Panda, little Mudanda, Naipoki and Kihari who soon copied her. On another nice morning Ndii, Layoni, Dabassa and Panda started the day by enjoying a dust bath whilst lying on the ground. Kenia was not given an official invitation to join in and decided to ride on each one, starting with the small ones and finishing her mission with Ndii.

Some old scores have been settled this month between the orphans even between the girls who are usually the more peaceful members of the herd. Sinya had to break up a fight between Mbirikani and Kihari by intervening and placing herself in the middle of the two. Mbirikani and Kihari were glaring at each other over the top of Sinya clearly wanting to continue fighting. Mbirikani’s temper was running high and in frustration she bit her trunk and left it in her mouth for some time, maybe to calm herself down.

Tassia and Taveta were left behind by the others one day as the two were fighting so fiercely over some unsettled argument. Kenia and Ndii went to retrieve Tassia and Taveta when they realised they had been left behind immediately tried to divert attention by initiating a game of hide and seek to reduce the tension between the naughty bulls.

Towards the end of the month the orphans have had to compromise their play time and head out to the browsing fields early. As the bush dries up the orphans have to spread further and further apart to find enough food and travel further distances in search of food. In the dry seasons there is less time for fun and games while more of their day is spent browsing.

The Voi keepers were also pleased this month to see Aruba, the ex-orphan Kudu with a new wild born baby. This little girl is now hand raised Aruba’s third baby and all three of her offspring are very healthy.

July 2014 day to day

01 Jul

After a wonderful night in the safety of the stockade, the babies were happy to welcome another day. They enjoyed feeding on the copla cake and the Lucerne grass before starting their usual socializing games in the stockade compound. Layoni tested his strength in a competition with Tassia. The pushing game became very intense until Tassia pretended that he was defeated and presented his buttocks to Layoni in submission. Layoni then celebrated his victory and turned to face the others, but was caught off guard when Tassia suddenly pushed him very hard from behind which knocked him down instantly. Layoni screamed in distress and Sinya, Lesanju and Lempaute intervened to assist him. This marked the end of the stockade games paving way to the beginning of a long day of browsing in the field. At noon, Kivuko led the orphans to the water hole. After enjoying a bottle of milk, they had a very brief mud bath due to the cold weather before moving out for the final browsing session of the day. Mbirikani then led the milk dependant orphans back to the stockade in the evening.

Layoni and Tassia playing

Bath time play