Keepers' Diaries, July 2016

Voi Reintegration Unit

During the height of the dry season, the Voi orphans have concentrated on feeding in order to benefit from the best remaining vegetation, prior to the onset of another dry season. During very dry conditions the dependent orphans receive a healthy supplementary supply of Lucerne and copra cake in addition to their milk feeds, as they, accompanied by their Keepers are unable to traverse huge distances in search of food. However, their body condition remains good despite such testing conditions. The month began with our Voi keepers receiving a report about an orphaned elephant calf sighted near the DSWT funded Dida Harea borehole on the southern plains of Tsavo East. The Voi team of Keepers immediately travelled to the scene to rescue the baby before returning to the Voi air strip to await the arrival from Nairobi of the Rescue Plane to airlift the female calf to the Nairobi Nursery for intensive care. This little baby has since been named Mara Moja, (the Swahili word for “right now” after her rescue on the 1st of the month.)

01 July 2016

It was a nice beginning of the day with the orphan elephants coming out looking forward to the day. Milk bottles were followed by lucerne before some of the orphans played some hide and seek games in the stockade compound. After games they all headed out to the browsing grounds, where they settled down to browse in single file. Later this morning an orphan elephant calf was sighted by the Tsavo Trust scouts near the Dida Harea wind pump. This calf was all alone and was watched for a few hours to see if it would join a herd; but when this did not happen the scouts called the Voi stockade in order to coordinate a possible rescue. The stockade mobilized a rescue team and called the Nairobi HQ to facilitate a rescue; they rescued the calf and took it to the Voi air strip to wait for the Keepers from Nairobi to take it to the nursery, as it was only a young calf.

02 July 2016

The dependent orphans concentrated onto their usual feeding activity before engaging in some fun games on the piles of soil in the stockade compound. Embu loves lying on the soft soil piles, but she wasn’t able to today as she had to avoid making her wounds worse. Nelion and Rorogoi followed Embu in order to play with her, but Embu calculated the pros and cons and decided it was probably better not to take the big risk of lying down for those games. Panda saw the games were taking longer than expected and blew a loud trumpet blast to make all the orphans follow her out. They well for that half of the day before moving to the middle water hole at noon. The orphans only splashed water on their bodies using their trunks before moving off to browse close to that water hole for the rest of the day.

03 July 2016

It was a nice beginning of the day with the orphan elephants coming out in a happy mood looking forward to a perfect browsing day. Kenia consolidated her herd to move to the far eastern side of the park, nearly reaching the Mzima-Mombasa water pipe line and turning slowly to arrive at the foot of Msinga Hill for an afternoon milk bottle. The orphans didn’t visit the water hole today as the weather was cold and they didn’t feel the need to bathe. A big herd of wild buffaloes of nearly 100 members visited the middle water hole for a drink, and the keepers saw several other herds of wild elephants arrive and drink as well, when they were still up the Msinga Hill with an aerial view. Kenia browsed closely with her adopted baby Araba, with Suswa sometimes making advances to browse with take Araba too but without much success. The rest of the browsing day went on perfectly well with Lentili enjoying the lead of taking the others back to the stockade safety that evening.

04 July 2016

The morning started well with the orphan elephants sticking to their normal feeding routine in the morning before heading out the browsing grounds. The orphans browsed their way onto the far northern side of the stockade turning slowly and arriving at the middle water hole in the afternoon. Today it was cold and windy with the orphans arrived in groups of five to drink an afternoon milk bottle. Embu was looking more comfortable today, sometimes taking the browsing lead of all the others. At 6.50pm, a Kenya Wildlife Service senior warden Mr. Wambua who was on a Tsavo East field trip sighted an orphan female baby elephant crossing one of the roads, heading into the Kanderi swamp water troughs. This orphan elephant calf was very thin and dehydrated meaning it had lost its mother and family for a considerable number of days. Wild elephants came in sniffing the lonely orphan elephant calf but they left it behind. Then the senior warden called the Voi stockade keepers who rescued the orphan elephant calf at around 7.15pm, and brought her to the stockade to be air lifted to the Nairobi nursery the following morning.

05 July 2016

It was a nice morning with Naipoki, Ndii, Mbirikani and Embu all coming in turns to greet the orphan elephant calf that had arrived the previous night. The four had a wonderful time touching and greeting the orphan elephant calf by stretching their trunks between the bars; it was a warm and touching encounter with the little orphan, before they proceeded for their delicious morning milk bottle. The orphan elephant that was to be air lifted today had to stay in the Voi stockade for another one day due to some road closures in Nairobi causing traffic. Kenia, Kihari and Mbirikani who had previously ignored the orphan elephant calf in the morning, came in the evening and extended their trunks to greet it through the bars of the holding stockade as they made their way to their own pen. Then they mischievously grabbed a few branches from that orphan elephants stable, feasting on them as they walked.

