Keepers' Diaries, July 2015

Voi Reintegration Unit

The month began with a lively encounter with wild elephants at the mud bath. Our bulls really enjoy the interaction with wild male friends which they challenge to strength testing games - very often they take on more than they anticipate and have to make a hasty retreat, but they savour these physical encounters. Mzima, Kivuko, Dabasa, Rombo and Taveta were in the mix on the 1st of July. On the 2nd of July a wild cow with her calf that Tassia has joined came back to have a drink at the stockades and to check in with Tassia’s friends. He seems extremely happy in his adopted family’s company for the moment. The others enjoyed seeing them all and there were warm greetings shared and then they left for an undisclosed destination, still with Tassia in tow.

01 July 2015

It was a wonderful morning as orphans came out of their stockades in a playful mood. They played around after supplement feeding before heading out for morning browsing. Their morning went on undisturbed until noon when Naipoki led the way to the big water pool where they enjoyed noon milk feeding before proceeding for a wonderful mud bath afterwards. They had not been in the mud bath long when a wild herd of elephants approached and Kivuko and Dabasa moved forward to welcome them in the water pool. Before they even had a chance to enter the mudbath, Mzima chose one wild friend of a similar age and challenged him to a test of strength and a ‘pushing game’. Rombo and Taveta approached to support Mzima for this great new game with other, slightly older, wild elephant also moving in to help their family member as well. The three orphans were forced to pull back once this combined strength of the three wild boys became too much for them. It was obvious their wild friends were slightly more superior in strength and age than them! Slowly the wild herd started to move away from the water pool, and Kihari lead the way back to the stockade for the night.

02 July 2015

Today started as it meant to go on with a wonderful browsing session in the morning followed by an afternoon mudbath. The rest of the browsing day went on close to the big water hole, with the orphans sometimes moving to take refuge from the scorching sun under big trees. On arriving at the stockade in the evening, the orphans encountered the single elephant mother with her small calf enjoying a drink in the stockade water trough. This was the same wild elephant that went with Tassia, and they were still together today. The calf watched the orphans emptying their evening milk bottle in wonder and amazement. She approached them closely, and went to greet Kivuko and Kenia in a trunk touching encounter. The wild calf teased Kivuko, inviting her for a wrestling match. But Kivuko bravely turned down the offer in fear of an attack from its mother. The junior orphans hung around for a few minutes watching the wild elephant calf, before moving for their grewia branches and feeding as usual in their stables. Lesanju’s herd had gone directly into the upper stables without noticing the presence of the wild cow and its calf. The wild elephant cow, together with her calf and Tassia, then walked away from the stockades and back into the wild.

03 July 2015

It was a nice start to the day with the orphans coming out of their stockades in the early morning hours for their usual morning browsing session. Mzima, Taveta and Lempaute took the lead, driving all the orphans up and towards Msinga hill. Realizing that the three were determined to reach the top of the hill for further browsing, the milk dependant younger orphans decided to stop half way for their noon milk bottle with Sinya, Lesanju and Wasessa remaining with them. Afternoon came fast and the orphans who had stayed in the middle of the hill decided to come down and head to the big water hole, followed closely by the three older females. Mzima, Taveta and Lempaute remained up the hill, browsing, and were not in any hurry to come down. They leisurely joined the other orphans at the base of the hill at 4pm and they all walked back to the stockades together for the evening.

04 July 2015

The orphans were thirsty this morning and after they had finished their milk bottles they decided to browse the bush in the direction of the waterhole for the afternoon. After their second milk feeding the orphans drank clean water from the half drum barrels and were joined by a small, wild elephant herd that had come to share the same clean water. One wild elephant cow had a small calf that became quite an attraction to the Voi orphans. Seeing as it was a very cloudy day, the wild herd decided not to go to the main water hole for a bath, but walked away after drinking. Nelion tried the cold water bath, but was reluctant to completely submerge himself. Wasessa however decided to bathe completely, and Tundani joined her, lying down in the cold water. Ndii was quite impatient to join them and plunged into the water to challenge the two in a fantastic bathing competition. Panda decided to better Ndii’s swimming expertise, and proved to be a very good swimmer indeed. On noticing that Panda was posing a threat to her bathing prowess, Ndii came up to Panda and tried to jab her on her back with her small tusks! Panda wasn’t very up for the competition and reluctantly decided to leave the water hole. Layoni and Mzima stayed in the water hole the longest, and rest of the day of browsing went on close to that water hole.

