Keepers' Diaries, July 2018

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Voi Reintegration Unit

This month it has been interesting to watch Mbegu fight for her matriarchal duties and the position of leadership within the herd, something she has been so used to doing for a number of years in the Nursery. Six year old Lentili has also been used to leading the Voi dependent herd out in the morning, but since Mbegu arrived from the Nairobi Nursery the two of them have been struggling over this role. One morning Lentili even forewent her lucerne cube supplement in order to walk out to the bush first, so that effectively everyone would follow behind her and she would be the leader for the day.

Over the course of the month, both Lentili and Mbegu seemed to give up the fight and settled instead for leading together on occasion. Nevertheless Mbegu likes to keep the herd that recently came with her from the Nairobi Nursery, that is Ngilai, Ndotto, Lasayen, Godoma and Murit, close by, so that at least she can remain the leader and role model amongst her small group; she obviously has very strong leadership qualities which will develop further and one day we are sure she will be the matriarch of her own graduate orphan herd. In the meantime she will continue to learn from those older and wiser than herself.

Despite these new Nursery arrivals, Tahri remains the cosseted baby and is doted on by Ndii, although the other females in the herd like Panda, Mashariki, Naipoki and Kenia relish the opportunity to browse with the little one as well, and try not to get overly enthusiastic in case they scare her! Tahri is the most recent addition to our fostering program, found weak and alone near the Voi River nearly a year ago.

Two days this month we also saw graduate orphans Layoni and Dabassa when they came to visit the dependent orphans. Layoni saw that Ndii had grown and decided to test her strength in a small play-fight. Although Ndii did very well, she had to give up the fight as little Tahri had mistaken their game for a real fight and was shouting loudly, thinking that her adopted mother was in trouble.

In the colder, drier weather we have been experiencing recently, the orphans have encountered a number of different wild elephant herds as they pass by the water holes the orphans visit throughout the day, including the trough at the Stockades. Sometimes the dependent orphans are a little over-excited by these meetings, and unsettle the wild herds with their enthusiasm! When the younger wild elephants are a little high-spirited, Mbegu’s group tends to stick closer to their Keepers as they are a little uncertain still, but we did start to see them become more emboldened in their presence as the month went on and one day Mbegu’s group even approached a wild herd on their own while they were drinking from the water trough. The older orphans, like bulls Tundani and Nelion, as well as Ishaq-B, Rorogoi, Arruba, Mashariki and Embu, relish the opportunity these days to engage these wild age-mates whenever possible. One day Tundani went off to browse with a teenage wild bull for the whole afternoon before re-joining his friends. These older orphans have been weaned off their milk but stay very much a part of the dependent orphan family for the time being, kept at home by the presence of the younger babies. Nguvu remains a very much independent elephant, much like Sapalan at the Ithumba Stockades, and does not partake much in social games even when invited by the other dependent orphans.

It is still a very exciting time for Mbegu and the new Nursery arrivals as they continue to learn so much about the new environment around them. They are becoming more accustomed to the mischievous ways of baboons as although they encountered them in Nairobi, they never had to defend their food from them. One day Lasayen chased the baboons who were trying to share the orphans’ copra cake supplement, and climbed a flat rock in order to make himself appear taller and more imposing to them. One animal they have not encountered before are elands and Mbegu in particular was curious of this animal, but because of the orphan elands in the Voi stockade Tawi and Kore, and following the lead from the older orphans, the new Nursery arrivals learnt they were of no concern, and settled to browse among them. Godoma is learning to hold the bottle by herself as she feeds, although she still needs assistance from the Keepers when other orphans like Murit try to steal her share from her! Ndotto is apparently still learning some manners, something which the older orphans are only too happy to teach him. One day he tried to grab some of Ndoria’s share of milk and she chased him for about 50 metres to teach him a lesson! The Keepers had to intervene to prevent Ndoria from fighting with Ndotto, but needless to say he has not attempted that again!

July 2018 day to day

01 Jul

The orphan elephants came out of their stockades in a happy mood this morning, drinking their morning milk bottles and moving on to their routine games after eating the supplement lovingly put out for them by their Keepers. Naipoki and Ndoria engaged one another in a wonderful play-fight, while Panda was busy rolling around on the red earth piles to show off to Ngilai, Godoma and Mbegu. Tundani later intruded on Panda’s game to steal the attention of the three young spectators that were cheering Panda on. Lentili then started to lead the orphans out earlier than usual, so as to beat Mbegu to the task, as it is Mbegu who has been leading the orphans out most mornings, and Lentili used to enjoy this responsibility. The orphan elephants went up Msinga Hill, with Arruba exploring higher up the hill than her friends to browse. Kihari followed Arruba for a short distance and settled to browse half-way up the hill. The afternoon came fast, with Tahri, who usually goes to the milk feeding first, and Mbegu’s herd resorting to go last with Kenia’s herd who have already been weaned off their milk. Tahri’s adopted mother Ndii escorted her for milk feeding and stretched her trunk to request Tahri to share her milk feed but her request was rejected by the Keepers who wanted the little girl to enjoy her milk in peace. The orphans visited the baobab water hole where they played, before going back to browsing close to the water hole for the rest of the day

Ishaq-B browsing

Tundani following his friends

Naipoki browsing