06 July 2016

This morning the orphan elephant calf that was rescued the day before yesterday collapsed as soon after the other orphan elephants left the stockade for the field at around 7.30am. The keepers administered some drips to revive her which took more than two hours due to her weak body condition at the time of her rescue. The orphan elephant was later air lifted to the Nairobi nursery for further treatment in the afternoon. Out in the field the stockade dependant orphans had a wonderful browsing day as it was cloudy and cold. Ndoria took the lead of them taking them towards the water hole this afternoon. All her friends were keen to avoid overtaking her to be in the front, for fear of the tail biting consequence that might follow! The orphans decided not to take any meaningful bath as it was still cold and they decided just to continue browsing.

07 July 2016

The orphans had a wonderful and perfect browsing day this morning, spreading out all over the field, grabbing as much browse as they could as the drier conditions advance across the Tsavo area. The orphans later marched to the middle water hole. After milk feeding they avoided taking a bath in that cold water and they went around that water pan without bathing. Embu however broke that covenant and plunged into the water to take her own private bath and despite the cold; the others stood around the water edge and watched her games in great amazement. Mbirikani then fell in love with Embu’s new game, touching and testing the temperature of the water with her trunk but ultimately avoiding participating in the real bath. Embu later came out and engaged in some other soil bathing games. The rest of the browsing day went on well with Kihari and Naipoki taking the lead of the others to the stockade that evening.

08 July 2016

It was a perfect afternoon with Lesanju and the other members of her herd including Taveta, Sinya, Lempaute, Mzima, Kivuko and Dabassa arriving at the stockade for the first time this month after going missing for some time. They had a wonderful moment drinking water from the stockade water trough, before leaving an hour later. The herd seemed to be very happy to explore the entire stockade and enjoy browsing onto the green acacia tree branches in the compound. Their skin color was grey meaning they might have travelled far away from the common red ochre soil found around the grounds of the Voi stockade. The orphans browsed on the eastern side of the stockade and came for milk and water in the stockade where they interacted nicely with visiting school children under the DSWT’s community outreach program. The school children were very excited to see and touch an elephant, as well as experience the game drive that they had well gone in the morning hours before their visit, viewing all species of wild animals that are their common heritage but that they often do not get a chance to see.

09 July 2016

The morning was good with the orphan elephants coming out of their respective stables in a happy mood, drinking their morning milk bottles and settling down for some copra cake feeding, before leaving for the field under the leadership of Ishaq B and Lentili. Three hours later Dabassa came in alone, without other members of Lesanju’s herd. After drinking water from the stockade water trough, he went around inspecting all the stables, finding them all empty of course, before leaving for the main park around 10.20am. The stockade dependant orphans had a peaceful time browsing throughout the day, with Embu overtaking Lentili leading the others whilst they walked. This arrangement of Embu leading was respected by the others throughout the day, and this helped Embu heal psychologically from the trauma that she recently underwent with her running away and lion attack.

10 July 2016

Kenia took charge this morning and led the other orphans towards the browsing grounds after all the milk and supplement feeding was over. Soon after they arrived in the browsing grounds, Taveta arrived to greet them alone without other members of Lesanju’s herd, and joined the stockade dependant orphans. Kenia didn’t seem to be worried at all about Taveta’s interaction with them as he took a low profile, leaving the leadership role to Kenia and Ndii’s arrangement. Taveta spent the whole day browsing with them, but didn’t follow them into the stables when he came in with them this evening. Later on, a small wild elephant herd of two cows and two calves came in from Msinga Hill to drink; they had been sighted browsing around the area the previous night as well. They had a calm drinking session with the calves briefly playing on the rocks around the stockade, before leaving back to the park.

11 July 2016

The orphan elephants got up early this morning and headed towards the eastern side of Msinga hill under the leadership of Naipoki and Ishaq b, whilst back in the stockades Ngulia got very excited when Salla the orphan baby Oryx came out of her stable, to play leaving behind her beloved orphan baby buffalo Jamuhuri and the two orphan baby elands Kore and Tawi. Jamuhuri ran with all her effort to try and catch up with them but could not run fast enough, so she stood there tired and exhausted watching them disappear with great disappointment. Araba love to wait in her stable for her grewia branches which are usually dropped in there as it is where she feels most secure especially from pushy Ndoria. Araba usually runs straight into the stable after the evening milk bottle feeding and spends the night feeding on her share of the branches alone.