05 July 2015

It was a nice morning with slight showers blessing the dry Tsavo park land as the orphans set off for their busy browsing session of the day. The orphans enjoyed browsing on the new soft, moist grass with the sun coming out later in the day, warming up the whole area. The orphans went to the big water hole as usual, with the milk dependent babies moving first followed by the older Lesanju herd. They only stayed for a brief bath, and were joined by a teenage wild elephant boy who drifted away from his herd which was browsing nearby. The wild boy took Bada and Ishaq B for a wonderful soil dusting session. Wasessa was successful in pulling Mudanda away from the draw of the wild boy for a tree scratching game. The wild boy stayed only briefly before moving off to rejoin his wild elephant herd that decided not to come to the big water hold that day. Ndii attempted to go to the water hole to play, but none of the others wanted to join her in the cold water. The rest of the browsing day continued at the foot of Msinga Hill, before Lentili lead them back to the stockades in the afternoon.

06 July 2015

Today the orphans moved further towards the northern side of the park for browsing, before turning and arriving at the big water hole for the afternoon. As the orphans arrived they crossed paths with a wild herd of elephants that had just drunk and taken a bath. Mzima followed them and one of the teenage wild boys got hold of Mzima’s rear end and began pushing him slowly, encouraging him to go with them. Mzima went with that wild herd for the better part of the day, only coming back around 3.30pm to rejoin his friends, ready to move back to the stockades for the evening. Back at the water hole, Lempaute took Bada for some dusting games, as Wasessa stuck with Ndoria and Mudanda for some tree scratching. Rombo and Panda decided to bathe in the deep water, swimming like mud fish. Kenia and Panda then embarked in a wonderful dusting session, before joining the others in browsing.

07 July 2015

Today after a morning of undisturbed browsing, a wild elephant herd approached to join the orphans. Naipoki and Ishaq B, who were the first to greet the herd, got a fright from one big bull that was quite boisterous and broke a huge acacia tree just a few meters in front of them. They ran back, but the others were still keen to greet the wild herd as there were several small calves within the group. The orphans succeeded in joining them, and browsed with them for more than twenty minutes before leaving them and heading towards the big water pool. Today they only drank their milk and water and decided not to bathe as it was another cold day. They never went back to join that wild herd, and remained browsing for the rest of the day.

08 July 2015

It was a fairly cold morning when the orphans left their stockades for browsing. They settled into their browsing but were very slow, as without a lot rain in Tsavo it took a lot of time for them to find the vegetation they wanted to munch on. They then moved towards the big water hole at noon with the juniors moving first to take their bottle, followed by Lesanju and the others. On arriving at the water hole, Panda plunged in as if the water had already been deliberately heated for her. The others dipped their feet in but were not really willing to join her, and remained on the side as spectators. Eventually, Dabasa became so jealous of Panda’s water games and the spectacle she was creating, that he decided to go into the water as well. Panda came out, but knew she had given the best performance of the day.

09 July 2015

It was a slightly more adventurous morning today as Panda bravely climbed the flat rock close to the stockade’s water trough, in aim of targeting the greenest branches higher up on the trees. Nelion, Lentili, Tundani and Mudanda watched her with great curiosity. Eventually Mudanda attempted to follow her, but was blocked by Lesanju who got worried that the little one could possibly fall into the water trough and injure herself. The orphans then moved out towards the browsing grounds under the careful leadership of Sinya and Kenia. The browsing day went on perfectly well with the orphans visiting the big water hole and only taking a very brief bath as it was extremely cold, before returning to the stockades for the evening.

