Keepers' Diaries, July 2019

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Voi Reintegration Unit

As usual the orphans were presented with many wonderful interactions with wild elephants this month, and as they moved through the National Park in search of fresh vegetation they would make sure to stop and take their fill of the much fancied fresh water added to the baobab tree water trough. This is specifically for the orphans to enjoy at their midday mud bath session, and it seems everyone in the area has learnt this routine, timing their visits accordingly, from the elephant herds, to the buffalos, impalas, elands, and giraffes.

On the 21st, a herd of over eighty wild elephants visited the baobab tree water hole for a drink and to cool off in the mud bath.  The Voi orphans had a wonderful time playing with many age mates amongst the huge herd. It was a hot day and several of the wild elephants took refuge under the trees around the water hole. Panda and Ishaq-B were excited to show off their dusting games to their wild friends. Another day Rorogoi approached a wild herd to play with, but they caught the scent of the Keepers nearby and were not so happy with the human scent, so eventually they walked away.

Mbegu is delighted to have Emoli, Tagwa and Sagala join her little band of six who arrived with her from the Nursery, and she enjoys leading this little group around. After the milk feeding time they always join up with Kenia’s older herd, who are no longer dependent on milk, to continue with their day of browsing. Tahri, despite being one of the youngsters, is very much still part of Kenia and Kihari’s herd however, being their cosseted adopted baby. Tahri loves to race her age-mates in Mbegu’s herd for the milk bottles, before returning to Kenia's older herd. Mbegu, unlike some of the older orphans, doesn’t like too many interactions with the wild herds and is wary of staying around them too long, probably afraid they might take too much of an interest in her young charges and potentially spirit them away.

Recently seconded into Mbegu’s herd is Sagala who has an independent spirit and towards the end of the month the Keepers were having to keep a close eye on her around the wild herds. One day she went off for almost the entire day with a wild herd. The Keepers waited with the rest of the Voi herd for her to join them at the mud bath, having been absent from just after nine in the morning, and she eventually pitched up to reunite with them around three in the afternoon. The Keepers were relieved, and Mbegu quickly gathered everyone together and left the waterhole area to avoid any other of her orphans running off with that particular wild herd. Sagala seems to have formed a number of bonds with the visiting wild elephant herds though, and likes to join them for a walk into the bush. Sagala still requires milk and in the throws of the dry season this would not be the right time for her to be whisked away. The Keepers always make sure to call her back, but they have to be mindful to avoid getting charged by the wild elephants.  

Sagala’s best sparring partners seem to be the two bulls Ngilai and slightly older Nelion, who enjoy playing pushing games with her. Within Mbegu’s little herd, Murit has also been enjoying mentoring little Emoli, who recently arrived from the Nairobi Nursery, and one can frequently spot Murit taking Emoli aside for little pushing games, teaching him some play-fighting techniques. Sometimes Ngilai would also try to take Emoli aside to impart some ‘wisdom’ as well. Ngilai as usual has been especially playful this month, taking any opportunity to charge around or show off for all to see.

Ndoria is still exploring her independence and one night decided to stay out with their old friend Mbirikani who is still opting to stick around the dependent Voi herd. She has had a lengthy taste of the wild and will never fully be in the fold by returning to the stockades at night, but instead Mbirikani still chooses to browse and spend most of her days with the Voi herd, her friends, and this seems a good decision in this dry season.

July 2019 day to day

01 Jul

The elephant orphans were in such a happy and active mood this morning and came running out of their stockades for their routine milk feed, and later settled down for their share of some Lucerne grass pellets which the Keepers laid out for them. There were some brief games in the stockade compound with Mudanda and Bada playing on the red earth piles. They picked up trunk-fulls of the soil and tossed it in the air. One baboon stayed very close to them, watching their game in great amazement.

Mbegu then took the lead towards the bush, with Emoli, Tagwa and Sagala, who seem to be a part of her little band of six that arrived from the Nursery together, now too.

The orphan elephants spread out in the field to grab as much browse as they could as it is turning a bit dry in the area. We have not had rain for some time.

The milk dependent orphans then went in groups of five, headed by Emoli, Tagwa, Sagala, Godoma and Mbegu, to have their milk feed close to the baobab tree water hole. The whole herd then went to drink water from the baobab tree water hole and took a brief mud bath.

They later left the water hole and a wild elephant herd who had been standing patiently close by to give the orphan elephants their space, then moved in to have some water and play in the mud wallow.

Bada and Mudanda tossing red earth

Topping up the water

Orphans running away from a wild herd