12 July 2016

This morning was beautiful and calm with the orphans welcoming the new day with a chorus of birds. Taveta came in early enough so, he was on time for the copra cake feeding session that he would not dream of missing. The orphans then took off towards the browsing grounds with Taveta on board as other members of the Lesanju herd hadn’t yet turned up to fetch him up. Taveta today decided to take the stockade dependant orphans exploring far onto the eastern side of the stockade. Arruba found herself getting left behind when she took a different route from the others hoping that she could find a better route than Taveta. Panda browsed with Araba and Ishaq b, while Naipoki took, Arruba, Suswa, Kihari and Rorogoi and then Embu took Nelion alone exploring further afield.

13 July 2016

It was a wonderful morning but Taveta who usually spends the night out of the stockades didn’t turn up. Ngulia the zebra loves spending time with Salla the orphan Oryx and they run around with each other playing chasing games each morning. Jamuhuri tried to chase them but both Ngulia and Salla were fast runners leaving Jamuhuri exhausted and helpless. Ngulia has now been completely weaned off milk and only watches the others being fed. Ndii and Kenia took charge today leading their herd to milk feeding before taking the lead towards Msinga hill where they spent the better half of the day browsing. Suswa, Arruba and Lentili moved further uphill following Nelion and Bada who are known to be perfect hill climbers when browsing. The orphan elephants then came down the hill slowly reaching the base of the hill at 10am where they arrived at the water pool at 11am. Here they only took a brief bath before browsing more close by for the rest of the day.

14 July 2016

Taveta was happy to be with the stockade dependant orphans again this morning getting special treatment and lots of respect from the juniors. Panda who had missed Taveta yesterday had a wonderful morning with him before heading to the browsing grounds. Meanwhile Nelion who was the oldest bull there felt very jealous of Taveta’s attention from Panda so instead he headed for the scratching rock to amuse himself. Lentili snatched little Araba from Kenia and took her on their own private drinking session to the stockade water trough before Kenia came to recapture her adopted baby. The rest of the browsing day went on well with Taveta on board for the whole day.

15 July 2016

It was a great morning for the stockade dependant orphans who came running out of their stockades for their milk bottles. A number of orphans had a fun scratching game which was soon joined by Kenia coming along and getting in the way by sitting right on the rock and showing off. The boys who were still watching the ladies’ games all focused on impressing Taveta before he decided to leave. Tundani took the lead with Nelion following close behind making all the orphans follow suit towards the browsing grounds. The rest of the browsing day went on perfectly well.

16 July 2016

The morning started well with the orphan elephants downing a morning milk bottle and settling in for some copra cake. Nelion and Tundani the big boys were very happy today, engaging in some wonderful strength games, their happiness portraying the absence of Taveta who was slowly gaining popularity among the ladies. Araba went for a buttock scratching game on the rock in the stockade with Kenia not getting in the way but instead using a neighbouring rock for some scratching before they could go browsing. Mashariki hatched another plan to take away Araba from Kenia. Kenia stayed put until she finally took Araba with her denying Mashariki his calculated intention. The browsing day took place along the northern side of the stockade with the orphans arriving at the middle water hole in groups of five, before taking a very brief bath and moving on.

17 July 2016

It was a nice beginning of the day with Kenia and Lentili leading the other orphan elephants towards the browsing grounds after all the milk and supplement feeding was over. Taveta later arrived alone drinking from the stockade water trough and comfortably moving towards the northern side of the stockade joining the stockade dependant orphans who were with the Kenia and Panda herds. The browsing day was perfect with Embu taking the lead of the first three orphans for milk feeding. These were Bada, Arruba and Tundani. Embu then took another step forward leading the three straight towards the middle water hole before waiting for the other orphans behind them to finish their afternoon milk bottle. When all the orphans arrived at the water they all enjoyed it a lot in the warm weather with Taveta moving close and admiring Rorogoi’s games. Bada and Kihari also had a wonderful bathing time away from the other orphans, before leaving Ndoria all alone in the water.

18 July 2016

Panda was seen to be feeling sad today, possibly because of missing Taveta who didn’t turn up in the stockade this morning. Panda kept on lagging behind to try her luck to see if Taveta was behind coming to catch up with them. The orphans then spread out in the browsing ground each utilizing as much time as they could to eat as much as possible because of the drought which is hitting the entire Tsavo area. Suswa was seen in a knelling down position grabbing at a green bush which would have been very tasty.