10 July 2015

It was a nice morning with plenty of games in the stockade compound. Naipoki was very excited, lying and rolling onto the ground. Her trumpeting attracting Rombo, who came in and lay down on Naipoki’s stomach trying to interrupt her game. Ndoria, who had started off heading off towards the browsing grounds, surprised all the other orphans when she turned back leading a big wild herd of elephants with two little calves. She brought them into the stockade water trough for a drink. Naipoki took advantage of the thirsty wild elephants moving in to drink, to separate the two wild calves from their mother. The wild calves were very thirsty though, and didn’t stay to greet Naipoki long before going for the water trough as well. Naipoki went on trying to attract their attention after they had finished drinking, but she was met by an unfriendly older sister which chased her off. The wild herd gradually began to move off. Only one wild boy was left to socialize with Mzima briefly. When he tried to move off and re-join his herd, Mzima went with him, later joining back up with the orphans in the afternoon at the water hole. He then stayed with the other orphans browsing for the rest of the day, before Tundani enjoyed leading them back to the stockade for the evening.

11 July 2015

Today the orphans went on a long browsing walk all the way around Msinga Hill, arriving at the big water hole well into the afternoon. Here they encountered a wild herd of elephants and they all went in search of some young calves to play with. Kivuko was lucky and found a young calf to engage in some pushing games with, but it was soon taken away by its brothers and sisters as they moved off into the bush. Naipoki was heavily involved in trying to prevent Bada from going off with the wild herd, as he had fallen in love with them. The rest of the browsing session went on well after some bathing time, until they turned back to the stockades.

12 July 2015

It was a wonderful day today with the orphans browsing all the way up to the northern side of the stockade, turning back and heading into the big water hole in the afternoon. After having a milk bottle at noon, the orphans moved to the water hole to find the water bowzer emptying water into the pool. A big wild herd of elephants approached to drink water as well, but were friendly, and stood waiting patiently for the water bowzer to fill the pool as if they knew why it was there and for their benefit. After the tractor had moved off and they had all drank, the elephants plunged into the water for a bath. The orphans surrounded a small wild calf and enjoyed watching her playing and rolling around in the now plentiful water. Even Sinya, who doesn’t usually favor bathing, felt like getting into the water and joining in the great game the baby was having. She quickly changed her mind though, and decided to come out soon after stepping into the cold water. Lentili, Bada and Nelion teamed up to enjoy a great lying down dusting session. Bada trumpeted loudly, as one wild elephant boy came over to inspect their dusting game. Mbirikani tried to show off her expertise in the dusting game to the wild herd, while Panda shied away when she was approached by a big wild bull elephant. Ishaq B and Tundani’s dusting game attracted one wild calf that played with them briefly. The wild herd later left the orphans browsing close to that water hole, as they moved off into the bush in the direction of the Voi River.

13 July 2015

The orphans left the stockade early in the morning to catch the first light of the day in browsing. After a continuous three hours of browsing, a wild herd of elephants joined them. Taveta was fast enough to secure a wild teenage boy in a wrestling match. This was a perfect interaction and the herd was very friendly to the orphans and stayed to browse with them for one hour before walking off. The orphans followed them close to the big water hole, but had to turn back to drink water and milk as the wild herd proceeded further towards the Voi River. The orphans went to follow them, but came back on reaching the air strip as the wild herd had already gone.

14 July 2015

The orphans had a wonderful morning browsing session, with a wild herd joining them a few minutes before noon. They only stayed for a brief interaction though, as their minds were already fixated onto the noon milk bottle, and moving on towards the big water hole. Mzima was bold enough to take on a big wild boy for a test of strength ‘pushing’ game. He was left behind together with Layoni and Dabasa. Layoni and Dabasa joined the other orphans in the water hole ten minutes later, leaving Mzima behind with his wild friend. Mzima went with the wild herd and came back later in the day, knocking for his stable to open later that night. When all the orphans were in their respective stockades and the keepers were sitting down to have some dinner, some sad news arrived of a wild elephant calf that had been trapped down a man hole in the Mzima Spring/Mombasa water pipe line. The keepers dropped their plates and hurried to save that crucial life. The rescue operation was highly charged with the wild elephant herd blocking the approaching rescue vehicles. In the end all went well with the orphan calf being rescued and handed over to its mother and family. The calf went straight suckling its mother as she was obviously very stressed and in need of reassurance, as well as thirsty! This was a lucky escape for this young baby, which due to the quick response of the Voi keepers was able to keep its life and its family.