19 July 2016

It was calm and a nice morning with the orphan elephants concentrating on their normal milk and supplement feeding routine before having a few games before heading to the browsing grounds. Embu who was comfortably and happily drinking water from the stockade water trough was forced to prematurely leave when Ndoria arrived wanting to drink. Later they went on with their usual browsing time, with Taveta catching up with them later at 3pm for more browsing. Taveta took Panda away from the other orphans to have some private browsing time together. Taveta then attempted to go into Panda’s stable but was told by the keepers that he is now an ex-orphan and must be outside of the stockades with his wild friends.

20 July 2016

The morning was good with the orphan elephants enjoying their delicious milk bottles before eating some copra cake and playing games. Araba took her time drinking and enjoying some games. Her game was so much fun that she suddenly realised that she had been left behind and was all alone before she took off running finally joining the others with Kenia. Later on in the day, Bada tried Panda in a pushing game that only lasted for a few minutes as both decided they were more interested in browsing.

21 July 2016

The orphans spread out whilst browsing each of the orphans enjoying any bush and grass they could find as there was not much to choose from during this dry season. Bada was seen browsing close to Ndoria without worrying very much about any naughty pushing and biting behaviour. The orphans visited the water hole at noon to drink milk and water but didn’t bother taking an active mud bath due to the cold weather. Later at 6.20pm, a single wild elephant cow and her six-year-old calf came browsing close to the orphan elephants. The wild elephant calf left her mother joining the orphans who were her age mates in browsing. Kenia and Ndii followed the wild elephant calf everywhere. The wild elephant cow then joined the orphans in browsing for more than twenty minutes. On leaving, the wild elephant cow went with Araba. Kenia and Lentili together with Panda thought they best follow the wild elephant cow as well to rescue Araba. They were successful and then headed back to the stockade’s night-time safety.

22 July 2016

A wonderful morning it was with the orphan elephants coming out of their stables in a happy mood welcoming another busy day in browsing. Bada lifted up his trunk requesting a test of strength game from the approaching Tundani who turned down the request. Lentili started a rock scratching game with the others who all moved in turns to have a wonderful scratch. Nelion took a scratch first and was followed by Araba. The browsing day went on well with Ndii getting into the water after milk feeding, introducing a game of spraying herself with water. Bada plunged into the middle of the water pool sitting and enjoying some very vigorous bathing. Mbirikani sat on the walls facing the rest of the orphans as she twisted herself while scratching her buttocks side to side. Tundani and Kenia became more reserved taking their own private baths in two different small pools close to the big water pool. The orphans then headed for a second and final drinking session in the half drum barrels before taking off towards the northern side of Msinga hill to close the browsing day.

23 July 2016

It was a nice morning, with Rorogoi asking Panda who was superior to move and give her scratching space on the rock. Panda peacefully moved away. Ishaq B who was watching them decided to take a different rock for the same scratch before joining the other orphans in dust bathing. It has been two days now since Taveta was last seen at the stockade. The orphans then browsed their way from the northern side of Msinga Hill arriving at the middle water hole that afternoon. Tundani and Mudanda went into the water expecting a huge following but were surprised as the others were very reluctant in getting into the cold water for a bath. The two then took a very brief bath and came out of the water following the others in browsing.

24 July 2016

There was only some brief games of rock scratching and hide and seek before Lentili and Mudanda took the lead towards the browsing grounds. The orphans browsing pace was deliberately reduced to allow for more feeding. They then went to the water hole in the afternoon where they had a lot of fun with mud bathing games before proceeding with their usual browsing routine. Tassia today came to the stockade alone in the middle of the night after going with a wild herd for several months. Tassia got a rumble salute from the stockade dependant orphans who were still in their stables for the night. Tassia then left the stockade after drinking and hanging around for more than half an hour.

25 July 2016

It was a beautiful morning with Tassia who surprisingly arrived last night at the stockades, coming in with Taveta who had gone missing for the past three days. It was a big day for the two and the stockade dependant orphans who were treated with special Lucerne grass pellets a food supplement that was brought in from Nairobi the evening before. Mudanda and Araba were seen tossing their trunks towards Tassia being thankful that they were both there. Kenia took her herd towards the far northern side of the stockade making sure the two ex-orphans would not catch up with them, as she became worried of their return which might pose a threat to taking her herd especially if they attract Lesanju back to the stockade.