15 July 2015

In today’s browsing session Nelion strategically went down on his knees to target the greener branches lower down on the ground. Tundani watched curiously as Nelion was successful in harvesting these greener pastures, stuffing them into his mouth. The orphans later moved off to the water hole for milk and water. There was some fully fledged bathing action as Wesessa moved into the central wallowing area followed closely by Kihari and Mudanda. She made it look like there was nothing greater than a bathing session! Mzima went on a dusting spree, lifting his legs skyward as if he were a long time dusting star. Kivuko bathed on the edge of the water however, to avoid embarrassment in the bathing competition. Lastly Rombo took to a wonderful scratching session on a nearby acacia tree, as Kenia admired the game from the sidelines.

16 July 2015

There was a dramatic moment today when Bada, who had come down with the first group to drink his milk, ran back to follow her adopted mother Wasessa, as soon as he had finished his bottle. He nearly got knocked down by Layoni and Dabasa however, who were running down for their milk, and they all nearly had a head on collision. Bada screamed loudly and Wasessa broke through the bush, running as fast as she could ready for anything that might be attacking her adopted ‘baby’. Wasessa embracing Bada and calmed him down, offering assurance that everything was fine. The rest of the day continued peacefully and the orphans had a wonderful time playing in the water before moving on for the final browsing session of the day. A wild elephant cow with her two babies and her calf came to visit the stockade when the orphans were already in their stables for the evening. Lentili, Tundani, Nelion and Mbirikani went rumbling from the inside to greet them. This is a common little herd who visit the stockade frequently to drink water. They stayed around the stockade compound for around twenty minutes, very comfortable in their surroundings, before moving off into the wild again.

17 July 2015

Today was a warm day and as such there was a lot of action in the water hole. Layoni was the best swimmer of the day, with Dabassa moving in jealously to interfere with his games. Layoni then came out of the water to continue showing off in a dusting game that attracted Kihari and many other spectators, leaving Dabassa alone in the water! It was a very touching moment for Naipoki who met up with Edwin Lusichi, the head keeper from the Nairobi nursery. She had not seen him for nearly two years but she greeted him so warmly it was obvious she remembered and missed him! The memory of an elephant is a wonderful thing. Later there was another encounter between the orphans and another wild elephant herd near the water hole. Wasessa went in to block a teenage wild friend from approaching her adopted babies Mudanda, Ndoria and Bada. The rest of the browsing day went on perfectly well close to that water pool and later Lentili enjoyed leading them back to the safety of the stockade for the evening.

18 July 2015

It was a wonderful morning today and Nelion, Lentili, Tundani and Ndoria teamed up to take the orphans far towards the eastern side of the stockade. All the other orphans followed them and milk was taken to them there instead of the water hole as it was cold and they were not in a hurry to visit it. Here one wild boy left his elephant herd to join the orphans and Mzima engaged him in a long pushing game so favored by young males of that age. Mzima was very determined and was quite a challenge for the wild boy despite him being slightly older than Mzima. Mzima later followed that wild boy towards the water pipe line, and came back to join the others around two hours later. The orphans then went into the water pool later in the day when it became warmer. Naipoki mischievously lay onto Kihari stomach sliding and falling down as if it were a mud slide! Rombo enjoyed a dusting game with Kivuko, before joining their friends for an afternoon of browsing.

19 July 2015

This morning started well with the orphans happily playing a game of hide and seek in the stockade compound, before heading to the browsing grounds. Not long into the morning, we received some distressing news about a wild elephant calf that had fallen into the Sentrim/Tarhi Camp water trough during night, and its mother and family were being unsuccessful in rescuing her. On arriving in the scene we found that the other elephant family members had already given up the struggle, and left the desperate mother helplessly watching her calf. We tried using the vet vehicle together with the keepers to try and push the calf out of the trough. This was a little difficult as the elephant calf seemed to trust and follow the keepers and their vehicle, but the mother kept charging. In the end the rescue mission succeeded and the calf, that was only a few days old, was reunited with his mother and went straight to reassure itself by drinking milk. Another good end to a possibly disastrous situation for this young calf and its mother.

20 July 2015

It was a nice morning today. Ngulia, the orphan zebra, engaged the baboons in a game of chase as they came down the hill. The orphan elephants then took over from her, ambushing the baboons on the lower side of the stockade. Most of the baboons managed to sneak under the electric wire fencing, and run away. This left the orphans to feed in peace on their copra cake, after making sure that the area was very clear off the baboon menace that might steal their sweet cake! They then marched out of the stockade for the browsing grounds. Later that afternoon they visited the big water hole had a wonderful time bathing, and just missed a wild herd of elephants that had also come to bathe. Two small wild calves went swimming, before the wild herd moved out and disappeared into the bush.

21 July 2015

As the orphans were in the middle of enjoying the water pool in the afternoon, a big wild elephant herd approached to join them. One wild elephant cow had such big tusks she scared most of the orphans out of the water pool! The wild herd plunged into the water for a bath, and the wild calves that were playing in the water attracted most of the orphans back to the edge of the pool. The wild herd stayed in the water for quite some time and the orphans stayed to watch them, very curious as to how they played in the water. Kihari got very excited, trumpeting and charging in a bid to show off to the wild calves. Mzima later went with this wild herd for about an hour, before returning back to join his friends in browsing for the remainder of the day.

22 July 2015

The orphans were slow in their browsing session this morning, as they were enjoying the ample vegetation. In the afternoon they moved towards the water hole and enjoyed their bath time. As they were about to get out of the water, a wild elephant herd with several calves arrived and plunged into the water as well. Mbirikani, Panda, Lentili, Tundani and Nelion didn’t want to get out since the new calves arrived, and wanted to stay and play with them in the water. It took Lesanju, Lempaute and Wasessa a lot of effort at the time to try and prevent the little ones from moving off with the wild herd. Sinya was sent as an ambassador to collect the five remaining babies and reunite them with their fellow orphan herd, a task she performed extremely well. The rest of the browsing day went on undisturbed and ended with Mudanda enjoying the lead of taking the orphans back to the stockades for the night.

23 July 2015

When they were let out of their stockades this morning the orphans enjoyed a few socializing games, before moving off into the bush for browsing. They continued throughout the day until they moved to the water hole in the afternoon as usual. Bada spent most of the time in the water and before long Mbirikani also joined him and lay down beside him, Wasessa too! Sinya went into the water to cheer up Mbirikani, but backed off slightly when she saw how much water Mbirikani was tossing around! They later all left the water hole and moved towards the drier ground for dust bathing, where Tundani was really showing off to everyone, before moving on to browsing for the rest of the day. A short while later there was a call to assist another wild elephant calf that had fallen down another water pipe line manhole, this time it was more technical and difficult operation and it was seven o’clock in the night by the time the calf was rescued. All went well in the end though and eventually the wild elephant calf was reunited with its desperate mother, and the herd moved off.

24 July 2015

The orphans came out of their stockades and enjoyed their morning milk bottle and some social game again. Naipoki was engaged in scratching her backside on a rock, which Mzima and Dabassa watched her do for some time before they wanted to have a scratch as well! Soon Mbirikani and Lesanju took the lead of the others and lead them towards the browsing grounds. On arriving onto the foot of the Msinga hill, Mbirikani led the orphans up the hill, but Lesanju preferred to remain browsing on the flatter, lower sides. Mbirikani went on ahead with a mission of going up the hill, and left the others behind. Later she came down the hill on her own as well, and headed for the big water hole. She was pleasantly surprised to find her milk bottle there all ready and waiting! She received prime treatment as well as the only orphan that was there. The other orphans arrived 10 minutes or so later, and were surprised to find Mbirikani already enjoying her bath! The rest of the day went on and was uneventful, and later the orphans returned to the safety of their stockades for the night.