26 July 2016

Soon Taveta and Tassia arrived joining the stockade dependant orphans in feeding in the morning. The stockade dependant orphans feeding pace was faster thinking that Tassia and Taveta had come to finish up all their supplement food. After the feeding was nearly coming to an end, Kenia bravely moved her herd away towards the browsing grounds leaving the two behind. Taveta and Tassia then went browsing up the hill with the two securing a browsing paradise that had plenty of green bush where they spent the whole of the day. Tassia came into the stockade alone to drink water at 2am at night while Taveta who was left back on the hill came to the stockade to drink at 8am, when the orphans were already out at the field browsing.

27 July 2016

The morning was brilliant with Kenia leading her herd onto the northern side of the Msinga hill after milk and supplement feeding. They all spread out on the hill enjoying feeding on grass and bush. Kenia went browsing with her adopted baby Araba, as the leadership of the herd was left under Lentili and Panda. The orphans browsed their way towards the middle water pool where they had a lot of fun in mud bathing games. Soon a wild herd of elephants arrived with the orphans bravely moving out of the water hole, heading for a second drinking session so they could get enough water before the wild herd moved in to drink there. Bada was left in the water to play host and welcome the wild herd. The wild herd took a quick bath, leaving the water hole area with Embu attempting to go with them, forcing the keepers to call her back.

28 July 2016

The orphans proceeded to the western side of the stockade, browsing under the leadership of Lentili and Ishaq b. Here they encountered two big wild male impalas with big horns. They settled down browsing close to them without charging or chasing them away. Kenia took Bada for some close browsing together sometimes moving away from the others which made Araba very sad. Araba’s misfortunes became worse at the water hole at noon when Kenia once again took Mudanda who was bathing in a private small water pool away from the group abandoning Araba for the second time running. Kenia only had good intentions of spreading her love among all the orphan elephants equally as she is the mini matriarch but Araba didn’t know that and felt sad. The rest of the browsing day went on close to the big water hole with Araba forcing her way closer to Kenia.

29 July 2016

Taveta and Tassia didn’t turn up at the stockade or in the field for the whole day. On arriving at the water hole at noon after milk feeding, the orphans encountered a wild elephant herd that had taken and later abandoned Embu a few weeks ago. Embu recognised them and moved close for a warm trunk touch with them. Two wild elephant calves also recognised Embu and left their herd moving with Embu on a mission to go wild with them once again. Embu seemed not to have learnt a lesson as she moved in front positioning herself in a perfect place ready to go with the wild elephant herd. Ndii, Arruba, Suswa, Naipoki, Ishaq B and Rorogoi engaged in a huge campaign to steal a wild calf from its herd, but got a stern warning from its teenage wild elephant sister. Panda and Aruba cornered another wild elephant calf in the same snatching mission. Ndoria was confident enough in moving very close to a big wild elephant matriarch that had huge tusks. Kenia united her herd by first taking Araba and Mudanda, with Ndii and Naipoki recovering Embu from going wild with that herd.

30 July 2016

It was a wonderful and calm morning with the orphans emptying their morning milk bottle and engaging in some brief games before heading towards the browsing grounds under the leadership of Arruba and Suswa. Taveta and Tassia didn’t turn up at the stockade this morning. Kenia today concentrated on browsing close to her adopted baby Araba to give her assurance that she was her favourite. The orphans browsed on the northern side of the stockades turning in preparation to head to the water hole at noon. When the pick- up carrying the elephants milk arrived at the water hole at noon, the keepers found a pride of six big lions ambushing and hunting for animals coming to drink water. The orphans milk was then ferried to where the orphans were browsing, with drinking water getting shifted to the stockade water trough, far from the predators.

31 July 2016

They were only very brief games after the supplement feeding as they had to catch up with the early morning browsing hours as vegetation has been slowly becoming less with the dry season. Despite the lack of fresh browse the orphans are looking very well especially as they receive copra cake, Lucerne pellets, milk, and Lucerne grass. Nelion and Tundani took the lead taking the others browsing on Msinga hill. On arriving at the water hole at noon, the orphans found only mud and a small quantity of water as the wild herds had come one after another in close intervals and had nearly emptied the main water hole. Luckily enough they hadn’t noticed the clean water in the barrels so the orphans quenched their thirst before moving for a bath. There was a baboon close to the water hole which stood close by watching Mbirikani tossing plenty of water skyward with her trunk. The baboon went ahead escorting Rorogoi and then Araba out of the water. Ishaq b saw some mischief in the baboon’s intention and went ahead taking little Araba away for safety as Kenia was too busy bathing to notice. The rest of the browsing day went on close to that water hole with Mashariki enjoying leading them back to the stockade that evening.