25 July 2015

This morning started very well with the milk dependant orphans emptying a bottle of their morning along with their supplements, before engaging in a game of hide and seek within the stockade compound. After all the fun and antics, Lesanju and Kenia led the way out to the browsing grounds. Today the orphans browsed more onto the eastern side of the stockades, before walking to the water hole in the afternoon. Once at the water they all jumped into the thick, soupy mud and had a fun time bathing altogether. Kivuko and Dabasa had the best game, lying on one another’s stomach, which attracted the attention of a lot of the other orphans. They were having so much fun the two elephants did not notice an approaching wild herd of elephants, even though their friends rushed out of the water in order to make room for the running and thirsty herd. The two soon found themselves in the midst of the wild herd’s wallowing session. Since they were stuck in the middle, the orphans mixed freely with the wild herd before following them out of the water and for some browsing nearby. After an hour they turned back, and arrived at the stockade for the evening, as the other were led back by under the leadership of Lentili and Nelion.

26 July 2015

After the orphans had enjoyed a few hours of browsing this morning, more distressing news arrived of a wild elephant calf that had fallen into the a water pipe line manhole. The keepers went straight out to try and save this wild elephant calf. To begin with, they encountered difficulties in chasing off the wild elephant mother who stayed close to her trapped baby. Reinforcement was needed of a third vehicle from the stockade. In the end the rescue was successful and the wild elephant calf was reunited with its mother, who it began suckling from straight away. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a very busy day with a second wild elephant calf being trapped in this same manhole at 7.40pm. The fact it was already dark made this rescue slightly more technical. The mother elephant was very aggressive, chasing off the vehicles into some rough terrain. In the end this rescue too was successful, despite the dangerous circumstances and risk involved. Attempts are being made to try and change the manholes so they are more covered.

27 July 2015

It was a nice morning for the orphans and they browsed on the southern side of the stockades. They returned later in the afternoon to greet visiting pupils. Lempaute played mischievous games on the ground that made the students laugh. Later the students left on the Trust bus which took them on a game drive to educate them about wildlife and conservation. The orphans also left to browse on greens for a bit longer. Nelion took Bada to task over a test of strength in a pushing game. Naipoki moved in to join but realised it wasn’t a great fight and marched off again. Layoni followed closely but decided not to intervene and he realised it was only a game too. He resorted to browsing close by to keep an eye on them. The rest of the browsing day went on perfectly well with the orphans returning safely to the safety of the stockade that evening.

28 July 2015

This morning after milk the orphans settled briefly on a rock scratching game at the foot of Msinga Hill before proceeding with their normal morning browsing. When running for her afternoon milk bottle, Mudanda accidentally knocked Lentili on the buttocks when she failed to apply enough brakes. Lentili stopped feeding on her milk bottle so she could take revenge, but the keepers moved in to stop the fight from happening and the orphans continued feeding peacefully on milk. There were no grudges held and the rest of the browsing went on peacefully between the two.

29 July 2015

It was raining this morning when the orphans came out of their stockades. Naipoki, Kihari, Lentili and Nelion went down to play with some mud before joining the others in browsing. Rombo and Mzima decided to explore the deep interior of the park leaving the others behind. The rest of the orphans went to drink milk and water in the big water hole at noon, with the two boys missing in action. The afternoon browsing carried on as normal and Mzima and Rombo later came to the stockade around 7pm, with the keepers opening the gates for them to enjoy their grewia branch feeding with the others.

30 July 2015

It was raining again this morning and the orphans could not hide their joy – playing a game of hide and seek in the stockade compound before heading out to the browsing grounds. The orphans enjoyed feeding on the wet grass. They then went to the waterhole to drink but decided not to bathe. Only Ndoria went into the water to try the cold bath, but was pulled out by her colleagues who had started leaving the water hole for browsing. Later in the day a single wild elephant bull browsed past the orphans but no one went to interact with him. The rest of the browsing day went on peacefully on the eastern side of the park, with Tundani enjoying leading them back to the stockade that evening.

31 July 2015

Lentili and Bada seemed to have a score to settle soon after drinking their morning milk bottle. Wasessa approached to stop the fight and Bada tenderly touched Wasessa’s mouth with his trunk to show his appreciation of her coming over. Sinya, Kenia and Ndii took control of leading all the others towards the browsing grounds. Tassia, who went with a wild cow a few weeks ago, is not yet back and was not seen in recent days. Emily’s herd that usually migrates during this dry period were also not seen for the better part of this month as well. Ngulia, the orphan zebra, is flourishing in the stockade with her age now approaching a teenage wild zebra.